Of Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies & the Humber Summer Workshop in Creative Writing

The food: Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Nut Cookies

The story:

Last week I was fortunate to be teaching at the Humber School for Writers Summer Workshop in Creative Writing in Toronto, alongside my fellow faculty members Nino Ricci, Richard Bausch, Wayson Choy, Isabel Huggan, Julia Glass, Olive Senior, Bruce Jay Friedman, John Metcalf, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Alistair MacLeod, Erika De Vasconcelos, David Bezmozgis, and Frieda Wishinsky.

Though I’ve taught the workshop for several years, I always wonder and worry beforehand how the week will go, how the group chemistry will develop. My group of five this time were diverse in interests and background – three are working on serious novels, one is writing a travelogue/memoir, and the fifth writes short stories – and they seemed a little subdued at first.

I had to work harder than usual to get them to laugh at my jokes, but by the end of the week, friendships had formed among them, they appeared willing to take at least some of my writing advice, and if they weren’t exactly eating out of my hand, they did seem to enjoy the Sea Salt Chocolate Nut Cookies I baked to mark the bittersweet moment of our parting, when, after a convivial and thought-provoking week spent sharing the writing life, we all left the workshop to go write in solitude.

Thomas Keller’s recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies from his Ad Hoc At Home cookbook can be found here. And here’s my version:

Sea Salt Chocolate Chip & Nut Cookies (adapted from Thomas Keller)

Makes: About 30 3-inch cookies.

2 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces 50% chocolate chips (about 1 1/4 cups)
5 ounces Lindt Excellence A Touch of Sea Salt Dark Chocolate, roughly chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 cup walnut halves
1 cup pecans
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Sift the flour and baking soda into a medium bowl. Stir in the salt.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until fairly smooth. Add both sugars and beat until well combined, then beat for a few minutes, until the mixture is light and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until the first one is incorporated before adding the next and scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine.

4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and mix in the chocolate and nuts with a wooden spoon and spatula. Make sure that the chocolate and nuts are evenly distributed.

5. Using about 2 level tablespoons per cookie, drop dough onto cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each, because the dough will spread. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the tops are no longer shiny. Let cool for a few minutes on pan then transfer to rack or cutting board.

6. Repeat with remaining two batches of cookies.

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