Things a Monkey Could Cook: Chocolate Chip Cookies
Well during the height of the holiday season, two things happened in mystical synchronicity to generate this blog: first, the Pioneer Woman and HP decided to give away chances on a swell printer that would certainly make my life—not only as a cook, but possibly also as a piano teacher—a lot easier, while only requiring in return a mention here and a link to a nice holiday favorite.
Then Denise wrote a swell piece about her life-changing mint sugar cookies experience, wherein she confesses that until then she’d often been faking enthusiasm for your traditional, yet uninspiring cookie cut-ups, and thereby opened the door for us all….
And so I confess: after personally putting out several kinds of holiday favorites, as well as receiving another brimming Christmas tin from one of my sweet young relatives who leaves me in the dust in this department—after all of it, I still secretly wanted, and finally gave myself, a nice batch of good old chocolate chip cookies.
Perhaps it’s simply because, at this time of year, we yearn for and think of our oldest and dearest friends….
Plus, this one’s also special for me, since it was the very first thing I ever did in the kitchen all by my little self. Believe me, if I could do it way back then, you can do it too. I still remember the enormous mess I usually made….
However, if all goes well, it’ll take the inexperienced about two hours to make them—less if you have the self-control of a chimpanzee and are therefore dumb enough to eat a lot of the dough right out of the bowl. This is, of course, a bad idea on a multitude of levels, and I speak once again from personal adolescent experience.
Plus, not only are these treats easy and popular, but if you have a strong arm and a wooden spoon to match they can actually be made without machinery; and unless your mixer’s heavy-duty, you’ll have to add the last of the flour mixture by hand anyway, because this cookie dough is just so thick, and so rich, and so….
Don’t start eating it!
What did I just tell you?
Now, because this dough tastes so good from beginning to end, it may also be about the easiest thing for those new to baking in terms of timing, since the only way you can really end up with something inedible is if you burn them; so prepare your baking sheets properly, remember that timing is everything, and all should be well. Also please remember that parchment paper’s expensive, but is especially helpful when cookware’s no longer new and shiny.
Otherwise, coat your baking surface lightly with butter or shortening by using a pastry brush, the corner of a paper towel, or two fingers. Substituting oil just won’t work; while if you think your nice new baking sheets are truly non-stick, you may not need to do anything, but be careful. Whether or not a cookie needs a greased surface to keep it from cementing to the sheet depends upon its fat content—something that’s deliciously high here, so you’ll probably be fine. Plus, when laying the dough out on the sheet, fat content also determines how much it’ll melt down and spread.
Also, for people like Denise, the chopped nuts in this recipe are of course completely optional. As a matter of fact, once in a while I even throw in a little oatmeal instead, or in addition, with results that seem to please; and should you be a beginner wishing further instruction on how to deal with nuts, for the kind you can eat I refer you to the helpful hints section of my book; while for the kind you can’t eat, I refer you to God Almighty.
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ to 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup = 2 sticks butter
- ¾ to 1 cup brown sugar
- ¾ to 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 extra-large or 2 small eggs
- ¾ to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- 12 ounces (1 large package) semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a large bowl, cut up the butter into very small pieces to allow it to soften.
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Add the brown and granulated sugars to the butter, and beat well at medium speed for about three minutes until well blended and light, scraping the sides of the bowl periodically with a heavy-duty spatula.
Beat the egg and vanilla into the creamed mixture in like fashion.
Stir the dry ingredients on low speed until all is well blended.
Add the chocolate chips and the chopped nuts, distributing them evenly.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Drop 12 rounded tablespoons of dough per baking sheet—which should leave plenty of space for it to melt down and spread out—and then flatten the tops of these little walnut-sized balls slightly to make for even browning. If these cookies run together while baking, they’ll probably separate and be fine when you take them of the sheet, just not as pretty. They’re not going to be perfectly round anyway, since you’re not a machine.
Bake for 8 minutes, one sheet at a time, in the center of the oven; and sorry, but you can’t put two in there at once to speed things up. Those cookies will be done when the tops look light brown and completely set–-relative terms at best. The bottoms should be well browned when you peek under them, but if you’ve made them too thick or your sheets are too dark, they might end up with burnt bottoms and marginal tops. The ones you see pictured below have finished spreading out, and are about five minutes away from being done.
Lucky for you, unless you truly burn the bottoms, after they cool off they’re still going to be edible and taste pretty darn good, since of course the dough tastes really, really great even before you bake it….
Stop eating that dough!
When they’re done, carefully lift them to a wire rack with a flat-bladed spatula; and be careful because they’re still very flexible at this point, but they’ll soon solidify into the expected finished product as they cool. Put the second sheet on into the oven, but wait for the empty sheet to cool down a bit before laying out the next round of dough—being sure to brush off the crumbs and lightly re-grease.
After those crowd-pleasers have been out of the oven for about five minutes you can let anyone who has been hanging around sniffing the air at them. Otherwise, don't put them in bags or cookie jars until they’re completely cool, where they’ll keep so well that you can bake them two days ahead for a party. Plus, they ship fairly well if packed carefully, or you can freeze them for a month—maybe more. I don't know because ours have never lasted that long.