Why this blog?

"If you are careful," Garp wrote, "if you use good ingredients, and you don't take any shortcuts, then you can usually cook something very good. Sometimes it is the only worthwhile product you can salvage from a day; what you make to eat. With writing, I find, you can have all the right ingredients, give plenty of time and care, and still get nothing. Also true of love. Cooking, therefore, can keep a person who tries hard sane."
from John Irving's novel, The World According to Garp

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies, Sort Of

The past week, the hubby and I ate dinner with Gorgeous Sister #1 and her family three times - we were invited, I swear.  But by the second night, I was starting to feel kind of like a moocher, so I thought I should take something for dessert.  After doing a quick inventory of my pantry and what was still left over from my holiday baking, I thought I could probably just manage a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  Let me start by giving you the recipe I used - which is excellent; it's the one on the chocolate chip bag.  Then I'll tell you what I actually ended up doing.

Chocolate Chip Cookies


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz pkg.) of very famous brand of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.  Drop by rounded tablepoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Okay, that's the recipe.  But as I was assembling ingredients, I realized I was going to have to be a little flexible.  First of all, I knew going in I didn't have any nuts, but honestly, who ever turned down a chocolate chip cookie just because it didn't have nuts? 

Next I realized I didn't have two sticks of butter.  I had about two-thirds of a stick of butter in the butter dish.  Well, damnit.  My first resort was to call Gorgeous Sister #1 next door to see if she had a stick and a half of butter.  (And no, I was not remotely bothered by the irony of borrowing butter from her to make cookies intended to soothe my conscience for mooching dinner off her in the first place.)  Sadly, she didn't have any stick butter either.  (Clarification:  stick butter comes in sticks and is actually margarine at my house unless I buy real butter for some special purpose; tub butter comes in a little plastic tub and gets smeared on stuff, oftentimes under Vegemite.) 

At this point, a sane woman would have given up, but I wasn't ready to admit defeat.  Once I start imagining eating cookies, I have a hard time letting go.  I went back to the cabinet and discovered a can of Crisco shortening.  I had a dim recollection of an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown explained something about cookies made with butter are more one thing and cookies made with shortening are more something else (chewy versus crispy, I think, but I cannot for the life of me remember which is which), so if you want a cookie that's a little bit of both, mix the two.  This gave me just the rationalization I was looking for.  I ended up using 1/2 cup of shortening, 6 tablespoons of stick butter, and 2 tablespoons of tub butter, resigned to the prospect of a substandard but still-sweet finished product full of chocolate chips. 

Everything else I had, but the search for butter-type products had taken so long, I no longer had the time to wait for pan after pan of cookies to bake.  Besides, I was so frustrated with the whole process by the time I started mixing, I ignored my grandmother's advice and years of experience and mixed the wet ingredients with an electric hand mixer, so after I put the flour in, I had more of a thick batter than a dough.  Still undeterred, I stirred in the chocolate chips, sprayed a jelly roll pan with cooking spray, and smashed the dough-batter in with a wooden spoon.  Getting it spread evenly was hell and gone the hardest part of the whole process.  I baked it for twenty minutes until it was darker brown around the edges and still kind of puffy in the middle, yanked it out of the oven with oven mitts, and carried it across the yard to cool on my sister's kitchen counter - no baking racks used, wire or otherwise. 

I have to say, the cookie/brownie/big square bars of sweet we ended up with were pretty damned good - we've been munching on them all week, and I've yet to hear a complaint.  But I would definitely recommend using the original recipe first if you can; there's no denying it's better. 


  1. St. Alton. You know, I'm *this* close to buying full seasons of Good Eats on iTunes...

  2. Oh lord, me too! It's funny; Max hates the Food Network with the passion of a thousand burning suns, so now whenever I watch Alton, it's like sneaking around behind my husband's back.