My love for the kitchen began with baking. You see, my mom is a baker and it was always fun for me to sit in the kitchen and just watch her. As a young child, I always wanted to help her when she was baking but she would always very simply tell me, “No”. At that point, I often thought to myself that she didn’t want to teach me but it was in fact the exact opposite. It was in watching her that I learned how exact of a science baking was, through her precise movements and measurements. As I got older, she began letting me assist. Little things first like sifting the flour, cracking the eggs and cleaning the counters… It was in those moments that I formed this perfectionism with regard to each and every step. Watching in awe gave me the passion but doing the dirty work gave me the skill. Eventually I graduated to measuring ingredients, creaming the dry with the wet and judging consistencies.
My mom’s kitchen was a bakers dream. She had every utensil needed to come up with whatever sweet treat you desired to create. From baking pans, tins and trays to wooden spoons, spatulas, whisks and rubber scrapers, she had an abundant amount of it all. She also had a top of the line oven, a kitchen aid, a few hand mixers and timers. Her pantry and freezers were well stocked. She would buy giant sacks of flour and sugar and at one point had a freezer with blocks and blocks of butter that I could no longer count. This made it easy for me to practice my skills even when she was not around. I would select one of her many books and sample a recipe.
The first thing I ever perfected was the chocolate chip cookie. I started baking this when I was about 11 years old. Then, my recipe of choice was the Mrs. Fields Blue-Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Mrs. Fields Cookie Book. This was my favorite book from her collection. The recipes were so simple and the pictures were so alive. It was perfect for a young baker. I made this recipe so often that I memorized each step. Today, my chocolate chip cookie is one of my best sellers. Of course, my recipe has changed and evolved in the almost 20 years since I started. As I compare the 2 recipes, there are some similarities and even though I have changed it to make it my own and according to my taste preference, I still hold this particular Mrs. Fields recipe in high regard and would like to share it all with you.
Mrs. Fields Blue-Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a medium bowl combine flour, soda, and salt. Mix well with wire whisk. Set aside. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, blend sugars at medium speed. Add butter and mix to form a grainy paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add eggs and vanilla extract, and mix at medium speed until just blended. Do not overmix. Add the flour mixture and chocolate chips, and blend at low speed until just mixed. (Again, do not overmix.)
Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto an un-greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake low and slow for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer cookies immediately to a baking rack or cool surface.
If you are a first timer, this recipe is one of the simplest ones out there. Like the recipe says, combine the flour, soda and salt which is also called, the dry mix. To ensure that it is really combined, sift them all together. This will remove any lumps that you do not want in a cookie. The ingredients left (sans the chocolate chips) make your wet ingredients. Cream them together. Start with softened butter then add your sugars. Finish with the eggs and vanilla. If you do not have an electric mixer, your arm power will work just as well. Do not over mix, especially once the eggs are in. As you add in the dry ingredients, do it 1-2 scoops at a time to make sure it is mixed well. Finally, add the chocolate chips. I like to add these straight from the freezer. Though it does not melt as fast as regular chocolate, it keeps its beautiful shape longer this way. When baking, always watch your oven. You have to master it because not all ovens heat at the same speed and temperature as others.
Tonight, I am baking with my daughters. Like my mom, many times I have to tell them “No” when they ask if they can help out, especially when I am baking for a client. At one point I thought to myself that I would never deny my children the opportunity to learn from me. But now I realize the benefit of having to turn them down sometimes and how it will shape them in the future, whether in the kitchen or in another aspect of their lives. But on this rainy Friday evening, I make an exception. Tonight we will bake chocolate chip cookies for us to enjoy with milk in bed. Tonight we will make a mess of my kitchen and even though we have to clean up later we will enjoy every sweet moment doing it!