For almost two months now, I’ve been mixing the dough, scooping it into mounds, parking it in the fridge, baking off a cookie or so at a time and, when the dough runs out, starting all over again. These cookies are from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, which came out in the spring of 2010. In the year or so since, they’ve exploded onto the scene. (We’re a “scene,” right, we who hang around the interwebs swapping recipes and telling stories? I like to think so.) Some very smart people have already said some very smart things about these cookies, so I didn’t plan on mentioning them here. I’d just keep mixing, and scooping, and chilling, and baking, quietly enjoying my cookies and kicking myself between bites for having taken so long to make them in the first place.
But over the last couple of months, it has come to my attention that there are people out there, good, salt of the earth, chocolate-chip-cookie-loving people who, like me, are only now awakening to the glory of Kim Boyce’s cookies. I know some of these people. I call them at home. In fact, anecdotal evidence leads me to believe that there is an entire sub-population on this planet that is just now trying them, just now turning on ovens and baking first batches. Not that I’m implying a class system of chocolate chip cookie eaters based on who has, and who has not, experienced these cookies. (Or am I?) In any case, it has finally dawned on me that maybe, just maybe one of you reading today has never heard of them. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take.
I first made these cookies with my sister, Anna, who came to visit in early July. We prepared the dough on a Friday morning, and left it in the fridge until the following night, when we – Anna, Eli, and I – piled onto our (new! pink!) sofa to watch The Adjustment Bureau (a movie that, incidentally, features more Jason Bourne-style running scenes than all three Bourne films combined). We baked off three cookies, one for each of us, and once they were cool enough for consumption, we ferried them over to the coffee table in front of the television. We were about a half an hour into the movie, and we kept right on watching while we took our first bites. What happened next I can only describe as silent pandemonium. We looked down at our plates, and said, “!!!!” We looked up at each other, and said, “????” Down. Up. Down. Up. “!!!!” “????” “!!!!” “????” Eli and I were already scrambling for the remote when Anna yelled, “PAUSE!” and we spent the next few minutes in deep discussion over what, what?, I ask you, makes this cookie so very, very good. (We didn’t come up with a single satisfying answer, by the way. We tried out words like “nubby,” “textured,” “pebbly,” and “thick,” all of which make it sound as though eating this cookie is like taking a bite out of your favorite sweater. I promise you, it’s nothing like that at all.) Anna asked for the recipe so that she could, and I quote, “blow people’s minds.” The following week, back home in Columbus, Ohio, that’s what she did.
And so it began: A few days after Anna left, I baked off one of the remaining cookies for a friend. She asked for the recipe. Then, my mother came to visit. She wanted it, too. Eli had a birthday at the beginning of this month and asked for these cookies in lieu of a cake. His brothers were in town, and a few friends came by, and I was so busy chatting with everyone (the perils of an open kitchen!) that I lost track of what my hands were doing, namely, pressing double, maybe triple, the usual amount of salt flakes into those poor lumps of dough. The cookies turned out so salty that no one even tried to pretend otherwise. Still, they ate them. And asked for the recipe. I tell you, these cookies can do no wrong.
The defining feature of this cookie is that it’s made exclusively with whole wheat flour, which does all sorts of terrific things for its flavor and texture. You might wonder at first what else is in there, maybe ground walnuts or oats, or some kind of earthy mystery spice. But that’s just the whole wheat talking. Whole wheat, it turns out, has some important things to say. These cookies bake up fat and tall, with a crisp, almost crust-like exterior. On the inside, they’re soft, even borderline flakey. They remind me a little of scones or buttermilk biscuits in that way. Eli told me not to tell you that, since he thinks it might give you the wrong idea about these cookies, but I decided to toss it out there, anyway. When you taste them, maybe you’ll see what I mean.
Most interesting to me about these cookies is the One Cookie Phenomenon (OCP) they seem to inspire. It’s a phenomenon that I never knew existed in the land of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, where the insatiable desire for cookie after cookie after cookie reigns supreme. You’ve been there, right? All cookied out, and maybe even mildly sick? This cookie gets how that can happen, and it has your back. Yes, you spend your whole time with this cookie wishing it would never end. But then it does, and you realize you’re okay. You’re filled with precisely the right amount of cookie, and you are done. And very, very happy.
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce
Boyce writes that “this dough is made to go straight from the bowl into the oven” (just be sure to use cold butter), but I followed a tip from Molly and chilled the pre-scooped dough. I’ve let the dough age anywhere from 18 hours to a whole week. I really like the way these mature dough balls bake up, fat, and tall, and rich in flavor, so I prepare the dough, scoop it into individual cookies, and store them in the fridge on a baking sheet wrapped in plastic. Then, when the mood strikes, I bake them off a cookie or two at a time. Boyce breaks down her ingredient list into two categories, “dry mix” and “wet mix.” I like that, since it helps me organize my brain and my bowls before I get started. A note about the dry ingredients: Boyce has you sift them into a bowl, but I whisk them together, instead.
3 c. whole wheat flour
1½ tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. kosher salt
2 sticks (8 oz.) cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 c. dark brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I use Scharffen Berger, 62%), roughly chopped into ¼- and ½-inch pieces
Sea salt flakes for finishing. (I use Maldon.)
[If you plan on baking these cookies right away, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.]
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Put the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on low speed until just blended. (It should take about 2 minutes.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until each one is incorporated. Mix in the vanilla.
Add the flour mixture to the bowl, and blend on low speed until the flour is just incorporated. If there are any small pockets of flour lurking in the dough, rub them in with your fingers. (Much better, Boyce says, than over-mixing.)
Scoop the dough – about 3 tablespoons per cookie – onto the baking sheets. I use a 1½-tablespoon ice cream scoop and pile one level scoop on top of another for added height. If you’re going the chill-now-bake-later-route, you can crowd them all onto a single sheet so that they’ll take up less room in the fridge. (You’ll remove the two or three or however many cookies to a separate sheet when you’re ready to bake them.) If you’ll be baking the cookies right away, you’ll need about 3 inches between them.
Just before baking, press a few flakes of salt into each dough ball. Boyce suggests a baking time of 16-20 minutes at 350 degrees. My chilled dough takes an even 20. If you’re baking up a bunch at a time, rotate the baking sheets halfway through. Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment, to the counter to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Yield: a little over 20 cookies