Baker Molly Bolton keeps things cozy in the kitchen
Recipe by Molly Bolton
Photos by Molly Bolton, Lesley McClanahan
Molly Bolton, known on Instagram as @thenostalgiccrumb, is a baker, recipe developer, and photographer in Birmingham, Alabama. We chatted with Molly about her love of baking, her family, and her favorite cookie recipe!
When did you begin baking, and why?
My first memories in the kitchen are with my mom in Dallas, making chocolate chip cookies and homemade Rice Krispy treats shaped like Christmas trees. I also baked with both of my grandmothers and recall making lots of peach cobbler, apple pie, Texas sheet cake, and pound cake. So, the kitchen has always been a familiar place to me. But I really got into baking, particularly the recipe development side of baking, during the 2020 quarantine. Baking became a source of comfort, a way to make home feel like a warm and welcoming place for my family rather than a place of isolation. My frequent baking soon turned into experimenting, which soon turned into a newfound love for developing my own recipes—and later photographing them!
What's your favorite part of being in the kitchen?
Baking in the kitchen has always been a comforting, familiar place for me. It’s a space where I feel most creative, most at ease, and most like myself. I have space to do what I enjoy most and share that with the people I love most. Baking with people, whether that be with my children, friends, or a guest in our home, is when I enjoy baking the most. I also get really excited when I get to bake bread. Making bread takes time and skill, and pouring that kind of effort into something makes enjoying it that much better.
How do you feel that food brings people together?
I believe that food brings people together in both tangible and intangible ways. And here’s what I mean by that. There’s a physical aspect of food: it must be prepared, waited for in anticipation, and then consumed. There’s an actual preparation: gathering around a table and sharing. But there’s also an intangible, indirect connection that food often creates for people, and that manifests as nostalgia. For instance, the smell of pound cake always takes me to Amarillo and my grandmother, and a single bite of Texas sheet cake places me at my Grandmom’s dinner table in Lubbock. It’s the ability that food has to connect us—both tangibly and intangibly—that excites me about baking. It’s why I love developing recipes: I hope that my recipes bring people together and become a source of connection for people who make them—in both tangible and intangible ways.
How does baking connect you with your kids?
One thing I’m really passionate about is baking with kids. Along with baking comes so many important life skills and values, including patience, attention to detail, and creativity. Baking often takes time, and it’s something that allows you to slow down and focus on the task at hand, not to mention creating an opportunity for fun together in the kitchen and making cherished memories. That’s why I love baking with my kids. It’s time well-spent together that creates connection and memories.
I hope that one day my kids bake with their own families—maybe even one of the recipes that we often baked together—and that they think back fondly on time that we spent together. That may sound sappy, but as a mom of two littles, that’s a sweet thought. I hope the time we spend together now in the kitchen stays with them for a long time.
How do you come up with recipes?
Sometimes, I simply want to recreate a classic and make it approachable for the home baker. At other times, I want to shake things up a bit, elevate a classic, or create something entirely new. As I think of new ideas, I write them down. I have a whole list of recipes that I want to create, and it just keeps on growing. But if ever I’m in a dry spell, I typically turn to my late grandmother’s recipe box. It’s bursting at the seams with recipe inspiration, including a cake called “Robert Redford Cake!”
What do you hope others feel when they taste something you bake/make with a recipe you created?
On a practical note, I hope that people who bake my recipes feel that they were equipped and empowered to do something fun in the kitchen. I hope they find joy in taking the time to create something really delicious from a simple list of ingredients, and I hope they find even more joy in sharing that delicious something with someone else. On a broader, perhaps deeper level, my hope is that my recipes cultivate togetherness in the lives of others. I believe that baking is a simple way to invite others into our homes and into our lives. And nothing makes me happier than to know my recipes are being used to create moments of warmth, hospitality, and togetherness in the lives of others.
What inspired the recipe you shared with us?
Honestly, this recipe was one that just happened in my stand mixer. Different from most of my other recipes, I didn’t think too hard on this one. I simply threw in what sounded like the makings of really good, drool-worthy cookie, which turned out to be a host of mix-ins that created this incredibly satisfying sweet and salty flavor profile. I called these “Kitchen Sink Cookies” because I tossed in whatever I had on hand at the time—everything but the kitchen sink. And to be honest, it turned out to be one of my favorite cookie recipes to date!
Kitchen Sink Cookie Recipe
These Kitchen Sink Cookies are the perfect sweet and salty cookie loaded with all the good stuff! Chewy cookies packed with chocolate, peanut butter chips, pretzels, and pecans. So much to love.
Makes 24 cookies
226 gm (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
320 gm (1 1/3 cups, firmly packed) light brown sugar
100 gm (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
312 gm (2 1/2 cups, spoon and leveled*) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso granules (optional, but highly recommended)
113 gm (4 ounces) high-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
73 gm (1/3 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
110 gm (1/2 cup) peanut butter chips
30 gm (3/4 cup) broken-up pretzel pieces
75 gm (2/3 cup) pecans, roughly chopped
Optional garnish: flaky salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy—2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the egg and egg yolk, one at a time, being sure that the first is fully incorporated before adding the next. Mix in the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, kosher salt, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, and instant espresso granules (if using). Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 2 separate additions, beating on low speed until just incorporated. Be careful not to overmix.
Add the chopped chocolate, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, pretzel pieces, and chopped pecans to the dough and fold in by hand with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Cover the dough and place in the fridge to chill for 30 to 60 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a #20 spring-loaded cookie scoop (which holds a little over 3 tablespoons of dough), scoop the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 3 to 4 inches apart. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until the edges are set and lightly browned. Allow the cookies to cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Top with flaky salt, if desired.
*How to measure flour using the spoon and level method: If you don’t have a kitchen scale, I recommend using the spoon and level method to measure your flour. This will give you a much more accurate measurement than scooping with a measuring cup. First, loosen the flour in the canister or bag by fluffing it with a fork. Next, spoon the flour into your measuring cup until it's full. Then, holding the cup over the canister or bag of flour, use the back of a knife to level off the flour.
Storage: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Find more of Molly’s recipes on her website, https://thenostalgiccrumb.com/