Our Family’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

My family has been using this chocolate chip cookie recipe since I was little. I think we originally got it out of a magazine, and it’s been one of our go-to recipes for years.

Our Family’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

For best results, set out the butter and eggs on your counter for a few hours beforehand so that they can come to room temperature by the time you have to mix them in with everything else. As a rule of thumb: The butter is soft enough when you can easily squish the stick between your thumb and index finger.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • one bag (12 oz.) chocolate chips
  • optional: kosher salt, to taste
    (I prefer Diamond Crystal kosher salt, but other types of kosher salt can work too.)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.

  2. Mix together the white sugar and brown sugar. Then cream with the butter.

  3. Add the eggs and beat well. Then add the vanilla.

  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and table salt. Then slowly add them to the wet ingredients.

  5. Add the bag of chocolate chips and gently fold those in with a spatula.

  6. Line your baking sheet(s) with parchment paper, and portion about 6 dollops of dough onto each sheet.

  7. Place the cookies in the oven for 5 minutes, then swap the baking sheets and continue baking for another 5 minutes. When they’re done, their tops and edges should have just started to brown.

    (If the tops of the cookies are still batter-colored when your timer beeps—that is, the tops haven’t the slightest browning—put the sheets back in the oven for another 30 seconds.)

  8. Optional: Immediately after taking the cookie sheets out of the oven, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with kosher salt.

  9. Allow the cookies to cool for 5–10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Eating a Klondike Bar Without Having It Melt

Preface: This tip might not be practical for picnics. Then again, you never know. [*]

So, you enjoy a succulent Klondike bar more than life itself? Or, it’s at least one of your favorite frozen confections? Either way, one of the common hazards of such treats is that, even if you wrap the keep the bar's wrapper snuggled around it as you eat it, the bars tend to melt toward glopitude by the time you get around to your last bite.

The solution? Oven mitts. Indeed, I came across this one by accident, but after grabbing a Klondike bar from the freezer and dreading its inevitable demise toward meltification, it struck me that an oven mitt—much in the same way that it insulates one’s hands when taking hot items from an oven—might also serve to insulate the Klondike bar from my own five-fingered 98.6° heat source.

I gave it a shot, and sure enough, it worked like a charm. Better than I could have imagined, even. Oven mitt on-hand and with only just enough wrapper present so as to shield the mitt from the bar’s chocolaty coating, I took a leisurely pace as I savored a (dark chocolate) Klondike bar after dinner this evening. I had an episode of Top Chef Masters rolling on the screen and it probably took me 20-25 minutes to make it all the way through. Sure enough, the ice cream was barely more melted upon the last bite as it was during the first.

Splendid. I may have just conquered the heat-borne menace that happens to attached (and inherent to) each of my opposable thumb-bearing appendages.

[*] Okay, okay—if you happen to enough oven mitts for everyone at your picnic, I suppose this could theoretically be put to use there. But, if you’re anything like me, I'm guessing you don’t exactly have a closet full of oven mitts.

Blondies Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

America's Test Kitchen - Blondies

The Dallas Camera Club has a potluck holiday party each year and, after thinking about it for a bit, I decided to make some blondies for this year’s party. (Blondies, in case you’re not familiar with them, are like brownies but without the chocolate; they’re a bar cookie which generally have a butterscotch-type flavor.) Well, to be sure, that I kinda had in mind was something like the Sheila’s Dream Bars from Potbelly Sandwiches. To be honest, I’m not even sure if Sheila's Dream Bars qualify and blondies, but that was my best guess — they're moist and dense bar cookies (in the way that a good brownie would be) with oats and chocolate chunks.

As a side note, I’m apparently not the only one looking for something analogous to Sheila's Dream Bars. One guy even wrote to Potbelly to ask for the recipe (but was politely declined). I also came across an attempt at a clone recipe at AllRecipes. Interestingly enough, one reviewer “was trying to duplicate the very addictive Sheila's Dream Bars from Potbelly” and went on to say that “these are EXACTLY what I was looking for” while another reviewer said that they’re “not even close to Sheila’s Dream Bars at Potbelly Sandwich Shoppe”. Great. How’s that for indecisiveness?

Since I didn't really want to take a chance on a recipe which was a toss-up between being “exactly” or “not even close” to what I was looking for, I turned to America’s Test Kitchen to get their take. (America’s Test Kitchen is a half-hour cooking show on PBS. Made by the same group that publishes Cook’s Illustrated magazine, the two groups are known for testing dozens of variants on a recipe before selecting their favorite which they then publish.)

I had recently picked up a couple DVD box sets of past seasons from the show and so I flipped through those to see if there was a blondie recipe. As it turns out, there was (it was from the 2005 season, for those curious). And, pleasantly enough, the recipe wasn’t too complicated either; with the exception of the chocolate chips or pecans, you might even have most of the other ingredients in your cupboard already (flour, eggs, sugar, and so on). The recipe also called for melted butter, so there wasn’t even a need for a mixer — only a spatula to fold some ingredients together.

Next up: the recipe; after that, I’ve included some comments on how they turned out.

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2) ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (These can be toasted by putting them on a pan and placing them in a 350° oven for 5-7 mins.)

Directions:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with 2 pieces of foil. Coat the foil-lined pan with vegetable cooking spray.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter and brown sugar together until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.

  4. Fold in the semisweet and white chocolate chips and the nuts, and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.

  5. Bake until the top is shiny and cracked and feels firm to the touch, for 22 to 25 minutes. Place the pan on a rack and let cool completely (about an hour). Cut into 1 1/2- by 2-inch bars.

Makes 36 bars.

I’m generally pleased with how these blondies turned out — they’re tasty and I have few worries about having any left over at the end of the holiday party. Still, I’m not sure they exactly matched how I thought they’d turn out (more on that in a bit). In preparation for writing this post, I took a notebook with me to the kitchen and jotted down a few thoughts as I ate one of the blondies:

  • Aroma: Right out of the oven (or out of the RubberMaid cookie container), these have a pleasant butterscotch aroma.

  • Texture: Their texture, for the post part, is quite good. They tend to break apart easily in your mouth without being fragile enough to crumble apart in your hands.

  • Density: This is one of the few gripes that I had — these have a density quite similar to a cake-style brownie. Now, if that's your bag, you're all set. For me, though, I tend to prefer more of a gooey brownie and I think that type of texture would have been my preference here.

  • Other notes: The flavor white chocolate chips came through quite well. That’s all well and good, but I think I would have preferred if the semisweet chocolate chips could have taken a more prominent role. In fairness, some rejiggering of the ratio between white chocolate and semisweet chocolate chips could probably take care of this. (Or, if you really like white chocolate, the recipe could probably remain unchanged.)

In all, I think I’d give these blondies about a 7/10. They’re quite good and, for all I know, they might represent the Canonical Blondie Taste™. I think it just happened to work out that I was making a recipe for something which the recipe might not have been aiming for.

Good One, Mailman!

While I was in England earlier this month, we stopped in a Sainsbury’s to pick up some goodies. I think Adrian wanted some Hobnobs and I wanted to find some more Marmite since I was running low.

I don’t think Adrian found Hobnobs there but he did pick up several packs of Aeros. And, I got some goodies as well. I found the Marmite which I was looking for and I also picked up a couple chocolate bars, one Lindt 85% Chocolate bar and one Nestle Double Chocolate bar (which has “pieces of pure roasted cocoa encased in creamy milk chocolate”). So, I’d say it was a successful trip. However, the unsuccessful (read: bone-headed) part came next — I forgot to pack those when at the end of the trip.

I was flying out before either my brother or my parents and I was hoping that one of them might take my forgotten goodies with them and then mail them to me. As it turns out, I just happened to check my back patio today and I found a package waiting for me. (Sometimes the post office or UPS will drop off packages there, which is usually handy since the patio is enclosed with a fence and any packages there aren’t viewable from the parking lot.) However, I also normally keep the blinds which face the patio closed. So, either the driver would need to leave a delivery slip or I’d just have to check manually.

UPS is good enough to leave a slip on my front door when they leave a package at the back and so does the post office… most of the time. But, they left no slip this time and it was only by chance that I saw the package — I was opening the blinds to let some sun in and I noticed the package there. I opened it and discovered my goodies inside (whee!) but I then took a closer look at the package itself. The postage-sticker in the top-right corner had already become yellowed from sitting out in the sun. And, I then noticed the postmark — April 5th (last Tuesday).

I’m still not sure when the package arrived, but I'm guessing that it could have arrived on Friday (on the early side) or Monday (at the latest). So, the package was sitting outside for two days at least and I had no idea it was out there. Now, were this a package full of books or clothes, that would have been harmless. But, my mind soon turned to the chocolate inside. I gingerly opened the box and pulled out the first bar, the Lindt, which was mostly solid (whew). However, I was not so lucky with the Nestle Double Chocolate bar — as I lifted it from the package, it wilted in my hands.

“Well, it should still taste the same”, I thought to myself. So, I just put both bars in the fridge to reharden. In some ways, this is the same problem as having cookies right out of the oven — they look so tempting but they just need to cool for a little while before they’re ready for eating. And I knew that trying to eat the bars in their current state just wouldn’t help at all. But, I suppose it’s already been over a week since I got back from the trip and I should be able to wait one more day before diving in ;).

Recipe: Chocolate and Cream Cheese Cupcakes

I brought some cupcakes in to work last week and I thought I’d share the recipe here. Thinking over what I should bring, I was looking for something more substantial than a cookie, but still hand-held (for the sake of easier office eating). I soon narrowed it down to cupcakes and I looked through the cupcakes section of AllRecipes to see if anything caught my eye — and the Chocolate & Cream Cheese cupcakes sounded pretty good.

So, I bought some cream cheese and cocoa over the weekend and made the cupcakes later that week. I made them with Splenda and I’m pleased with how they turned out. And, other than the flour and chocolate chips, the cupcakes were relatively low carb (well, by cupcake standards, anyway). There’s also a photo of the cupcakes at the RD2 blog. Anyhow, on to the recipe:

Black Bottom Cupcakes I

Prep Time: approx. 30 Minutes
Cook Time: approx. 30 Minutes
Ready in: approx. 1 Hour
Makes 2 dozen cupcakes (24 servings)

Ingredients:
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips [regular-sized chips worked fine for me]
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar [or Splenda]
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder [I upped this to a heaping 1/3 cup, as recommended in the reviews]
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water [I used a cup of milk instead, as recommended in the reviews]
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Line muffin tins with paper cups or lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray. [I both lined and sprayed, just to be sure.]

  2. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt until light and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center and add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Stir together until well blended. Fill muffin tins 1/3 full with the batter and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture.

  4. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes [I only baked mine for about 20 minutes, as recommended in the reviews].

The only change I might make would be to make extra cream cheese topping next time, as I almost didn't have enough for all of the cupcakes. But, other than that, I think I’d make these again sometime.