Truly, this isn’t new. I posted something four years go about reconstructing the chocolate chip cookies of childhood memory. Or, to be more precise, how I tweaked the recipe my Mom sent me ever so slightly.
Many a things have happened in those four years. In the constant way of life, I have learned more from experience. I have upgraded cameras. Twice. Figured out more of the technical, which freed up the path to be more creative and explore how I wanted to photograph my food. I learned more about the technical parts of cooking and baking, which allows for more rampant experimentation with only a hair less trepidation. Read more and more about food, from a culinary and cultural standpoint, how we veered so far into processed, and people are starting to come back. Slowly. People still want processed shortcuts. Sometimes I do, too.
And then it hit me… why was I looking for shortcuts? Granted, I have been accused of insanity when I start talking about how easy it is to whip up a batch of homemade marshmallows (which it is), because I am so in love with making things from scratch, but still… why? Why shortcuts? On an every day basis? Is this truly what our lives have become? In the four years since that cookie post, I have watched as life accelerated, time filled, and for me work took over everything, including my own self-care. And I know this is not exclusive to me. It is everyone, whether they be single and child free like me, or married with multiple children running about. Somehow our modern world has demanded that we fill our time with more things. More material things, more classes, more work, more activities, more social media, more television, more drivel, so much so that we look for shortcuts in cooking, in food, that which nourishes us, in favor of spending more time binge watching that latest Netflix series. (To be fair, I love “Grace & Frankie”.) And in fact, food is a wonderful part of human existence. It can be this wonderful communal event, or it can be a therapeutic small moment, like a cup of really good tea and a homemade cookie at the end of an overblown day overflowing with ‘more’. It is how people make others feel welcome in their home, it is a buffet laid out at weddings or funerals, celebrations of others’ lives, it is how you, with the power of a simple bowl of soup, can make another ill human feel better, even if it is only psychosomatic.
And so I revisited the chocolate chip cookie. I revised the recipe after making it with my 3 ½ year old niece, where you can not conform to rigid recipes or timing, and discovered through her overpour of flour that an extra ¼ of flour made a big difference. I remember how intently she studied that dough, taking a scrap I had given her and fiddling with it, seeing what shapes it could make, what it would do if she added more flour, and the sheer unadulterated joy of laying it on the counter and whapping it with her little hand, smooshing it in the most satisfying way.
When I came home to see if the replication of the extra ¼ cup of flour would work, I found myself suddenly intrigued by the walnut. I had a bunch of almost whole walnut halves, and noticed how beautifully, symmetrically gnarled they are. Suddenly I was focusing intently on each and every solitary ingredient, sniffing them deeply, hovering and contorting around them with my camera, focusing on just… them. No more. No elaborate staging of pretty dishes, no distressed backgrounds, just… the bare ingredients. And this is the result. (Recipe at the end, I swear.)
Chocolate Chip Cookies
(this is only a half recipe of the one we made when I was a kid, and it makes a little over 2 dozen, give or take how much you eat raw)
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c (1 stick) butter at room temperature (you do not need fancy pants European cultured butter, but please… it is such a strong flavor, get a good butter, not generic. Good old fashioned Land O’ Lakes is delightful.)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar (small note here… the original recipe calls for a dead even mix of brown and white sugar. I happen to prefer brown, so I tipped the scale and added more brown. Do what you will, just add it up to 3/4 c.)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. oatmeal (NOT the quick-cooking kind… technically you could use it, but they won’t have the same chew. If you live near a food co-op or a Whole Foods, get the regular rolled oats from the bulk bins, which will be cheaper than you think, and OH so very tasty)
1/4 – 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional, obviously)
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease or parchment line two baking sheets.
Cream butter until fluffy. Add sugars, cream well (until they begin to lighten in color.) Add egg, beat well. Add vanilla, beat well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mix into the buttery eggy goodness and fold in with a spatula until you don’t see flour anymore. I used to beat this, but found it made the cookies too tough, so just… gentle folding in. Fold in oats, chips, and nuts (if using) and fold in thoroughly. Make sure you get everything mixed in from the bottom of the bowl so you have a fairly even distribution of oats and chips throughout. Drop the dough by tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 2″ between them. Bake for 5 minutes, rotate the pans top to bottom, bake for 5-6 more minutes until beautiful and golden brown. Remove immediately to a cooling rack. If you are me and greased the sheets out of some weird irrational childhood nostalgia, curse yourself a thousand times over because you know perfectly damned well your weeny kitchen sink can’t properly fit one of those in to clean it. And now you have two filthy ones. Awesome. Vow to use parchment paper next time.Grab a warm cookie and a cold glass of milk. And do nothing except eat that cookie and drink that milk. And maybe eat one more cookie.