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.

Brown Sugar Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Saturday is dessert-baking day at our house. We try not to eat too many desserts during the week, so the weekend is our time to indulge. We started our weekend with a freezer full of ice cream – mint chocolate chip, brown sugar cinnamon and a dab of chocolate amaretto. We also had homemade caramel and hot fudge sauces in the fridge. I wanted more than just ice cream sundaes for dessert, but I wanted something that would go with all the ice creams and toppings.

Somehow our Saturday lunch conversation wandered to what to bake for dessert. I decided mentioned that we should make something that would go with our bounty of ice creams and toppings. We thought about cookies, cupcakes and then somehow came up with ice cream sandwiches. We wanted something soft and chewy, and maybe vanilla flavored.

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I used our adaptation of the Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe as a starting point. I made half a recipe, switched out the white sugar in favor of all brown sugar and substituted some white whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour to make them chewier. We figured out pretty quickly that the chocolate chips would interfere with getting the cookies thin enough, so they had to go.

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I knew that the full recipe spread into a half sheet pan made cookies about as thick as a brownie. We needed them to be half as thick (twice as thin?), so I spread the adapted half recipe into a half sheet pan. I figured the job would be harder if I started with the whole batch of dough in the middle of the pan, so I dolloped it out with a spoon all over the pan before I started spreading.

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Right away I realized the dough was going to stick like crazy to my spatula. First I tried spraying the spatula with cooking spray, but the dough still stuck after a few swipes. I had to wipe it and re-grease it way too often, losing a little dough each time.  I then tried dipping it in water, which was the ticket. I didn’t bother to wipe it off when a little batter stuck, but just dipped quickly and kept spreading.

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It worked beautifully and I was able to get the whole thing spread out to less than an eighth inch layer over the whole pan. I then went around the edge and made sure there was slightly more batter at the edges than in the middle so the edges wouldn’t burn.

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I set the timer for five minutes and pulled up a stool to watch the show (which Rich thought was pretty funny). I didn’t want to risk burning the cookie and I knew it would bake quickly since it was so thin. After just a minute it started to look melted all over. After another two minutes it was starting to set on top. Then big bubbles welled up in places, heaving slightly as the bottom cooked. Just as the timer rang, the whole top looked set except for one corner. I turned the oven off and set the timer for one minute. Perfection – set, but soft, just starting to turn golden on the edges. I cut them while they were still hot; to make sure I got clean edges, then let them cool in the pan on a rack.

We made deconstructed ice cream sandwiches the first night since we were too impatient to let the ice cream soften and then refreeze the sandwiches. And we could also use more sauce that way. Rich and I had brown sugar cinnamon ice cream with caramel sauce. Calvin had chocolate chip mint with hot fudge sauce. That didn’t sound like the best pairing with the brown sugar wafers, but he enjoyed it. The sandwiches were perfect. The cookies were soft and pliable, and stayed that way even when topped with cold ice cream. The brown sugar came through loud and clear, with undertones of vanilla and a slight nuttiness from the whole wheat.

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We made a few sandwiches to freeze for another day. We had more cookies than we had ice cream to top them. Now we need to make more ice cream. But then we will have more ice cream than cookies. Guess we’ll have to make more cookies. Then we’ll have more cookies than ice cream. We’ll have to make more ice cream. Oh, what lovely problems to have!

Download or print the recipe here.

Brown Sugar Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
From The Cook’s Life
Makes about 24 large, thin cookies
12 ice cream sandwiches

Cookies:
½ cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
½ cup white whole wheat flour*
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

*You can substitute all-purpose flour if you don’t have white whole wheat flour.

For serving:
Softened ice cream
Ice cream sauces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 12 by 17 inch baking sheet, or two 9 by 13 inch pans. Set aside.

Beat the butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Add flours, baking soda and salt and mix well.

Dollop cookie dough on baking sheet in small mounds. No need to be neat, you will be spreading the dough out, but the many dollops make it easier than starting with one large mound in the middle of the pan.

Use an offset spatula or table knife to spread the dough into a thin layer, all the way to the edge of the pan. Make sure the edges are a tiny bit thicker than the middle so they don’t burn. Keep a glass of water next to your workspace (but far enough away that you don’t knock it over if you turn the pan – ask me how I know). When the dough sticks to the spatula, and it will, dip it into the water. Keep the spatula wet and the job will go much faster. Be patient and you will get it all spread out to a thin layer, about an eighth of an inch thick.

Bake the cookie layer for 5 minutes. Stay in the kitchen. Check the cookie after the 5 minutes – if there are any wet-looking places, turn off the oven and set the timer for another minute. When it is done, the cookie will just be starting to brown on the edges and will feel set, but soft, if you press on it.

If you watch it bake, the cookie will start to look melted after a minute or two of baking. Then it will start to set around the edges and bubbles will appear under the middle. It may even heave and buckle. Then it will start to set all over and look dry on top.

Let the cookie cool about 2 minutes and then carefully cut it into 24 rectangles with a sharp knife. Let rectangles cool in the pan on a wire rack until room temperature.

To serve, top a cookie with a small amount of softened ice cream. Add a thin layer of ice cream sauce and then top with another cookie, mashing the ice cream so it fills the sandwich to the edge. Eat immediately, or wrap individually in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container. Freeze until ready to eat. Cookies will stay chewy, even after freezing.