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The Classic Cookie

August 29, 2010

When starting this food blog, I was determined to use as a way to show innovation and creativity in the kitchen and stand out with unique recipes.  But it has now come to the time where I must break this tradition and delve into the realm of the classics.  The tried and true, forever remembered, never denied wonderments of really any food category.  Our category today is cookies and if you are a true American, you know I’m talking chocolate chip.  You really can’t get more classic than that whether it’s wrapped in Nestle packaging at a convenience store or tucked into a big ole scoop of vanilla ice cream at the little local diner.

But just what is it the makes the chocolate chip cookie such a classic.  I mean, oatmeal raisin and snickerdoodles are popular too, but not like the chocolate chip.  I guess it has its roots in our childhoods.  As picky as children are about food, I suppose a parent’s safest bet when preparing snack for their child’s first grade class was chocolate chip.  And really, who, when offered that perfect combination of fatty butter and rich brown sugar with a subtlety of vanilla and, of course loads of chocolaty bits can honestly say “I’ll pass.”  It’s simple, yet packs quite a punch when done right and, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s hard to even resist the crappiest of chocolate chip cookies at some times too.  We also assimilate chocolate chip cookies with cold snowy winter days, baking in the kitchen with mom, the surprise in our lunchboxes temporarily making us the coolest kid at the lunch table…” I’ll trade you my goldfish for your cookie” and simply a comforting pick-me-up when we were down.  And of course there is nothing quite so sublime as a chocolate chip cookie straight from the oven, still gooey in the middle, the edges just starting to crisp up, and brimming with liquid chocolate. Nope, you can’t deny it.  Among cookies, and possibly among desserts, the chocolate chip is in instant classic.

However, there is one inconsistency with labeling the cookie as a classic.  When I think classic the idea of everlasting and unchanging comes to mind.  With chocolate chip cookie, however, it’s quite possible there really is no standard.   The varieties are endless.  There is a constant battle between flat and crispy, dense and chewy, and light and cakey.  Then, there’s the Nestle Toll House cult versus the Betty Crocker followers.  And everybody claims that they have the best recipe.  So how can it be a classic if there are thousands of versions of the “right” one?

Well, I have just solved the mystery because I have found the right one.  THE classic chocolate chip cookie.  When I brought out a plate of these steaming hot goodies to my guests tonight (all 50-year-old friends of my parents with 50 years of chocolate chip cookie eating under their belts) they all claimed that it was the best chocolate chip cookie they’d ever had.  And I concur.  Of course you can disagree, and that’s all right, but in all honesty this is a reeeallly good cookie and, as it should be, simple, without gimmicks, and well, classic.

I found these by following a link on one of The Wednesday Chef’s posts.  She claims that no matter how much she tinkers with the classic cookie, she always returns to these. They are ever so slightly adapted to my tastes and turn out to be of the dense and chewy variety of cookie, my favorite.  They are amazing on a slightly chilly night when you can’t remember the last time you’ve had a chocolate chip cookie so that they can remind you how much you’ve missed them.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 stick (½ cup) slightly cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
7 oz. roughly chopped chocolate or chocolate chips (This was the one ingredient I didn’t have so I went to 7-11, where, of course they didn’t have chocolate chips.  I used 5 bars of dove milk chocolate, which was good, but when I make these again I’ll be using good dark chocolate.)

Optional: ½ cup toasted nuts like pecans or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350.  Sift together the flour, soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.  Using a standing mixer, cream the butter on medium-low speed for about 2 minutes.  Add the sugars and continue creaming on the same speed for about another 2-3 minutes, until smooth and fluffy.  Scrape down the bowl and paddle.  Add the vanilla, egg, and espresso powder and beat until just incorporated.   Scrape the bowl again.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture until everything is just combined.  Add the chocolate and, if using, the nuts, and also mix until just combined.  If you are patient enough, refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.  If you have hungry guests, like me, skip this step and proceed to baking.

Place the dough onto a baking sheet in tablespoon-sized balls about 2 inches apart.  This recipe will make about 22 cookies.  Bake for 11-13 minutes until the edges start to crisp up and the center stills appears raw.  Don’t worry, it will set up perfectly.  Transfer to a cooling rack to cool for about 5 minutes before devouring.  This should give you enough time to thoroughly prepare your big tall glass of milk.


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