My first-ever edible was a pot brownie that tasted like a quarter sack rolled in chocolate. It was the most inelegant edible I've ever encountered. A friend's literally green chocolate-chip pot cookies came in at a close second. (He at least made a rudimentary attempt to filter out the flower.)
The dark-chocolate pistachio macadamia cookies in chef Ricky Flickenger's new elevated cookbook, Cannabis & the Art of Infusion (published by the Evergreen Market in August), were not only the best edibles I'd ever tasted, but the best cookies—full stop. And you can make them with or without the weed.
I had a really hard time not Cookie Monster–mawing through the entire first batch.
Did I mention all the cookbook's wheat-containing recipes feature steps on how to make gluten-free versions? (Flickenger's sister-in-law is Phebe Rossi of Capitol Hill's gluten-free bakery Nuflours, and she was consulted on everything from gluten-free flour brands to measurements to cooking variations.) Did I mention it took only about half an hour to make the infused butter? Did I mention that I actually met Chef Ricky and made the cookies with him, and that I picked up some new knowledge along the way (like how to properly crack an egg, something that's eluded me in my 38 years of existence)?
This was one of my all-time favorite baking experiences, and it was mainly because of Chef Ricky, who's made a career of teaching regular folks how to cook.
It's also that Chef Ricky is warm and affable, and has a seemingly natural ability to put you at ease. Which might have something to do with his background: He has a degree in psychology and spent the first part of his working life as a counselor in a psych hospital. When he moved to Seattle from southern Pennsylvania 17 years ago, he decided he needed a change.
"I'd been cooking and baking for a long time, and I really wanted to try something in the field," he explains. He worked odd jobs for several years, until he ultimately ended up at the flagship Trophy Cupcakes when it opened in Wallingford in 2007; he was their first employee. He wrote recipes, worked on designs, and even got the shop onto The Martha Stewart Show. "That was all very exciting, but it was a lot of work." He was putting in 70 to 80 hours a week, helping run the bakery with the owners, but he realized it wasn't what he really wanted to do.
"I really enjoy showing people how to cook, and showing them that anything they see made on TV is something that they can do at home." After a few years with Trophy, he started his own venture as a traveling chef, a business now called Mortar 'n Pestle. "I go to people's homes, we do custom menus for everybody, and I give a three- to four-hour lesson on how to cook whatever it is they want." Go to mortarnp.com to schedule a lesson, whether with cannabis or without.
He started cooking with cannabis roughly four years ago, when he discovered the therapeutic effects that edibles had on his own anxiety, sleeplessness, and depression. And the effects lasted long after the high wore off.
"The problem was, especially when edibles first came out, a lot of them didn't taste very good. They were usually made of sugar, and there weren't a whole lot of savory options." He was also paying $10 to $15 per edible. Since he was eating them nightly, he thought if he could figure out a good infusion process, he could do it better—and more cost effectively—at home.
Thus his research into using cannabis in his recipes began in earnest, his approach much the same as in his regular food classes. Applying as much food science as he could muster, he worked to separate the facts from the myths about cannabis in the mostly anecdotal information he found, and he began experimenting with different methods.
He had a few goals in mind: a short (not hours-long or overnight) process for infusing butter, mayo, sour cream, or oil with weed; minimal to no cannabis smell or flavor, both in the making of the edibles and the results; and a way to take the guesswork out of dosage. "That was the number one thing I heard from friends and clients, and learned from my own personal experience—nobody ever knew how to control the dosing," he says.
Knowing the dosage is especially important when edibles are used for therapeutic or medical reasons, or if they're being taken by a person because they can no longer smoke but still want to partake. He likens it to taking any over-the-counter drug: "If you're taking aspirin, you want to know how much is in each pill."
For his infusions, he uses kief instead of pot flower, and his process involves decarbing the kief to activate the THC, then adding it to low-heated oil, cream, or butter. He has an entire formula in the book for deducing how much THC will be in the end product... but you'll have to pick up a copy of Cannabis & the Art of Infusion (at your local bookstore or elevatedcookbook.com) for those details.
He knows for sure that his process is sound, because he had his infusions tested for THC content in a lab. "I wanted to make sure what I was telling people was actually going to happen, that it was accurate. And I do note this in the book: While you can't get 100 percent decarbed results every time—home ovens vary, temperatures vary—you can get close to that dose every time."
Once he had his infusion process figured out, he turned to making different types of food, and savory dishes were his top priority. His cookbook features recipes from his own repertoire that he adapted for infusion, and it includes appetizers, soups, salads, and entrées, in addition to desserts. "These are meals you can enjoy, these are meals you can appreciate, these are meals you can be impressed by, and still get whatever effect you need."
His duck confit is featured prominently on the cookbook's cover. "People don't see this as being something that's an edible, because it's a big hunk of meat," he says. But he then explains that it's easy to make (most of the cooking time is spent in a crock-pot), it's delicious, and there are two different ways to infuse it. "It's my favorite, because it's so unexpected."
But I wanted to make something I could share with other people, to see what they thought, and I fucking love cookies. So we made Chef Ricky's dark-chocolate pistachio macadamia cookies. They spread a bit because of the gluten-free flour (chilling the dough for an hour would have prevented this), but the taste was spot-on. And all the people who tried them (including my stoner colleagues at The Stranger) thoroughly enjoyed them.
Results varied from no noticeable effects, to fun and floaty, to a near immediate stoning that went straight to the head and put the person to bed—which just goes to show you that tolerance, weight, and other circumstances all factor into effects. Knowing your edible limits is the best way to proceed with deciding how much to eat, as the effects of eating pot versus smoking it are very different.
But if you want, you can use regular butter instead of infused butter in the recipe below, and the cookies are just as delicious.
A few days after our baking session (and, yes, we made the version of the recipe that gets you baked), when I had an evening alone, I gobbled two cookies (as previous testing proved that one didn't quite do the trick), kicked back on the couch, watched an episode of This Is Us, realized it was working when the heartwarming humor made me LOL, and then went up to bed. Despite being a light sleeper, and normally waking up at least a dozen times before morning, I fell into a long, dreamless sleep that lasted the whole night through. Man, did it feel good.
CHEF RICKY'S DARK-CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO MACADAMIA COOKIES
Makes about 4 dozen cookies
Measuring cups & spoons
Medium mixing bowl
Stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer
Small cookie scoop or 2 soup spoons
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free variation: use 2 ¼ cups gluten-free flour blend [plus ½ teaspoon xanthan gum if needed])
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (Chef Ricky recommends Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted, infused butter, softened (refer to Chef Ricky's book for his infusion recipes)
1 ¾ cups packed brown sugar
zest of 1 large orange
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups roasted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
1 ½ cups salted roasted and shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or using an electric handheld mixer) on medium-high speed, cream together the butter, sugar, and zest for 5 to 15 minutes. The timing varies depending on the temperature of the room and the butter. (That's why the recipe calls for softened butter.) The mixture should be light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, thoroughly incorporating each one before adding another, starting on low speed and whipping the egg in a bit before switching to high speed. After the second egg is whipped in, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to be sure that all the eggs, butter, and sugar are well mixed. Whip in both extracts. The mixture should be fluffy again when done.
5. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated.
6. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.
7. Mix together the nuts in a large bowl.
8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a small cookie scoop or 2 spoons, create balls of dough and place them on top of the bowl of nuts (each ball should be about 2 tablespoons' worth of dough). Press the nuts into each ball of dough, and then place them on the prepared baking sheet.
9. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes. The cookies will flatten out a bit and be soft. They may seem like they're not done, but don't fret—they are. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. The cookies will set upon cooling. Once they're completely cool, you can freeze them if you like.