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Living in Manhattan gives you no opportunity to go the mall, which is fine by me because I, shockingly, loathe going. At first, I'll walk in and take a deep inhale of the "new stuff" smell, which induces a disconcerting dreamy, somnolent feeling that then turns into momentary insanity. I'll amble into a store, run my hands against cool silks, smooth leathers, and nubby wools. Before I know it, I'm signing by the "x" and I'm off to the next shop, intoxicated by my purchase. The euphoric feeling begins to wear off about 20 minutes in, when the crowds, overwhelming wafts of melon-margarita-azalea body sprays, hazelnut-banana candles, and perfume spritzer girls begin to blur my vision and induce vertigo.
Once upon a time, though, the mall was my haunt. With a gaggle of glittery lip-glossed girls in tow, I'd spend hours window shopping and eventually hit up the food court for greasy Chinese food and Mrs. Fields cookies. "Crispy critters," so warm, tiny, and buttery, were my fix of choice, but once in a while I'd go for a white chocolate-macadamia nut cookie. That salty, creamy, sweet combination made my sweet tooth sing and satisfied more than the latest purchase.
I shy away from white chocolate mostly because I don't consider it chocolate, lacking in cocoa solids as it does, but also due to its cloying, pasty texture. Those bagged chips in the baking aisle of the supermarket are waxy and strangely grainy, but my tune changes when I find a good quality version. Spying them at Citarella recently, I had a flashback to the food court and decided I might give the white chocolate-macadamia nut combination a second chance.
Several months ago I baked a chocolate chip sheet cake which was walnut-studded and chocolate-drizzled. I liked the slim cookie bar thickness of it, the simplicity of its construction, and its ability to be eaten out of hand. This cake is a version of that sheet cake, but swaps out the bittersweet chopped chocolate for the aforementioned high-quality white chocolate chips and roasted, salty, buttery macadamia nuts (which I still associate with hotel minibar decadence).
Light brown sugar-based, this cake is all about warm flavors and comfort, and as an added bonus, a drizzle of salted caramel on top. The burnt sugar notes contrast perfectly with the rich, milky flavors of the cake. Goodbye, food court, but thanks for the memories.