Always encouraging

muir woodsThoreau said that he always found the voice of nature encouraging.

whole wheat chocolate chip cookies

My boys feel that same way about chocolate chip cookies.

boys and cookies

You may recall that while I enjoy the buckwheat chocolate chunk cookie recipe that I got from my friend Eleanor, I am not really a chocolate chip cookie person. The rest of my household, however, feel otherwise. Jacob has even inherited Kyle’s particular way of saying cookie, a Mid-Atlantic verbal caress that makes you think that the word might be spelled with Es and Ws and perhaps a big heart at the end – cew-kie. Heart.

redwood treesWhen we went away for our anniversary, to the wonderful place we got married, Kyle and I spent the better part of the time outside. (Well, Kyle might argue that the better part was spent drinking Pliny the Elder. That is neither here nor there.)

i love you kyle

Walking through old-growth redwoods, towering and ancient, shot through with a  green primeval light, I feel like I am walking through mystery and magic. The smell is so familiar, the air moist and alive, and the carpet of leaves and ferns and moss quiets my steps, my mind.

green moss

Old growth forests know a thing or two about strength, and persistence, and getting through. There are trees living here in California that were soaring into blue skies before Columbus ever sailed – think about that for a minute.

muir woods

I find it very encouraging.

redwood trees

While we were gone, my dad and stepmom stayed here with the boys (thank you, thank you, thank you). We left a big bag of cookies in the freezer, and they were gone when we got back. I left the cookies thinking the boys might have a moment or two when a little treat would be just the thing to get them through missing us.

fall in muir woods

It turns out that my dad and stepmom might have needed the cookies even more – a weekend that begins with children throwing up all over the restaurant table and continues through a night where no one sleeps more than an hour or two at a time is the sort where one might wish for some extra encouragement. (You guys really are the best.)

green leaves in muir woods

We’ve all been needing a little extra encouragement lately. And while I am not a chocolate chip cookie person … Like my boys, I find these ones to be smile-inducing, hunger-satisfying, and always rather encouraging.

muir woods

Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods … ~ John Muir

whole wheat chocolate chip cookiesWhole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
I adapted this basically famous recipe from Jess at Sweet Amandine, who adapted it from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

My changes to Jess’s recipe were to add a tiny pinch of cinnamon (it sort of rounds out the nutty goodness of the whole wheat) and to make a smaller batch of smaller cookies (they are, after all, being made primarily for a couple of small people!). Though I cut most ingredients in half, I kept the vanilla at two teaspoons – you may certainly cut it down to 1 teaspoon if you’d like to keep closer to the original proportions.

Dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Wet ingredients:
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes (I use Straus cultured european style butter and put it in the freezer for a few minutes before cutting it)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chunks (I use Scharffen Berger 62% or “the chunks in the yellow bag” if you are Jacob)

Flaky salt for finishing

Line two baking sheets with parchment and clear some space in your fridge for them to sit (they an sit on top of other stuff as long as they will sit relatively flat and have an inch or two of room above them!)

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.

Put the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on low for about two minutes, until just blended. Scrape down the bowl, add the egg, and mix until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and then the chocolate chunks.

Add the flour mixture to the bowl and mix until the flour is just incorporated. You can do a few final stirs with your rubber spatula to get any dry spots mixed in – Boyce and Jess both warn heartily against over mixing.

Scoop the dough in heaped-1-tablespoon mounds onto the baking sheets. It is good for them to have some height. Press a few flakes of salt into each dough ball.

Put your cookie sheets into the fridge. Turn on your oven and heat to 350 F (give it time to really heat up – leaving the dough to sit for at least 20 minutes). Once your oven is heated, move cookie sheets from fridge to oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden and the edges just barely starting to brown. (You can rotate the pans half way through if you normally do with cookies – I don’t).

This makes about 24 child-sized cookies. We love keeping them in the freezer, but we are weird like that :)

redwood bark



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10 thoughts on “Always encouraging

  1. Muir Woods! And Jacob’s face paint! And of course the cookies! All wonderful. I know it’s a long shot, but do you think these cookies could go vegan? I am not, but am baking for a friend who is …

    • Hi Lisa – Yes, Jacob loved his face paint!

      Hm – vegan … I have never made them this way, but I think they could definitely stand up to using coconut oil in place of the butter. I made a batch the other night where I added a scant cup of oats, and I was surprised that it didn’t really change the flavor as much as I thought it would: there is something oatmeally about these cookies already, with all the whole wheat. I say this because I have an oatmeal cookie recipe that I love, that is vegan and uses coconut oil – coconut doesn’t come blaring through flavor wise, but it works. I think it would work here too. I’m not sure, though, about replacing the egg. Annie at An Unrefined Vegan has a substitutions list on her site, and gives a couple ideas for eggs – some of them use modified soy and/or corn syrup, which I’m no fan of – but she has several ideas for replacements and some look very workable! Here is a link to her substitutions page:

      Now – if you try it, please report back!! If it works, I’ll update with a vegan option on the recipe :)

  2. Wow those cookies are look so good and chocolate-ladden. I would find them encouraging too! And I love the shot of the yellow leaf, and then the green leaf. Are those from the same time of year? The green one almost seems like spring.

    • Hi Molly – chocolate-ladden indeed! All the pictures are from the visit in October – redwood forests are deep with green even as the maple leaves turn colors and fall. It does seem sort of spring-like though I suppose – part of the magic of the redwoods I guess :)

  3. Yum! These look much healthier than the Monster Cookies we baked up recently. After one Monster cookie, the boys went totally nuts running around the house, play fighting, etc.. I’ve had to eat them myself to protect them… and the house.

    • Monster cookies! Now those sound seasonal and perfect :) I have actually been in that same horrible position before, of having to eat all the cookies to protect my family and our home.

      (You’ll notice in the photos that the boys are eating outside ;)

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