My perfect cookie is chewy, golden brown and just a little crispy around the edges, and barely-done in the center.
There’s no mistaking the smell of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. It smells like a lazy summer day in between the 3rd and 4th grade; it smells like the Saturday night before dinner-on-the-grounds at church; it smells like fighting with my three siblings over who would get to lick the beaters, spoon, and bowl after the cookie dough was mixed; it smells like a right of passage; it smells like home.
And once it even smelled like garlic salt! We were making cookies once and my mom opened a cabinet door above her and the jar of garlic salt toppled out of the cabinet and into the bowl. Someone forgot to screw on the lid and a mount of garlic salt now sat on top of the mound of cookie dough. Completely unfazed, Mom baked the cookies up as “gag cookies,” set them out on the table, and got a big kick out of everyones’ facial expressions when they took that first bite.
Growing up, I was the cooker and my sister Angie was the caker. I swear, some things never change! I made a fabulous fried chicken and a mean jambalaya but cakes never baked evenly and cookies baked to a crisp – not the chewy perfection I was looking for. Angie, on the other hand, could whip up a version of my mom’s Cast Iron Chocolate Pudding blindfolded and turn out a batch of cookies so chewy you’d swear she’d made a pact with the devil (but don’t ask her to cook dinner!). I have no idea why I couldn’t bake a decent cookie. She and I used the same Toll House Cookie recipe from the back of the chocolate chip package. It made no sense at all.
A co-worker of mine shared her “secret” once: she told me that if I wanted chewy cookies, I had to whack the baking sheet on the floor or counter top half-way through cooking to release the air from the cookies. I did this once – and not only were the cookies still crispy, but they were also flat as a pancake. I say, “Boooo” to bad advice.
I was never a fan of hard cookies so I gave up on baking them. If I wanted a chewy chocolate chip cookie, I’d grab the red Chips Ahoy package or drown a “regular” cookie in milk until it began to disintegrate. I don’t even know how long ago it was – 5 years, maybe longer – I watched an episode of Good Eats. Alton Brown taught me how to cut up a chicken for frying, could he teach me how to bake a chewy chocolate chip cookie?
His “secret” to a chewy cookie was bread flour and a whole lot of brown sugar. I’ve used that recipe literally hundreds of time and every time it produces fabulously chewy cookies.
There’s just something about the smell of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. I still enjoy a mug of ice cold milk alongside two warm-from-the-oven cookies. I hope some things never change.