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Chocolate Chip Cookies

History of The Pillaged Village and Chocolate Chip Cookies:

A long time ago, in a land right here, the Midrealm wanted the the Kingdom of Atlantia to fight on our side during the next Pennsic War. I had the honor of going as part of the delegation to Atlantia to negotiate, and as part of the treaty, we offered 100 dozen Chocolate Chip Cookies. For more about this history, read Mistress Alexis’ account on the Midrealm archives (used with permission, of course!).

When we got back, there was a call for volunteers to make cookies. Back then, I had helium-hand syndrome, as I turned, I saw my arm waving in the air, offering to make half those cookies. Mistress Alexis gave me some advice on making better chocolate chip cookies, which I very much appreciated. That year, I ended up making over 100 dozen cookies myself. The Atlantian delegation did not want all of them to my disappointment, so I brought the rest to Pennsic and ended up starting The Pillaged Village by selling Chocolate Chip Cookies, Spiced Tea and a friend’s screen-printed T-shirts.

Although I added more goods over the years, the chocolate chip cookies and spiced tea remained staples of my business for many years. The demand grew until I was making several thousand dozen cookies in the weeks before Pennsic each year. With so much practice I learned even more about how to make the perfect cookie.

Making Cookies

There is no better recipe than the one found on the Nestle® Chips package for Toll House Cookies. Believe me, I have tried for decades to improve on it, and I keep coming back to the original.

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I recommend upping it to 2-3/8 cups in the summer or at higher altitudes)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (REAL butter, not margarine or shortening)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (REAL Vanilla, not vanillin, and make it 1 Tablespoon if using extract)
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels (The Real thing)
1 cup chopped nuts (I skip the nuts)

I find that real butter tastes much better than margarine. Many people say they can’t tell the difference, but to me there is a significant quality improvement with butter cookies.

Nowadays, the doctor scolds me for my cholesterol so I make cookies for my family with margarine and they are still very good. I will give up that little quality difference to remove those saturated fats from my diet. If you make this compromise to be heart healthy, make sure you check the label to be sure you are not substituting saturated fats for trans fats. Hard stick margarines may contain trans fats which are just as bad as the saturated fats found in butter. Margarine which contains at least 80% vegetable oil (for example, Land O' Lakes brand) seems to make a lighter cookie.

I like to start with the butter at room temperature whenever possible. If the butter is cold from the refrigerator it requires more beating to soften it up before adding the sugar. If it is frozen then it needs to be softened in the microwave, but NOT melted, which is tricky. Melted butter makes the dough too soft and results in flatter cookies. Cream the butter until it is creamy, but do not overbeat it. The butter needs to contain air so the cookies are light and fluffy. Overbeating at any stage will result in a flatter cookie.

When measuring the brown sugar, I pack it into the bottom of the measuring cup, leaving room for the granulated sugar on top. If I am a BIT off with one or the other sugar, it is not terribly important; the important thing is to end up with the correct amount of total sugar. More brown sugar will lead to a darker, slightly moister cookie and more granulated sugar will lead to a dryer, lighter cookie with less of a molasses taste. Half and half is ideal, though.

To keep your brown sugar from getting dried out, be sure to seal it in an air tight container between uses.

Cream the sugars in with the butter. Then add the vanilla and eggs. I add extra vanilla. Add the eggs cold, straight from the refrigerator. Never use eggs that are cracked before you crack them. If you (or anyone who will be eating the dough) is susceptible to infections or has a compromised immune system, wash the egg shells before you break them into the dough. As soon as the mixture is mixed, it is time to start stirring in the dry ingredients – remember not to overbeat.

The recipe calls for combining the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and setting aside. Well, I don’t much care for washing an extra bowl, so I measure 2 cups of flour in a 2 cup measuring cup and add the baking soda and salt on top and gently stir them in. From there, I sprinkle/pour the dry mixture into the mixing bowl and fold it into the dough. Add the rest of the flour. I have found that the original recipe does not require quite enough flour in the summer, so I add another scant 1/8 cup of flour to get the proper consistency. Stir just enough to mix in the dry ingredients.

Add the Chocolate Chips. In most things I will use the generic brand, but Nestle brand Semi-sweet chips are the only chips to use. Nestle chips melt the best for that lovely, gooey, warm cookie sensation. Hershey semi-sweet chips are tricky, their package contains 11-1/2 oz while Nestle still contains 12 oz for the same price, so be careful not to be cheated. Semi-sweet chips are the best flavor, milk chocolate and dark chocolate just don’t taste right in a cookie. Again, stir just enough to get the chips barely mixed.

Important – at this point, you will want to test the dough to be sure it is properly tasty. You may want to stop here and not bake it, just eat the dough. Just be careful because dough contains raw eggs which can contain salmonella (although the chances are so slim that I never let it worry me, less than 12 in 100,000, so I much away!). Num, num, num. At this point, you can cover the dough and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. You can also seal it airtight and save it for later. It can also be frozen and stored safely for even later use. The "official" recommendation is up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, 6 months in the freezer and 12 months in the deep freeze. I have had good luck with more than that, but am very careful to seal everything in air tight containers and have excellent appliances.

Baking

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Know your own oven, some ovens heat better than others and may require the heat to be adjusted up or down. Personally I have found that 325 to 350 works better in my oven. Your mileage may vary.

The recipe calls for ungreased cookie sheets, but my sheets always needed to be greased – they are older and not the no-stick kind. To keep the cookies from getting dark on the bottom before the middles were done, I lined the underside of the sheets with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Be careful when putting the sheets into and taking them out of the oven as to not rip the foil.

Update - I purchased "Wilton® Baker's Best 12-Inch x 14-Inch Non-Stick Slider Cookie Sheets" from Bed, Bath and Beyond to replace my worn out cookie sheets. These sheets have two welded sheets of metal which replaces the foil+cookie sheet idea I used to use. Their non-stick surface works beautifully and cookies baked on these sheets come out with a nice, even brown color. The sheets cooled quickly once out of the oven which kept the cookies from overbaking and shortened my turn around time for the next sheet to be ready to go into the oven. They were also one of the least expensive cookie sheets available. I give them 5 out of 5 stars.

Update - Parchment paper on sheets works well for consistent color and easy removal of cookies from sheets. If using cookie sheets with sides be sure to keep the cookies within the bounds of the sides. If your sheets don't have sides be careful that the paper does not slide off taking the cookies across your counter or into the oven without the cookie sheet. When removing cookies from the paper it helps to hold a corner of the paper to create a bit of tension while sliding off the cookies.

The size of the cookie is not as important as the consistency of your cookie size. You do not want some cookies to be smaller than others, these will cook faster and overbake while others are not done. I form my cookies by using two spoons. I scoop up a hunk of dough with a soup spoon, then use a teaspoon to push off a one inch diameter ball of dough onto the cookie sheet. If the cookies are not consistent, use your spoon to move a bit of dough from one cookie pile to another to even them out. Make the cookies approximately roundish so they come out looking round, but don't put too much effort into this, they have a natural tendency to form a circular shape. Be sure to leave room between the cookies for them to spread.

Place the cookie sheet in the center of the oven. If you are using more than one cookie sheet at a time, position the racks so that air can flow around each sheet. Do not have one sheet directly over another sheet, stagger the sheets with one slightly above and one slightly below the center of the oven. Use a timer and set it for 6 minutes. When the timer goes off, check your cookies and keep checking every minute until they are ready to remove. When you get more practice, you will know exactly how long to bake your cookies.

Update - When cooking in a convection oven I can place more cookie sheets in the oven and cook at 325° F for 7 to 8 minutes. If you have the convection option you may want to try this. While cookies are baking, prepare another sheet with the next batch. Be sure that the cookie sheet you are using is cool. Placing dough on a hot cookie sheet will cause the dough to start melting which will result in a flat cookie or a cookie with dark, thin edges. Make the next batch of cookies as close to the same size as the first batch as you can.

Clean off the cookie sheets between batches to remove any crumbs. If you have to grease the pans as I do, regrease as necessary.

Take the cookies out of the oven when they are not quite done. The edges should be golden brown, but the center should still be pale. They will continue to cook while they cool. Leave them on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes, and then carefully slide them onto cooling racks. They should be ready to move when the cookies are firm enough to move without squishing. If by any chance you misjudged the timing and took the cookies out too soon, you can always pop them into the oven for another minute or two. It is always better to err on the side of taking them out too soon than to over bake. There is no way to remedy an overdone cookie.

Storage

Cookies sealed in an air tight container will last for up to two weeks at room temperature. Cookies made with real butter must be kept in a cool environment during that time. Of course, this is a hypothetical limit since I have never had cookies last more than a day or two, especially since my kids became old enough to reach the cookie jar.

Cookie dough in an air tight container can last for 1 month in the refrigerator, 6 months in a freezer or 12 months in a deep freeze with no ill effects.

Notes

- Don’t Over Mix.

- Don’t Over Bake.

- If you are going to make a batch of cookies, go ahead and make a double batch. The cleanup is no harder for twice as many cookies.

- Cookies and Cookie dough make great gifts. If you want to jazz it up – give both, and wrap the cookies in something special, like a pretty box or basket, or include cookie sheets.

- For a pot luck you can go to a garage sale or thrift shop and pick up extra china plates, use them as your serving platter and wrap the cookies on the plate in plastic wrap (colored is nice here). If the plate is broken or not returned, who cares?

- One of my daughters prefers Butterscotch chips to chocolate chips. Before adding the chips, we divide the dough, and add butterscotch chips to part of the dough, and chocolate chips to part. Sometimes we add chocolate and butterscotch both. As long as the proportions are correct, this works out just fine.

- To make chocolate chocolate chip cookies add 1/3 cup cocoa with the flour. You can substitute 1/2 white chocolate chips for 1/2 of the semi-sweet chocolate chips. - To make Oatmeal Raisin cookies, replace 1 cup flour with 3 cups Quaker (or other brand) UNCOOKED Quick or Old-Fashioned Oats, replace 1 cup chocolate chips with 1 cup raisins and add 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Everything else is the same. Chocolate-chip oatmeal is an excellent cookie also.

- The crumbs that accumulate on the cookie sheets and under the cooling racks are a good snack for the family dog only if you are careful to remove all chocolate chips before sprinkling on his dog chow. Do not feed too much sugar though, dogs can’t process it well.

- Any broken or messed up cookies have to be eaten at once to destroy the evidence.

- In production mode, it should take approximately 1 hour to bake a double batch of cookies.

- A batch of cookies should yield approximately 5 dozen cookies.

- 1 dozen cookies, if carefully packed, can fit into a sandwich sized ziplock baggie.

- 25 dozen cookies can fit into a disposable Styrofoam cooler.

- It is possible (although probably not advisable) to live on chocolate chip cookies and spiced tea for two weeks.

- Broken cookies have no calories. Perfect 2-1/4 inch diameter cookies (assuming exactly 5 dozen per batch - including dough eaten) have 108 calories each, 55 from fat, 12.6g of carbs each. Questions? Comments? Suggestions? We would love to hear from you!

This page is the work of Wendy L. Kimmel, all comments are her personal opinion and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of, well, anyone else.

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