Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Homemade vs. Pre-Made: Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies


I didn't know you could buy pre-made cookie dough at the grocery store until I was probably ten or eleven years old. Even after that, I thought it only came in refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough. It wasn't until years later that I noticed that there were dry mixes for cookies, too.  Call it a sort of spoiled naïveté, I guess. I grew up making and eating homemade cookies.

Anyway, not too long ago, I was standing in line at the store and as I was loading up the conveyer belt with all my groceries, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation between the clerk and the woman ahead of me in line. The clerk had commented on the package of cookie dough the woman was purchasing and saying how great it was. The woman said something to the effect, "Yeah, I just don't have time to make them the old-fashioned way. I think I've only done it like once."

As I listened, I just wanted to write down my go-to recipe (since I have it memorized), hand it to the woman, and tell her that I can make a batch of them in around 20 minutes, including baking time. It wouldn't be in a braggy, know-it-all way -- I just wanted to help out and let her know that from-scratch cookie-making really isn't such a formidable task. Plus, homemade cookies are much, much better than the kind made from a tube of dough.  At least I think so. I may be a little biased.



Not only do they taste better, but they're cheaper to make yourself. With the tubes and packages of cookie dough, you can spend up to 21 cents per cookie (that's for the new, all-natural dough put out by Pillsbury); to make an entire batch from scratch costs considerably less, maybe a $1, $2 at most, for a couple dozen cookies.

Another benefit of making them yourself is that you know exactly what goes in them. The refrigerated cookie doughs I looked up contained pretty standard ingredients, though a couple contained partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil (I try to skip any kind of hydrogenated oil, but especially cottonseed oil) and the ubiquitous and vague "natural and artificial flavor".  Some, I'm sure are much more processed and have questionable (as in, "What is that?") ingredients in them. A couple years ago, there was a recall of all Nestle cookie dough due to E. coli contamination. This isn't really common, but food recalls do happen with processed foods.  I like making things myself because I feel like I'm in better control of what my family eats, including treats. 

 Max thought it was hilarious to try to get into every picture.

And there's one big reason I prefer making homemade cookies -- it gets my son involved and comfortable in the kitchen. We started with cookies back when he was around 18 months old (even at that age, he would go to the pantry and start pulling out the ingredients we needed) and he's been helping me ever since. Now he's always at my side in the kitchen, whether I'm whipping up a batch of cookies, a loaf of bread, homemade pasta, or that night's dinner. I believe feeling comfortable in the kitchen and learning about food prep is an important skill for kids. Plus, I have so many good memories of working with my mom in the kitchen -- I wanted to pass that on to him.

If you Google chocolate chip cookie recipes, you'll get thousands upon thousands of results. Chances are, you already have your stand-by chocolate chip cookie recipe. But in case you're trying to get away from the pre-made stuff or just want to try a new recipe, I thought I'd share my current favorite recipe for classic chocolate chip cookies.

I used to have my tried and true recipe, but once I stopped using shortening, they were hit and miss. This was due to the temperature of the butter -- it would either be too hard or too melted. As a result, the cookies sometimes would be just right, other times they'd resemble pancakes. Then I came across this recipe on the blog, Smitten Kitchen, and I've been using it ever since.  I like it because I get consistent results, plus it uses less butter, sugar, eggs, and flour than my old recipe. The yield isn't that different, either.

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Unlike many recipes that call for room temperature butter, this one calls for cold butter, straight from the refrigerator. Using cold butter has made my results much, much more consistent.  Anyway, cut up the butter into pieces that are about a 1/2" or so.

Beat the butter and sugars together until smooth. It takes a little while to really pulverize those butter chunks, but give it a few minutes -- it works, I promise.

Add the vanilla, egg, and baking soda. Try to resist temptation to start tasting cookie dough. Who am I kidding? Such resistance is futile in our household (Want rationalization and permission for eating homemade cookie dough?  Go to this link from Free-Range Kids. I love it.).  Mix, then add flour and salt. Mix again.

The chocolate chip to dough ratio is pretty high in this recipe. I think that's why you can get away with less flour. It will almost seem like you've got as much chocolate chips as dough in this recipe, but I promise it works. Mmmmm...it definitely works.

Scoop the cookie dough onto a lined baking sheet. Remember my mention of the Silpat a couple posts ago? Well, here it is. You really should get one.

Bake the cookies for about 16-18 minutes, or until golden brown.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Grab a glass of milk and bask the sheer and utter deliciousness of the warm, homemade chocolate chip cookie.

5 comments:

Heather Dixon said...

You're 2 days overdue and you're still baking chocolate chip cookies?

O___O

I hope I will be a mom like you :) <3

Heather said...

Anything to keep me occupied! But thanks, Heather -- I needed to hear that! :)

Tara said...

I love homemade cookies-I NEVER EVER buy premade cookie dough. Tastes waxy and gross.

hollie godinez said...

I tried this recipe and they all ran together..what did i do wrong?

Heather said...

Hmmmm...whenever my cookies have ever turned out all pancake-y (I'm guessing that's what you meant by "ran all together") it's either because of the temperature of the butter or not enough flour. The butter for this recipe should be cold, taken right out of the fridge. You could also add a little extra flour, but I wouldn't use too much. I'm sorry it didn't work out. Hopefully, that helps.

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