Browned Butter & Spelt Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies | On Wisdom, Ritual & Grief

Last night, as I slept, I turned 30.

Beginning in my late teens, whenever anyone asked me my age, I would follow the number with the essential addendum, "...but I feel like I'm 30." It wasn't that I was a particularly old soul or anything, I have just always possessed a certain level of maturity that made me feel ready for all the things I imagined adulthood would be. No drama, stable relationships, a fulfilling career, self-assuredness. You know, the simple things. 

As far back as I can remember, I have been eager for the ways of being that filled my heart to match my reality, to have my life catch up with my desires for myself. 

There are moments now, sometimes a beautiful and robust string of them, when I feel wise. But it is an entirely different wisdom than I had imagined adulthood would bring. I don't feel wise because I have all my shit together or because I embody all the qualities and circumstances that I assumed come neatly packaged with 30 years on this Earth (which I definitely don't). I feel wise because I have begun to understand and accept the uncertainty of life. I lean into what feels right without knowing or having grand expectations of where it will lead. My life looks absolutely nothing like I imagined it would at this stage. Nothing. But instead of the deep distress, depression and resistance I responded to that with in my mid-20s, I have come to a place of trust in and patience with the unfolding. It's a kind of wisdom I couldn't have comprehended when I previously dreamed of 30 because I hadn't yet lived enough to know it would be necessary.

I have been feeling an internal storminess the past few weeks, waves of deep grief crashing against the yearning to acknowledge and celebrate personal milestones. A significant birthday. The 1 year anniversary of this blog. Holding that, while consciously and purposefully sinking into a space of darkness. Honoring the lives of the 36 people who died in the horrific Ghost Ship fire in Oakland on December 2, two of whom were my friends. Grieving, sometimes deeply and sometimes shallowly yet always presently, over the incomprehensible travesty and unfairness of their loss of life and our world's loss of their presence in it. 

I feel my breaths differently since they died. 

Em and Donna were such beacons of light. They were unfailingly warm and vibrant people. Genuine and generous, inquisitive and unassuming. A poet and a healer. It is still so incomprehensible that they are gone. The fire took the lives of college students and elementary school teachers, musicians and publishers, activists and filmmakers. People devoted to our communities, to showing up in our world as their authentic selves. There is no sense to be made of it. My heart breaks every single day. 

As people gathered across the Bay to grieve and honor the lives of Donna, Em, Johnny, Kiyomi, Griffin, Hanna, Vanessa, Benjamin, Edmond, Micah, Nicole, Alex, Michela, Ara, Jennifer, Jason, Draven, Joseph, Peter, Barrett, Jonathan, Billy, Alex, David, Travis, Sara, Brandon, Cash, Nicolas, Riley, Chelsea, Jennifer, Amanda, Wolfgang, Michele, and Nicholas, I began to think about ritual. As I began to think about celebrating the 1 year anniversary of this blog in this space and celebrating my 30th birthday in physical space, I thought about ritual even more. The reasons why we gather and commemorate. Honor and draw particular attention to a thing. To acknowledge. To create meaning. To remember. To cherish. To heal. 

It's important. It makes us feel connected, feel valued. It helps us articulate our humanness, together. 

These are my favorite chocolate chip cookies. Share them with people you love and tell the people you love that you love them. Breathe deeply. Be kind. Create beauty in the world, whatever that looks like to you. It's been a hard year. We all need it.

*Note: These are, in fact, the best ever chocolate chip cookies...and you should trust me on that, because I've baked a lot of chocolate chip cookies in my life. For many years, I was in search of a recipe that would yield a cookie with as much heft as those you get at fancy bakeries, with crispy edges and thick, gooey middles. After conducting some aggressive research, I found out that melted butter results in crispy cookies, whereas creamed butter results in thicker cookies. SO! The secret trick is to melt half the butter and cream half the butter, which gives you the best of both worlds. And as long as you're melting the butter, you might as well brown it, right? I also threw some spelt flour into the mix because I am physically incapable of baking things without at least 50% whole grains. In addition to a nutritional boost, the spelt lends a nice earthiness to the cookie, which balances out its sweetness. I have tested these babies on at least a dozen people, from California to Indiana, from 12 year-olds to 90 year-olds (and the 30 year-olds in between), and they have all given them a resounding endorsement. Not that I should have to convince you to make cookies, right? 

(Best Ever) Browned Butter & Spelt Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Makes 16

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks, 16 Tbsp) butter, softened
1 cup muscovado (unrefined brown sugar)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup superfine raw cane sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup spelt flour
1 + 1/4 cup unbleached All Purpose flour
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup dark chocolate discs, or chopped from a bar
Maldon or other flaked salt, to sprinkle on top

Directions
1. Place 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) in a small pot and set over medium heat, swirling the pot semi-frequently to prevent burning. Continue to heat the butter after it has melted. It will begin to foam, eventually clear and start to turn amber. At this stage, you will see little brown specks form and stick to the bottom of the pot. As soon as there is a collection of these browned specks, remove the butter from the heat and transfer it to a small bowl, browned bits and all. Be attentive with this; it can go from browned to burned very quickly!
2. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium speed (or with a vigorous arm), whip the remaining 1/2 cup softened butter with the muscovado sugar until fully creamed, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.
3. Once the browned butter has cooled a bit, add that and the cane sugar to the mix and beat until whipped, about 2 minutes.
4. Beat the egg into the mixture until fully incorporated, and then the egg yolk. At this point the batter should be smooth and much lighter in color.
5. In a separate large bowl, mix together the flours, salt and baking soda.
6. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet batter and mix at a low speed until just incorporated. There can still be a few bits of flour peeking through. 
7. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and gently mix in the chocolate chips with a large spoon.
8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, stick it in the fridge and forget about it for 1-2 hours.
9. At this point, the dough should be firm enough to make into balls. Scoop out 2 Tbsp. of dough and smoosh together into one hefty dough ball, then place in a large tupperware. Repeat with remainder of the dough.
10. Refrigerate overnight. 

11. When you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and lay out 6 dough balls, spaced evenly apart. Sprinkle each ball with a pinch of Maldon or other flaky sea salt.
12. Bake until firm and golden around the edges but still a touch undercooked in the middle, about 12 minutes. It is important to take them out of the oven before they are fully baked because the residual heat from the tray will continue cooking them once they're out! No one likes a dry cookie.
13. Cool completely on baking sheet. Then, finally, enjoy!