community, failure, & chocolate chip cookies.

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when dustin and i got engaged, i remember that one of the first things i felt in some of those initial conversations as i shared our exciting news was feeling like i had just gotten invited to a special club. not because of the ring or anything like that, but because as one of the last people to get married in my group of friends, among lots of fun new connections, being engaged allowed me to (finally) be part of the marriage-y conversations. the good, the challenging, the utterly hilarious.

marriage, like all relationships, requires us to be intentional, present, and honest, and having a community to share with and be accountable to has added a richness to our growth as a couple. we are blessed beyond measure to have a community that stretches near and far including friends and groups we meet and share with individually as well as family and friends that we hang out with together. we are also incredibly grateful to have been welcomed together as a couple into a couples small group. we get together monthly at one of our houses for dinner, a considerable amount of laughter, and conversation about marriage, challenges, joys, faith, encouragement.

this month’s dinner was this past weekend, and we had volunteered to bring dessert. i woke up saturday morning super excited to find a new recipe to try, and it didn’t take me long to do so. my search ended when my heart got set on bon appétit’s caramel budinos with salted caramel sauce (“budino” is Italian for “pudding”). they had me at caramel. topped with salted caramel.

the first steps came together with ease. i prepped the pint sized mason jars, pressed the cookie crust into each one, and made the caramel base for the budino. i added the rest of the ingredients to the pan and watched the ingredients combine to create a luscious pudding base. i was following the recipe directions precisely since i haven’t made pudding consistently with the same recipe and didn’t want to foil the entire dessert, so after stirring the mixture for 3 minutes and watching the thermometer hit 175º, i took the pan off of the heat. this is where i went wrong. it didn’t seem quite right, but i went with it, reasoning that surely it would set correctly as it cooled. lesson learned: my instincts are usually pretty right-on in the kitchen. you can see where this is heading. a few hours passed, and i came to the kitchen to make the vanilla bean whipped cream to top our sweet treats with. i opened the refrigerator, lightly jiggled one of the mason jars, and the liquid moved fluidly back and forth.

as much as i was kicking myself that they didn’t turn out, i didn’t have time to fret – I needed a plan b. thankfully we still had dough in the refrigerator from the most sinfully delicious chocolate chip cookies i have ever sunk my teeth into. i needed to make a slight adjustment to the instructions, but i miraculously had just enough left to make 10 cookies. conveniently there was a tiny scoop left at the end for me to eat to calm my frustration (which legitimately was left over since i weighed every last one of those puppies)! i went ahead and made the vanilla bean whipped cream, grabbed some vanilla ice cream, tucked the salted caramel sauce under my arm, and away we went.

by the time we got to dinner, i had processed my frustrations with my poor, patient, comforting husband. i admitted to the group that i was super bummed about my failed dessert, and they graciously covered all of my frustrations with genuine excitement about the cookies. i was able to let go of how mad i was at myself for ruining the dessert, and i rested into the fun of the evening. we sat around the table for hours, and we did what our group does best: laughing, snuggling the newest babe, asking questions, and sharing life. this has by no means been an easy year for dustin and i, but i am thankful that we have a community that pursues us, loves & walks through the through the hard parts with us, genuinely celebrates the littlest & biggest victories with us, and melts away failed dessert frustrations over decadent, warm cookie sundaes.

:: chocolate chip cookies ::
modified slightly from a friend of molly’s

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i have molly’s post on instagram to thank for this forever-and-ever keeper of a recipe. as soon as i tasted the first bite of one of these cookies, i knew i would share it. i was even more convinced to do so when it came to my rescue last weekend, but i was resisting. i mean, i had just talked in my last recipe post about not calling everything “the best” (except for my husband and that banana bread), and there i was considering another “no really, seriously, they are the best” recipe. although i guess the posts confirm that i’m not out to peddle mediocre recipes on this here blog, i promise this has been a wild & strange phenomenon, and i’ve put the kibosh on “best” posts. i would argue that banana bread and chocolate chip cookies are both among the top most simple, classic baked goods. they have both been made countless ways with countless delicious tweaks, but they both really are recipes that we’re totally sold out for – this cookie in particular. they are, as i said above, blissfully decadent.

notes about this recipe:
– although i don’t understand the science behind what makes these cookies so, so good, i’ve tasted the results, and i don’t need to be convinced to weigh out the ingredients. i don’t find weighing ingredients to be any more work than dirtying and washing measuring cups and spoons.

– be sure to let the dough rest for 24-36 hours – don’t skip this step. besides being key for the cookies to be cold when they go into the oven, over the course of the resting time in the fridge, the flavors marinate and are elevated to the next level of goodness.

– weighing the cookies may seem like an unnecessary step, but it’s worth it. the recipe calls for 3.5 oz dough balls, but i reduced mine to 2.0 oz and reduced the cooking time to 15 minutes, and they turned out great.

– substitutions: you can sup 17 ounces of all purpose flour for the cake flour & bread flour. you can also use light brown sugar or a mixture of light & dark brown sugar in place of the dark brown sugar.

ingredients
*measure by weight with a scale

8 1/2 oz cake flour
8 1/2 oz bread flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp cinnamon
20 tbsp (2 1/2 sticks) butter
10 oz dark brown sugar
2 oz ice cubes or 2 oz bourbon
8 oz white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
12 oz chocolate chips
1 cup toasted, chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
Sea salt

instructions

  1. sift flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl; set aside.
  2. melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. stir occasionally as the butter melts, but watch it closely. the butter will melt, foam, and then brown. once it begins to brown, stir it constantly – it goes from browned to burnt in a flash. this isn’t the time to multitask (words from a fervent multi-tasker). pour the browned butter into a bowl and add the brown sugar but don’t stir together. add 2 ounces of ice cubes or 2 ounces of bourbon to the sugar/butter mixture; set aside.
  3. using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whip eggs and white sugar for five minutes until pale and ribbony. add the vanilla and mix, then add the butter mixture and mix well.
  4. with the mixer turned off, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. mix on low until just combined.
  5. add the chocolate chips (and nuts, if using) to the dough and stir them in by hand with a spatula.
  6. scoop dough into a storage container or onto plastic wrap and wrap dough well. refrigerate cookie dough for 24 to 36 hours.
  7. on baking day, preheat oven to 350º. line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat; set aside.
  8. weigh dough (see below) & roll into a ball. sprinkle cookie dough balls with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, as noted below.
    – 2 oz dough balls: 15 mins
    – 3 1/2 oz dough balls: 18 to 20 mins

yield: about 18 3.5 oz cookies or about 30 2 oz cookies

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