It was one of those situations where I knew the answer before I asked the question.
As in, I was fairly certain that my friend Scott, an accomplished and prolific baker, would respond in the affirmative when I made the inevitable inquery: Did he have a favorite non-Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe?
Please. Of course he did.
“It’s the recipe I’ve used for the last 15 years and have made about 8,000 times,” he said. “I’m always told it’s the best cookie anyone has ever had. And yes, the recipe really is called ‘The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie.’”
We'll see about that. But first, back up for a second. Really, eight thousand? Maybe he was exaggerating, although given the amount of time I imagine Scott's oven to be in preheat mode, maybe not.
“I’m sure I’ve made 300 batches of them,” he said, correcting himself. “But they’re one of my three basic recipes [the other two are chocolate cake and caramel rolls, and they sound like fodder for stories down the road] that people go insane for, and demand the recipe, and refer to as ‘Scott’s’ and then make for themselves.”
So far, so good. What I wasn’t expecting is what came next, and it’s all that I needed to hear. I mean, talk about your ultimate in recipe endorsements.
“I got it from a nun,” he said.
Not 10 minutes later and the recipe landed in my e-mail box (send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org), and it looked promising. It’s a definite detour off the Toll House highway, what with its rolled oat overtones and rich bittersweet/milk chocolate mix.
Then my eyes got to the bottom of the ingredients list, and all of my hopes and dreams came to a crashing halt.
Butterscotch chips.Seriously, butterscotch chips?
No. I just can’t even. And I’ve tried. If Scott is the defacto president of the I-Hate-Semisweet-Chocolate Club, then I’m a card-carrying member of the Butterscotch-Chips-Are-Banned-For-Life Association.
“You’re such a snob,” he said with a laugh. “Why do you judge all of my choices?”
Maybe because butterscotch chips are the work of the devil?
“You can make them without,” he said. “You could also use a cup of toasted pecans. I forgot to add that. One out of 10 times, I do that.”
I’ll remember that. Wanting to stay true to his recipe -- but also knowing my extreme distaste for those fake-tasting Nestle's butterscotch chips (seriously, have you ever run across a palatable version, anywhere? They all have the scent and flavor of a chemistry lab, not a kitchen) -- I decided to bake half a batch with them, and half a batch without them.
The result? Loved. Well, the non-butterscotch ones, anyway. It's a real lunch box cookie, and I offer that as the highest of compliments. The oats are a big part of the appeal; one bite, and I was immediately reminded of a favorite commercially prepared chocolate chip cookie with oat-ey undertones, baked by Tank Goodness, the local we-delivery-warm-cookies operation.
But Scott’s “Best” cookies are a completely different animal: Thin-ish, crisp and delightfully chewy, and jammed with a powerful but not overpowering chocolate bite. The bittersweet/milk chocolate split works wonders with the oats (which explains my ridiculous affection for the Fabulous Fudge bars at Bread & Chocolate in St. Paul). The oats contribute more of a texture thing than a flavor thing, lending a pleasant kind of heft, yet allowing some traditional chocolate chip cookie essence to shine through.
“Most people don’t realize that there are oats in there,” said Scott.
The two-bite size is another asset. I think I’m officially over enormous cookies, in part because they foster too much dietary guilt. But these? “You can eat a hundred of them,” said Scott with a laugh. “And I use excellent ingredients: Hope Butter, etc. So they’re quality little morsels.”
No wonder he’s baked hundreds of batches.
“I don’t want to oversell them,” he said. “But I think they’re pretty terrific.”
THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Makes about 6 dozen cookies.
Note: Rolled oats are also known as old fashioned oats. In place of butterscotch chips, consider adding 1 cup of toasted, chopped pecans. From Scott Rohr of St. Paul. Rohr is the winner of the 2010 Taste Holiday Cookie Contest. Find his winning recipe, Pistachio-Orange Cookies, here.
2 c. flour
2 1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. golden brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 10-oz. bag bittersweet chocolate chips
1 11.5.-oz. bag milk chocolate chips
1 11.-oz. bag butterscotch chops, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In large bowl, stir flour, oats, salt, baking powder and baking soda, and reserve.
In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and mix until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate and butterscotch chips (optional). Form dough into 3/4 tbsp. balls and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly brown, about 8 to 9 minutes; do not overbake. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.