I love making chocolate chip cookies. When I was a teenager, I used to experiment with a different recipe most weekends. I had an affinity for baking versus cooking… there just seemed to be something so special about the process of combining a set of ingredients that become an entirely new product. I wonder when it first happened that butter, flour, and eggs were mixed together to reveal the cake-like products that result.

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I use the recipe found on the back of every package of Toll House chocolate chip cookies. After years of taking short cuts here and there, I have learned quite a lot about how to bake pretty damn good cookies. Firstly, I now avoid all short cuts: if the recipe calls for two bowls, first combining the flour, baking soda, and salt in one, and butter, sugars, and vanilla extract in another, I do that.

Combine in a small bowl:

  • 2 1/4 cups unsifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Combine in a large bowl:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

I never used to add salt. I did not understand how savory can compliment sweet, but now I adore it. It’s the reason that Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby – or as it is now know, Hubby Hubby (cute guys) – will always be the best ice cream in the world. I am also a huge fan of a CAILLER Sublim Lait Caramel Pointe de Sel chocolate, a product of Nestle that can be found in most grocery stores here in Switzerland, but I don’t even know if Cailler is sold abroad.

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I also never really understood what it meant to soften butter. I would put two sticks of butter in a bowl, pop it in the microwave and zap it ’til it was soup. Much easier to mix all the ingredients that way. I now understand this is a huge mistake in the world of baking, melting breaks down the properties of butter which allow it to give shape to what you are baking. Years of flat cookies later, softened is when the butter has warmed to room temperature and will hold the indentation of your finger when touched.

Brown sugar is hard to come by in Swiss grocery stores. I can find it at the American Market in Geneva, but it can also be easily made as it is simply white, granulated sugar combined with molasses.

Add to the sugar mixture:

  • 2 eggs

Beat until fluffy.

Eggs, like butter, should be warmed to room temperature. Also in a complete reversal to my teenage baking adventures when I like to use as few bowls as possible, I now prefer to thoroughly beat the eggs before adding them, and then to vigorously beat them into the mixture.

Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing thoroughly. Stir in:

  • 1 -12oz. pkg. (2 cups) chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

I don’t add nuts anymore because I know too many people who are allergic. An old friend of mine taught me a trick that might seem obvious. Once the batter has been handle for the process of combine ingredients, it has warmed up considerably. Not only is the dough easier to handle if refrigerated before dropping teaspoonfuls on a baking sheet, but from what I understand, it actually allows the cookie to maintain a fuller shape when baked.

Drop by rounded measuring teaspoonfuls onto non greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375°F = 190°C = gas mark 5 for 8-10 minutes.

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I closely monitor the baking process in the last two minutes as I’ve come to learn that cookies can go very fast from under-baked to burnt. I will err on the side of caution and remove the cookies when they still have a bit of baking to do and let them finish from the heat of the baking sheet. I used to have one of those air-cushioned baking sheets, which I recommend, but I lost while moving apartments.

I remove the cookies to a cooling rack as soon as they are baked to the point I want them, still soft and a bit gooey, but sturdy enough to hold together and sometimes a tiny bit crispy on the outside. I also use a cookie spatula to care for the tender creations in this transfer process.

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