some basic addition | Spelt chocolate chip cookies

Would what you're doing now surprise your 10 year old self? For me, that was eight years ago. Things change really fast. From one day to the next, I decided I needed to straighten my hair and grow it pretty long. It was almost touching my waist at one point; then I cut it, and it's hanging vaguely halfway on my back now. I used to hate skirts, went through a phase where I wore them three times a week, now I wear them occasionally. I used to eat sugar, plain, off the spoon, but dropped that habit. Around that age my mum would make this Indonesian rice and I'd pick all the peppers out and push them to the side of my plate (or try to offload them on my dad) (ok I still do that with meat). Over the summer, Layla and I were in Amsterdam and eating salads every day for dinner (10 year old: who even eats salad?), on our last day we had too many peppers and cherry tomatoes left... guess who stood in the kitchen eating them raw out of the container? My ten year old self would've screamed. Or laughed. 

I think when I was really young I intended to become a bus driver, but luckily I ditched that aspiration pretty fast. By the time I was 10 I thought I might be a pilot. Then a journalist or author, and most seriously a vet. I looked into vet school and everything. I'd have never thought that I would study law, that I would become a lawyer. So ordinary. I could imagine flying planes, writing for a magazine or writing a novel, maybe working as countryside vet but if I'd told my 13 year old self I'd study law I would've been surprised .  Is that not kind of scary? That I could veer so far of the route I'd sketched out 5 years ago? Sometimes I see pictures of myself from some time ago and notice what I'm wearing, I'll groan and say what was I thinking. I had a fringe at some point. So what happens now if in 5 years I look back on the decision to study what I chose and I groan and say what was I thinking?

There is something weird about this system that forces 16 year olds to make decisions that will impact their whole life. There's a lot of talk here about bringing back grammar schools which essentially channel kids who do well on a certain set of exams into schools with higher levels of achievement and better reputations. They end up with the best chances. You sit the exam when you're 11. Does an 11 year old have any idea that this exam will be the car that drives them all the way to their future? That their best chances of getting a good job hinge on these papers? When I was 11, I did really well at school. Too well, in fact, at a school where it wasn't considered 'cool' to be really academic. I risked being called a 'nerd' (ha) and losing my close group of friends. Important, at that age. I used to change a couple of words on my spelling tests so that I wouldn't get 100%, and in math I'd go back and mess up some basic addition. Would I have understood that these exams were more important than being considered not-nerdy? Probably not. So the misjudgement of an 11 year old would've blown any chance I'd had of being a vet, or a lawyer, or whatever. Why does that not seem to make sense?

I once read a quote somewhere that said 'do something you'll thank yourself for in 10 years time' which really resonated with me. I work pretty hard, for the most part. I eat ok, I stopped training so much so my knees have a chance of lasting a few more years, when I did use facebook I never posted anything that I might regret, I always read emails twice, I drive fairly safely, I chose to buy a car that would last me 10 years. When I make decisions, I always think 'ok but how will this work in the long term?' and the trouble is that I've been saying that to myself for years. Since the time of wanting to be a vet, since the time of cutting my hair short, of wearing clothes that I can't believe I left the house in. 

Maybe there's no way you can get it right. Maybe I'm just too cautious. About a month ago I wore blue jeans now I've decided to only wear black. What? So now in five years, I'll look back and think I should've done it differently? Studied less, had more fun, studied more, got less sleep... or probably just accept that there's not really any winning this one. The old cliche of over-thinking less, living more. Learn from it. That takes courage too. Like throwing yourself into a waterfall on kayak - a crazy; exhilarating ride, a tumble in and out of the rapids, and waiting for a chance to steady the boat again. What I have learnt, is that there's always a calmer stretch of water upstream. 

This is the first recipe I'm posting that isn't one of my obscure creations :) these cookies have sort of a cult following since they're originally made with 100% whole wheat flour - they're Kim Boyce's famous chocolate chip cookies. Chances are you have a copy of the brilliant Good to the Grain  but if not, it's the book that put whole grain flours in the more mainstream baking route. The author is actually a trained pastry chef (Spago and all) (that's like having played for Barcelona on a winning streak, or something, for your reference. Hi dad!!) so you know this isn't just 'eat your whole grains and be healthy', it's more the delicate balancing act of adding whole grains for flavor and texture, which takes actual skill. If you've never tried one of the recipes on this site, try this one, because she's a professional! You can trust a James Beard winner.  This book is one of my favourites, if you're into whole grain, seasonal recipes or if it's something you're curious about, you'll be inspired by this book for sure. Anyway, I did make a few adaptations which are reflected in the recipe below (the original recipe is everywhere online including Food 52). To start with I halved the recipe. Because it's me, I used spelt flour rather than whole wheat, coconut oil instead of butter and used two unrefined sugars + cut the sugar... feel free to use either recipe if dairy isn't an issue for you, or mix and match.

These cookies are big, they're soft and pillowy, they're so good. It's suggested you use a chopped bar of fancy chocolate rather than chips which is what I always do, and also they're left super chunky -  I highly reccomend you take that route. Big melty pools of chocolate are kind of fun. Ask someone else to do the chopping, just show them the photo, and they'll also do the dishes for you :) If you try these or the originals, I would love to know your thoughts. Chocolate chip cookies are very subjective so it's totally a taste thing. 

The brightest end to your week + cookies xx


spelt chocolate chip cookies

adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
dairy free   // makes around 10 laaarge cookies

1 1/2 cups (165g) spelt flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (50g) coconut sugar / dark muscavado sugar
1/3 (67g) cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup (110g) extra virgin coconut oil, soft room temperature*
1 free range egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
110g/4 ounces bittersweet/dark chocolate, chopped into large chunks


Preheat the oven to 180'c, 350'F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder & soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a standing mixer. I don't have one, so I'll give hand held mixer instructions, feel free to do it all in a stand mixer if you have one though) use a fork to cut the coconut oil into smaller chunks. Add the two sugars and with a hand held electric mixer on low speed, beat together. Turn the speed up to high and continue beat until the two sugars are combined with the oil and it's fluffier. Stop the beater and scrape the bowl with a flexible spatula whenever you need to.

Once the sugars are combined, add the egg and beat again on high speed until it's mixed evenly through the dough. Then add the vanilla and mix briefly once more.

Tip the flour mix into the same bowl as the oil and again using the beater, whisk till just combined and slightly clumpy. Add the chocolate pieces all at once to the dough and beat once more. The dough will be thick by this point and will come together into a ball easily. Use your hands to make sure all the chocolate pieces are evenly incorporated into the dough.

Portion out the dough into rounds on the cookie sheets - you want about 3 tablespoons a cookie (I used my 1.5T cookie scoop, 2 scoops per cookie, then rolled them into mounds). They do spread quite a bit, so leave around 7cm/ 3in between each one.

Bake the cookies for 16-18 minutes, rotating each sheet halfway through. They should be lightly browned all over and will still be very soft when you take them out, but they'll firm up as they cool. Slide the parchment, with the cookies, onto cooling racks and allow them a little time to cool. If you can, have one out of the oven. The rest will keep for 3 days in an airtight container. I will try freezing some too and let you know what happens.

notes

The recipe calls for cold butter but I've found that coconut oil, when cold, is cumbersome to work with and the mixer just makes a mess of it. I used room temperature oil - the key is that it's solid and not melting all over the place. The batter will look oily, but they turn out 100% ok.  No taste of coconut either. 

My cookies spread slightly less than the ones in the book's photos. That may be to do with the oil (it has higher fat content than butter which is part water) (just fyi) or with the fact that I cut back the sugar by 1/3. They're still very flat and even but have a liiiitle lump in the middle. I've been doing a lot of cookie science research but I'm not sure why this is... I'll let you know if I find out. If you try these and have any ideas, I'd love to hear them :)


cookies & snacks