The first food I ever really made on my own was a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I was in my early teens, armed with the back of a bag of Ghiradelli chocolate chips, and definitely used the gas stove to heat the butter so it was warm enough to cream. No adults helped me and I may even have been alone in the house. I ate a lot of creamed butter and sugar before I realized it was a necessary component of the chemical makeup of cookie dough.
They were still quite good cookies and everyone ate them. Because chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven will warm the cockles of anyone’s heart.
Although once two friends and I decided to make chocolate chip cookies and bring them to an all day play rehearsal. But since we were in high school, we still believed that undercooked cookies were the best type and thus basically served up salmonella ridden blobs of heated up cookie dough. This was less popular than I thought it would be.
Making my first batch of chocolate chip cookies taught me that, while I liked baking, I also liked feeding people. And I liked what I was feeding people to be the best it could possibly be (especially after the undercooked cookie debacle). Those first cookies may have been fine, completely and totally edible, probably even quite good, but definitely not good enough.
I tried out two recipes that promised to make the “best” chocolate chip cookies. One from The New York Times, the other from America’s Test Kitchen. They both made great cookies. But neither of them were “the best”.
I learned a lot along the way, however. For instance, fancy butter drastically improves the quality of cookies. Nuts are a necessity, preferably macadamia nuts, but pecans will do in a pinch. You must use chopped chocolate, preferably really nice chocolate. It melts and you discover flavors that you didn’t think were in chocolate, like cherries and coffee and caramel and so many others. A nice blend of milk and dark will do you well. And always, always let your cookie dough rest for 24 (preferably 48) hours.
I finally found my favorite recipe a few years ago. David Lebovitz’ chocolate chip cookies from Ready For Dessert are perfect. The only problem is that I tend to eat about five cookies worth of cookie dough before baking them. Which isn’t really a problem; its just the sign of great cookies.
I spent the better part of Saturday making cookies and then brought them out with me later that night. They were pretty good. Alright, I thought they were awesome, but many members of the party were, well, enjoying themselves too much to understand the merits of awe inspiring cookies. But some people loved them and as long as my food makes a couple of people happy, why that’s all that matters.
But seriously, try these out. They make the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had. Nuts are a necessity unless you are allergic in which case maybe just throw in some more chocolate? Because everyone likes more chocolate.
The “Best-ish” Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from David Lebovitz’ Ready for Dessert
2 1/2 cups (350 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces, 225 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (215 g) packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups (about 225 g) toasted nuts, preferably macadamias, but any kind will do, toasted and coarsely chopped
14 ounces (400 g) chocolate, a mixture of bittersweet, semisweet, and milk. Callebaut is a good brand, Valrhona or Scharffen Berger are even better, but Lindt or Ghiradelli will do in a pinch
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
With a stand mixer or a hand held electric mixer, beat the butter for about one minute. Add in the sugars and vanilla and beat until just combined. Overbeating here will cause the cookies to spread so be careful. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and beat until well combined. Stir in the nuts, then the chocolate, and finally the chocolate mixture.
Lightly flour a surface and split the dough into 4 parts. Shape each quarter into a 9 inch log and then wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to one week.
Preheat the oven to 350˚. Position one rack in the middle of the oven (or if you are in a rush, one in the top third of the oven, and one in the lower third). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Slice each log into about 12 3/4 inch thick slices. Place the cookies three inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the sheets at least once during baking, especially if you are baking two sheets at a time.
Allow the cookies the cool on the baking sheets until they are easily transferable to a wire rack, where they can cool completely. Baked cookies keep for 4 days in an airtight container at room temperature.