Thursday, April 21, 2011

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday was Miriam's 21st birthday.  She is away at college, so in keeping with tradition, I baked some cookies and mailed them to her.  (This always costs more than I think it should; perhaps the post office should create a special rate for food from home.)  I would have posted the recipe sooner, but I wanted the cookies to be a surprise--at least a little.

Let me say that I think it's impossible to make a bad chocolate chip cookie.  (You will disagree if you just don't like chocolate chip cookies, but I've never met anyone like that.)  Further, I think people get pretty definite about what they like in a chocolate chip cookie:  nuts?  no nuts?  chewy?  crispy?  You get my drift.  So I am not saying this is the only way, or even the best way, to make chocolate chip cookies.  But it's a good way, and the fact that Miriam has already eaten something like half of them on her own suggests that I might be right on this topic.

Whether I can say I invented these or not, I'm not really sure.  What I did (and maybe this is what serious recipe inventors do) was to conflate a couple of different recipes--three, to be exact.  First, there's the famous $250 cookie recipe, but that's a bit of a fuss to make, and it comes out very sweet.  Then there's the Nieman-Marcus response to the $250 cookie, which looked pretty good, but not quite what I wanted--for one thing, it didn't make enough cookies!  Finally, there's the traditional Toll House recipe, which, to be fair, is still probably the best one around.   I took what looked the best to me from each and put it together.  This can be a tricky business:  you have to get the proportion of dry to liquid ingredients correct, and you have to get the leavening correct.  I was lucky on both counts.  One goal was to make them somewhat less cloyingly sweet, so these have less sugar in them than any of the other recipes.  Here's the recipe I devised:

(click here to open a printer-friendly version of the recipe)

·  2-1/2 sticks (1-1/4 cup) butter, softened
·  1 cup light brown sugar
·  ½ cup granulated sugar
·  2 large eggs
·  1 tablespoon vanilla extract
·  2 cups all purpose flour
·    1-1/2 cups oatmeal ground in a blender (yields about a cup of oatmeal “flour”)
·  1 teaspoon baking powder
·  1/2 teaspoon baking soda
·  1/2 teaspoon salt
·  1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee powder
·  1 12-oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
·    2 3.5-ounce bars bittersweet chocolate (I use Green & Black’s 70% cocoa), roughly chopped in a blender to chocolate chip size
1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter using an electric mixer on medium speed, then add the sugars and beat until fluffy.

2.  Beat in the eggs and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.

3.  In another bowl, stir the dry ingredients together.  Stir them into the butter mixture at low speed until well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and chocolate pieces.  (If you like chopped nuts, you could add some of these too at this point—probably a cup or a bit more.)

4.  Using a 1-ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, form the dough into balls and place on a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the palm of your hand to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.  If you put two trays of cookies in the oven at a time (a good idea in this case), be sure to rotate them about halfway through the baking time to ensure that they bake evenly. 

5.  Cool about a minute on the sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  When thoroughly cool, put in an airtight container, where they will keep for several days—if they last that long.

Yield:  About 4 dozen cookies, depending on the size.

A word about cookie yield:  obviously, if you make the cookies bigger or smaller, you will get fewer or more.  I got about 40 out of this batch, but some of them were on the large side.  My favorite yield in a recipe comes from a book by Sandra Boynton, who made some fabulous children's books and greeting cards back in the 1980s.  (Where she is now or what she's doing, I have no idea.)  She wrote a delightful little book on chocolate, full of all kinds of funny things--the cover is pictured above.  One of the funniest things in it was her chocolate chip cookie recipe.  After mixing, the cook is instructed to taste the batter.  Alongside the recipe, there's a drawing of a hippo wearing a chef's hat pouring the batter down its throat.  The next instruction?  Bake the remaining batter.  Yield:  1 cookie.

If you prefer this as unbaked batter, go for it, as long as you trust your eggs.  I mean, cookies aren't a health food, and there's no right or wrong way to enjoy them.  That's why they're so great.  And if you have a chocolate chip cookie recipe you swear by, go ahead and bake them--don't bother with mine!  But if this inspires you to bake some kind of chocolate chip cookie, I'm sure the people around you will thank you.

ADDENDUM (10-28-2012):   I baked a couple of batches of these this weekend and decided I wanted them a little softer.  So I increased the butter, decreased the flour, and added a little more vanilla.  The proportions in the recipe above are the corrected amounts, because these were A LOT better!  You can just scoop them onto the sheet--no need to shape or flatten them.  They will turn out beautiful and have a much nicer (to my way of thinking) texture.  If you like the sturdier cookie, cut the butter back to 2 sticks, and increase the flour to 2-1/2 cups.  Use 2 or 3 teaspoons of vanilla.


  1. I disagree, you can mess up chocolate chip cookies. The first time I ever made them I forgot to add the sugar. Luckily I tasted the batter before Mom and I baked them. After I told Mom that the batter tasted funny she tasted the batter and said "Miriam, there's no sugar in these!" So we added the sugar, but the recipe wanted you to melt the sugar with the butter. The cookies tasted alright, but they were a little crystalized.

  2. I don't remember those cookies being thrown away, which proves my point (I think). :o)

    My statement, however, did assume that you would follow all the directions correctly. :O)

  3. I love the idea of oatmeal flour added to them. I'll have to try that for sure. I'd probably subtract the espresso and add almond and lemon extract to the mix. (Those were my grandma's secret ingredients!) You can never go wrong with a chocolate chip cookie!

  4. Great idea, Jen! Do try the espresso sometime: coffee is a secret complement to chocolate, a trick I picked up from one of Julia Child's recipes. I add a little coffee to almost everything I make with chocolate. In most cases, you don't detect the coffee; it just heightens the taste of the chocolate. In the case of these cookies, there is a distinct but mild coffee note to the flavor.

  5. Now I'm craving chocolate chip cookies. hmmm... I have everything on that list except for chocolate and instant coffee (which is the devil is there NO other way to get that coffee flavor?)

  6. Liz, you could safely leave both of those things out and still have a very tasty cookie. But do look for the instant espresso. You can use regular instant coffee, but it isn't quite as good. And you don't want to put actual coffee in there, because the additional liquid would mess things up.

  7. you mailed cookies!! how exciting. of course Miriam loved them :)