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!

Multigrain Waffles, Roasted Strawberries & Raw Chocolate Olive Oil Sauce

Well hello, October! Where in goddess' name did you sneak up on us from? We've suddenly tipped onto the other side of the equinox and are ping ponging between days that still burn with summer heat and days marked by a crisp, penetrating chill. Two weeks ago, I made these waffles with roasted strawberries. This weekend, I baked a winter squash. Typical, California.

I've been sick for the past two weeks, which I attribute to my body being unable to cope with the clunky and indecisive seasonal transition we've got going on here. If any of you more seasonally attuned people are surprised/confused about why this recipe that I'm sharing on Oct 4 has strawberries in it, you are definitely onto something. I would be confused too. When I made it two weeks ago, the "farewell to summer" recipe still felt passable. Then I got sick and unusually busy and my brain couldn't find any words to put onto this digital paper.  

That doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it though. I've considered many topics for this post: the autumn equinox (did you know that Uranus takes 84 years to travel around the sun and that its axis is tipped at almost 90 degrees, which means that its seasons only include summer and winter and each last 42 years?!); September 30th's black moon (the second new moon in one month, thought to be a potent time for releasing negative patterns and setting new intentions); and Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year (happy 5777 y'all!), a time of celebration that leads into a week of deep personal  reflection on one's actions in the past year. 

The truth is though, I still don't have the brain power for any of that. I was just talking to my housemate about this dilemma. She told me (in fewer words but with more gesticulation) that her experience of this whole waffles with roasted strawberries and raw chocolate sauce situation was one of sheer joy, of leisurely cooking (okay, watching me cook) on a Saturday morning while playing with light and my new camera (!!!), climbing on stools to get better shots while savoring the smell of maple oozing from the oven, catching each other up on the events and drama from our lives and sitting down to an insanely delicious brunch all together as the family we've become. She asked me to summarize the theme of my blog. After articulating it as best I could, she suggested that I practice some of the self-compassion that I promote in this space and not stress about it so much. Not force myself to write what I feel like I "should" because of the purview of the content that I've constructed. So I've decided to take her up on that. Better to just get it out in the world before the frost sets in and strawberries disappear completely, right?

I will say a few words about this recipe though. The waffles come by way of Sprouted Kitchen and are ridiculously delicious. When I first started getting into subbing whole grains for white flour in basically every single baked thing I made, I was constantly frustrated by not being able to make pancakes or waffles with whole grain flours that tasted good. This recipe proves that it absolutely can be done. It's a little involved and has more ingredients than a standard from-scratch waffle, but it's entirely worth the effort. In addition to tasting amazing, the waffles are packed with satiating and nourishing protein from almond flour, fiber from whole wheat flour, healthy fats from flax and Greek yogurt, and have very little sugar. How often can you say that about a carb-loaded breakfast?!

I roasted strawberries for the first time a few days before making these waffles and was completely blown away by how jammy and delectable they tasted. They immediately became my new favorite condiment. I wanted to put them on everything. So I used them as an excuse to make and post my favorite waffles...and to eat chocolate for breakfast.

As for this raw chocolate sauce, well, it is the icing on this breakfast cake. Is it strictly necessary? No. Will you want to pour it all over your waffle to swirl amongst the jammy strawberries and then eat any that's leftover shamelessly with a spoon and lick the container afterwards? Yes. The sauce is the brainchild of Sarah B. of My New Roots and comes from her gorgeous first cookbook. She put it in the dessert section with some poached pears, but knowing how much I love sweets I'm sure she will not be surprised to find me blatantly encouraging you to incorporate it into your breakfast. (Needless to say, you can put the strawberries and chocolate sauce on your ice cream later, too.)

While you could make the chocolate sauce with unsweetened cocoa powder, I strongly encourage you to buy a small bag of raw cacao powder to use in this recipe if you don't own any already. The nutritional difference is HUGE. As in, there is little to no nutritional value in processed cocoa powder, while raw cacao powder is ground without heat and consequently retains all of its magical potent miracle qualities. If my brain were working better I would do some research and explain said qualities to you, but since it isn't, I will simply direct you to Sarah B.'s highly informative and entertaining explanation, which you can find here.

I think that's about all I've got in me for now. Tune in next time for more grounding, uplifting, meditative words on life, our world and our spirits. In the meantime, go make some badass healthy waffles.

Multigrain Waffles, Roasted Strawberries & Raw Chocolate Olive Oil Sauce
Serves 4


Ingredients
Multigrain Wafflesslightly adapted from Sprouted Kitchen
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 cup full fat plain yogurt
1 cup milk (plant or whole cow's, preferably organic)
2 Tbsp. orange juice, fresh squeezed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil or ghee
2 Tbsp. flaxmeal
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour (make this by blitzing oats in a blender!)
1 Tbsp. muscovado or coconut sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Roasted Strawberries
16 oz strawberries, hulled and cut into halves from top to bottom
1 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. real maple syrup
1/8 tsp. sea salt

Raw Chocolate Olive Oil Sauce, slightly adapted from My New Roots: Inspired Plant Based Recipes for Every Season by Sarah Britton
3 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil, preferably with a sweet/mild flavor
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
pinch of fine sea salt
3 Tbsp. raw cacao powder

Directions
Multigrain Waffles
1. In a large bowl, mix all of the wet ingredients (egg through melted oil) together.
2. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients together.
3. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Let sit for a few minutes while you heat up your waffle iron. If you'll be waiting to eat once they've all been cooked, pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees.
4. Pour enough batter into the iron to fill it without overflowing it (I tend to err on the conservative side). The waffle will be done when the machine stops steaming.
5. Place each waffle on a baking sheet in the oven to stay crisp if you aren't eating immediately.

Roasted Strawberries 
(It's best to get these started and in the oven first, so they're baking while you're mixing your waffle batter)
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and maple syrup.
3. Pour the mixture over prepared strawberries and toss to coat (you can do this in a bowl, but I often do it with my hands directly on the baking sheet because it means one less bowl to clean).
4. Sprinkle a generous pinch of salt over the strawberries.
5. Roast for 30 minutes, until collapsed and jammy.

Raw Chocolate Sauce
1. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, maple syrup and salt together.
2. Sift in the cacao powder and whisk well.