Even as a disabled individual, I have been lucky to have the resources that allow me to put a lot of time, effort, and love into my food. Providing myself and those I care about with high quality fuel has always been a high priority, and my biggest love language. I've even started to provide my animals at home with largely home cooked meals. I feel proud when my efforts are appreciated, whether by person or pup. I like being able to provide something that can fulfill both physical and emotional needs and desires. Because food is a large part of caretaking for me, providing the best quality I am able to is of utmost importance.
Quality nutrition is not always accessible, for a multitude of reasons. Home cooked meals take time and energy. Ingredients can be expensive. If you are disabled, resources like time and energy are all the more finite. Many of us simply do not have the capacity to provide ourselves or others with what would be considered “high quality”, whether that is referencing taste, the freshness of ingredients, how much of a meal we are making from scratch, the price of each component of a meal…there are many aspects that can make good food inaccessible for those who don't have enough time, finances, knowledge, or energy.
Over the years, I have learned many little tidbits of knowledge that have added up to a big difference in my baking. I have had friends and family ask for tips, the things I've done to make my recipes taste as delicious as possible. Not all of these things will be accessible to everyone. However, there is one tip I believe has made a substantial difference in my recipes that takes virtually no extra effort at all - resting your cookie dough.
Before getting into what resting does, I'd like to briefly touch on “spoon theory” for those who haven't heard of it.
You may hear the concept of “spoons” being used as a term for a sort of unit of energy by chronically ill folk. Christine Miserandino, a patient with an autoimmune disorder called “Lupus”, told a personal story of trying to explain to a non-disabled friend what living with a chronic illness is like. Christine uses spoons as a way to explain a sort of points-system.
Let's say, you have a chronic illness, and with this illness, at the start of every morning you are given 20 spoons for the day. And every single action you take uses up a spoon. A non-disabled person showers, gets dressed, and heads to work likely without thinking much about it. But if you are chronically ill, you have to keep thinking about the energy you have left. You wake up, and have a migraine (day 5 of the migraine, but we’ll go easy on you today). So that automatically takes away a spoon right off the bat. And it's raining. So your joints hurt. Another spoon down. And you haven't even rolled out of bed. Getting dressed, driving or taking the bus, grabbing breakfast, even putting on your shoes chips away at this limited energy store you have. Going to the grocery store, dealing with the crowds and bright fluorescent lights and commute, getting home and unpacking everything, then cooking your meal, consuming it, and cleaning up after…not many of us have the capacity to do all that every day. And if you haven't felt what it's like, you simply cannot know how much harder every single little thing can be.
Non-disabled people don't always understand how being disabled and/or chronically ill can impact energy expenditure, and how that becomes something that creates a constant running calculator in our heads as we live our lives. Nothing can be taken for granted. Every decision we make is impacted. For disabled folks, a “quick trip to the store” is something we need to carefully consider. Every decision, no matter how small, is impacted by illness. Something as simple as deciding to go grab the mail while it's raining rather than warm out can impact our bodies for days, weeks, or longer. There are no small choices for us, and many of us find that we are forced to sacrifice certain things so that we can do whatever we need to do to just get through the day. Many of us -can't- prioritize nutrition, because between managing flare ups and appointments and procedures we just don't have the time or energy left anymore.
Resting cookie dough sounds simple. It doesn't require extra energy from us (and in fact, has helped me spread out energy expenditure, making it feel easier rather than more difficult). It doesn't require extra or more expensive ingredients or equipment. It does take extra wait time, so the ability to be okay with delayed gratification is beneficial here, but beyond that doesn't necessarily take more effort. And the difference it makes for both taste and texture is astounding.
If you find yourself able, I really recommend testing it out yourself to see how big of a difference it can make! Make a batch of your favorite cookie dough, and let it chill in the fridge for up to 48 hours if possible. Two days has felt like the ideal amount of time to rest the dough for maximum pay off. After the 48 hours, make a second batch, so that you can test out the 2-day old batch and the “un-aged” batch side by side.
In the rested batch, you will find your flavors have more depth and complexity. I find my chocolate chip cookies taste more well-rounded. It tastes richer, the toasty butterscotch flavors are stronger, rather than just having the surface-level sweetness of plain white sugar overpowering everything else.
Resting the dough allows your wet ingredients and dry ingredients to incorporate more fully together. I have found they often make chewier cookies, which is something I personally enjoy, especially when using higher-protein flours that allow more gluten to develop. If you use brown butter and bittersweet flavors such as espresso and dark chocolate, these flavors come out stronger after an extended rest. High quality flavor extracts and spices (Madagascar bourbon vanilla paste is a favorite!) also benefit from a longer rest period, and if you like to experiment with unique flours (such as spelt flour), their unique flavor profiles are more pronounced as well.
This technique can apply across many recipes, whether you are resting cookie dough or marinating meats and veggies, sometimes just letting your ingredients have some extra time together can make everything just taste better, minimal extra energy required.
Just don't make the beginner mistake I made a few years ago when I tried to rest a yeasted cake recipe. It turned to something that tasted like vinegar and beer in the worst of ways. Yeast is a living organism, and recipes that utilize them are an entirely different beast when it comes to timing!
Happy baking! Let us know if you have other accessible kitchen tips that have helped you, we are always looking for new things to try!