crispy chewy walnut cookies

The weather in NYC has been abysmal the last few weeks. Not good for someone who often jokes she operates on solar energy. When I woke up to sunshine streaming in through the crack in the curtains I knew it would be a farmers’ market day. Wednesdays and Saturdays are my favorites for going to Union Square because it’s bursting with the most farm stands.

I had no business going today with my manuscript due the end of next week, but it’s where my heart needed to be. Eating is a common way to cope with deep sadness, but whenever I feel out of sorts I find more comfort in ingredients. As I crossed over Union Square West and found myself in the center of the market, I began sprinting, scanning stands to see what I wanted. Then I stopped and realized it was the equivalent to gobbling my food up too fast.

After the dreary weather, this time at the market needed to be savored. It needed to nourish my mind so I could get back to the real work at hand, which at this moment is finishing the last of the recipe development and writing headnotes. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and slowed down my pace. After collecting my bounty, I headed to the subway.

Sitting across from me was a young couple, and I couldn’t help but watch them dig into their fruit cups from a bodega. He was eating pineapple, and she plopped an orange wedge into his cup. He stabbed it with a fork and dropped it back into her bowl. She returned it—and he again stood his ground, but with a sly grin and sparkle in his eyes. They compromised on a strawberry half, which she casually held up to his mouth from the tip of her fork.

I got lost in my phone, reading the Dining In section, and when I next put my head up, his was nestled in the nook of her elbow. His eyes closed, with a faint smile, and her’s the same. One would think this made me sad, or perhaps even angry at my situation.

The effect was opposite, though, and it left me hungry for a connection like that again. Feeling joy at watching such a sweet, simple display of intimacy reinforced that there is still an appetite to love like that again. These feelings do not come without a price. There is the immediate wave of guilt that comes with every lonely moment. Does my loneliness diminish the depth of my love for Michael? Does it mean I’m weak to want the brush of a hand against my face? It’s a rhetorical question, and one I began exploring with my therapist last week.

This has nothing, and everything, to do with making walnut cookies. See, my other therapy is baking. The exacting science and chemistry of making sweets soothes my need for control. My ingredients are variables to which I can dictate the final outcome, provided I respect their limitations and understand their individual needs. It’s a relationship of a different nature.

My obsession with this particular cookie started on Sunday. Here’s where we fall down the rabbit hole of my thought process. Mikey used to find it both amusing, and an oddly insane and creative experience to watch.

Pink lemonade was on my mind for a few days by that point since it’s a recipe for the cookbook. I woke up on Sunday in a sluggish mood, which isn’t revelatory news. The girls are amazing about playing and chillng in their room on Sunday mornings, so once I decided my empty bed held no more allure, I decided to tackle the homemade pink lemonade. The recipe was a huge success, but it left me with more lemonade than I knew we could drink in a day or two.

The only solution I could see was to propose a lemonade stand. Isabella flew up the stairs to our craft room and together we made that sign. Really the sign was all her handy work, I just added the letters and glitter. My next thought was “we need cookies”. There were squeals of joy, and while the girls may have been concerned if their real mom had been abducted by an alien, they were more than happy to have this more relaxed “let’s sprinkle glitter all over the place” fun-loving woman who had inhabited her body.


Of course there were no aliens involved. When I woke up just an hour earlier, that dreaded feeling of loss and loneliness tried to wrap its unwanted arms around me. I decided to push back, and did it the best way I know how. I went to the kitchen and decided to take control of my variables. Rather than use my standard recipe, I needed to make something new to fill the void I was feeling. My friend Bryan told me he likes to melt the butter before making chocolate chip cookies, so it was time to give that trick a try. I’ve also noticed lately that whole wheat pastry flour adds a nice crunch to my cookies while still leaving the centers a tad chewy. See, not all change is bad.

Two days, and three batches of cookies later, I suffered from chocolate overload. This didn’t mean my cookie craving was gone. No, not at all. I began thinking about black walnut cookies.  Back in college I was a nanny to a family with roots in Kentucky. Every few months I eagerly awaited the shipment of cookies their grandmother sent in the mail. I didn’t have black walnuts on hand, but wondered how they would taste with regular walnuts as a stand in. If chocolate chip cookies are the headliner on the A-side, then these walnut cookies are the opener on the B-side, and that’s where the more interesting, serious work begins.

Crispy Chewy Walnut Cookies

makes 18

1 stick (4 ounces) butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated natural cane sugar
1/2 cup (79 grams) packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg (50 grams)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 cup (145 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (16 grams) whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon (1 grams) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (1 grams) fleur de sel
1 cup walnuts (100 grams), chopped

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Add the butter and sugars to a deep bowl. Beat on high speed until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat on high speed until light and fully, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the flour, baking soda and fleur de sel to the bowl. On low speed, mix until the flour is completely mixed in, about 1 minute. Add the walnuts and beat on medium high speed 30 seconds to 1 minute, until well mixed.

Drop generous tablespoonfuls of dough, three inches apart on the prepared baking sheets (you should be able to fit six per sheet). Bake for 14 minutes, until the edges are golden and the bottoms are lightly browned. Remove sheet from the oven and let the cookies cool on the pan for 2 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.


  • megan

    Since I have concluded that I am more of a white chocolate/nut/blondie type person, this recipe is right up my alley…I appreciate your selfless sharing of your heart along with the recipe. I will remember (from your last post AND todays) to take that minute and reach out to the people I know who, also, are living with losses. Praying for you each time I visit your blog or you come to mind…
    I wondered if I could ask you a question, entirely bake related: I have been having issues the last year or so with my cookies…I’ve chagned my flour, baking powder, baking soda, cookie sheets, baking time, convection/non convection, but STILL: my puffy cookies (or the cookies I see puffy in Pinterest pics) are coming out flatter than they used to, or flatter than the pictures…do you have ANY thing else I should try to remedy that??? Of all the bloggers I follow, you seem the one who would know 🙂
    Also, recipes, ingredients and baking are therapy for me too…even more than the eating…big hug*
    JP’s Note: Megan, a few things you can try to trouble shoot the cookie dilemma. First, do you have an oven thermometer to make sure they’re baking at the right temperature? I don’t suspect that’s the root cause, but temp is very important. The temperature of your butter is important too. If it’s too soft, the cookies will spread more than usual. While in theory baking powders should perform equally, I do find some brands to be very unreliable too. My favorites are Rumford and Bob’s Red Mill.

  • electricdaisy

    I love catching little moments of love like that. I feel like a lot of times I witness couples acting in a mean or uncaring way to each other so it’s lovely to see playful instances.
    One time I went out to a diner for lunch with my high school sweetheart – we were very much in love and are still friends to this day. I observed an old man and his wife not talking or laughing, just eating in abject, stony silence. I noted that it was kind of sad and went on with my lunch. The waitress told us when it was time to pay that the man, who had left by this point, paid for our meal because we were so obviously in love and it warmed his heart to see such beauty in the world.

  • Paula O.

    Dear Jennie,
    I know that many people say things with the best intentions but they can often heighten your sorrow. I will say this, in spirit whatever you need, I wish that for you. Whatever gives you solace, I pray it finds it’s way to you. Whatever makes you laugh, I will it your way in bundles. You are brave & you are entitled to everything good in life.
    I have one word for you- Impossible.
    Just remember-when you feel or see this word, it actually reads:
    I’m possible.
    JP’s Note: Paula that is a lovely way of looking at it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tracey Alvernaz

    Good you are doing what you do..pushing back and cooking.I still get the tug in the heart feeling…reading your posts and knowing some of what you are going through.(one can never totally know, even though I had the similar happen to me!) Do not be afraid today. Today is good. Your friends love you and so do the girls.
    Sending a rainbow and a smile your way….

  • Goldengirls59

    The recipe sounds delicious and I am anxious to try them especially with the whole wheat flour. I’m not familiar with fleur de sel. Can you tell me where I can find this? Thanks so much. I enjoy reading your blog.
    JP’s note: fleur de sel is a type of salt, and I’m pretty I’ve even seen it at Trader Joe’s.

  • Tara

    I’ve never heard of black walnuts – guess we don’t get them in the UK. I certainly like the sound of the standard version cookie though. I’ve just had a virtual tour of the market – can totally see why you love it – we don’t have anything like that were I live. Our supermarket has just started stocking heirloom tomatoes though so that’s cool 😀

  • Ricca

    I don’t pretend to be on your level as a baker but in reference to the first question by Megan, I have found when I use silicon baking sheets my cookies are puffier than in the old days when I just scooped them onto an aluminum baking sheet.
    Hope that helps another novice!

  • Diane

    I love catching little moments of love like that when you least expect it.
    We all need those in our life and you too will have that again.

  • Kim

    I am glad you include the weights too. This is probably a weird question, but is the egg 50g in the shell or out of the shell? I have been wondering that for a while.
    Your story is painful to follow, but I appreciate your candor. I am sure it is a double-edged sword.
    JP’s note: 50g out of the shell Kim 🙂

  • Theresa Annello

    A couple years ago I came across your fabulously delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe and have been making it ever since. Shame on me for not thanking you sooner! Many thank yous from my family and I.
    But today I really write to you to say hello, I hope you are doing okay. I am off school today and have been promising homemade cookies. I thought why not do some blog reading while the butter softens and the eggs come to room temperature. Starting with your most recent post and moving back through previous posts, I am moved to tears by the love you describe and the love you have lost. I can only imagine the aching hole left in your heart. Selfishly your words have reminded me to treasure and savor the times with those I love.
    The ingredients should be ready. Take care, Jennie. Thinking of you and your daughters today. ~ Theresa

  • Leslie

    This is absolutely the best new cookie recipe I have had in twenty years which tells you something about my age. Served them at a dinner party last night and everyone raved about them. Used organic walnuts and locally milled flour. Thank you so much.

  • Teresa K.

    Can I just say – Jennie – you must try Hermit cookies – molasses chewy tender and black walnuts – the perfect cookie for the perfect coffee – and a little white drizzle frosting.
    JP’s note: I love hermit cookies Teresa, but have never seen them made with black walnuts. The Portuguese Bakery in Provincetown, MA makes them and are my favorite treat when we go to the Cape. Do you have a recipe you love to use? Thanks 🙂

  • Lisa

    Hi Jennie,
    I hope you time in Paris is wonderful. I was wondering how you would adapt this recipe with 1 cup pastry flour to gluten free.
    Thanks for your help.