My answer for any emotional extreme — sadness, joy, stress — is food. Recently my partner, who works in the production department at the Journal, was under a tight deadline. Naturally, the voice in my head was screaming: Must. Make. Cookies.
But here's the thing. Even though (or maybe because) I have a culinary background, my recipe files are a disaster. You know how you get a great recipe from a friend that you just loved from that potluck a month ago and then you find an intriguing recipe in a magazine so you cut it out, and then you have your favorite go-to recipes that are covered in years of flour, butter and God only knows what else, and they just never make it into one common place? Not the recipe box my sister gave me for Christmas (thanks Sis, but I loathe recipe boxes) or the beautiful suede-covered recipe journal from my friend Anna (I couldn't possibly use it around food). Nope. On a good day, my printed recipes might make it into a three-ring binder, though not necessarily hole-punched and bound — that's why there's a handy pocket in the front, right? So, when I decided to make chocolate-chip cookies, I searched my computer, hoping maybe I had one of my old recipes filed away at my fingertips.
Enter "THE COOKIES."
What the heck are "THE COOKIES?" I sat there thinking, racking my brain for why I'd have such a vague recipe title in all caps and then it hit. The cookies. These, truly, are the cookies. They are tender like shortbread but with a crunch around the edges, complements of the raw sugar they are rolled in before slicing for baking. They have the perfect amount of chocolate sweetness, balanced by sprinkling the top with coarse salt. These cookies are great for breakfast, morning tea, with lunch, as an afternoon snack; I'm sure you get the picture.
But I'm vegan now, which I wasn't the first time I made these. Honestly, modifying the recipe was not complicated at all, requiring only three substitutions from the original. Instead of butter, I used a combination of shortening (butter flavor works well here) and Earth Balance buttery spread. I made sure my chocolate chips were vegan-approved by choosing a dark chocolate, high cacao content chip, which tends to be dairy free. (You can also purchase vegan certified chocolate chips.) Before rolling the cookies in sugar, they must be brushed with milk, for which I chose coconut milk, though any milk you prefer would work equally well. With ingredients in hand, I mixed, rolled, chilled, sliced, sprinkled and baked. Fourteen minutes later, I welcomed soft yet crunchy, sweet and salted chocolate chip heaven into the kitchen. The hardest part was letting them cool long enough to package up to send to work with my sweetie.
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
You can roll the cookies in raw sugar, as I have here, or sprinkles or nuts — the possibilities are endless.
8 ounces (1 cup) butter-flavored shortening
2 tablespoons vegan butter (I prefer Earth Balance)
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
6 ounces dark chocolate
Raw sugar for rolling in
Coarse salt for sprinkling
Using the paddle attachment on your mixer, cream the vegan butter, white and brown sugars, and vanilla extract together until light and fluffy (turn it on medium and just let it go for a few minutes).
Mix in the flour until just combined. Then add the chocolate chips and stir until they are evenly distributed.
Lay plastic wrap out on a flat surface. Form the dough into a log down the length of plastic wrap, then roll the edges of the wrap around the it. Twist the ends and use them to roll the log back and forth on the flat surface until if forms a smooth, round tube of dough. Chill the dough for at least two hours.
When ready, heat the oven to 350 F. Brush the log with coconut milk and roll it in a pan of raw sugar. Slice into ½-inch thick rounds. Lay the rounds on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or reusable silicone baking sheets. Sprinkle with coarse salt and bake 12-14 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the pan for a few minutes before removing them to a cooling rack, as they will be crumbly right out of the oven.
Cheryl Churchill trained at Le Cordon Bleu and the Bellagio in Las Vegas. She prefers she/her pronouns.