Most of life is full of uncertainty, with little to nothing guaranteed. It is this unfortunate-but-true reality that seems to draw us as human beings to routine, ritual, and traditions that we can count on. Sometimes they come with milestones like a graduation, or a wedding; the music played, a walk down the aisle or across a stage, the cutting of a cake etc. Most of the time however, they are little nuances; little marks or gestures that help us define our lives, our individual experiences or what might separate them from the lives of others.
Since I was ten years old until now there is one thing I can pretty much guarantee the moment I step in the door of my best friends mom’s house – cookies. ‘Mom cookies’ as we coined them a million years ago, will always be waiting there for us in the freezer. A forever constant growing up when I would spend weekends at her house- in between ballet classes and rehearsals and youth group social events. Now, she makes them whenever one of her children or grandchildren comes for a visit, and I am lucky enough to be considered one of her children by way my nearly thirty year old friendship with her oldest.
These little rituals like walking into her house and opening up her freezer for a cookie, are the little details that make life rich. Who knew I would be sitting at my desk tearing up about cookies…
As it turns out, I too have an any occasion cookie; one that I make for specific reasons happy or sad, and for no reason at all. I have made my fair share of too flat or too crunchy chocolate chip cookies in my time. After I found this recipe about eight years ago or so, it became the only chocolate chip cookie recipe I would make, swapping out a few ingredients here and there along the way.
I’ve made them for Valentines day, for birthday parties, as a little pick me up to give to friends going through a hard time, bake sales, grandparent visits, and simply for the joy of being in the kitchen with my daughters. This was the first recipe I ever baked with my oldest, back when she was still a few months shy of two.
There are thousands of delicious cookie recipes out there in the world to try. But in all honesty, it’s unlikely at this stage there will be one I will come back to again and again like this one.
*adaptations you can try: replace the vanilla for almond extract for a more adult tasting cookie, add dried cranberries or hazelnuts, add a tbsp. or two of peanut butter, sprinkle the top with a bit of sea salt, use milk chocolate, butterscotch or white chocolate chips for a sweeter cookie, sub out a bit of the plain flour for spelt flour for a denser cookie*
- 225g (8oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 350g (12.3oz) soft light brown sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla or *almond extract *my preference
- 400 g (14 oz) plain flour, sieved or whisked to remove lumps
- 1/2 tsp. salt, I use a pinch of sea salt
- 2 1/2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 225g (8 oz) dark chocolate, chopped
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar- you can do this with an electric mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon for a good arm work out or to squeeze in a bit of extra time with your kids in the kitchen. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix well. Follow with the vanilla or almond extract.
In a smaller bowl combine the flour, bicarb and salt. Then slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones until well combined and smooth. Stir in the chocolate. You can chill the dough in the fridge, freeze it in individual clumps if you like, or use it straight away.
Spoon balls of the cookie dough onto prepared baking trays, giving them ample room to spread out. Bake at 170C (325F, Gas Mark 3) for 10 minutes or until lightly golden with fairly solid centres.
Remove from oven, cool for a minute or two before removing onto a wired cooling rack and fully cool. Serve with cold milk, hot coffee or strong whisky, depending on what the occasion dictates.