Remember when “America” was synonomous with “exotic?” Neither do I.

Charlatan Cookies

I wondered what would happen if Jess D and I ever got together and did some baking, and now I know: five extra pounds and some blood sugar tests. She posted this link from BeckyBakes to my Facebook page several weeks ago, and I had the same initial impression as the author, a Bart Simpson-like shudder at the conceived marriage of a home-made and a store-bought cookie. We agreed that they’d either be awesome or inedible. Unfortunately for our waistlines, they fall into that can’t-have-just-one category, which would be fine, except that they’re gargantuan.

I decided to attempt the recipe with mini-Oreos instead, aiming to achieve a three-inch diameter at most, but what is meant to be a cookie-covered Oreo became more of a “surprise cookie,” suggesting that the original is perfect in its enormity, rather like Jeff Garlin.

Thank goodness that’s over with.

Triple-Chocolate Bullies

Two weeks after the extraction of my new minions and I’m back to my old self, though with a bit more on my plate. My second c-section was even more pleasant than the first, if that’s possible, and I took advantage of the hospital nursery during my stay this time, returning home delightfully rested and cheerfully perc’d. I’ve just made the switch over to Tylenol, bidding adieu to the two-week prescription party, and my taste buds have fully recovered. Billy the Kid and I celebrated the grand reopening of the oven last night with a brand new cookie that quickly took all the Peñas down a few pegs. A thin crisp shell immediately yields to a brownie-cake hybrid that keeps the sweetness understated and spotlights the saltiness sublimely.

1 C butter, room temperature
3/4 C sugar
3/4 brown sugar, packed
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
1/2 C cocoa
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
12 oz chocolate chips

Set your oven to 375. Melt 1/2 stick of butter with the unsweetened chocolate over low heat. Cream together the remaining butter and sugar until fluffy, then blend in the brown sugar and mix until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat vigorously until even. Stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Dump the dry ingredients in and mix the dough until everything’s incorporated, resulting in a rather unseemly dark brown, sticky mess. Finally, stir in the totally unnecessary chocolate chips. Drop the dough by rounded teaspoons onto sheets, and bake these bad boys one batch at a time for 9 minutes. Cool on wire racks, and impress the hell out of anyone who said you’d be too busy with babies to make any goddamn cookies.

Those 1000 extra calories aren’t going to eat themselves.

The Day Is Mine Chocolate Chip Cookies

About once a month I make an impromptu variation on the Tollhouse Chocolate Chipper. In my never-abating quest for superiority, I assume that mine will be the face behind its eventual perfection, at which point everyone will jot down my recipe and we can all move on to other culinary ventures. Usually my experiments yield cookies that are fine, but with a lowercase “f.” But endeavor is never a waste, and I’m able to take advantage of Billy the Kid’s not yet fully developed palate to move the mediocre product. This afternoon, however, I created a most magnificent monster, a complete departure from my signature butter-crisp version, but a delicious bastard indeed.

At fifteen I began a several-year career with the burger tycoon known within the industry as The Monarch, and back when a pack of Old Golds went for $1.85, Burger King’s menu offered a chocolate chip cookie that I believe was supplied by one Mrs. Fields. I spent the summer after my senior year waking up at 4 AM five out of seven mornings to scoop lard into industrial deep-fryers and ready the palace for its throngs of noble patrons. I fully believe in getting one’s due out of the employment contract, and as my morning ritual continued and I placed the mandated dozen frozen balls of dough into the very specific and very branded tiny oven, I’d throw in an extra six to hide behind the tomatoes and sustain me throughout my shift. They were the best cookies I’ve ever eaten, nuanced with the most indulgent of all secret ingredients: sneaky.

These cookies bring me right back to my bad girl days of dark lipstick, Colt 45’s, too much eyeliner and pink hair. Oh, to be young and ridiculous.

1-1/2 stick butter (3/4 C)
1/4 C shortening
3/4 C sugar
3/4 C dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/4 C flour
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 bag Toll House Semi Sweet Morsels

I hate it as much as anyone, but for the best cookies, all ingredients, including eggs, must be at room temperature before beginning. I didn’t microwave the butter as I sometimes do, and I suggest you rock these old school as well. So, set your oven to 375, but not before the butter easily accommodates a poking.

Cream together the butter and shortening, then add the white sugar and continue mashing until completely blended. Add the brown sugar and disperse, then beat in the eggs and vanilla until everything’s consistent. Stir in the flour, salt and soda with a hefty wooden spoon, as this dough gets thick enough to snap a dollar-store utensil. Once all loose flour has been incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips until the mass has an even distribution.

Form the dough into 1-1/2″ balls and space 2″ apart on cookie sheets before flattening just slightly. Bake single sheets at 375 for 12 minutes (10 minutes for extra soft). Cool the finished cookies on the sheets for three minutes before transferring to a wire rack until room temperature. These should be stored in an air-tight container as they crisp quickly, and the chewy middle must be preserved!

It’s been two weeks, let’s have some cookies.

A New Class of Chocolate Chippers

Every now and then my compulsive-compulsive tendency triggers a flash frenzy of impromptu baking, and when wound adequately tight, I sometimes disregard the golden rule of preemptively laying out all ingredients. This almost always results in either disaster or overwhelming mediocrity, but my most recent bout of inappropriate zeal inadvertently delivered my Toll House Chocolate Chippers to an entirely new level. My usual variation follows the package recipe but cuts the flour by 1/4 C, increases the salt, and, if budget allows, uses the good vanilla. I almost can’t believe I notice a difference with cage-free/natural eggs, and it may be nothing more than the absence of bitter guilt, but I do.

Having creamed the sugar and butter, I opened the cupboard to grab the light brown sugar, of which there was none. I caught myself just in time with a “son of a biscuit!” as I remembered Billy the Kid’s presence, and proceeded with a stiff upper lip and dark brown instead, since going to bed early is no longer an option when I’m confronted with adversity. In an additional kick to the apron, time seemed to have gotten away from me, and the dinner hour threatened to usurp the oven mid-bake, so I made the cookies three times the standard household size. The first cynical bite unexpectedly transported me to the ultra thin, crisp yet chewy, more buttery than sweet middle-upper class, and I realized that, a: I’d like to get back there as soon as possible, and b: this cookie is screaming for branding.

2 C flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks/1 C salted butter
3/4 C sugar
3/4 C dark brown sugar
2 cage-free/natural eggs
2 tsp Bourbon vanilla paste
1 12-oz pkg/2 C Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

Set your oven to 375. Put the butter on a small plate and microwave it for about 25 seconds to get it soft, but stop as soon as it starts to melt. Toss it into a large mixing bowl with the sugar and cream until fluffy, then add the brown sugar and combine until the color’s even throughout. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat by hand until it’s smooth. Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt, and mix it up until the sides and bottom of the bowl are clean, then incorporate the chocolate chips. Spoon the dough onto cookie sheets, into 2 1/2″ roundish piles. You’ll get about 6 per 14 x 16 sheet, and I highly recommend these after using the same pair for over 3 years with consistently outstanding results. Bake single sheets for 13 minutes, but check in at 10. As Mr. S would say, “when they look delicious, they’re done.”

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