A few weeks ago, I found myself face-to-face with my twelve-year-old self.
A friend asked me for a few hours of emergency babysitting, and I rushed over to take care of her son. I checked in on the little guy and, reassured by his rhythmic breathing and his little wrinkled hand wrapped around a blanket, I did what every good babysitter does. I sussed out the snack situation. I set my computer and books down on the sofa and turned to the kitchen to rummage.
The counter was littered with bottles and formula. From the fridge, I grabbed a pear. Sinking my teeth into the crispy fruit to free up my hands, I reached for the cabinet above the sink. Cheerios. I filed the cereal in the back of my mind in case I got desperate.
Then I pulled open the freezer. Jackpot! A ziplock back of chocolate chip cookies. I snuck out one golden craggy biscuit, carefully re-sealing the bag and returning it to its niche. I lifted the cookie to my teeth and broke off a cold piece with a satisfying snap.
And with that one frozen bite, I was transported to the kitchen of my childhood.
I’m not sure when or how it happened, but at one point I took over the cookie-baking duties in my house. With the rare exception of an odd batch of peanut butter cookies with their tell-tale fork-made cross-hatch design or snickerdoodles rolled in cinnamon-sugar and tangy with cream of tartar, chocolate chip cookies were the darling of the Squires household. And I was happy to comply. Whenever I baked, my chocoholic father showed his appreciation with a trail of crumbs from the cooling rack to his favorite chair in the living room.
When I made cookies, I was a one-kid production line. For efficiency’s sake, I calculated and jotted down on page 136 of our Betty Crocker cookbook* how much margarine (we didn’t use butter) I needed for a double chocolate chip batch: exactly 5 sticks and 8 teaspoons. We had two ovens – one below the stove, and the other above where most microwaves are installed these days. I used both of the ovens simultaneously, rotating three cookie sheets at a time (the top oven only had a single rack). I had four sheets to work with, so there was always one dotted with raw dough ready to replace the one the buzzing timer told me was ready.
I tried to keep everything moving like clockwork, but the cooling process was a bottleneck and my system typically broke down around the ninth dozen when I’d have a backlog of cooling cookies. My father tried to help, grabbing as many plaint, still-warm cookies straight off the sheets as he could.
At the end of the cookie-baking marathon there would be, oh, about 150 cookies. Yup. One-five-zero cookies. Once they were fully cooled, most of them went straight into bags and straight into the freezer where, weeks later, I might find a sweet dozen between packages of frozen broccoli, or behind a carton of sorbet, or in the ice-cube maker. If my father didn’t find them first.
* I’ve written about chocolate chip cookies in the past here and here, substituting another recipe when I couldn’t find the Betty Crocker one I grew up with. About a year ago, I finally found poor old page-stained, spine-cracked, well-loved Betty while I was rummaging through the pantry at my parents house. Seems I like kitchen rummaging. I scanned the cookie recipe and one for pancakes as well.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
These cookies are really flat and crispy. If you prefer ones that are thicker and chewy, add 1/2 cup of flour and replace half the butter with shortening. I used a mix of milk and dark chocolate chips just to shake things up a bit.
Makes 6-7 dozen
– 1 1/3 C butter, room temperature
– 1 C granulated sugar
– 1 C packed brown sugar
– 2 eggs
– 2 t vanilla
– 3 C all-purpose flour
– 1 t baking soda
– 1 C dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
– 1 C milk chocolate chips
Prep. Preheat oven to 375ºF and position the racks int he top and bottom third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Mix. Mix together the room temperature butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. I used the paddle attachment on my stand mixer, but growing up I mixed everything by hand. Stir in the remaining ingredients with a spatula.
Scoop. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls two inches apart on the lined baking sheet(s). You can use two spoons, a spoon and a finger to nudge the dough onto the sheet, or a small cookie/ice cream scoop. The cookies will spread a lot, so make sure you leave enough room between them.
Bake. Bake in the middle of the oven for 8-10 minutes or until light brown. After the first four minutes, switch the sheets top and bottom and rotate them front to back for even baking.
Cool. Let the cookies cool on parchment on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes until they firm up enough to keep their round shapes. If you try to lift the parchment and the cookies wrinkle and squish, leave them on the tray for another minute. Slide the parchment off the sheet and allow the cookies to cool until you can easily slide them off the parchment straight onto a cooling rack. If you’re going to freeze the cookies, let them cool completely before slipping them into a zip-top bag. Otherwise you’ll end up with a big frozen cookie lump. Which isn’t always bad thing. If you don’t want to share.