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My bucket list cookies

I haven’t yet gotten on the life list/bucket list train, but if I ever do, I know one of the first things on the list would be “perfect Gram’s chocolate chip cookies.” I was not raised on those meager little Tollhouse discs, no sir – only my Gram’s plate-sized chewy, caramel-y, earthy masterpiece cookies. They’re one of the most popular things she sells, and a standby for any family occasion.


The problem is, she is the absolute worst at relaying recipes. The first time I convinced her to pass along one of her recipes, she dictated the list of ingredients (and it was a stretch to even get quantities, from a woman who rarely uses a measuring cup or spoon) and then said “and then bake that into cookies.” No directions, no baking times, no baking temperatures, no nothing.  Flustered, I tried – and utterly failed – to recreate whatever it was I was trying to make.  One of the more recent times I was at her house, I found her recipe books – a series of small pastel-colored three-ring binders dotted with streaks and smears and water stains and full of hand-copied sheets with her favorite stand-by recipes. But I was shocked to see nothing but lists of ingredients, sporadically followed by a few few cryptic instructions. Again, no details.

I would guess this to be a problem getting recipes from most experienced chefs – they’ve done things for so long by feel, by rote, or by innate understanding, that it’s almost impossible to translate into specifics.

But I’m getting closer with those chocolate chip cookies. I generally avoid making chocolate chip cookies like the plague because I know they won’t meet my expectations (my own innate understanding of what a chocolate chip cookie should be – it’s written into my genetic code), but Brett suggested it last night when I asked what kind of cookies I should make and I decided to go for it. I made some alterations to an America’s Test Kitchen recipe based on some guidelines I had once squeezed out of Gram – basically, to maximize brown sugar and vanilla – and substituted some ingredients based on a rather mishmash pantry … and my god, it’s the closest I’ve ever come to the cookie I have eaten likely thousands of times and that I will be able to remember for the rest of my life. Not quite there yet, but definitely getting there.

If you like chewy, caramel-y cookies, this one’s for you.

Now that I’ve perfected Gram’s cookies for myself, I’ve taken down the recipe here and will direct you to that one. Happy baking!

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