Oh, these cookies.
I love these cookies.
In sixth grade I wrote an essay about these cookies.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time perusing my mother’s Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks. She kept a stack of them in her walk-in closet, and I would take out a few at a time and flip through the pages, looking for ideas on what to bake next. If I was feeling particularly civilized I would read the cookbooks to my room, or on the living room couch. But sometimes I would just sit on the floor of the closet and read the cookbooks right then and there. Baking waits for no one.
That’s how I learned about honey jumbles. They had a cute name, they looked simple to make, and I loved anything with ginger in it, and that was all the convincing eleven-year-old me needed to try my hand at baking them.
I don’t like sugar cookies. Bland in flavor, crackled tops, and an unappealing texture–crispy, with maybe a little softness in the center if I’m lucky. I don’t do snickerdoodles, either; they’re just sugar cookies trying to be interesting.
As a result, I never made sugar cookies growing up. My go-to Christmas cookie recipe was the Land O’Lakes butter cookie recipe, conveniently printed inside the cardboard carton our butter came in. Like sugar cookies, these are rolled out and cut with cookie cutters. But these ones have flat, smooth tops, no crinkles in sight. And with no danger of becoming cakey, the texture is entirely in your control. You can roll it thinly at about 1/8″ for crispy cookies, or you can go thicker–I prefer 1/4″, 1/2″ if I’m daring–for fat, buttery cookies with a soft interior. I love picking the thickest cookie and biting all the edges until I’m left with the absolute middle. It tastes a little bit raw in the best possible way.
I like to believe these cookies are the ones Frog and Toad can’t stop eating in that children’s book Frog and Toad Together.
The Frog and Toad series, for the uninitiated, is a series of books, each one containing several short stories about Frog and Toad’s adventures. And their adventures are relatable. It’s none of this Curious George business, with a monkey flying away in a hot air balloon or working in a chocolate factory. Frog and Toad are too low-key for those shenanigans. Instead, the stories are about things so everyday that they’re almost dull. Toad loses a button from his jacket. Frog writes a letter to Toad so he has a reason to check the mail. Toad plants flowers and waits for them to grow. These are some chill amphibians.
In my favorite story (naturally, as food was involved), Frog and Toad can’t stop eating cookies.
It took me a while to find this recipe–which is kind of sad, considering it came out when I was five years old. But since the age of seven when I first began baking these cookies, I always used the Nestle Tollhouse recipe. It never occurred to me to try another until the New York Times article came out in 2008. Reading such a detailed breakdown of the chocolate chip cookie was an eye-opener. I tried its suggestion of refrigerating the dough for 36 hours, but I don’t have the patience for that. The article did, however, teach me to (a) sprinkle sea salt over the cookies before baking, and (b) switch to a better quality chocolate chip going forward (Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips has been my go-to chocolate chip ever since). The recipe was good, but what I really wanted was a chewy chocolate chip cookie–and so began a five-year process of trying out different chocolate chip cookie recipes.