Most all the great bakers and chefs will tell you that it is not what recipe you use, but how you make it and how much of you is put into the dish. Reading a book on southern cooking, the author makes mention of this as well. He describes how the cooks put their soul into their food. The simplest of dishes that have much more to them.
I will be upfront in telling you the cookie recipe is everywhere. The one on the back of the chocolate chips bag. We all have one, the Tollhouse cookie recipe.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Land O Lakes® Butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large Eggs
1 (12-ounce) package (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts
How to make
- STEP 1
Heat oven to 375°F.
- STEP 2
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl. Set aside.
- STEP 3
Combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla at high speed in a large bowl. Beat, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed after each addition. Stir in chips and nuts.
- STEP 4
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack. Cool completely.
My story is not about Nestle, but about Elmoin Smith. He is my Stepfather, and he passed away many years ago. I as others called him Al. He was a 5th-grade school teacher in Midland, Michigan. Al was direct and I thought caustic at times, but you knew where you stood with him. It was Al who taught me how to make these cookies. I still make them on occasion today.
I had made them before and used a dump method, and basically dumped all the ingredients in one bowl and stirred. This was not the Smith Method. He had me start with butter, and it had to be beaten. Not smushed or spread. Margarine was not acceptable, but it had to be butter. I would grab the large silver metal bowl and sit at the table and beat the butter into submission with a wooden spoon. I made it the creamiest I could. He would have me add an ingredient at a time and blend it in well. Well for Al was at least 5 minutes.
The next to add was sugar. I would blend and beat until it was back to creamy. Then the eggs and vanilla, I turned it into a runny mess and soon it was smooth again. The next to last was the flour. I stirred and stirred with that wooden spoon till my arms almost fell off, and I am sure I broke several spoons over the years. When everything was back smooth and creamy, the chips would be added. We never added a whole bag, just half.
I learned that whoever made the dough got to lick the bowl. I would leave a smidggenin the bottom for me. My treat for all that hard labor. Spoon onto the sheet and bake until the edges turned light brown and the shine was gone in the center.
I never understood why they tasted so different. years later, Alton Brown explained some of it. By beating the sugar into the butter, I was making holes in the fat molecules and that let the creations bake much better. “Yeah Right, Alton.”
I think as I reflect now, that it had nothing to do with ingredients, but time. Al spent all that time with me, teaching me a process. I thought of it as magic, but at a deeper level, it was caring. Al cared that I learned how to do it in the right way.
Watching now as other’s cook, and bake, I see that small caring come out. In an age of fast everything, things don’t taste the same. I buy the premade dough from Nestle in the tube and the cookies pale in comparison to those of the Smith method. He taught me to add soul to my cookies. Something I am forever grateful to him for. Maybe this weekend, another batch.
Categories: Editor Thoughts