Updated: Nov 16
For the month of November, I will be running a series on Tuesday titled “Right Off the Box”, which are recipes that I use for all of my holiday baking and making that comes right off the ingredients package. Because sometimes the best recipes are right under your nose.
As many readers know, I love to make cookies.
Back when I was a single woman baking her way through a tough breakup, it was the Martha Stewart special holiday issue Cookies that got me through it.
What I have discovered that no matter how many recipes Hubs texts me from some fancy-pants culinary publication who claims that their chocolate chip cookie recipe is the best, I always ignore it.
I already have the best. Much like Monica from Friends, it was in my pantry the whole time. From, as Phoebe says, Neslé Toulouse.
I think cookies are the perfect dessert. They are small, require no utensils, and keep for days without any refrigeration. You can keep them in a fancy jar on your counter or a ziplock bag in your pantry. I also choose cookies because there is absolutely nothing better than being surprised with a package of cookies – either left in your office or delivered by the USPS.
The King of Cookies
No matter what type of cookies I make and what fancy creative additions I work with – pretzels, potato chips, jams, jellies, molasses or other spices –in the end, the only type of cookie anyone wants is chocolate chip.
Before my friend L. can protest, yes the Snickerdoodles I make are delicious, but it is a seasonal cookie. Chocolate Chip cookies work in mid June as well as they do in mid December.
In my cookie-baking fever, I had wanted to make some for my Pop who famously had a sweet tooth. He liked cakes, cookies, pies, and anything made by Hostess or Little Debbie. My Maw baked for fun and for her side hustle. They were a match made in heaven.
My Pop and I had an interesting dynamic. We liked to surprise each other, in a very, “watch out, you little snot, because I’m going to do something nice for you when you least expect it!”
I crocheted him a scarf. He surprised me on my prom night with a rented a Mustang convertible from his friend at the Ford dealership. I baked him little hand pies in the shape of apples. He assembled a toolbox for my first home. We never had expectations or obligations; these gestures were always a surprise, and often to spite each other as much as it was to show we loved each other. He would never give me a straight answer to what kind of cookie was his favorite, so my Maw told me to just make him Chocolate Chip cookies.
My first attempt was from the Martha Stewart Cookie magazine. I followed the directions exactly as written. And when the cookies baked, they spread all over the pan, making them incredibly thin, but also greasy, like the ones that many of us ate in school when we were a kid. Also, I didn’t distribute the chocolate chips well enough, so many of the large cookies had no chips in them at all. My friend Yickett took them off my hands, saying he always preferred for his chocolate chip cookies to be without chips.
What is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe?
I was annoyed by the result. Much like Monica on Friends, I soon discovered that the perfect recipe is already on the package.
Nestle Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips always come with a recipe on the bag. The ratios are perfect. If you wanted to add a little something extra, like nuts or an additional flavoring, it works great for that.
I have made these cookies for potlucks, church events, and other get togethers to have people ask me the recipe. In the tradition of my Maw who never shared a recipe ever once in her life, I would just shrug and say, "I just followed the recipe on the package."
One of my friends, while eating the cookie, said, "That's a lie."
It wasn't a whole lie. I do follow the recipe on the package.
The butter should be creamed, which means soft but not melted. I never remember to set out the butter in the time necessary to soften it (usually room temp for 30 minutes). I do not have the patience. Instead I take the sticks from the fridge when I am ready to bake and pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds. Then I turn the sticks on the next side and heat for another 10 seconds. The perfect texture is butter that readily accepts a thumbprint. However, if I dump the butter from their wrappers into my mixer and see they are a little too melty, I don’t fret over it. It’s fine.
I also want to be clear – yes, it needs to be butter and not margarine or butter substitute. It doesn’t have to be organic, grass-fed, bougie AF butter, but it does need to be butter. I do not recommend scooping out enough Country Crock from the tub in your fridge or swapping it out for Crisco. I also don’t know how to transfer any of this into a plant-based no dairy recipe. There are other experts on that. I believe in butter. Long live butter.
I also blend the dry ingredients – flour, salt, baking soda – in a separate bowl and set to the side.
I cream the butter in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Next sugar. Then I add the wet ingredients – eggs and vanilla. Eggs need to go in one at a time. I also sometimes add either almond extract or orange zest. But many of my young friends have tree nut allergies, so I now make them without any add-ins or flourishes and the cookies are still great.
Hubs took offense when I told him I was sharing my secret add ins and that I don't use them any more. He claims he always tasted the orange in every batch. I don't always add it. Only at Christmas or when I have a bunch of oranges already at the house. He's also annoyed that I am sharing this secret because I once threatened to cut him if he ever shared my secret recipe with anyone. It's orange zest! The secret is out!
Once the wet has been blended, I scoop the flour mixture in one half cup at a time. I like to make sure all the flour is blended before I add more. What I have learned from baking is the flour is slowly absorbing the wet as that mixer spins.
When the dough is ready, I remove the bowl from the stand mixer and stir in the chocolate chips with a long flat silicone spatula. The one I use came with my mixer a million years ago, but these flat spatulas are available at kitchen supply stores. A flat spatula will scrape the bowl and also cut through the dough for easier blending. I only pour in half the chocolate chips then, once blended, the next half of the chips.
When I am feeling lazy, I just pour the chips into the mixer. The problem – and it will depend on how much you value aesthetics – is that when you mix chocolate chips, the mixer will know flakes of chocolate off the chips leaving your cookies dotted and flecked. If I am sending the cookies out into the world, I mix them by hand. If the cookies are for home use, I throw the chips in the mixer.
Once mixed, I scoop the dough and bake them on a sheet of parchment paper. I do not use Pam because I do not like to use aerosols if I can help it and I think sometimes Pam can taste a little fishy. I also do not like my silpat for cookies because I think the edges are not as crisp. With parchment paper, the cookies do not stick and they have a nice crispy edge.
I have a tiny cookie dough scoop that I got from a kitchen supply store. I love it. With the number of cookies I make, it’s a fast and easy way to get equal-sized cookies. But you can also simply scoop them with a spoon.
At one time, I would rotate my cookies halfway through the bake. Now, I just allow them to bake on their own. For my oven now, it takes 12 -13 minutes for a batch of two pans. In my old oven, no longer than 10 minutes. I have four baking sheets, so while one round is baking, I am setting up round two.
Cookie baking season is approaching, and we always have chocolate chip at our celebrations, now for Hubs who have deemed them his favorite cookies. And when he is at the store picking up supplies and calling me to ask, “Do we have to get the name brand? Can’t we get generic?”
I always respond, “Of course not. The generic doesn’t have the recipe!”
Happy baking season, y’all!
Read Books. Wear Boots.