How I Learned to Make Chocolate Chip Cookies at the Age of 33




You know the satisfaction you feel when your children excitedly come home from school on a cold snowy day to the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven?  You do?  For years I didn’t. 

I have a confession to make.  I hated making cookies!  All that measuring, spilling and stirring, it’s too much work.  I was left with butter-covered dishes to wash, and nothing to show for the effort.  My cookies were burnt to a crisp and hard as rocks.


What mother hates to make cookies?  The same mother who is not willing to use her own spit to wash her kids’ faces that’s who.  When I confessed this to my friends, most didn’t believe me.  


“Oh, I’m sure your cookies are great,” they said. 


“No, you don’t understand, my kids could use them for hockey pucks.” 


“Maybe it’s your recipe,” they replied, “I have a really good one I’ll let you have.” 


With little enthusiasm I’d say, “Thanks, I’d love a copy.”

           

What they didn’t know was that I have every cookie recipe known to mankind.  I have the (fill in your favorite famous cookie maker here) recipe that was spread all over the Internet when a guy was upset because he was forced to pay $250 for it.  I have the recipe that my roommate’s grandmother used when she was a little girl.  I have the recipe written on the back of a package of Nestle™ chocolate chips.  I have the recipe that has been passed down five generations with directions that begin, “First build a fire…”  Nothing worked, every time my cookies emerged from the oven as something that even our dog wouldn’t eat.


Finally after three years I gave up.  I can make homemade ravioli, egg rolls, tamales and chicken noodle soup, but I resigned myself to the fact that my family would never know the pure ecstasy of coming home to the smell of cookies baking in the oven.  My oldest was only two at the time and too young to remember my horrible attempts to give him homemade cookies, thank goodness.


A couple of years later, a friend of mine dropped off some homemade peanut butter cookies.  All my children were standing by my feet as she handed over the plastic bag with the cookies showing through.   My darling daughter, (who was only a baby when I started using my cookie sheets to freeze raviolis) asked, “What are those?” 


I explained, “Not all cookies come in shrink-wrapped packaging with words stamped on them, some kids actually get to eat cookies made by their very own mothers.” 


“You mean people can make cookies in their very own home and don’t have to go to the store to buy them?”


“Yes,” I answered, “They are called homemade cookies.”


  My friend looked at me in amazement.  I turned to her and said, “I can’t make cookies.” 


She immediately replied, “I have a really good recipe you can have.”


Two years after my children had those peanut butter cookies, my mom bought me a snickerdoodle cookie mix.  Fresh homemade snickerdoodles sounded really good.  How hard could it be?  All I had to do was add eggs and butter.


I began by getting out my food processor to mix the dough, it said to hand mix it, but what’s the difference?  I then started digging for my measuring spoons that I had received as a wedding gift.  I mixed up the dough.  The butter wasn’t thawed like it should have been, but what’s the difference?  I carefully made my little balls of dough and rolled them in cinnamon and sugar mixture and placed them on the cookie sheet.  Actually it was a large jellyroll pan, but what’s the difference? 

I made sure all the balls were evenly spaced, and no one ball was closer to any other.  I opened up my pre-heated oven and began to place the sheet in the oven.  As I tipped the sheet downward, all the balls rolled to one side of the sheet.  I calmly removed the sheet and again placed every ball equidistant apart.  This time I kept the sheet level so that the balls stayed put.


The timer went off about two minutes before the recommended cooking time.  Each ball has flattened to such an extent that all the cookies are touching each other, and not one of the cookies was a perfect round circle, but what’s the difference?  My husband came in and looked them over.  “I’d give it a couple more minutes,” he said.  I trusted him, and closed the oven door. 


Here is the part that will help you understand why I can’t make cookies.  I FORGOT TO RESET THE TIMER.  I went outside to see what my husband was doing in the backyard.  After a while, my husband said, “Is something burning?”  Now keep in mind, we are outside.  If we can smell something burning outside, you know it’s bad inside.


I came into the kitchen to find all my cookies burned.  Not black-would-make-really-good-charcoal-briquettes burned, but burned enough.  I grabbed a paper grocery sack and put the cookies into the sack to throw out later.  I went back outside.


Here’s the sad part of the story.  If you have a tender heart, don’t read this paragraph.  Later I came into the kitchen and found my kids eating the cookies out of my makeshift garbage bag.  “Stop!”  I said, “Don’t eat those, they are burned.”  My kids looked up at me with those puppy dog eyes as if to say, “Mom we haven’t had homemade cookies in two years, please don’t deny us this opportunity to pretend like we are eating actual cookies.”  Instead they said, “They aren’t that bad.”


The next day my mom asked, “Have you tried that mix I gave you?” 


“It didn’t work out,” I quickly replied.  .


She said, “I know of a really good recipe I could give you…”


A few months ago I was finally able to muster up enough courage to try again.  This time I relied on a trusted friend who just happens to make the best chocolate chip cookies in the whole world.


“Can I have a copy of your cookie recipe?”  I gingerly asked.


“I don’t have it written down; I’ll just tell how I make them.”  Holy cow!  She has her recipe memorized.


I got out a small sheet of paper and said, “Okay, I’m ready.”


She begins by saying “Two sticks of butter…”


“Stop right there.  Does it have to be butter, can it be margarine?”


“Either is fine,” she nonchalantly replies.


“Should it be thawed, or can it be refrigerated or frozen?”


“It should be at a temperature so that you can whip it real good.”


“When you say ‘whip’, do you mean with a whisk, a blender, a food processor or a spoon?”


At this point she realizes that I know nothing about making cookies.  She gave me a quick course on Cooking Making 101. 


That night I made an important announcement to the family.  “I’m going to make some homemade cookies.”


Two whipped sticks of room-temperature butter and 30 minutes later, out from my oven emerged golden, brown, soft chocolate chip cookies.  My family devoured them before they even had a chance to cool.  “Delicious!” they all agreed.


I realized that the satisfaction didn’t come from the ability to make an edible chocolate chip cookie.  The satisfaction came from watching my children and husband enjoying something I had made.  I’m now able to let my family know that I love them by putting in the effort and time to make a batch of homemade cookies.  I’m letting them know that they are worth all the measuring, spilling, and stirring, and yes, even washing those dishes covered in butter.


So if your cookies don’t always turn out the way you like, I have a really good recipe I can let you have.


Ten years later my recipe collection still has that piece of paper I used to write that recipe down.  I continue to use it to this day.

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