Sometimes I struggle to fall asleep. I don’t drink coffee after noon, go to bed when I am tired, refrain from using my devices for a few hours before going to bed, maintain a quiet bedroom without a television or any other kinds of visual stimulation, and build a super-comfy nest in which to burrow--and yet there are times when my “busy mind” keeps me from achieving the very basic goal of SLEEP. What do you do when you can’t sleep? When I was much younger, I remember learning of the meditative technique of “counting sheep” -- a sort of bucolic visualization of sheep jumping over a fence. I’m not sure what makes this successful. Is it the repetition of a mundane task; the clearing of the mind that happens when you focus on something requiring your undivided attention; that the sheep are so soft and fluffy… The whole sheep thing hasn’t really worked for years, but thankfully I have found a system that works for me. I make cookies.
To be clear, I don’t get up from bed and ACTUALLY make cookies when I can’t sleep (who can eat that many cookies), instead I mentally walk through the process of making cookies focusing on every tiny detail in my mind. I think about the ingredients in my pantry and my refrigerator; do I need to get anything from the store? I imagine laying out all of the ingredients: butter, white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour, salt, baking soda, and (according to my nephews the most important part) chocolate chips. I visualize leaving the butter and the eggs on my countertop to let them come to room temperature. And then I start “making cookies.” Usually, I have drifted off by the time I need to add vanilla--I NEVER make it to actually baking the dough.
You don’t get to the point where you meditate on baking cookies to fall asleep without making a whole lot of cookies. Since the birth of my first nephew almost six years ago, I have carefully cultivated my “Tia Kelli” image. First and foremost, Tia Kelli bakes cookies. Each Brooklyn visit includes at least two batches of cookies, complete with plenty of tasting, sticky fingers, and the appearance of dough-devouring “cookie monsters.” This last trip was no different: we made some “Derby Bars,” a less-than-perfect marriage between cookies and pecan pie; and we made ourselves a batch of the most ubiquitous of American treats, the Chocolate Chip Cookie.
Invented sometime around 1938 by chef Ruth Graves Wakefield, the proprietor of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, the chocolate chip cookie was born when a Nestle chocolate bar was broken into chunks and added into a recipe for a butterscotch nut cookie that was served with ice cream. Nowadays, you can find countless recipes for variations on the chocolate chip cookie that meet all of the dietary preferences and restrictions that you could possibly imagine vegan cookies, check; keto cookies, check; crispy cookies; chewy cookies; cookie bars; there are at least 25 recipes that claim to be the “best” chocolate chip cookies. I am a bit of a traditionalist--I make my cookies approximately the same way every time, and I have been making them so long that I don’t remember where the recipe comes from… a solid guess would be the back of the chocolate chip bag.
Your cookies don’t need to be complicated or fussy to be good. But if you want a truly exceptional cookie and don’t mind that the recipe is unnecessarily complicated, try out Kenji Lopez’s recipe on the Serious Eats website. I made it once, thoroughly enjoyed the layering of delicious flavors, and promptly went back to my tried-and-true recipe. So, without further ado, please enjoy this recipe from origins unremembered and with much gratitude, love your Tia Kelli.
Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: somewhere between 20 and 40 cookies depending on many factors like: cookie size and amount of dough eaten raw.
2 sticks of butter (i prefer unsalted but either will do) ROOM TEMPERATURE
¾ c brown sugar (packed)
¾ c granulated sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 bag of chocolate chips (or any kind of chips you prefer)
Other add-ins like nuts and dried fruit
In a stand mixer or in a large bowl with beaters, cream together butter and both types of sugar until light in color and fluffy. This is a very important step. When you cream together the butter and sugar you are also integrating air into your batter which has a direct impact on the texture of the cookie.
Add in vanilla and eggs (one at a time) beating in between each egg addition.
Stop the mixer and add in flour, baking soda, and salt. Using a low setting, mix together batter until the dry ingredients are just combined. You definitely don’t want to mix for too long--when you mix flour with liquids, gluten chains will form like in bread. Since you want delicate cookies, you want to avoid developing the gluten.
With the mixer on low, add in the chocolate chips and any other add-in ingredients. Mix just until combined.
Form the dough into a log, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour and ideally overnight. It can be hard to wait. I usually bake off a tray of around 13 cookies immediately and refrigerate the rest of the dough. Letting the dough rest in the fridge and baking from chilled yield a better cookie, but also “Me Want Cookie!!!”
When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Form dough into ball-ish forms--I slice the roll and then form the dough into a rough-edged ball. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan with appropriate spacing to allow for spread.
Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes until cookies are starting to turn golden brown on the edges and are just set in the middle. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before you gobble them up, you don’t want to burn the rough of your mouth!