Some recipes we make far more often than we should:

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake

6 tbsp     butter
1 cup      sugar
2          eggs
1 1/2 cups unsifted flour
1 tsp      cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp  baking powder
1 cup      sour cream
           chocolate chips
Mix the butter and sugar, by hand. (Do not melt the butter.) It takes a long time to get them mixed together (less if you plan ahead and warm up the butter), but it's worth it. Beat in the eggs. Stir in the flour, cinnamon, and baking powder. Then add the sour cream and chocolate chips. (If you forget the sour cream the batter is still wonderful, but it doesn't bake very well! I did this once, to my regret.) Grease and flour a small cake pan. Bake at 350 F for 25-35 minutes. When a toothpick comes out clean, it's done. Alternatively, you can just eat the batter. I alternate between modes of eating.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake

1 3/4 C  crushed chocolate wafer crumbs (we use 1 1/2 C)
  1/4 C  sugar
  1/3 C  butter, melted  (we use 1/2 C)

    3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
    1 C  sugar
    3    eggs
    1 C  sour cream
  1/2 t  vanilla

Cookie dough:
  1/4 C  butter or margarine, softened
  1/4 C  sugar
  1/4 C  packed brown sugar
1     T  water
1     t  vanilla
  1/2 C  flour
1 1/2 C  chocolate chips (or more.  they say miniature, we use regular
           Nestle, or dark chocolate Dagoba chips from the organic
           grocery store.  yum.)

In a small bowl, combine cookie crumbs (we use Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, takes about a package and a half; most cookies were too dry) and sugar; stir in butter. Press onto the bottom and 1 inch or more up the sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low until just combined. Add sour cream and vanilla; beat just until blended. Pour over crust, set aside.

In another bowl, cream butter and sugars on medium speed for 3 minutes. (I just do this by hand, it's no big deal. Using something electric for the big cream cheese mixture, on the other hand, makes the final cake noticeably smoother.) Add water and vanilla. Gradually add flour. Stir in 1 cup chocolate chips.

Drop dough by teaspoonfuls over filling, gently pushing dough below surface; dough should be completely covered by filling.

Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes (ours always takes longer, around 75min) or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight; remove sides of pan. Sprinkle with remaining chips. (We usually do that before baking, actually, seems fine. Maybe sprinkle some sugar on top, too.)

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Molasses (web edition)

This started out as the recipe on the back of Toll House Chocolate Chips. (They've changed the recipe since then, though.) Then one day my partner Kathy told me brown sugar is nothing but molasses and white sugar, so why not just use molasses? I've been refining ever since ...

  1. Turn on the radio (hopefully it's a good time of day). (Unless you have someone to talk to :-)

  2. Melt two sticks of something. Lately I've been using unsalted butter; that seems best. Salted butter is different somehow (although I wouldn't characterize the difference as ``salt''). I used margarine for years, but then Kathy decided one day that margarine was plastic, so better to avoid it. Sounded convincing to me, so ...

  3. While that's melting, put 3/4 cup of white sugar into a good-size mixing bowl. And then between 1/2 and 3/4 cup of molasses, depending on your mood. (I use the same 1/4 measuring cup for both these things (hence sugar before molasses) -- at one point we only had a 1/4 cup and a 1/3 cup [but my friend Elizabeth sent us a complete set of measuring cups after I sent her this recipe; I still do it the old way, though, out of habit :-)]) Use dark molasses, the darker the better. Br'er Rabbit was good, but it has disappeared from our stores; Grandma's is terrible. Lately I've been using whatever the health food stores have (Tree of Life and Cornucopia), which come in giant jars; these are the best (and cheapest). The molasses won't all come out of the measuring cup, but no need to waste a spoon on this, we deal with it below. You can make interesting designs pouring the molasses on the sugar, since it doesn't sink in.

  4. Put a teaspoon (I just use a regular teaspoon, the kind you eat with, since we don't have a measuring teaspoon [well, we do now, Elizabeth sent us measuring spoons along with the cups :-)]) of dark vanilla in. Regular vanilla also ok. Can skip entirely, I've never been able to detect much difference, but it gives me warm fuzzies to put it in. Don't toss the teaspoon in the sink, you'll be using it again later. (Minimal dishes are part of my goal, in case you haven't guessed by now.)

  5. Wait for the butter to finish melting -- I stand there letting as much molasses as possible drip out of the 1/4 cup while waiting. Once melted, I pour the butter into the 1/4 cup to get more of the molasses out. Interesting chemical reactions as you dump the butter onto the molasses. Very geological. Then toss butter-melting pan in sink, toss 1/4 cup in pan, soak. (Otherwise it's very annoying to clean later!)

  6. Mix. (No need to mix before this.) Mix to even consistency. It will be very dark.

  7. Taste. This is a very important step :-). You can vastly decrease the number of cookies you have to make (and bake) by taste-testing thoroughly at this stage :-).

  8. Mix in one egg. Don't taste after you add in the egg, it's rather slimy. I used two eggs for years, but one seems to work just as well to hold the cookies together. I also tried no eggs at all (after Kathy warned me of all the dire diseases I was risking by using them) but then getting the cookies to hold together is too annoying.

  9. Mix 1 cup of flour, and 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder (if you're nervous). I've omitted the soda sometimes, the powder other times, both sometimes. Doesn't seem to make much difference, so now I don't bother with the baking {soda,powder} at all. (You can use the same teaspoon here that you used for the vanilla; the remains of the vanilla will have collected at the focal point of the spoon, and you can just flick it off into the dough, and have a clean-enough spoon. Well, clean enough for me, anyway, but then I don't use any of the ingredients in this recipe for anything except this recipe, so I don't really care if the baking powder jar gets a couple drops of vanilla in it. Also, you can get interesting reactions between the remains of the vanilla and this stuff.)

    Also 1-2 teaspoons of allspice, 1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1-2 teaspoons of anything else that seems interesting, depending on how you feel. Lately I've been using 1 tsp allspice, 1+ tsp cinnamon, 1+ tsp cloves. Veronika, another friend who I sent this to, made a batch with crystallized ginger that was out-of-this-world wonderful, but I've never been able to reproduce it. I've also used ginger and pumpkin pie spice and other things I've forgotten. They are all good. (Again, you can use the same spoon -- it's nice to do the white stuff (bp and bs) before the spices. And don't toss the spoon in the sink yet, it's got one more job (and probably some of the spice won't easily come off the spoon; not to worry, and certainly (horrors) don't use another spoon, we deal with that below.))

  10. Another 2/3 cup flour (remember I only have a 1/3 cup to work with at this point -- doubtless 1/2 would also work :-). Then taste again. (Very important.)

  11. OK, after you pull yourself away from the dough, more flour. Now, I can't tell you a precise amount, because it varies depending on humidity, how much you tasted at step #7, the phase of moon, etc., etc. It usually seems to be around four cups total (i.e., including what you put in at #9 and #10). The important thing is that you can stick your hand in, pull out a hunk, and roll it into a ball without it sticking all over your hand and being a huge mess. I usually start testing at around 3 1/3 cups, and then add in progressively smaller amounts.

    It is definitely possible to add too much, and that's very annoying -- then the dough starts falling apart in your hand. The best remedy if you find yourself in this unpleasant situation is to add some water (1 tsp or so at a time). But now all those lovely spices and molasses and such will have been diluted, so the Results are Not Guaranteed. (I can't say I've ever actually thrown away a batch of cookie dough because of adding too much flour, though!)

    Thus, it's better to err on messy-hand side rather than the cookies-fall-apart side. The next step will make up a little for too little flour, anyway.

  12. Chocolate chips. The exact amount to put in is, like the flour, impossible to gauge -- depends on how much dough you've got left. I usually put in around half of one of the big (24oz) bags.

    Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate chips are the only way to go in the USA, IMHO; the traditional ones in yellow. I buy the large economy size :-). I've tried Ghiradelli, Hershey, store brands, Baker, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and anything else that seemed plausible, and they're all noticeably inferior (to me).

    I usually dump in too many chocolate chips, and they won't all mix in to the dough. That's ok, next step can use up the excess. (I have also saved chocolate chips in the refrigerator if I *really* put in too many, which works fine.)

    It's also important to taste at this step, so you can properly judge the proportion of chocolate chips to dough :-).

  13. When the chips are as well mixed in as possible, cover a cookie sheet with tinfoil. (I used to not throw the butter pan away immediately, and grease cookie sheets with the remains, but tinfoil is much easier to clean up after (i.e., throw it away; since aluminum is the most common metal on earth, 13% of the earth's crust or something, it's not likely humanity will ever run out, I figure), if you haven't already discovered this.) Just pick a nice size hunk of dough (with your hands, of course, that's why we went to all that trouble with the flour) and put it on. Flatten the ball afterwards, make sure the thing doesn't have too many gaping cracks, etc., etc. I imagine all this is the same for every kind of chocolate chip cookie, so I won't belabor the point (any more than I already have :-).

    Every once in a while remix the dough; otherwise all the oil sinks to the bottom and things'll be a mess when you get that far. (I remix in between the batches, since I have to clean my hands then anyway.)

    You can use the infamous teaspoon to clean off the mixing spoon when you get to that point. (And conversely.)

    When you've filled up a sheet, you can go back and stick the extra chocolate chips on top of the cookies, to use them up (and increase the chocolate:dough ratio :-). And that's another flattening opportunity.

  14. Baking. This is hard, and probably varies with everybody's oven. Baking too long leads to the dread puffy, dry, cookie, that will hardly be a fitting culmination to all these efforts. I bake at a little less than 350 (but more than 325) for five-six minutes. Less for the first batch, for reasons I don't understand. But we don't have a real oven, just a little toaster/oven (that can only do 15 cookies at a time, very annoying). So your mileage will vary. It's much better, of course, to start at a lower temperature (325 after all, maybe) and cook for a little longer than the reverse. Too high a temperature is disastrous. I've also occasionally put the toaster/oven on `toast' instead of `bake' -- that's *really* disastrous. (Not to the point of having to throw the cookies away, though :-)

    You can take the cookies out when they're still a little liquidy. They don't really change color from baking. (If they noticeably change color, you've probably cooked them too long [at least for my taste!].) Fortunately, they're fine for a couple minutes on either side of the hypothetical ideal, so pinpoint accuracy is not required :-)

    For extra credit, start the next sheet while the first one is baking. (In my case, the two things take almost exactly the same amount of time, if I don't run into recalcitrantly messy dough.)

  15. I refrigerate the cookies, instead of putting them in a jar. [In winter now, leaving them in the part of the house we don't heat works just. fine :-)] This helps them solidify a bit. I don't recommend eating them when they're hot; at least I don't like them much that way (too soft, for one thing). Keep a little dough out instead and munch on that instead.

  16. This makes between 60-75 cookies reasonably-sized cookies, depending on how much was necessary was tasting purposes. I'd make more, but my oven situation doesn't allow it. Happy tasting, baking, and eating,