I’m writing this from the passenger seat of our car on the way to the city of bridges; per tradition, my dad is driving me back up before the start of the dance year, and we’re now on hour three of our ten hour journey. As thrilling as sitting inches away from each other in a small vehicle for an entire day can be, it’s pretty safe to conclude that car rides are neither my dad’s nor my ideal activity. In fact, they basically involve almost zero activity. Anyone who spends a significant amount of time around my dad and I will realize that we have many similar qualities–among them is the fact that we’re not exactly the best at sitting still. That’s a euphemism. Forced immobility is our shared Achilles heel, perhaps one of the only known forces that can bring us to our lowest. When we can’t move, we lose our minds.
Therefore, I’m doing absolutely everything possible to stimulate my brain and distract my body from the fact that it’s stuck in a metal box in a bent position until 7pm tonight. Hence, the blogging. I knew that this week’s baked good would have to be one I already felt confident sharing because there wouldn’t be much time for last minute testing during my dad-daughter weekend. Then I realized the perfect goody to post–my dad’s favorite recipe of mine! His treat of choice? None other than good ole chocolate chunk cookies.
You see, my dad is a simple, salt and pepper kind of guy (he actually claimed once that all other spices are irrelevant). Surround him with exotic, elegant pastries, and he’d pass them up for a good cookie with a Ron Swanson-like credence. He’s incredibly creative but finds great offense in the act of overcomplication. If you’ve followed any of my other blogs before now, you’ll have realized at this point where my similarities with my dad come to a screeching halt. How such a level-headed individual produced a child as indecisive and panicky as me, I’ve no clue–maybe God needed a good laugh :).
It is because of this personality discrepancy, though, that I’m bringing these cookies to you today. When my dad tasted them for the first time, his reaction was priceless. What started out as a silent expression of joy developed into a symphony of mmmms before finally maturing into words: “That’s the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever eaten.” Thrilled at first, I giddily finished the batch I was baking for a church dinner. At the event, the cookies were praised by everyone who tried them.
Naturally, though, this wasn’t enough to keep me content. These cookies, unlike every other recipe I’d developed over multiple days, were the outcome of my first try. The fact that I’d received nothing but compliments on them wasn’t enough for my worrisome, perfectionist brain–I felt a massive urge to find something to tweak or improve, a reason for a second attempt. As we rode home from the church, I vocalized my scattered concerns:
“I feel like maybe I should tone back the-”
“Nope” my dad interjected from the front seat.
“I just thought it maybe tasted a little too-”
What my dad was able to accept that I couldn’t was that the cookies were just fine how they were, better than fine, actually. They were chewy, oozing with rich dark-chocolate, sweet but balanced with a touch of saltiness. He had to remind me of the ancient cliché “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” a phrase I’m still learning to actively apply to my baking. Striving to always improve your creations is, of course, a valuable mindset in the kitchen; however, realizing when it’s time to step back and appreciate the goodness of a recipe before you overthink it into failure is also important. I’m thankful that I have people in my life who will give me the smack in the head I need before over-analyzing my bakes to death–yes, I have absolutely killed desserts before because I just wouldn’t leave them alone. Eventually, I settled quite comfortably in the sensation of making my dad’s favorite chocolate chip cookie (with some added pride, I might add, because I’d cracked his skepticism of vegan baking). Sometimes, being forced to stop moving has its benefits.
Be still, and know that I am God.
Chocolate Chunk Cookies (V) (makes about 20)
- 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
- 1/2 cup vegan light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 flax egg (1 TBSP ground flax + 3 TBSP water mixed and left in fridge at least 5 min.)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp almond extract
- 3/4 cup plus 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP toasted all-purpose flour **see toasting instructions below
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup vegan dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I use Trader Joe’s 72% pound plus bar)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine both sugars with shortening; mix on medium speed until smooth.
- Add flax egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract; continue mixing medium until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together both flours, baking soda, and salt.
- Add dry ingredients to wet in a few increments, mixing after each addition and scraping the bowl as necessary.
- On lowest speed of mixer or by hand, stir in chocolate just until evenly dispersed throughout the cookie dough.
- Cover and chill dough in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- Arrange tablespoon-sized scoops of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, a couple inches apart. Bake in 350° oven for 9-11 minutes.
- Remove from oven, and let cool on pans or on cooling racks. Store in airtight container at room temperature.
**To toast all–purpose flour, place flour in a large, dry skillet over medium heat. I generally do this in larger batches, but always use a little more than the recipe calls for to assure you’ll have enough. Stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or spatula, allow flour to toast until very nutty in odor, about 10 minutes. The flour may begin to darken in color a bit at this point. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Storing in freezer is best for use in pie crust.