The first time I baked chocolate chip cookies in my own kitchen with my own pans and ingredients I purchased with my own money, I panicked. I’d gone too far, was instantly way too independent and far from home. Baking cookies was a family thing. Something we did together and only at holidays and there I was on a Tuesday (or whatever day it was) in my crappy little West Philadelphia apartment surrounded by the thick scent of old paint and industrial cleaning products, throwing tradition to the wind and doing it because I needed chocolate.
It was wrong.
But…I really wanted chocolate.
So I reverted to the exact mechanics of Christmas Eve baking in an attempt to make it right—holiday apron tied tight, The Waitresses blaring, I flipped spoonfuls of dough onto the cookie sheet, carefully making sure that I had four blobs across and six blobs down on each tray per my grandmother’s strict training. She always said that if you couldn’t fit 2 dozen cookies on a pan, you were no baker—a sentiment that my mother loved to reiterate if my spoonfuls grew too generous.
When cookies are that small, they break all the laws of baking time and temperature–I must have missed something in the kitchen when it came to making these adjustments. My resulting cookies were black bottomed and stunk of burning chocolate.
So, I made them bigger. No one was there to smack my hand with a spatula or pinch off the extra dough or tell me I was doing it wrong. And they were better (I’m sorry, Gram). I started messing with other things—chip type, Crisco in place of butter, size of eggs, dark and light brown sugar—until I found a way to make my perfect cookie.
Perfect is really boring, by the way. Dependable and delicious…but boring.
Ruth Wakefield took a chance when she made the first chocolate chip cookie at the Toll House Inn in 1930 and in celebration of National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (May 15th), I got to baking.
I searched out a substitution for the traditional ingredients from my standard recipe on the yellow chip bag. I’ve had a bottle of ROOT—a Pennsylvania brewed, root beer flavored liquor that dates back to the 1700s—sitting on the top of my refrigerator for about a year collecting dust so I decided to work with that instead of the traditional vanilla that the Toll House calls for. The sweet, herbal combination of birch bark, cinnamon, wintergreen, cardamom with hints of vanilla were the perfect substitution, giving the resulting cookie a taste that was more herbal than sweet vanilla.
It wasn’t quiet enough of the in-your-face Root Beer flavor I was going for, so a little paint brush (new, of course) full of booze painted the top of each cookie was the little extra “oomph” these guys needed.
I’m not a big dunker–milk just isn’t my thing–but a glass of CRW (read: cheap red wine) was the perfect pairing for this late night treat…no need to share with any kids.
Root Beer Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2 1/4 C Whole Wheat Flour
- 1 t baking soda
- 1 t salt
- 1 C Crisco
- 3/4 C white sugar
- 3/4 C packed dark brown sugar
- 2 Large Eggs
- 2 t ROOT (+ 2 T for brushing)
- 12 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Pre-heat oven to 350. Combine flour, salt and baking soda — be sure to stir!–in a bowl and set aside. Cream the Crisco, dark and white sugar until fluffy. (about 1 minute on high).
Add in the eggs and 2t ROOT–beat again on high for about 1 minute until completely incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients into the sugar/Crisco/egg/Root in 4 parts–mixing between each addition until flour is incorporated. Add in chocolate chips — mixing by hand so the chips don’t get annihilated.
Spoon or roll into balls and place onto cookie sheet — allowing space between dough balls for cookies to spread (I do 15 on a sheet). Place in oven for 5 minutes — rotate the pan–and cook for 5 more minutes. *I only do one pan at a time so they cook evenly.
Remove cookie tray from the oven and allow cookies to settle for about 1 minute on the tray before removing (onto a cooling rack if you are so inclined or a kitchen towel).
Once cookies are cool, brush remaining ROOT onto the top of each using a pastry brush (or small, clean paint brush). Put all dishes in sink, pray that someone else does them, pour large glass of red wine and enjoy!!