I think I have found my soul cookie. That's right. If you're a regular follower of this blog, you may pass out from the shockingness of this announcement (though, frankly, if your life and heart revolve so closely around my cookie infidelities, perhaps you need to find a hobby of some sort, or part time work, or maybe introduce yourself to reality TV; I don't know; something). Anyway, I've had some trouble committing to a chocolate chip recipe. I've got several on here and they're all good. I even have another with cinnamon that I've been meaning to add but haven't gotten to yet. But this, this--I think--is it.
The funny thing is that this is a cookie I've known for a long long time. In fact, it's the first chocolate chip cookie I ever really met. It was the cookie of my childhood and young adulthood.
So, why, you may be asking, did I ever leave such monogamous bliss. Well, this cookie contains something I don't generally stock in my pantry, something I have self-righteous feelings towards, something that is touted as evil by pretty much everyone in the health field (and we all know that we eat chocolate chip cookies to be healthy, right). It contains shortening. Generally speaking, unless you're going to be making emergency candles from it, I really really don't like shortening. Oh, there are exceptions to be sure. But usually if I can find a recipe without shortening, that is the one I will use. As I grew into cooking, this is how I felt about all my baked goods. I still feel that way about most of my baked goods. Seriously, don't even start putting shortening in your cakes or I might throw up in my mouth. But cookies with shortening I've always been a little more lenient towards. Maybe it's because I grew up with my mom and sister making such cookies. Maybe it's because I've always known that Katie's cookies have been some of the best. Shortening keeps cookies soft and chewy longer than using all butter does. And it often can keep your cookies from going flat if that's a problem you have with your cookies. It adds density to cookies without making them bricks. It adds body to cookies without making them airy or cakey. But it's definitely not as flavorful as butter and if you use all shortening (as opposed to part shortening, part butter), your cookies will not turn golden as I believe all the best chocolate chip cookies ought to.
However, when my siblings and I were hanging out with Mom in her very last few days with us all together, my sister Katie made her famous cookies. They were insanely good, and she was sitting there complaining that they weren't as good as usual. They were dense and chewy, but had that lovely just barely crispy edgy part that gives you something to bite into. They use half butter and, as such, are still very flavorful and get a lovely brown edge. They were just perfect, and as I sat there eating more than I intended to, I realized that I'd been living in denial for a very long time. Cookies with all butter are very good. Some of them even divinely good. Every cookie on this site is incredible. But these, these were better than the rest. Miraculously, some of these cookies made it to the next day. They were insanely good too. In fact, they were nearly as good as they'd been the first day.
I came home and bought my first tub of shortening in years. And then I made Katie's cookies. And they weren't good. They looked like Kip's cookies (Kip's are not quite as dense or thick as Katie's), but tasted worse. It was a sad day. I was about to chalk it up to being one of those things that only people with the cookie gift can manage, but first I called my sister and asked a few questions about her method. Kip and I nearly always melt or significantly soften the butter. Katie does not. So I made them again with barely softened butter and I'll be geewhizzed if they didn't turn out perfect in every way. Then I made a batch of all-butter cookies just to be sure. Then, just to be extra fair and extra sure, I made a batch of all-butter cookies and didn't melt the butter. Nope. Katie's still won hands down. My son Mark accused me of betraying Kip's cookies (yes, 'betray' is the word he used) and I'm just going to have to live with that because these are the best there is.
(From left to right: Katie's cookie, Kip's with melted butter, Kip's with softened butter. And yes, that middle one did need more chocolate chips, but still, the cookie batter couldn't quite hold its own.)
So, while I still don't embrace shortening in the way that our mothers and grandmothers of the '50s did, I'm going to allow it this little place in my life. Although there is one caveat: The all-butter dough is way better. If you plan to use the dough in something like ice cream or just to eat it shamelessly in blobs out of the refrigerator, then go for the all butter.
(Katie's cookie batter was slightly crumblier and less flavorful than the all butter. It's pictured bottom right.)
If however, you plan to make the best cookies of your life, buy yourself some shortening, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that cookies weren't meant to be a health food anyway. Happy eating.
Katie's Chocolate Chip Cookies
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes per batch
butter: .55, shortening: .10, sugar: .15, brown sugar: .35, eggs: .20, flour: .45, chocolate chips: 1.80
1/2 C (1 stick butter), just barely softened
1/2 C shortening
1 C white sugar
1 C brown sugar, packed
2 tsp vanilla
3 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 C chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375.
Combine butter and shortening. I like to mix mine with a spoon, but a mixer will work too. Add sugars and mix well. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Add dry ingredients and mix into wetter ingredients until all in combined. Add chocolate chips and mix. If you have the time, let your cookies rest for 15 minutes or so.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until just beginning to brown (Note: The edges and perhaps a rouge spot on the top of some of the cookies should be just barely beginning to brown. Learning when to take these cookies out is half the batter. Remember they'll continue to cook after you take them out, so don't wait too long to take them out.)