Last week I participated in a chocolate chip cookie bake-off and for the first time I realized what a delicate and subjective process it is to choose a favorite cookie recipe. For starters, you must establish a few basic categories and criteria before you are qualified to speak literately about chocolate chip cookies or to begin building a case for the very best recipe. And at the very least you should be able to confidently answer the following questions: Are you a purist or do you seek added texture and flavor through the use of cinnamon, oatmeal, nuts, butterscotch or other flavors of chips or M&M's? Do you like soft cookies or a little bit of crunch? Small, bite sized cookies or cookies the size of your hand? Or maybe you like cookie bars rather than traditional, round cookies. Are certain chocolate chip cookie recipes contingent on the occasion, or are you in favor of an all-the-time tried and true approach. And possibly the most crucial question of all: milk chocolate or semi-sweet?
The possibilities are endless and when you are forced to taste (don't you love my use of the word 'forced' as if cookie tasting were equivalent to the bataan death march) and evaluate fifteen cookies at a chocolate chip cookie bake-off these sort of subtle cookie nuances become significant. I brought home samples of all fifteen cookies for Jeremy to try and the outcome was fascinating, which is to say we cannot and never will agree on our chocolate chip cookies in any way, shape, or form. I like added everything, from oatmeal to toasted pecans. Jeremy is a die hard purist and doesn't want anything extra, including salt, usurping the flavor of his cookies. And most distressing to me is Jeremy's allegiance to milk chocolate. I have gently tried to help him understand that milk chocolate is basically sugar, it doesn't even taste like chocolate and therefore they might as well be called sugar cookies with little brown lumps that resemble chocolate chips. He remains unmoved by my argument and I suppose we are therefore destined to remain a divided family; when he bakes cookies they are milk chocolate chip and plain. When I bake them they are not either of those things.
Here is the first runner-up chocolate chip cookie recipe from the bake-off that I attended, courtesy of my friend Melanie. The winner was a chocolate chip and M&M cookie bar, which were undeniably delicious, but nonetheless I am convinced Melanie was more deserving of first place. This recipe is unique both in taste and appearance and from here on out will be known by me as absolute-to-die-for-the-best-cookies-in-the-whole-wide-world chocolate chip cookie recipe. In case that endorsement wasn't enthusiastic enough, let me assure you that sometimes people give you recipes that you shelve for a few months until you get around to trying them. And sometimes you get a recipe that inspires you to put your shoes on and drive to the grocery store to buy the ingredients that very second. Get your car keys, folks, because this one is a keeper!
Santa Fe Chocolate Chip Cookies:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 1/2 sticks
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in another bowl. Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat until blended. Stir in chocolate chips, pecans and pine nuts.
Put 2 sheets plastic wrap on work surface. Spoon half of dough into a 12 inch strip down center or each plastic sheet. Form each dough strip into a 12 inch log. Wrap the plastic and refrigerate 1 hour. Dough can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and kept refrigerated.
Preheat oven to 325. Using a sharp knife, cut chilled cookie dough into 1/4 inch slices. Place dough on large baking sheets. Bake until cookies are light golden brown, about 14 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheets. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in airtight container. Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.
source: stop and smell the rosemary