Friday, February 19, 2010

Ode to the chocolate chip cookie

I love cookies. If it's got chocolate or is from Bakesale Betty, it's destined for my mouth. Lately, I've been on a crazy cookie-baking kick. I make cookies at least once, if not twice, a week. I come home from work, and I want a cookie. After dinner, I want a cookie. While watching a movie, I start getting cravings for — yep, that's right: cookies. I'd probably eat cookies for breakfast if I didn't have this crazy notion that normal people simply do not eat cookies first thing in the morning.

Chocolate chip cookies are my go-to cookie when I want to bake. They were the very first thing I ever learned to cook all by myself, at the tender age of ten or eleven. At our school's book fair, I'd bought a book called The Best Cookie Book Ever, in which a parade of anthropomorphic teddy bears in late 80's garb instructed me on how to make a variety of cookies. The recipe for "Teddy's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies" is splattered with bits of batter that had gone flying off the electric hand mixer nearly every time I baked.

Back then, I used margarine in my cookies because... well, didn't everyone? Many years later, throwing together a batch of chocolate chip cookies while vacationing in Austin, TX, I found only butter in the fridge. I was hesitant to use it. Butter had always seemed too decadent for the average cookie, and besides, it was expensive. Those cookies turned out to be the best I'd ever made — and so I only ever used butter from then on. (I now think spending the money on organic butter is totally worth it, as you can probably guess.)

 I used to have a problem with my cookies being too cakey, and they would practically retain their shape after being scooped out of the mixing bowl, instead of spreading in the oven. I haven't quite figured out the science of cookie baking, though I do know that a slight reduction in the amount of flour and a larger brown to white sugar ratio (รก la the recipe on the bag of Trader Joe's chocolate chips) has helped create cookies that are still soft but more traditionally cookie-shaped.

They're damn good, if I do say so myself. The Anthropologist agrees.

All this talk of cookies is making me want one. I think it's time to whip up another batch.

The only chocolate chip cookie recipe you'll ever need
(courtesy of me)

2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
1 c softened butter
1 tsp good-quality vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips
optional: chopped nuts, dried fruit, or whatever floats your boat (I put cranberries in the ones above)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl, and set it aside. Using an electric hand mixer, cream together the sugars, butter, and vanilla. Add eggs and beat. Add dry ingredients and continue to mix. (At this point, my ancient mixer — the one I found abandoned at the back of the cupboard when I was moving out of my freshman year apartment — can no longer handle the work, and I switch to a wooden spoon.) Stir in chocolate chips and any additional add-ins.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a non-greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

As Teddy likes to say, "Did you turn off the oven?"

Makes about 2 dozen.

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