This recipe and story appeared in the April 23, 2012 edition of “From Tali’s Kitchen,” my biweekly cooking column in Binah magazine. For this one-year anniversary edition of the food section, Binah had each columnist talk about her personal background and how that led to food writing.
I’m sharing this recipe now because these cookies are the perfect treat to keep on hand for Shavuos. People often tell me they can’t be bothered to bake dairy cookies — they’re too limiting with all those fleishig meals on the calendar. For Shavuos, though, there are no excuses not to make butter cookies!
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I’ve always loved food. But I never thought I could make a career of it.
Well, except for that time I was six. That was when I made up my mind to be a waitress when I grew up. Specifically, I wanted to move to Florida and work at Sara’s Pizza, the restaurant we always ate at during trips to visit my grandparents.
I had long been fascinated by the epic menu at Sara’s, and I checked off each dish I tried on my photocopied version. I imagined that working there some day would be the key to trying every last dish.
It was around the same time that I developed an interest in writing and editing. My father has authored many books over the years, and I remember hearing snippets of conversation about manuscripts being accepted or turned down or about editors choosing certain titles over others. I liked the idea of being an editor, and at age eight, I started telling people I wanted to work as an editor of fiction books in the children’s department of a publishing house.
I kid you not. Those were my exact words.
The years went on, and my goal of becoming an editor always seemed the more practical idea. That’s why I worked so hard as a reporter, and then editor, of my high school newspaper, and then as one of three editors-in-chief of my high school yearbook.
When I returned to the States after my year of seminary in Israel, I began a four-year journalism program at the University of Maryland. And that’s when things got confusing.
Yes, there were some things I liked about my journalism classes. But the further I got into the program, the more I realized I didn’t want to be a news reporter. I dreaded making interview calls, dreaded waiting for a call back that too often came perilously close to deadline.
I usually thrive on structure, but news writing was so structured that I felt I had no room for creativity — no space to make a piece truly mine. And it didn’t help that I wasn’t really interested in the news. I had never been a news junkie, but now I found myself spending hours a day cramming my brain with bits of information so that I’d pass my news quizzes. It just wasn’t adding up.
So I let my mind wander back to my first love: food.
I thought about leaving journalism for culinary school; I thought about interning with a kosher catering company instead of the local paper. One of my little brothers suggested I become a food critic, an idea I loved but deemed impractical: I mean, who would ever hire a kosher vegetarian food critic?
So once again, the idea of channeling my interest in food towards a career was pushed aside.
I finished my degree, admittedly picked up some great skills along the way, and completed several news-related internships. By that point, I was starting to feel that I’d found my little corner in the world of journalism.
But it wasn’t enough. I was 23, and I wanted more than anything to fulfill two personal dreams: The dream of finding someone I wanted to spend my life with, and the dream of living that life in Israel.
I was extremely blessed to fulfill both those dreams at about the same time — I met the man who would become my husband exactly one month after landing at Ben Gurion.
And as it turned out, getting married led me right back to my passion for food.
As I became more comfortable in my own little kitchen, I started branching out — adapting recipes, trying new ingredients, experimenting with different flavor combinations. I watched cooking videos, read my cookbooks cover-to-cover, and talked to everyone I knew about cooking.
Over this last year-and-a-half, I’ve learned how to sauté an onion and caramelize an onion, how to brown butter and when to cut the butter in half; I’ve learned how to get a stubborn dough to rise, how to make perfect pizza sauce, and how to bake homemade crackers that taste better than anything from a store. And of course, that’s only the beginning.
As I cooked and baked (and cooked and baked and cooked and baked), I gained confidence. I started realizing that my love of food really meant something — and that I could do something with it.
I started blogging, and soon afterwards, began my column for Binah’s food section, Relish. It’s incredible to me that thousands of people are reading my recipes and stories and seeing my photos. Writing about food has been the perfect way to combine these two things I’ve loved since I was a little girl.
Cooking, food writing, and food photography have granted me more freedom and creative expression than news writing ever did, and all of it has led to new projects, too. Recently, I started selling baked goods on our yishuv, and a neighbor hired me to make one Shabbos meal for her family each week.
At 25, I can’t yet say I’ve got decades of experience. But I feel so lucky to spend my time doing things I genuinely love, and I can’t wait to see what the coming years will bring.
In my earliest cooking days, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to create something as unique as a brown-butter mint chocolate chip cookie. But if you’re a fan of mint chocolate chip ice cream or the famous Girl Scout thin mints, this flavor combination is a no-brainer.
I love the refreshing smell and taste that peppermint extract adds to these cookies, and to take the chocolate factor up a notch, this recipe has you top each ball of dough with roughly chopped nonpareils. Putting three or four chocolate chips on top of a cookie before baking makes it look twice as delicious, and adding nonpareils gives these cookies extra personality.
But even all that wasn’t enough until I added browned butter. This is one of those great baking tips that yield amazing results without adding prep time. You’ll be melting butter anyway, so just leave it over the heat for a minute longer, and you’ll get that complex, nutty aroma that transforms these from “hey, those look like fun” cookies to absolutely-must-bake cookies.
Yield: 25-28 cookies
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter (not margarine!)
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 6 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp – ¾ tsp peppermint extract
- 8 drops green food coloring
- 3 drops blue food coloring
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 pinches of salt
- 1 cup chocolate chips, plus more for topping
- 1/3 cup nonpareils, roughly chopped
1. Preheat oven to 325 F/160 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat and add butter. To brown the butter, whisk almost constantly until brown bits appear on the bottom, then remove and let cool.
3. Pour butter into a mixing bowl, add sugars, and whisk until smooth. Add oil, egg and egg yolk, whisking until combined, then add in vanilla and peppermint extracts and mix once more. Beat in food coloring.
4. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix until a dough forms, using your hands if necessary. Fold in chocolate chips.
5. Roll dough into tablespoon-size balls and place on the baking sheet 2 inches apart. Top with nonpareils and a few extra chocolate chips.
6. Bake 10-12 minutes and let cool before moving.