It’s funny how the more you move around, the more you come to appreciate where you started. I make this observation from firsthand experience, as lately I’ve been a girl on the go. After just three short weeks at home in Michigan, I repacked my suitcase and flew east to the Big Apple to begin a month and a half-long stay soaking in an NYC summer. Though the real purpose of my trip is slightly more respectable than simply getting the chance to see, hear, and taste this most iconic of cities, I must admit that my professional pursuits fade to the background among the intoxicating hustle and bustle of this vibrant, spellbinding, fantastically diverse metropolis.
But even as I catch myself catching the New York fever, I know that the summer ahead could never diminish the hometown love I have for good old Grand Rapids, MI. And a major contributor to my hometown love? Why, Gaia Cafe!
Located on the southeast side of Grand Rapids, Gaia is a vegetarian restaurant that serves huge, hearty portions of the best breakfast, lunch, and dinner your taste buds can imagine. Some of my very best food memories are set around Gaia’s worn wooden tables. But while the menu has got a build-your-own-burrito to melt your heart and rosemary redskin potatoes so good you’ll weep, I would argue that the very best part of this very best restaurant is what comes at the meal’s end. I’m talking about the absolutely world-famous (or ought to be) Gaia Cookie.
And here’s the best news: today the Sprout Diaries delivers a mouth-watering batch of Gaia cookies to your very own kitchen (though you’ve got to do the grunt work). For cookies that are soft and chewy, sweet and salty, crunchy, coconut-y, oat-y and absolutely irresistible, look no further than this recipe.
I’m sorry, but even New York, New York, can’t produce a cookie this good.
Adapted from Banana’s Split
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup raisins and dates, pitted and chopped
Makes nearly three dozen cookies.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
I like to first toast the coconut and walnuts, just to get this step out of the way. Spread the coconut and walnuts evenly on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5-6 minutes. Is your kitchen already smelling like heaven? We’re off to a good start.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix well.
Add the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix until well-combined. Try to refrain from eating too much of the dough. Willpower!
Grab the baking sheet of toasted walnuts and coconuts. Grab, too, a cup of chopped dates and raisins. If cranberries are more your thing, throw them in. Can’t get enough of dried cherries? Those would be delicious, too. Just make sure you’ve got one cup of dried fruit.
Add all the good stuff (coconut, walnuts, chocolate chips, and dried fruit) to the dough and mix well. You may eat one (or two) finger scoops of cookie dough at this point. But that is it.
If it’s a particularly hot day (as it was when I made these cookies), consider popping the bowl into the refrigerator for 10 minutes to avoid runny cookies.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop tablespoons of dough onto the sheet, leaving an inch or two between each dollop.
Let bake for 14 minutes. (I know, I know; 14 minutes is a long time to wait. Stay strong!)
Note: the trick to perfectly chewy and moist cookies is taking them out of the oven while they still look just slightly underdone. All you want is for the edges of the cookies to begin to turn golden brown. Trust me: let these babies cool sufficiently and you will get zero complaints of underdone cookies.
And voila! These cookies require a couple fussy ingredients, yes, but oh my word they are worth it. Basically all that’s left to do to make them identical to the real thing is to bake them into rounds as big as your face and wrap them in the plastic wrap. Gaia Cafe, your secret is out.
Please bake a batch of these and try to tell me they’re not the world’s greatest cookie. Seriously. (And if you find yourself in the great city of Grand Rapids, I highly recommend a trip to Gaia!)