My dad made great cookies, cookies that he shared with his grandkids and neighbors on the hill. He was sort of famous for them. Learn what he taught me about making cookies.
Finding a Reason to Bake
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.
Learn the Secrets to Chocolate Chip Cookies
1. Use Tried and True Recipes
My dad 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.
2. Underbake Your Cookies
If you asked Dad 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.”
3. Use a Dark Pan
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.
4. Showcase the Best Chocolate
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’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.
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