Sooooo with a classic under our belts, my ever-so-gracious book group (“The Group” as I have now begun referring to them) elected to continue the trend of twisted versions of classic literature works and honor one of the greatest love stories ever written/filmed. With its remake about to open in theatres soon (March 16th), Beauty and the Beast has a renewed popularity with all age ranges and a growing anticipation for its release. Due to this reintroduction of our childhood, Liz Braswell’s re-imagined young adult reader, As Old as Time, seemed fittingly perfect to take the place of our second review.
The story follows the classic tale as most of us remember from our childhood, but presents the unique perspective prior to the first notes Belle ever sings. Our story begins with Maurice, Belle’s father, and the path meeting a character most of us have yet to experience, Rosalind….Belle’s mother.
GASP, I know right….
This retell intertwines the familiar tale with this character introduction, alternating the stories until an explosive clash that propels us into an unsuspecting ending that answers all the questions that the original left us contemplating. With the characters we knew and loved from our childhood, Braswell twist the little girl’s fairy tale into something darker, classic Grimm you could say. She takes the reader’s nostalgia and interjects them into a roller coaster of emotions as she humanizes the story and extracts the “Disney” out and infuses an air of mystery.
It is the conundrum of Belle’s mother, the Enchantress, that gives the story new direction as past and present meet and merge a new path for the story to follow. The magic that before gave us butterflies now creates intrigue, danger, and suspense that the reader can continue through with to the very end.
All in all in spite of the capturing synopsis that first led us to chose this title, the group was divided on the overall outcome of the book. Despite the alternating chapters of the characters’ stories, the ending proved the main point of disagreement. Without giving away too many details or ruining the ending, the idea of romance is spread throughout the pages after the initial merge of worlds, but hastily described and verified between the characters. It was as if Braswell forgot that our main protagonists were supposed to fall in love and upon that epiphany, through in that tiny detail with little effort.
Though I personally enjoyed the chapters that centered on Belle as they followed the plot line set forth by the movie, the Group didn’t agree with me. There was discussion that Braswell shouldn’t have followed the classic story to that degree, but for me, it made the book lighter to read and thus more enjoyable. Belle’s air of superiority was tweaked in an upwards fashion that readers might construe as snobbish whereas in the movie, it was just her distinction from the townsfolk. Belle makes the determination that the Beast was only a child when he was turned and thus his actions and thoughts mirrored that of any other adolescent of a similar age. Despite this, Belle still seems to take on a elitist attitude at times when addressing him and his attempts to assist in her investigation of their pasts.
Overall, the book in itself is a decent quick read for those looking for a blast from the past with a twist of lemon for an ending…
Now on to the main event, our recipe!!!! (and hopefully something a little happier to focus on…)
I was going to follow suit and make some “grey stuff” as warranted by our title, to accompany the book choice but ultimately “grey stuff” turned out to be nothing more that Oreo cheesecake and I would have felt a little disappointed at doing something so simple. I also unfortunately have an immense distaste for cheesecake so I found something else to try that I could put my full efforts behind.
Presenting Red Velvet Nutella-Stuffed Cookies….
I had to say that making these cookies instead of “grey stuff” was a wise choice as it was hard not to want to eat one cookie after another once they came out of the oven and cooled. Warning as they are a bit more time consuming that other desserts, but well worth the extra work.
Red Velvet Nutella- Stuffed Cookies
Yields: ~24 stuffed cookies
Prep Time:3 hours
Cook Time: 15 minutes
For the Cookies:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter (melted)
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp liquid red food dye
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt (can substitute with sour cream)
1 cup semi sweet mini choc chips (or regular)
For the Filling:
500g jar of Nutella, chilled in refrigerator
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling (OPTIONAL)
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in the bowl and set aside.
In a stand mixer, cream together the melted butter, sugars and red food dye. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt/sour cream until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined. Gently fold in all of the chocolate chips.
Chill your dough for 2 hours in the refrigerator.*
While dough is chilling, measure out about 1 teaspoon dollops of Nutella onto a lined cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet in the freezer and leave until dough is chilled and ready to use.**
When dough has chilled for 2 hours, measure about 1½ tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the dough ball thinly into the palm of your hand, pressing your thumb down in the center to make a crater. Place 1 teaspoon of chilled nutella in the middle and wrap/fold dough around it; gently roll it back into a ball. Make sure that the Nutella is not seeping out of the dough. Add more dough if necessary.
Place dough balls on cookie sheet roughly 2 inches apart and flatten slightly.
Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven.
Cool the cookies on the sheets at least 2 minutes. Sprinkle with a little sea salt (OPTIONAL). Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
* Plan ahead when making these because the dough has to chill for 2 hours. It is much easier to work with when it has been chilled and tends to bake better as well. If you chill it longer than 2 hours and the dough is too hard/stiff to work with, let it sit at room temp for about 20-30 minutes or work the dough around in your hands to loosen it prior to placing the Nutella drops.
** Freezing the drops of Nutella is really important. It’s much easier to wrap the cookie dough around the balls of Nutella when it’s frozen. Don’t skip this step. If the Nutella begins to get too soft when placing into the dough balls, place back into the freezer for 10 minutes to stiffen back up.
-Using regular chocolate chips versus semi-sweet became overbearing on the sweet side due to the intensity of the Nutella. I recommend the semi-sweet to help cut back on all the sugar taste
Recipe adapted from Tastemade
Now can I just say that after trying these, I will absolutely be making them for every holiday/get together. Though waiting for the dough to chill was probably my least favorite part, the Group sure did love sampling them. Feedback consisted of comments like “Good dough to Nutella ratio”, “Not too overpowering”, and “Love the softness of the cookie along with the gooey center”. I honestly don’t remember a single negative aspect to them.
I would caution that flattening the dough is important as is portion control, especially with the Nutella drops. The word “Dollop” can be interpreted by everyone completely different, hence its removal from the original recipe. I found that keeping the Nutella drops to the size of a Hersey kiss, makes the cookies more balanced upon their exit of the oven. Too large of a Nutella drop, creates a mountain in the middle of the cookie, ultimately giving away the hidden surprise. Adding that last touch of sea salt to the cooling cookie does make a salty sweet treat that you wont be able to resist with every turn of the page.
Soooooo it may not be the “grey stuff”, but I think these cookies will give due diligence to pairing with this love story classic and making this “red rose” just as magical in your mouth as it will be on the pages when you read this wonderful adaptation…
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