Two months ago we learned that we had to travel to Baltimore for a funeral of a great-grandmother. Talking about death with my kids is like pulling the scabs off wounds–they immediately bring the conversation back to my mom’s death. They still can’t really understand why she had to die so young. However, that made it easier to then turn the conversation around and talk about their great grandmother’s full life. Remarkably, she left a family legacy of 10 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
To brighten the mood and change the conversation, I told my daughter that I was going to try to bake instead of cook. I decided to bake Judy’s Earthquake Cookies! These cookies always graced the table for dessert on special occasions (alongside Mom’s famous Banana Chocolate Chip Loaf of course). Mom would pre-bake the cookies and keep them stowed away in our large freezer in the back of the kitchen, hidden in the way back under layers and layers of wax paper and tin foil in her huge red round tin can. If you’re reading this blog consistently, you can probably draw a near perfect diagram of the shelves in our back freezer by now. They’d be jam-packed with red tins full of earthquake cookies stowed next to all of the ball jars of mystery marinade and tin-foil wrapped Banana Chocolate Chip Loaves. Yum! I would always steal a couple of the cookies and rearrange the others hoping not to get caught– that’s hard to accomplish without leaving a trail of powdered sugar everywhere. I actually think it became a game between us. Mom would obviously let me help her prepare and bake the cookies but, she’d always make it a point to say, “don’t take any until dessert.” To me, “don’t “ meant “do” and of course I wouldn’t be able to wait DAYS knowing they were sitting in the freezer untouched.
One of the best parts of this cookie is the name. If you tell any child its name, their eyes widen and, thinking it’s a science experiment with baking soda and vinegar, they immediately want to offer their help along with a slew of questions! They usually want to know why the cookies are called Earthquake Cookies. Then you can get into an entire discussion about the cracks in the cookies when they bake which are similar to the faults in the ground along which an earth quakes.
During the prep process rolling the cool fudge cookie dough in the powdered sugar is so much fun. I was able to make an entire afternoon play dough activity out of the “roll out and powder” command. The key to making the roll out part work is to plan and make the batter ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge over night to harden. For some reason, I thought 2-3 hours worth of cooling in the fridge would be ample time for the batter to harden. Again, I should’ve listened to what mom wrote in the recipe: Leave the batter in overnight to cool! Unfortunately, as we were half way through rolling the batter into balls, it started to lose all maleability and stuck to our hands like glue–our game was lost. Another lesson learned the hard way. The cooler the dough, the easier it is to shape and roll into cookies.
We made two big batches and LOVED, as I did as a kid, watching them rise high and crack open in the oven. Make sure the cookies are heavily coated with the confectioner’s sugar for more intense cracks. And, as you probably guessed, there were about half a dozen cookies eaten out of the shoebox during the car ride down to Baltimore. They’re simply that good.
Judy’s Earthquake Cookies
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 squares unsweetened chocolate (don’t substitute with cocoa, I tried and it doesn’t taste or look as good)
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs beaten
- 2 cups flour, sifted
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar
- Melt chocolate and butter in saucepan over medium heat. Stir often.
- In bowl, beat eggs. Add in sugar, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture.
- Add in baking powder, flour, and salt and beat until very smooth.
- Place bowl in fridge and chill as long as 24 hours (Judy recommends 24 hours).
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Prep two cookie sheets with either butter or foil.
- Place confectioner’s sugar in bowl large enough to roll out the fudge balls.
- Take a teaspoon of the cookie dough and roll into balls.
- Coat the ball with confectioner’s sugar by rolling it around in the sugar many times.
- Place on baking sheet with enough room for each ball to “explode” open.
- Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes (depends on oven).
- Cool and then remove cookies to wire rack (make sure to place tin foil under rack as powdered sugar is very messy).