Last Days, First Days and Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_4380Yesterday was Calvin’s last day of school, so today is the first day of summer for us. To most people, summer starts Memorial Day weekend, so we get a one-day jump on it. Summer means no alarms (at least for Calvin), lots of reading and lots of playing in the kitchen, of course.

We usually give homemade gifts to Calvin’s teachers at the end of the school year. Last year we gave each teacher a stack of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Calvin decided he wanted to do the same thing this year. And he wanted to make the cookies himself. Of course we waited until the last couple days of school to do this and time was working against us. Calvin had time to make the dough Tuesday evening and I baked them the next day, while he was at school.

Note to self: make sure the kid can read your notes in the family cookbook if he is working by himself. The cookies were a little flat because Calvin couldn’t decipher my scribbles that indicated the dough needed extra flour. But they tasted as fabulous as they always do, so to school they went. Calvin reported compliments all around, so they were a success.

All the cookies went to school, and I forgot to take pictures of their crisp, buttery flatness. You will have to imagine the above cookies a little flatter and darker brown. If you make them as written, they will look like the pictures. If you only use two cups of flour, they will be flat and crispy. I understand there are actually people who prefer them that way. I have even met a few of them, and they seem perfectly normal. Can you tell I am in the tall, soft cookie camp?

No matter how you like them, chocolate chip cookies are always a hit no matter where you take them. If you are short on time, press the dough in a sheet pan and make cookie bars. Pick up a few bags of chocolate chips the next time you are at the grocery store. Summer is here and you never know when you will need a quick dessert for a spur of the moment backyard barbecue, or teacher gifts, if school isn’t out already for you.

Download or print the recipe here.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Nestle Tollhouse Cookies by The Cook’s Life
4-6 dozen, depending on size

You can use all-purpose flour in place of the white whole wheat, but it adds a nuttiness to the cookies. Everyone who tries them will wonder what your secret ingredient is.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup white whole wheat flour*
1½ cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups chocolate chips, semisweet or 60% dark

*White whole wheat flour can be found in the baking aisle, next to the other flours. Store any unused flour in a zip-top bag in the freezer to keep it fresh for up to a year.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter, sugars and vanilla at medium high speed of a mixer until well-combined and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until fluffy again. Add white whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt and beat at low speed until mixed. Stir in chocolate chips.

Scoop dough onto ungreased cookie sheets by teaspoon, tablespoon or 2 tablespoons. Flatten larger cookies slightly before baking. Bake 7-8 minutes for smaller cookies, 9-11 minutes for medium and 11-13 minutes for larger cookies. Remove cookies from oven when they are lightly browned, but still slightly soft in the middle. Let cool on sheets for a few minutes and then remove to racks to cool.

Cookies in a hurry

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Bars

My list for the week: bake two desserts for teacher meals at school conferences, bake bread and make soup for church supper on Ash Wednesday, attend extra choir practice and church Wednesday night, work on a freelance writing project and fit in exercise, housecleaning, laundry, errands and helping Calvin with homework.

When I need a quick dessert, cookies always come to mind because they are easy to make, require no frosting or fussing and they keep well. But I hate washing all the cookie sheets, and I don’t always have time to spend all afternoon in the kitchen. Cookie bars to the rescue!

In under an hour I had my two desserts baked and all the dishes cleaned up, including the lunch dishes that I left so I could get started on the cookies. And I had time left over to type up the recipes to give out with the cookie bars. The PTO president requested everyone include their recipes with their dessert donations as a lot of the teachers asked for recipes at the last conference night. I shamelessly added a plug for the blog on the bottom of mine. Never pass up free advertising, right?

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Busy weeks and self-promotion aside, these are great recipes when you want a fast dessert, with a minimum of fuss or dishes to wash. The chocolate chip bars are our adapted version of Nestle Tollhouse Cookies, pressed in a sheet pan. Rich, Calvin and I tirelessly and unselfishly tested and tasted, tweaking until we came up with our adaptations: extra vanilla, a little extra flour to keep them tall and soft despite using all butter, and white whole wheat flour. Trust me, the white whole wheat is the secret ingredient that makes these cookies special. Even my father-in-law, who adamantly protests whole grain anything, loves these cookies. Of course, I usually don’t bother to mention that there is any whole wheat in them when he is around.

The Oatmeal Raisin Bars are my mother’s oatmeal cookie recipe pressed in a pan. Not sure where Mom got the recipe, but it might have been off the Quaker Oats box. The only adaptation I made was to add a couple of tablespoons of flour to keep the cookies from spreading too far on the pans when we use all butter. Feel free to leave the raisins out, if you or your kids don’t care for them.

Chocolate Chip Bars, ready to eat

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Adapted from the Nestle Tollhouse recipe
4-5 dozen, depending on size

 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup white whole wheat flour*
1 ½ cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups chocolate chips, semisweet or 60% dark
Extra flour for shaping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12 by 17 inch baking sheet or two 9 by 13 pans and set aside. If you only have one 9 by 13 pan, you can bake half the dough at a time.

Beat butter, sugars and vanilla at medium high speed of a mixer until fluffy. Scrape down bowl with a rubber spatula and add eggs. Beat until well combined. Scrape down bowl again and add white whole wheat flour, the all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt and beat at low speed until mixed. Stir in chocolate chips.

Scrape dough into prepared pan(s) and sprinkle top lightly with flour. Using your hands, press the dough to the edges of the pan(s), adding sprinkles of flour if the dough is sticky. Make sure the dough is an even thickness all they way across.

Bake 10-15 minutes, or until set in the middle and lightly browned. Cool in pan on racks until just warm before cutting into small squares. Store in airtight container for several days, or freeze for longer storage.

Cookies
3-6 dozen, depending on size

Scoop dough onto ungreased cookie sheets by teaspoon, tablespoon or 2 tablespoons. Flatten larger cookies slightly before baking. Bake 7-8 minutes for smaller cookies, 9-11 minutes for medium and 11-13 minutes for larger cookies. Remove cookies from oven when they are lightly browned, but still slightly soft in the middle. Let cool on sheets for a few minutes and then remove to racks to cool.

*White whole wheat flour can be found in the baking aisle, next to the other flours. Store any unused flour in a zip-top bag in the freezer to keep it fresh for up to a year. You can use all-purpose flour in place of the white whole wheat, but it adds another flavor dimension to the cookies.

Download Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar recipe here.

Oatmeal Raisin Bars

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Bars
4-6 dozen, depending on size

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups, plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups oats (old-fashioned or quick)
1 cup raisins (optional)
Flour for shaping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 12 by 17 inch baking sheet or two 9 by 13 inch pans. If you only have one 9 by 13 pan, you can bake half the dough at a time.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla at medium high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl with a rubber spatula and add eggs. Beat until well combined. Scrape down bowl again and add flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat at low speed until mixed. Add oats and raisins (if using) and mix on low speed until combined.

Scrape dough into pans(s) and sprinkle top lightly with flour. Press dough evenly to the edges of the pan, adding sprinkles of flour if the dough sticks to your hands. Be sure not to make the edges thinner than the middle, or they will get too brown.

Bake 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned and almost set in the middle. Cool at least 20 minutes in the pan on a rack before cutting into small squares. Let cool completely before removing squares from pan. Store in an airtight container for several days, or freeze for longer storage.

Cookies:
4-6 dozen, depending on size

Drop dough by teaspoons or tablespoons onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake 7-8 minutes for small cookies or 10-12 minutes for larger cookies, until almost set. If you like chewier cookies, remove from oven when middles are still very soft, but not raw. Cool on pans for 5-10 minutes before removing to racks to cool thoroughly before storing.

Download Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Bar recipe here.