Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Perfect (in my humble opinion) Chocolate Chip Cookie

There is nothing quite like a warm, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie. Alongside a cool glass of milk, it is near dessert perfection. I have been on the hunt for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe ever since Mike and I got married. I prefer a soft, chewy cookie over a crispy cookie, so I started off with a basic recipe given to me by my friend (who I think got it from her neighbor) and began tweaking it to make the cookies turn out exactly how I like them. Now I have this recipe memorized and make them for my family at least once or twice a week. Because the cookies do not have any preservatives, their shelf-life is rather short, two or three days max if kept in an airtight container. This also means I usually make half a batch for my family of five, doubling the recipe when I am serving a larger crowd. They don't last long, though, so it really isn't a problem in the long run.

Also, I feel compelled to give a few tips before you get started:

1. Consider your elevation. I live in Oklahoma City which is about as flat as a pancake. However, if you are in Colorado or New England or Alaska or anywhere with a higher elevation, consider that in your baking time. Don't be afraid to play with the time and oven temp until you get the desired result.

2. Be a name-brand snob. Normally, this is not me. I am all about Great Value and Target brand items. However, in my fourteen years of making this recipe, I have discovered that the store brand products do not produce cookies up to my high cookie standards. So spring for the Crisco and Nestle and Gold Medal. And for heaven's sake, NO imitation vanilla. Get the real thing!

3. Butter vs. Shortening. I have tried both and my opinion is that shortening is better. I buy Crisco vegetable shortening, the original flavorless variety (stay away from the butter flavored shortening!). Butter makes the cookies spread out and cook up a little thinner and crispier than I like. The Crisco makes a fluffier, softer texture. Case closed.

OK, let's get started! I'm sharing with you my half-recipe which yields about 18 cookies, but feel free to double up the recipe for a larger crowd. I do this at Christmas and deliver them to my grateful neighbors. :)

First preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Next, mix together the following:

1/2 cup Crisco vegetable shortening
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla

I use my stand mixer, but a hand mixer will do just fine too. Here's my secret on this step. Mix until there are NO clumps of Crisco left. I put mine on medium speed for a good minute or two. The mixture should be smooth and creamy.

To the creamy mixture, add:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Here is where my years of tweaking has paid off. I am totally sold on the combination of all purpose and whole wheat flour. I have tried different combinations and I have found that using only all purpose makes the cookies too sweet (if that is possible), where using all whole wheat makes them too grainy. I have found this strange combo of "1 cup plus 1/8 cup" to be just right. Trust me. Plus you can consider them sort of "healthy" since you are using whole wheat flour.

Once you have added the flours, soda and salt, mix on low just until combined. Finally add 1 heaping cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and use a spoon to hand mix them in.

You are ready to bake these beauties now. I drop the cookies onto a cookie sheet using a scoop and bake them for 11 minutes. I let them cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing them to a wire cooling rack.

That's it! You can now produce delicious, homemade cookies for your friends and family. I promise they will start asking you for the recipe!

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