The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a bold but truthful title. I’ll write that sentence without adding, “I think,” or, “in my opinion,” because of course it’s what I think, and you’re reading my blog, so what other opinion should I endorse? Also, I read this article once about how women tend to write with caveats, making their arguments sound more of opinion than fact and, consequently, weaker. I think that’s interesting, because I definitely find it difficult not to write that way. It only seems fair to underscore that I only write from my own perspective, which is of course limited by my little version of reality that may be missing great bounds of information that would otherwise change my mind. But, maybe this is something that should be understood of everyone? Maybe we should always assume opinion of words, not facts, and cross-check our references until we make up our own minds. But, that’s all neither here-nor-there. The point is, I made some very good cookies for my dad when he came to visit.

To me, these cookies are the best because of their height, fluffy centers, chewy yet soft texture, and chunks of chips and nuts. I don’t like thin cookies nearly as much, and I certainly don’t want overly crunchy ones. It seems everyone agrees that a cookie should have a crisp bite followed by a soft middle, and while I share that belief, I am a big proponent of an overly full, overly soft middle. I want the perfect balance of a crumbling to creamy texture inside. And, mostly, I want my cookie to be really big. I’m pretty done with small cookies. They never achieve as much.

These are a derivation of the classic Tollhouse recipe, because, honestly, those are the ones that have always been best received by my cookie tasters (namely, my brothers, friends, and classmates). There are many articles regarding trials between various cookie “bests,” so, by all means, research your favorite techniques. However, in trying a few myself, most I find to be fairly indiscernibly improved. I employ a few little tricks to my cookies, but in truth, a cookie made is better than a cookie conceived. So if extra time stops you from baking, please just make them in the way you find most approachable.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 24-30 cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 sticks/ 8 tbsp. butter

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 bag Ghirardelli chocolate chips (or other favorite brand)

1/2 cup pecans and walnuts, chopped

Heat the oven to 385 degrees.

In a stand mixer or large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until paling and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time until thoroughly incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and stir.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Add the dry mixture to the wet batter on a low mix speed. Mix together until the flour is just absorbed into the batter. Add the chips and nuts and mix until just combined.

Refrigerate the dough for 30-60 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop the cookies in 2-3 tbsp. mounds, shaped lightly into balls. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and, after 2-3 minutes cooling in the pan, move to a cooling rack.



Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday was a nice day. A little chilly, but sunny. I was a little busy, but not too much. But then I came home from some work and errands and decided to make cookies rather than go for the run I need to do this weekend or clean the kitchen that was dirtily taunting me. (Except then I cleaned it while cooking… it was starting at me). I was just overwhelmed by the need to have cookies in the house, ASAP. I have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe that’s kind of a derivation from the classic Tollhouse recipe, and is actually a recipe I found on Food 52. But I wanted to doctor those cookies up a bit, because I had some shredded coconut I wanted to use and also because it sounded delicious. I was actually first interested in trying my hand at macarons before realizing I’d need almond flour. Hence the insight to use some coconut, a macaron classic. The coconut adds a delicious moisture to these cookies, keeping them intensely soft and chewy with nicely light-brown crispy edges. I maybe under-bake by 30 seconds or so as well. Another thing making these cookies awesome (and which makes my chocolate chip cookies better as well) is using chocolate chunks rather than chips. I actually just buy mini chocolate bars (or sticks, really) and dice those into 1/4-1/2 inch chunks before adding to the batter. It adds these delectably noticeable chocolate moments more so than the lost-at-sea chips ever will.

It’s kind of a strange time to be craving cookies. It’s warming up. People are outside, happier. Fresh fruit is finally coming into season. And it’s time to be “toning up for summer” or whatever. I don’t care though. Cookies are good all of the time. And if a craving strikes; go for it.

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Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 16-20 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 stick of softened butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup chocolate, diced (or chocolate chips or chunks)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, coconut, baking soda, and salt. Dice the chocolate and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer to combine), cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until lightened and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat into the batter until well-mixed. Add the vanilla and beat for another 30 seconds, until well-combined.

Lower the mixer speed to stir and add in about half of the flour mixture. Mix into the batter until just combined, about 15-30 seconds. Add the chocolate to the remaining flour mixture and toss to combine. Add the chocolate and remaining flour together into the mixer bowl while mixing on low. Stir until the flour is just absorbed into the batter, about 15 seconds. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Stir a few more times with a spoon if there is a bit of dry flour in the bowl.

Use a small ice cream scoop (or fill one only about half-full) to drop cookies onto the parchment paper. Bake at 375 for 9-11 minutes, until lightly-browned at the edges and just cooked through. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. Then, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack (I just slide the parchment paper over).

They will be droopy and soft until cooled, so you can eat them hot and melty or wait about 30 minutes. I’m pretty sure I know which you’ll do. Just prepare to have some sips of milk on the side.

Store at room temperature in a covered container for 2-3 days. Otherwise, freeze.

Brian’s Favorite Snickerdoodles

I didn’t make these snickerdoodles today. I didn’t make them a week ago, or a month ago. I’m actually not sure when I last made snickerdoodles- it may have been near the end of 2013- but when I make them, I use this recipe, every. single. time. They’ve been eaten at office parties, at friend’s homes, as Christmas gifts, for an indulgent snack, and in I’ll-eat-this-entire-recipe-at-once binges, courtesy of this blog’s namesake. Brian loves snickerdoodles, and he especially loves these snickerdoodles, so every time I make them I think of him. Today is a good day to ponder the life of my younger brother, because it’s a good day to be distracted from the stress which bookended my weekend and the many goings-on I have looking ahead for this week. It’s a good day to ponder things you love and care about, because Chicago doesn’t have a lot going for it right now, and I’m actually pretty sure the city itself is trying to break up with me. I haven’t given in yet, but I may be delusional. Really, I wish I could be sitting with Brian, stealing a snickerdoodle or two (as he gobbles down the rest, still warm), with some of his beautiful music playing in the background, losing sight of the fact that my life is very far away and very much more serious than video games and cookies. Every one needs a moment or two to just stop and eat a snickerdoodle. And if you’re going to give yourself the time, go for a good one.

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Brian’s Favorite (Unbelievably Soft and Fluffy) Snickerdoodles

Makes ~15-20 cookies

Based on this recipe

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. cinnamon

2-3 tbsp. milk

1/4 cup sugar & 1 tbsp. cinnamon for rolling

In an electric stand mixer at medium speed, or hand mixer, cream softened/ room-temperature butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add egg and beat until incorporated, about 1-2 minutes. Add vanilla and mix again for ~30 seconds.

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients- flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl in 3 batches, beating on low until each batch is incorporated. If the last batch makes the dough seem too crumbly or dry, add in 1 tbsp. of milk at a time until cookie-dough consistency is achieved. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a shallow bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon for rolling. Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator. Grab a small chunk of cookie dough, enough to form a golf-ball sized dough ball, and roll in your hand. Drop the rolled cookie dough into the sugar and cinnamon mixture and toss until covered. Place the cookie dough ball on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and repeat the process until all cookies are formed.

Bake the cookies in the oven for 10-12 minutes, erring on the longer side for larger dough balls. The cookies should be juuuust lightly browned on the bottom edges and still appear fairly raw in the middle. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack, where they’ll firm up slightly and become delectably soft, fluffy, and chewy, with just the hint of a crackle-crunch when first biting in.

These cookies are the essence of cinnamon-vanilla wonder, absolutely perfect warm, but undeniably delicious at room temperature, even 3 days later. Keep fresh in a covered container for 2-3 days; otherwise, freeze to last longer. I promise you do not need to freeze these.

Brian deserves a batch today. Tell him they’re from me.