A Father’s Secrets to Great Chocolate Chip Cookies

Note:  This article was edited from A Baker’s Guide to Chocolate, a volume from The Free Kitchen Library.  Click to see how to get your Free Kitchen Library with ten books.  No purchase is required.


My parents are gone now but I think of them every day.  They lived high on a ridge overlooking the Tanana Valley and the town of Fairbanks, Alaska. On a clear day, from their porch, you could see across the mountain ranges to the massive mountain, Denali. For years, Dad took care of my sweet mother who was confined to a wheelchair.

At that latitude and altitude, fluffy white snow piled up under the eaves beginning in late September and lasting until late April. The thermometer can drop to forty below, though usually with temperature inversions, it’s much colder in the valley than on the ridge. The days are short and the nights clear.  On most nights, you can see the northern lights rippling overhead.
My dad loved to bake.  The deeper the snow and the colder the temperatures, the more inviting he found baking. He baked bread and cookies—cookies for friends, for family that stopped in regularly, and for the grandkids.


He made great cookies. He used worn-out recipes that my mother perfected decades before like boiled raisin and applesauce cookies that I remember from my childhood.  He made oatmeal drop cookies and lots of chocolate chippers. His cookies were softer and better than most.

If you asked him what his secret was, he would tell you: “Always under bake them.”
He got his cookies out of the oven just a bit before they looked done.  They would continue to cook on the hot sheet before he could remove them to a wire rack. And after they cooled, they always seemed to be just right.

“If you bake them until they look done you’re likely to have dry, crusty cookies.”

In retrospect there are a couple more tips that he could have added.  It seemed that he always used the same battered baking sheet, a dark pan.  The dark pan would absorb the heat and set the cookies quickly so that they didn’t spread too much.  (Silver pans reflect heat and allow the cookies to continue spreading.)  And he always wiped the grease from the sheet after each batch so it was just lightly greased.

I’ve been making cookies since my mother gave me a cookbook for my eighth birthday, but still, there’s not much that I can add to my Dad’s wisdom. But I’ve discovered great chocolate.  The best chippers can only be made with the best chocolate. Buy the best chocolate you can find.

There is an amazing difference in chocolates, not just the major brands but the expensive brands as well. Do your own taste tests to find the best. If your chocolate doesn’t taste very good or if it is bitter, if it’s waxy or grainy, if it doesn’t have the right “mouth-feel” so that it melts in your mouth, if it it’s not intense, then it’s not right for your cookies.  The cookie should showcase the chocolate, not mask mediocre chocolate.

Start with a good recipe. Use only the best chocolate. Don’t over bake your cookies. Chances are, you’ll have great chocolate chip cookies.

Favorite Recipesimg-4

The Last Zucchini Cookie 

The billboard image is of very good zucchini cookies.  The recipe is found in The Last Zucchini Cookie: Customizable Zucchini Cookie Recipes and Other Guides to Baking with Zucchini.  

If you would like a free copy of this book, click the link. It is currently be updated and will be sent to you when it’s completed, October 22, 2015.  No purchase is required.  

Mrs. Wilson’s Chocolate Chip Refrigerator Cookies 

Everyone needs a good chocolate chip cookie in a refrigerator cookie recipe. This is it. It’s a tender cookie with a texture just a bit like sandies—not chewy or gooey. They’re more of an elegant cookie but the kids sure like them.

Again, this is an extra-large recipe so that you can freeze or refrigerate what you don’t make immediately.

Use good quality chocolate chips in this recipe. The chips make a real difference.


3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups good quality chocolate chips, either dark chocolate or milk chocolate


  1. Measure the flour by scooping some into a bowl and then spooning the flour into the measuring cup. (If you measure packed flour, you will have too much.) Add the baking soda and stir to combine.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, and salt together. Add the extracts. Beat in the eggs until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Add the flour mixture and mix in. Add the chocolate chips. With the mixer or your hands, mix the dough into a single mass.
  4. Divide the dough into three parts. Place each on sheets of waxed paper and roll the dough in the waxed paper into 1 3/4-inch diameter logs. Refrigerate the logs for at least two hours or until firm.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove one log from the refrigerator and cut it into slices a bit thicker than 1/4 inch. Use a sharp, serrated knife to cut through the chips. Put the slices on an ungreased baking sheet with room for expansion. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies just begin to turn brown. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

1 15 ounce can prepared pumpkin
2 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 12 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

  1. Mix the pumpkin, eggs, oil, sugar and spices together until well blended.
    2. In another bowl, mix the flour and leavenings together.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix.
    3. Fold in the chocolate pieces and nuts.
    4. Drop spoonfuls on well-greased baking sheets.  Bake for eleven minutes or until the edges just begin to brown.  Remove the cookies immediately and cool on wire racks.

Three-in-One Chocolate Chip Cookies

img-6This recipe makes a dense blondie bar cookie or a chewy chocolate chip cookie. The difference is how you bake it. The recipe makes blondies that are chewy and moist or quality chocolate chip cookies in either a drop cookie or refrigerator cookie. The refrigerator cookie has a little different appearance and texture than does the drop cookie. It is thinner, more wafer-like, crisper, and more formal looking. Because the refrigerator cookie is sliced with many of the chips and nuts cut into smaller pieces, these cookies have a more formal, flecked appearance.

Which do we prefer? We love rich, moist bar cookies and these blondies are very good. But then, that’s just our preference. To see another rich, moist bar cookie, check out Hermits in a Bar.

If you like, you can divide this recipe. Place about half of the dough in an 8 x 8-inch baking pan to make bar cookies and use the rest of the dough for drop or refrigerator cookies. This is an ideal solution for a smaller family: bake a half-batch of bar cookies now and refrigerator cookies several days later.

Blondie Chocolate Chip Cookies


1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup walnuts
1 cup milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

  1. Cream 1/2 cup of the butter, sugar, and salt together. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each. Beat until light and fluffy.
  2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the second 1/2 cup of butter in the microwave until it is mostly melted, about 45 seconds at high power. Stir in the brown sugar to make a thick syrup. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  3. Measure the flour by spooning it into the measuring cups. (If you scoop the flour from the bag, it will be packed and you will have too much flour.) Mix in the baking soda so that it is dispersed.
  4. Beat the brown sugar mixture into the creamed sugar mixture. Add the flour mixture in two or three additions mixing only until combined. Add the chocolate chips and nuts.
  5. Line an 8 1/2 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. If you use aluminum foil, press the foil into the pan with it extending from both ends of the pan. Grease the foil. Spread the batter in the pan. The dough is heavy and thick. Use a spatula to pat the dough down and distribute it evenly in the pan.
  6. Bake for 24 to 28 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove the pan to cool on a wire rack. After the cookies have cooled for 45 minutes or so, remove the cookies from the pan by grasping the ends of the foil or parchment paper and lift from the pan. Remove the cookies to a cutting board and cut them into the desired sizes and shapes using a ruler to measure the cuts uniformly and a sharp, serrated knife to cut through the nuts cleanly.

Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies

Use the same recipe to make chocolate chip drop cookies. Instead of baking in a pan, drop rounded spoonfuls of dough on a greased baking sheet. Bake for nine to eleven minutes at 350 degrees. Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Chocolate Chip Refrigerator Cookies

Use the same recipe to make chocolate chip refrigerator cookies. Roll the dough into two logs in wax paper with the logs being about 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Refrigerate the logs for a couple hours. Slice the logs into 3/8-inch thick slices with a sharp, serrated knife. Place the slices on a greased baking sheet. Bake for ten to twelve minutes at 350 degrees. Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool.