I started with muffins. Then, more muffins. Next, cake. I took a short break and got married, then made biscuits. Today, I made my very first cookies. Chocolate chip cookies.
Let's skip the part where people are shocked that I've gone 26 years without baking chocolate chip cookies on my own. That I call myself a food blogger and have never even made cookies, period. Look, I know. It's the reason I made the goal to start baking this year, and I figured that before 2010 was up, I had to make my first batch of cookies. And they had to be chocolate chip. So, let's just high-five and pour ourselves a glass of milk, shall we?
I'm not going to say they're the best cookies ever. They're my first cookies, after all. The fact that they didn't completely collapse on themselves and end up tasting like dirt makes me call these cookies a complete success. A learning experience, for sure.
Finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe is next to impossible, since everyone and their mother has their favorite recipe, which they claim to be the best. And everyone has their favorite type of cookie. There's dense and chewy, flat and crispy, and everything in between. I've done the research and trust me, for every type of chocolate chip cookie, there is a hardcore cookie lover that will stand by that recipe to the death. I just wanted something simple, and classic, and easy. I wanted something I could mix by hand, and dirty as few dishes as possible, and that used basic ingredients. So I went with the recipe on the back of the bag of Nestle Toll House chocolate chips.
Like I said, everyone has their favorites, and with these favorites come the secrets and techniques that make the cookie just right, and the stories that make the cookie that much sweeter.
My sister started out sticking to only three basic types of cookies, chocolate chip one of them, because my mom wasn't one to buy fussy ingredients like almond extract or special flours. Jenny's chocolate chip cookies are the ones I grew up with, and call my favorite, and received in care packages when away at college.
Shanna's chocolate chip cookies involve oatmeal, and are the best cookies she eats -- a recipe from her grandma, who would line her stairs with cookie tins during the holidays and give everyone she knew a gift of sweets.
Caitlin grew up with the Nestle Toll House recipe, mixing the dough by hand, and melting the butter because her mother never remembered to soften the sticks beforehand. I liked the idea of not having to plan ahead, so with Caitlin's techniques in hand and the stories rolling around in my head, I baked.
Here is what I learned: Those special techniques are really key if you're picky about your cookies. Thankfully, I'm not, so when I ended up with three different kinds of cookies, I didn't mind much. In fact, I took it as a blessing that now I know not to make the dough balls too big, to adjust the time settings according to the size of the cookie, and not to take cookie-making too seriously. All seemingly obvious concerns, but like I said, I'm learning.
My first round of cookies were huge and flat, due to too-large spoonfuls. My second batch came out slightly burnt and crispy on the bottom, from adjusting the size but not bothering to shorten the bake time. The third came out just right. All were tasty, with crisp edges and chewy centers, just how I like them. I even kept the chocolate chips to a minimum for the first few, for Murdo, who likes his cookies big and flat, with very few chips.
And that's why all these variations exist, really -- because with every chocolate chip cookie-lover, there is a chocolate chip cookie-maker who tweaks the recipe and mixes by hand or mixer, adds fewer chips and melts the butter, fills tins or sends care packages, all for that special someone and that perfect cookie.
The Original Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe can be found here. I only used about half to 3/4 the amount of chocolate chips called for (I didn't measure, just sprinkled in the chips and stopped when I thought it was enough. A whole bag just seemed like way too much.). Also, I melted the butter beforehand, which made the cookie dough much easier to mix by hand. I'm told the melted butter results in a flatter cookie, while mixing by hand creates chewiness. I'm no cookie expert, but I found that just having fun with the whole process worked fine for me.