Read an Excerpt
The Search for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie
If it's not chocolate, it's not dessert!" That's been our family motto for years, no matter how small, or how special, the occasion. And we're surely not alone in our passion. Since its discovery centuries ago, the very word chocolate has always conjured up images and aromas of rich sauces, elegant mousses, steaming hot drinks, delectable fudges, and moist, dark cakes.
This superstar ingredient appears in dozens of favorite desserts and drinks, but one of the most universally popular is that particularly American invention, chocolate chip cookies. Warm from the oven, they're the perfect offering to a cranky child, the supreme appeasement for a lover's quarrel, the ideal gift to a special friend, and the ultimate bedtime snack.
In 1987, it was the bedtime snack that struck the fancy of Chester Soling, then owner of The Orchards, an inn in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. The Orchards offered their guests fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and cold milk by their beds every night. And these weren't just any chocolate chip cookies. They were baked from recipes submitted to a nationwide contest sponsored by the inn. The search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie led to this book, which includes the winners and a selection of more than 100 of the 2,600 entries received from almost every state, as well as from Italy, Canada, and Mexico.
The contributors to this book - the contestants - describe how their recipes are special or how they came to them. Some share family recipes brought to North America from Europe over a century ago. Others relate how their experiences influence the way they think about food: An anthropologist teaches her children to consider where ingredients are grown and how they became locally available; a wheat farmer's daughter from Saskatchewan, Canada, remembers the magic that unrefined flour put into any recipe; a parent describes the enjoyment a batch of cookies brought to residents in a Ronald McDonald House, a facility for critically ill children and their families.
Another important contributor to this book is Orchards pastry chef Heather Andrus, whose patient advice and guidance helped educate me about the many refinements of chocolate chip cookie baking. Two of Heather's own favorite cookie recipes appear on pages 29 and 30.
Because each chocolate chip cookie recipe included in this collection has particular significance and appeal, it wasn't easy to choose a winner! As you bake your way through this book, you may find your own special favorite recipe, or, better still, you can take off from these tips, ideas, and recipes to create your own perfect chocolate chip cookie.
Part Two: Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
We now enter the realm of the serious chocolate eaters - those who believe that if some chocolate is good, twice as much is better. These gourmets find chocolate chips alone inadequate to satisfy their longings; they desire their chocolate chips surrounded by a rich chocolate cookie.
Prize-Winning Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
The grand prize winner of all 2,600 submitted to The Orchards' 1987 contest is this rich, moist, double-chocolate cookie.
Junior League of Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada
This recipe was first published in Winning at the Table, by the Junior League of Las Vegas.
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 350
2. Combine the flour and baking soda; set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer, in a large bowl, cream the butter or margarine. Add the vanilla and sugars, then beat until fluffy. Beat in the egg. At low speed, beat in the cocoa, then the milk. With a wooden spoon, mix in the dry ingredients just until blended. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips.
4. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto nonstick or foil-lined baking sheets, spacing well apart. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.
Yield: 3 dozen
Catherine's Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
These mouthwatering cookies are soft and chewy, and likely to stay that way - if you can keep them around.
Catherine C. Thomas, Columbus, Ohio
3 cups flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces (2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350
2. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter or margarine and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, then beat well. Blend the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.
4. Drop tablespoonfuls of the dough onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing well apart. Bake for 8 or 9 minutes - cookies will still be soft. Cool slightly on the baking sheets before removing cookies to cooling racks. Store in an airtight container.
Yield: 6 dozen