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In Search of the Perfect Cookie

January 6, 2014

Brown butter + sea salt cookies

I’ve never met a cookie I didn’t like.  Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. I’ve encountered many a cookie that I managed to choke down simply because I have a love of cookies.

As a child, I remember baking with my mother. We’d pull out The Purity Cookbook (1967 version) and it would immediately crack open to the chocolate chip cookie recipe which was weighted down with the spills of previous baking accidents.  Flecks of flour, buttery grease marks, and the occasional spot of smushed cookie dough.

Having requested this recipe from my mother as an adult, I realize that my love of the chocolate chip cookie had nothing to do with that exact combination of ingredients laid out in this particular recipe.  I’ve made it several times as an adult and it’s simply not a fantastic cookie. Even worse, tt doesn’t even taste like my childhood. My love of this cookie recipe in memory alone has to do with the process of baking with my mother.

When we baked together, it was about commencing an activity that just the two of us would enjoy. A mother and daughter who came to share the same love of raw cookie dough. We’ve bake a dozen, and then freeze enough dough to make a second dozen later on.  But that dough we froze wasn’t really for baking – it was meant to provide frozen morsels to snack upon.

After the Doodle was born and I was panicked about my milk supply, I started baking these lactation cookies. They’re so yummy.

What a better way to boost my supply I told myself as I ensured that I would eat four of these each and every day. Oh what selfless sacrifices I make for the baby.  I used nursing as an excuse to feed my cookie addiction. I was frantically baking every few days. I told the big kids that these particular cookies would give them breast milk just so they wouldn’t dip into my stash.

It got so out of control that I had to wean myself off of these cookies before I weaned the Doodle. I was utterly obsessed with these cookies.

Since I’m no longer nursing a baby, it just felt weird to make these cookies even though I once loved them so very much. When I make them again, I’m sure I’ll fondly remember the Doodle’s infancy. But I’ve been searching around for a new chocolate chip cookie recipe to fall in love with. And I think I finally did it.

Brown butter + sea salt cookies

Introducing Browned Butter + Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies.  They’re heavenly perfection best enjoyed while still warm from the oven. The browned butter smells heavenly, it gives the cookies a nice rich flavour, and the pairing of dark chocolate and sea salt will delight your taste buds.  I’m a sucker for a richly sweet earthy salt pairing.

It was love at first bite.

Brown butter + sea salt cookies

Browned Butter + Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe copied from Rustic Brooklyn with one slight modification)

makes 30-36 cookies

ingredients
– 1 cup (2  sticks) unsalted butter
– 1 cup light brown sugar
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
– 2 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
–  1/2 cup chopped dark baker’s chocolate (the original recipe call for 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips, but I don’t really like milk chocolate, so I booted it)
– 1/2 tbsp coarse sea salt for sprinkling

directions

  1. To brown butter, heat 1 stick of  butter in a pan over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking and swirling the pan constantly until the butter is dark golden brown with brown flecks on the bottom of the pan, and you can smell a nutty aroma.  Pour it into a bowl and allow to cool completely.
  2. Mix the other stick of butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar  on medium speed for a few minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla to the mixer.
  4. Slowly add the brown butter, then mix on medium speed for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add the egg and egg yolk and mix.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.  Add the dry mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low until the flour is just incorporated.
  7. Add chocolate chips and mix for a few seconds.
  8. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, then cover and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  9. Line cookie sheets with  parchment paper and place dough 2 inches apart.
  10. Sprinkle each ball with some sea salt.
  11. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through. Note: I had to cook for 15-16 min.

Brown butter + sea salt cookies

While I did bake these with the Doodle, I can’t say that baking with her is quite a relaxing experience yet. She’s way too fascinated with turning the mixer on high and watching the flour fly up into the air. So if I can distract her with singing and pouring and re-direct her from the mixer, it’s a good day.

Brown butter + sea salt cookies

1/52 – Balance

January 6, 2014

1/52 - Balance

Balance is life captured outside of the photo frame.

Today was supposed to be the first day back at preschool, only the -40 temperatures caused a pipe to burst and flood the school, so it instead became an impromptu sick day.  Two weeks of Christmas holidays extended by a day. I was the one without fixed meetings scheduled, so I stayed home to parent the Doodle while Otto went in to the office. Which was a good thing because outside of the house freezing rain fell from the sky and only one of our two vehicles is suitable for driving safely in those sorts of road conditions.

While I worked from home for a few hours in the morning, the Doodle got her fill of Caillou and other assorted kid television shows on the iPad.  We sat side by side on the couch with our respective electronics balancing work and parenting, laptops and iPads.

The frigid weather kept us indoors over most of the holidays, but I never did get the chance to introduce the Doodle to the glory that is the Sound of Music. After lunch we snuggled on the couch under soft blankies with the fireplace on while I sung along with Julie Andrews.  She was on-key, I was off-key, and the Doodle smiled. We made to the part where the Barnoness gets Maria to leave before the Doodle lost interest.

We needed a change of scenery.  My toddler indoor activity idea bank was dry. The Doodle was getting crabby, irritable and completely uncooperative. I needed the best redirect I could possibly muster, or any redirect I could think of.  Thankfully I scored with, “Would you like to try on your new bathing suit?”

So the Doodle spent the rest of the afternoon jumping on my bed in her swim suit during a winter storm.  Balance achieved.

iPhone lover

We spent the morning in our jammies. I obviously forgot the part where the Doodle got a hold of my iPhone. Watching Caillou is serious business.

Little monkey jumping on the bed

This is actually my favourite photo as it so perfectly captures the Doodle’s personality. It was snapped immediately after she jumped so hard that it caused her to fall down. It’s a little blurry, sadly.

Playtime

And again, her mischievousness comes through right here.  As well as her clear lack of hair.  I think she’s going to be five before she has something substantial up top.

52/52 – Emotive

December 29, 2013

52/52 - Emotive

When the Doodle was born, there was something about her arrival in the world grounded him. It was if they were leading parallel lives. Her infancy was the infancy he should have had, and for those first 12 magical months, he somewhat lived vicariously through her having the babyhood he never had. He experienced unconditional love, budding attachment, fierce protectiveness, attentiveness and tender care. She had so much of which he had been denied.

The birth lottery is quite the gamble. You don’t get to choose your parents, your socioeconomic circumstances, your race or your nationality. The Doodle won all-round. Bubaloo wasn’t quite so lucky.

The day after Christmas my two kids donned their matching batman t-shirts, shirts they purchased with money from their gramma. Every time that they’re together, when they play together like this under our watchful eye, I’m painfully aware that this could be the last time.

It’s been an incredibly challenging year with Bubaloo. We anticipate much of the same, if not greater and more severe challenges, in 2014. We anticipate by the end of the year he’ll choose living on the street as to living at home. Or, we’ll support his choices by asking him not to live here anymore.

He’s only 16 years old. This is not the life we want for him. We’d want anything other than this for him. But he exerts his agency and will, and his broken and damaged thinking leads to a never-ending series of bad choices that are having far-reaching consequences on his life, and the lives of the people around him. He’s toxic. He’s dangerous. Yet he’s my kid.

As we went to bed on Christmas eve, lingered over presents on Christmas morning, and shared a turkey feast at Christmas dinner, I catalogued each moment and savored each one as our possible last as this family of five. When trying to raise a child like this, you live in the present with no hope for the future because there’s only so many times you can have hope beaten out of your cupped hands.

51/52 – Wild Card

December 25, 2013

51/52 - Wild Card

Christmas was a moving target this year. We were going to visit our families, we were not going to visit our families, and when a vicious winter storm ripped through the region, it became the smarter decision to simply stay put and stay off of the roads. Travel is not a simple endeavor for us. It’s at least a 7 hour road trip one way.

We switched gears and celebrated the holidays as a family of five in our own home. It was quiet. It was delightful. But most importantly, it was relaxing and restorative.

One of the many things I’m grateful for as our family tradition is that we make Christmas a day long celebration. We do their stockings, then have a yummy breakfast together, then we come back to the tree and open the gifts one present at a time.  We sip coffee with baileys and mimosas for hours. We facetimed with the grandparents so they could share in the joy of opening gifts.  We started the gifting portion of Christmas around 8am and finished around 12pm – just in time for me to rush to pull the stuffing together and get that turkey in the oven.

What I love about that photo of the kids is that is truly shows what goofballs they are when they’re asked to sit in the same frame for a few short minutes.

Here’s a few extra pics from Christmas morning.

 

Christmas = Love

A little bit of Christmas love. One of the rare photos of just the two of us.

Sibling love

I think Bella looks lovely in this pic while her little brother hams it up.

Christmas morning

Tears of joy and delight. Bella made me the most thoughtful and touching gift. I also discovered that the Doodle does truly have the empathy her daycare workers speak of as she was the first to rush to my side when my eyes teared up.

Suitcase for the win
There were lots of presents under the tree, but the one that was most instantly loved was her very own suitcase.  She’s been packing ours for months now for a trip were taking in February.

Kids
It’s always nice when you can get a good pic of the kids. In the Doodle’s words, everyone ‘properate (cooperate) with Mommy.

50/52 – Reflect

December 15, 2013

50/52 - Reflect

After my early morning haircut, I promised the Doodle I would take her for a hot apple juice on the first of our four mommy-Doodle Saturdays. For two weekends in December, and another two in January, Otto heads to the university classroom to teach her fellow human resource professionals. The Doodle and I get to hang out.

It was a bitterly cold Saturday, maybe the coldest on record this year.  We were bundled up in outer layers to compensate for a decided lack of first layers, or rather, the Doodle had chosen that there was nothing better to wear in the middle of the Canadian winter than a light summer tank top paired with a skirt. I insisted she compensate with snowpants.

I was laden down with hats, mitts and scarfs and soon ran out of pocket space and purse room to store them in. My arms were full of jackets. I was trying to gently guide a toddler to the side of the store where we could get our hot beverages, and then take her to the other far end of the store to the place where the thing I wanted to show her was. Of course, we would take a detour by the bathroom, kids book and toy section.  But I wanted the highlight of the visit for her to be to stand in the exact spot where Mommy met Mama for the first time.

The Doodle isn’t quite old enough to appreciate our love story yet. It’s one that can be summed up as follows – girl meets girl on internet, they take notice of one another while pretending to be uninterested, they begin to correspond, and then they end up in the middle of a quirky game of tag.  Our first meeting was a planned meeting, but it wasn’t really a meeting. We didn’t say hello or shake hands. We didn’t have a conversation or exchange pleasantries for that matter. It’s a wonder we ended up married raising three kids together given our quirky first encounter of each other are real human beings.

It was important for me to stand in the exact place with the Doodle at my side where I first laid eyes on her Mama. Her Mama had been sitting on a chair in the poetry section.

As all things change with time, the tidy row of chairs that used to reside under the large window are now three chairs separated by two large tables piled high with books. The poetry section is now the science fiction section. And a toddler doesn’t have the patience to stare at an empty chair while you reflect and share with her snippets of your greatest love story.

In true childhood fashion, romantic love is irrelevant and cannot hold a child’s attention for long. The Doodle was enamored by the train set where she could push the tiny wooden trains along the track while making ‘choo-choo’ sounds. She was also fascinated by the buttons in the elevator and quickly pushed one when we got into it.

I’m thankful that she knows to only push one button, but she can’t read, so just pushes the button that’s nearest her reach. My arms were laden with winter outer layers and I couldn’t intercept her in time. Toddlers are speedy and once a button is pressed it cannot be unpressed (which I think is a total design failure). The doors had just closed behind us and we had not yet begun moving down to the floor below.  We were stuck in limbo on the slowest elevator ever while the intercom was making an outbound call.  The Doodle hadn’t touched the door open or door close button. She hadn’t accidentally selected an incorrect floor.

As it would happen on this particular elevator the lowest pressable button within a child’s reach was the help button.  And this particular help button didn’t ring a bell or set off and alarm. It was calling out to someone. I desperately wanted to get off the elevator while reminding the Doodle not to hit buttons until I showed her which ones she should hit. No matter how I searched for an end button or pounded on that button to undo my child’s doing, I was totally shit out of luck.  The elevator finally moved, the doors opened, we were about to escape, and that’s when the voice came out from the wall, “911. What’s your emergency?”

Now we have two great stories to reflect upon every time we visit this store. How Mommy met Mama, and the time that the Doodle discovered the ‘help’ button.

I snapped the picture above just after the aforementioned incident. She looks so innocent walking amongst the stacks with her hot apple juice. “Call 911? Who called 911? Not me!”

49/52 – Traditions

December 8, 2013

49/52 - Traditions

Like parents all around the world, I like to trek my kid to sit on Santa’s lap for an obligatory holiday photo. I’m not even sure how we’re going to handle the Santa-thing yet, but somehow, I’ve conspired with the rest of North American culture and have thrown her smack-dab in the middle of something.

Side note – I hate lying, and to me, the Santa myth as it’s moved beyond a myth is one big lie we tell our kids and we don’t want any part of lying about Santa.  I’m still crushed till this day to think that my parents lied to me and that deception dampened the Christmas spirit and made it an entirely commercial holiday for many years. We need to better figure out how to deal with this Santa-thing, or find a better way to reveal the truth in years from now if we do fully opt to buy-in and carry this through.

Despite my Santa moral conflict, I still trekked my kid to the mall to sit on his lap. In the least, this was a real person in a costume dressed up as a Santa Claus. I may have even referred to him as the “man dressed as Santa” a few times in passing just to try it on for size.

A lot can change in a year.  Here’s the Doodle’s very first picture with Santa in 2011.  She’s about 8 months old here. This was taken right before she pretty much entered her shy phase, which really was more of stage, that lasted about a year and half.

Baby A. meets Santa Claus

The next Christmas, in 2012, the Doodle was a little over a year and a half, and terrified of strangers.  She didn’t even touch Santa in this picture.

51/52 - Confusion

Over the course of the past year, now that we have complete language capabilities around these parts, every time the Doodle saw this picture she’d state, “Santa scary!” in a scared voice. Which eventually morphed into “Santa scary!!!” followed by laughter at her earlier reaction.

This year when I suggested a Santa photo and whisked her to mall in that window of opportunity between daycare and dinner, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The Doodle was excited about seeing Santa.  Until it was our turn, then she turned a little shy, but after his first ‘ho ho ho’ she crawled up on his lap and then charmed his pants off.  She talked and talked and talked.  And talked and talked and talked.

The mall Santa, who was incredible, was regaled with tales of our Christmas tree, how she wanted a batman shirt for Christmas, and so on.  I couldn’t hear them clearly, but she kept on making him laugh. I’m not sure he entirely understood her as now that she’s communicating in two languages her annunciation in either isn’t too clear. You couldn’t tell.  This Santa was a pro. He appeared to be attentively absorbing each and every word.

I was too flabbergasted that my formerly ‘glued to Mommy’s leg in the presence of anyone other than Mommy’ child was happily chatting away with a Mommy-approved stranger.  What confidence! I was so impressed and proud of my little toddler.

48/52 – Mealtime

December 1, 2013

48/52 - Mealtime

One of the perks of having a dog is that it makes mealtime clean up a sinch. I’m not sure we could have ever done baby-led weaning or consumed rice on a regular basis without a dog. That being said, there’s a lot more food we could have consumed if Mr. Mooster wasn’t exactly table height and quickly able to pinch a little something off the side of your plate if you were to get distracted for just a moment.

Family meals have always been important to us, but I’d say having a toddler in the house challenges your ability to enjoy both your food and conversation at the same time.  When we’re not intervening in a “please don’t feed the dog situation” the Doodle is hopping from lap to lap, trying to climb on the table to touch the chandelier or moving all of the chairs away from the table to make a house and having a fit if you try to touch them…you know, to sit on it so that you can eat your dinner.

Being 2.75 is a pretty complicated and emotionally volatile time in a little one’s life.

She’s cheeky and expressive.  Her daycare workers constantly talk about her strong personality and how smart she is. I love it. She’s going to be one incredible grown up human being, yet such a difficult kid to raise.

Mealtimes would be a little bit simpler if we could coerce her into her Trip Trapp once again and buckle her down. But she’s adamant that she’s a big kid now and needs to sit on the same chair as everyone else.

Just a little taste

Just when I think that every adventure possible to have at the dinner table has been had, moments like these come along.

This dog eats from a fork

It’s getting classier around here. Our dog now eats off of a fork 😉