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Baking with Ida

While writing Sugar and Salt, I did a lot of baking because A) I like to bake and B) it was a way to channel the energy of Ms. Ida Sugar, who founded her bakery–also called Sugar–in San Francisco in the 1970s.

It was a time of upheaval and unrest, protests and police action, division and derision–but Sugar was a sweet spot on Perdita Street that persists to this day. Readers of The Lost and Found Bookshop will remember Perdita Street.

Back in the 70s, the neighborhood was rough, but Ida turned Sugar into a community gathering place. For her, it was a place of safety. She could dream up recipes, cherish memories of a passionate, forbidden love, and raise her boy Jerome to take charge when she was ready for her next chapter.

Ida was resourceful. She was famous for coming up with something delicious out of thin air. Here’s an example. These cookies have a tender, old-fashioned quality, probably because my grandmother was a lot like Ida, making do with the ingredients she had on hand.

Rejected Nut Cookies

Brazil nuts, it must be said, are the old maids of the nut mix. No one wants them. They’re always the last ones left in the bowl, maybe along with a scattering of filberts. Save them for this recipe and you won’t be sorry.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar–white or brown or a combination
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/4 cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup coconut flakes
2 cups finely chopped (or even ground) Brazil nuts, or any combination of Brazil nuts, hazel nuts, pecans, walnuts, or almonds
1-1/2 cups butterscotch chips (white or dark chocolate chips would be fine, too)

Oven at 350 F. Grind the nuts in the Ninja, which is a thing you need if you don’t already have one. That vintage nut mill is cute, but you’ll be at it all day.

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla. A stand mixer makes this easy. Add the dry ingredients, and stir in the coconut, nuts, and chips.

Ignore the haters who say don’t eat raw cookie dough.

Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on racks.

Optional: If you have a tub of caramel icing that’s been in the freezer since Christmas, glaze some of the cookies with it and add a pinch of flaky salt on top.

Pro tip: If you happen to break one on the way to the platter, don’t worry. All the calories will rush out of it.

Another tip: There is a special place in heaven for readers who preorder books. Pre-order your copy of Sugar and Salt now.

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