Pan-Banging Chocolate Chip Cookies (and some thoughts on medicine)

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Most times, I bake because I love it; baking is my church, my sanctuary, my therapy. The kitchen, the oven, my glass jars filled with ingredients are my home and my creative outlet. But this week was different. This week I baked because it is also how I show I care and show appreciation: it is my love language. 

Four days ago my grandpa, Papa, was admitted to the hospital. For those of you who know me, you know that my Papa means the world to me. Next to my parents, he was the relative I spent the most time with growing up. He never missed a Grandparent's Day brunch, a recital, a graduation. He drove us on roadtrips, taught us how to stargaze in Park City, and gave me my sweet tooth.

Papa came to the ED after he took a fall at his care center. In the ED my mentor and one of my favorite doctors in the world took care of him, and diagnosed him with a gnarly femoral fracture and several vertebral fractures as well. Luckily, he was able to have surgery the next day and it went successfully despite him being a non-optimal candidate. For the first time since I started medical school, I was at the hospital, but I wasn't on the care team. The patient's family was my family, and the family's questions were my questions. I've spent the past four years learning and thinking about what makes a good doctor, but I had never thought about it from the opposite perspective: what makes a good patient? What makes a good family member when you are taking care of their loved one?

Of course, it is the doctors' and nurses' duty to make sure that all patients, whether they are "good patients" or not, get the same, superb care. But as someone who has been on the care team side of things, I know it makes life so much more pleasant if the patient and his/her family are kind and understanding. While Papa was in surgery and recovering I had a lot of time to think about this, and when I met all the people caring for him--the doctors, nurses, aides, PT and OTs, speech therapists, custodians, dietitians--I took note of what things made each of our days--theirs, Papa's, my family's--better, along with observations from my clinical years of school. Here's what I came up with:

How to be a good patient / how to be a good family member to a patient 

1. Show Up. Not everyone can be at the hospital 24/7 when a family member falls ill--life doesn't stop when we need it to. But trying to divy up the days into shifts as much as you can so someone can be there can really help out the care team and your loved one. For Papa, us being there helped orient him, smooth over little bumps in the road, and helped the care team know if certain behaviors are new or baseline. So many of our wonderful nurses just thanked us for being there, even though were were just chilling on the couch in Papa's room. This really surprised me, but it makes sense: the doctors and nurses can deliver optimal care, but they can't love your person like you do

2. Remember it is a profession, not just a job. In medical school there is a huge emphasis placed on professionalism, and all that that entails. I imagine it is true for nursing and for healthcare professions. As a medical student, being a professional means always keeping your cool, treating all people with respect, and providing the same excellent medical care to all comers. As a patient or family member, it means remembering that these people are there to help you or your loved one recover, but they aren't personal servants or punching bags for when things aren't going well. A hospital is not a hotel, and it isn't okay to treat anyone who works at a hospital like they are below you just because they are helping you urinate or bringing you your food on a tray.

3. Things are happening even if you don't see them happening. The night we brought Papa to the ED, my mom remarked, "I can't believe how long it takes to do anything around here." At first, I was defensive about this, emergency medicine being my chosen field. But then I thought about it more and I realized that I was used to seeing things from the provider perspective: just because I'm not with the patient, doesn't mean I'm not working on his care--calling consults, following up on test results, tracking down a nurse, calling family members, helping to put transfer orders in, discussing care with my superiors. There are so many tiny, minute tasks and clicks on a computer that need to get done for anything to happen in a modern hospital. Even if your doctor isn't bedside (I know all doctors lament that in modern medicine too much time is spent at the computer instead of the bedside), it doesn't mean the gears of the machine aren't turning. 

4. Say thank you. This one is so obvious, but it is always appreciated and it always goes a long way. Thank everyone for everything no matter how small. It costs nothing but it can have a big impact. Because my love language is cookies, I made these pan-banging cookies from Sarah Kieffer's blog and gave them out to the care team as a thank you. I'm not at all advocating that you should bake cookies every time you're in the hospital--in fact as a rule you should never buy gifts for any sort of healthcare provider, as it is considered unethical--but since I knew most of the care team from school and people know that I will bake for anyone and anything, I figured a homemade cookie and a thank you was quite alright. 

To be honest, these cookies have been on my list for a while (especially after the NYT printed the recipe), but I hadn't made them because I felt bad about cheating on my one true love. These cookies make a different type of cookie than my normal recipe, but just as good. They are thin, lacey, crispy on the outside, and super buttery. They are beautiful to look at, with dark edges and ruffles all the way around, and a gooey light center. They are made with chocolate shards, instead of chips, that bleed in the oven and make a beautiful, marbled cookie. They should definitely be the next thing you bake. 

Pan-Banging Chocolate Chip COokies By Sarah Kieffer 

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 6 ounces chocolate, cut into shards (some big pieces, some small). Sarah's original recipe calls for all bittersweet chocolate but I used 3 oz milk and 3 oz dark because I liked the color difference in the baked cookies and because not all people love pure bittersweet chocolate.  
  • Maldon sea salt--my addition, I just can't eat a chocolate chip cookie that doesn't have a sprinkle of salt.

Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix well, followed by baking soda and salt. Add 1 c. of flour and mix on low until incorporated. Add water followed by the last cup of flour, mix until incorporated. Scraped down sides of bowl and mix for an additional 30 seconds on medium-low. Add chocolate and fold in with spatula.

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Line pan with either parchment or tin foil (shiny side down). Do not use silpat! (I tried). Weigh cookies into 100g balls (about 1/3 c of batter) and place on cookie sheet, 4 at a time for 1 big cookie sheet. The cookies have to be this big to work. Spread them faaaaaar apart, they will spread a ton! Don't be tempted to bake any more than 4 at a time. Place entire cookie sheet in freezer for 15 minutes. Don't skip this step or they will heat up in the oven too fast. 

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After freezing, place cookies in the oven for 10 minutes. At 10 minutes, take them out of the oven and drop the cookie sheet on the stove or counter top, from about 4 inches high. The domed peaks of the cookies will fall--this is what you want (see below). Return cookies to oven for 3 minutes. 

After first bang. 

After first bang. 

After 3 minutes, repeat the pan-bang. The cookies below have been "banged" twice. Return to oven for 2 more minutes. 

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After 2 minutes, bang again and return to oven for 2 more minutes (that's 10 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 2 minutes for 17 minutes total). At this point you will have 3 ruffly rings on your cookies from the 3 pan-bangs, like the cookie below. 

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After the last 2 minutes, remove cookies from oven for good and bang them one last time. The cookie will still look raw in the middle, but the edges will be brown and caramelized. The ones below are finished. 

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Add a small sprinkle of salt and allow the cookies to cool on the parchment completely. The gooey center will solidify after about 15 minutes. Place on paper towels to let some of the butter from the bottoms absorb. Let your pan cook completely before adding more balls of dough and returning to freezer for the next batch. This recipe will make about 10 large cookies.

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I love how the chocolate chungs spread out and the ruffles accumulate on the edges! 

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Cookies can be eaten warm, kept in a tupperware container for 5-7 days, or tied up in cellophane as a gift like below! On Sarah's blog she also says they freeze really well. 

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Yum. Thanks for reading!