I have been at school since Friday. That’s five days and four nights away from my home. That’s five days and four nights away from my bed, my car, my family, and my kitchen. That’s five days and four nights of showering with flips flops on, walking up eight flights of stairs to go to bed, realizing I forgot an air freshener, and having someone else make my meals.
But that’s also five days and four nights of welcome back hugs, “how was your summer?”s, walks around the city, and meeting new people.
Classes don’t start for another week, but I got to return early to help move the freshmen in. Scared, anxious, and more than a little nervous mixed with a lot of excited – that was them. And that was me only last year. It is amazing how things can change so much in only 365 days.
This year is completely different than last. I can feel it already. With every box that I lifted and bed that I lofted, I felt the weight from my first year of college sliding off my back. Now, I recognize people when I’m walking down the street, I know the fastest route to work without having to think about it, and I unpacked and set up in my room in less than two hours. While I do miss home, and all that is familiar there, I am happy to be back. And I am so happy to help the freshmen make the transition that was
excruciatingly a little hard for me.
Last year, when I would get to feeling homesick I searched for a way to comfort myself, some solace for my heart, mind, and soul. I found that in food, in making my own specifically, and baking especially. At times, I thought I wasn’t smart enough, pretty enough, or good enough for my school. That it would all be easier if I just called it quits and went home. The reassurance I got from pulling my pan out of the oven was enough to quell those negative thoughts, to make me realize it would all be ok.
No matter how different I think this year may be, I know I will still get homesick. It is an inevitable as late night study sessions and extra shot lattes. Even now, just imagining the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven provides me the biggest feeling of relief. The warm vanilla and cozy brown sugar enveloping me like a hug. The taste of a warm cookie, with its melty chocolate, crisp edges, and sweet softness, offers me more reassurance than I would have ever thought possible.
And in return I want to help the freshmen. I want to let them know that it’s hard, but it gets easier. It’s lonely, but you make great friends. It is tough, but it is rewarding, and in the end it is all worth it. I know that they’ll make it through this; I have an entire year under my belt to prove it. I also have my cookie sheet and measuring cups to help me if necessary.
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes about 36 cookies, adapted from The Brown Eyed Baker and The Pioneer Woman)
2 ¼ cups plus 2 TBSP flour
1(heaping) tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant coffee granules or espresso powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of ground ginger
12 TBS (1 and a half sticks) butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
1 and ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
Wisk or sift together flour, baking soda, salt, coffee granules, cinnamon and ginger in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer combine butter and sugars. Mix on medium to medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add egg and yolk and beat for another minute. Stir in vanilla.
Working in three small batches (and going SLOWLY), add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Start with the mixer on low speed and increase to medium speed as flour is incorporated, only adding the next batch of flour once the previous is fully combined. Scrape the bowl as necessary.
Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chocolate chips. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Dough can be stored, covered, in the fridge for two days or in the freezer, tightly wrapped, for one month.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.*
Using a large cookie scoop, or ¼ cup measure, scoop dough onto lined sheets, leaving about 2-2 ½ inches between each cookie. Don’t worry about rolling the dough into a perfect ball, we want the rough, uneven edges to produce those beautiful cracks in the tops of the cookies.
Bake in preheated oven for 8-12 minutes, or until edges are lightly golden brown and centers are just set. (I pull mine out right at the 10 minute mark, but depending on your oven and desired level of doneness, adjust times accordingly.)
Let rest on pan for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an air-tight container for up to a week.
*parchment paper is not necessary with these cookies. If you don’t have it there’s no need to spray the pan, I just like the way the paper helps crisp the bottom of the cookies.
No one ever warned me about Sophomore 15...