I ate my first cream cheese cookie in the company of a two day old baby named Etta. A flock of us had descended on the new mom and her sweet new baby girl while they were in the hospital, recuperating and getting acquainted, and as it goes with welcoming parties, there were cookies. I brought whole wheat chocolate chip cookies with walnuts and my friend Katie brought these cream cheese cookies, baked on a whim after spotting them online. The whole wheat cookies were good, as they always are, but the cream cheese cookies were noteworthy with a familiar flavor and comforting gooey center wrapped by a crisp outer edge. It was, we agreed, a freaking awesome cookie. We named them crack cookies (as it turns out many of the commenters of Food52 did too) and set in to eat the rest of the parchment-protected layers of cookies while we listened intently to the story of Etta's arrival.
It was a moment I think of often. The colors that accompany the memory are white and blue, white for the snow outside and the crisp sheets inside, and blue for the bean filled breast feeding pillow that was tucked between new mom and new baby. There were seven of us crammed in little room. Those were my people, my expat family, enjoying the arrival of a new member. And another three of us were pregnant. We were growing a community from scratch, right here in Zürich. A community with killer good cookies.
The thing with expat communities is that they unravel, it's their nature. People arrive with no real idea of how long they'll stay, but they know it's not forever, and that one day they'll leave. Shortly after that hospital room snow-globe-moment the leaving started. First it was April and Bryan and little Etta, then it was Katie, then Jenna and Felix, then Lindsay and James, then Laura and Paul, and then Allie and Dan, and with all of them a little piece of my commitment to Zürich and life as an expat. I feel like a Jenga piece at the top of the tower after too many pieces have been pulled out beneath. It's wobbly up here as I lean towards loving Zürich and then quickly towards wanting to leave.
It's hard being left behind. At least that's how it feels, that as our friends move on to a new adventure, a new life, that we are left in their wake. I'm still struggling to make my way in this city without them. Those of us that remain have made new friends and I'm grateful for that, but there's something special about "the originals," as I think of them. We all arrived at the same time so there was no need to try and integrate into an already existing group, we inaugurated the group. Our friendships were natural and they happened quickly because we were desperate to grab onto anyone who understood our new identity as an expat. The friendships I make now take more effort, mostly because Alice makes it hard to get out to meet new friends, but that said, there are friends who have easily slipped into my life and I made one of them these cookies last week. I wrapped them in parchment and took them to her and her new baby, tucked into a room just down the hall from where we welcomed Etta and ate cookies.
I guess this is all just to say that life goes on, the community changes, and it's hard, but the cookies are good and they stay put. Oh, and that I have no idea how much longer we'll be here and it's beginning to grate on me.
According to the pictures on Food 52 they are supposed to be a bit more lofty in the middle. I read through the comments and it seems like it's important to use Philadelphia Cream Cheese to ensure that they keep a hump in the middle, which I did, but perhaps the cream cheese is different in Switzerland. This is just to say that your cookie might not be as flat, but they will be good.
Cream Cheese Cookies
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC. In an stand mixer cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Mix in the flour and salt until just incorporated.
Use a tablespoon to measure out the dough onto the parchment paper lined baking sheets, leaving room between cookies because they spread. Bake for about 12-14 minutes or until the edges are brown and crispy. Be sure not to over bake, otherwise the middles won't be chewy. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer them with a spatula to a wire cooling rack.