One of my fondest memories of my grandmother is the flavor of her chocolate chip cookies. They were like no other I’d ever tried, puffy and soft, not crunchy or chewy. Mom made Michigan Rocks and sand tarts, oatmeal cookies, sugar cookies and raisin filled cookies, and when she baked chocolate chip cookies, they were made according to the Tollhouse recipe on the chip bag. Little Grandma’s cookies were unique, one-of-a-kind. Sometimes she made them with chopped black walnuts, and sometimes she made them ‘plain.’ I was in my junior year in high school when she passed away, and the recipe died with her. I don’t know if she ever wrote it down, but no one ever found it.
The memory of that flavor has stuck with me over the years. My first Christmas with Jessie, she asked me what cookies I wanted for Christmas. Have you ever tried to describe a flavor? Let me tell you, it’s frustrating, to say the least. Armed with nothing more than, “they were kinda soft, and they had a, I don’t know, a zippy flavor to them, oh! And they mounded up, they didn’t puddle when the baked …” Jessie set out to try to find the lost recipe.
Uncounted cookbooks, Christmas cookie magazines and web searches later, Jessie decided we’d never find the exact recipe in a book. That’s when she began working to recreate it. Remember my lame description, the one with a ‘zippy’ flavor? She started by experimenting with cream cheese recipes, but they all produced bar cookies. Delicious cookies, but still, bar cookies. I can’t even remember all the different rabbit holes she went down, chasing Little Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies. I do remember sampling a lot of incredible cookies; all were good, but none had that taste.
Then, one day, she handed me a cookie to sample. To be honest, I had given up a while before, but she was determined to work out the mystery. I took a bite — and twenty years fell away. She’d done it! That was the flavor I remembered! That’s another thing about tastes that amazes me; you just KNOW when something tastes right. There’s no question about it, that’s the flavor you remember. You just can’t do that with something like a color.
So, what was the secret? The secret was: there really is no secret. The detail that I couldn’t remember, the one that would have solved the mystery on the first attempt, was that Little Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies were built on a sugar cookie base.
In the spirit of Christmas, Jessie and I would like to offer you a Christmas present. From our house to yours, Merry Christmas!
Jessie’s Soft Sugar Cookies
Yields 30 Cookies
2-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 stick of melted butter or 8 tablespoons
2 teaspoons lemon juice (optional); add lemon juice if omitting chocolate chips and dark cocoa
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (optional)
2 tablespoons dark cocoa (optional) & chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Mix all DRY ingredients together.
- Beat egg, milk and vanilla in separate bowl — if adding lemon juice, mix it with wet ingredients.
- Mix chips into dry ingredients to coat the chips — this will keep them from sinking to the bottom.
- Combine the wet and dry ingredients.
- Temper the warm/hot melted butter into mixture.
- Scoop spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes or until a finger will not leave a dent in the middle of your cookie, but do not bake more than 10 minutes, as this will make them dry.