I’m pretty sure that I could have an entire blog devoted to chocolate chip cookies and still neither run out of recipes nor get bored of eating them.
When I was little (and, if I’m honest, now), I used to find it incredibly strange to think that each generation seems to be able to run faster or throw further than the generation before. That desire to be better – than you are or have been, than everyone else is – seems to be one of the driving forces in life.
Whether it’s sport or science or technology or anything really, great achievements come from that burning desire.
And, whilst I don’t pretend to do anything particular great with my time, I still have that desire. When I get to the end of a run, I have Ellie Goulding in my ears telling me that I’ve just run my fastest mile and I give myself a mental high-five (not, I should add, because Ellie Goulding is a friend but because she is one of the pre-recorded voices on the Nike running app I use to log my runs). At work, I sit in my annual appraisal and focus on what I need to do better. How I can be better. Every time I pick up a camera, I have to believe that the photograph I’m just about to take is better than every photograph I’ve taken before.
It is a double-edged sword though – that same drive can be as demoralising as it is motivating depending on my mood. Some days, the battle to make today that bit better than yesterday isn’t worth the fight. Some times, it feels like we are destined to live a life that we feel is just not good enough.
The trick, and one which I know I struggle with, is to turn that passion into something good and to not beat yourself up when you don’t live up to your own expectations. To enjoy that constant quest for something better and not see it as a failure if you don’t reach your destination.
To tie it all back to where I started, I’m always on the hunt for a “better” chocolate chip cookie recipe. I may create something that I’m happy with in the moment but it doesn’t take long until a niggle sends me back into the kitchen. The number and variety of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there attest to the fact that I’m probably not alone in this. This version is vaguely adapted from one of my favourite blogs, Not Without Salt and are as close to the perfect chocolate chip cookie as I’ve come in a long time.
I urge you to read the post that accompanies Ashley’s recipe – as a perfectionist myself, I could relate to so much of what she says. Her variations to her original recipe came about, she says, as the result of necessity as were my changes to her recipe. Browning the butter, for example, makes it easy to make cookies when the urge strikes without waiting for butter to reach room temperature. The smoked sea salt gives an extra dimension beyond the sweet/salty combination that is so popular. It gives, unsurprisingly perhaps, a hint of smoke which makes you stop and think. I used a Maldon smoked sea salt but you could use regular old sea salt if you wanted.
115g (1 stick)unsalted butter
180g (1 cup)demerara sugar
1/2 teaspoonvanilla bean paste
140g (1 1/4 cup)spelt flour (either white or whole wheat)
40g (1/3 cup)ground almonds
1/2 teaspoonbicarbonate of soda/baking soda
1 teaspoonsmoked sea salt + extra for sprinkling
100g (4 oz)dark chocolate, chopped
In a small pan, heat the butter over a medium heat until it starts to bubble. When it has turned golden brown and is flecked with brown specks, take it off the heat and set it aside to cool slightly.
When the butter has cooled a bit, beat it together with the sugar with a wooden spoon until combined. Add the egg and the vanilla bean paste and continue to beat.
Fold in the flour, ground almonds, bicarbonate of soda/baking soda and the smoked sea salt.
Fold through the chocolate chips.
Chill the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
Place large spoonfuls of the dough on a baking sheet lined with non-stick paper or a silicone mat – the dough will be dark and sticky, don’t worry too much about it! Sprinkle each one with a generous helping of smoked sea salt.
Bake for 12 minutes until just set.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.