12 May 2007

Mom's Best

choc chip cookies 2
Every woman has an intimate relationship with the cooking of their mother. Perhaps she stands at the chopping block cutting tomatoes just like her mother taught her when she still had to pull up a stool to reach the countertop. Or she puzzles over a family recipe scribbled by butter-stained fingers on a wrinkled index card, trying to remember how mom did this all those years when she should have been paying closer attention. If her mother was a bad cook, then the perfect roast chicken is a rebuttal, because cooking for others is a primary act of nourishment, and thereby motherhood. No matter what, a woman standing fussing over a boiling pot is also, in a way, having a conversation with their mother.

My mother is a very good cook in her own right, my go-to source for chicken-pot-pie, a Sunday roast, or anything involving yeast. Over the years, my cooking interests have grown and expanded beyond my mother’s, and I long-ago took over being the primary chef when we’re together. I’ve added za’atar and soba noodles to our family repertoire, I recently christened my mother’s spiffy new grill which had been sitting unused for over a year on her back deck (“what do you mean you don’t know how to use it!”). So, sometimes I forget that my mother has a wealth of culinary knowledge that far exceeds my own, after all, much of cooking is about experience, and she certainly has some years on me there. I’m often surprised when she’ll say, “oh yes, I made that once,” in reference to items like bagels, yogurt, complex Indian curries or French stews. And though she doesn’t cook much anymore (she claims she’s waiting for retirement), she’s still a wonderful resource.

Naturally, I’ve inherited some of mom’s recipes, her seafood crepes that are worth the days of preparation, a rich moussaka. But one of the standouts are her chocolate chip cookies, which is exactly where a good cookie recipe should come from. My mom’s recipe (originally titled ‘Not Mrs. Tollhouse’ cookies) makes the best chocolate chip cookies, they’ve swayed many a cookie connoisseur. There are a few keys here: ground oats add some texture to the dough, grated chocolate adds extra chocolateyness, and brown sugar brings a deeper flavor.

At the beginning of all this, I said a woman cooking is like having a conversation with her mother. I don’t know if that’s really true, most of the time, I’m just looking to see if the onions have caramelized yet or if the water’s boiling. But if I were to subject myself to my own analysis, my cooking, my search for quality ingredients, my worry over the roast turkey, is in tribute to the nourishment of my mother’s own kitchen, an appreciation of her unflagging encouragement. Simply put, I am saying thank you.

Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
This is my quintessential chocolate chip cookie. The ground oats are key to the taste and texture of them- oats behave differently than flours, so the cookies have just the right chew. We like them small in size and always without nuts, but you can make them larger if you like.

1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cups oats, blended to a powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 oz chocolate chips
2 oz milk chocolate, grated
optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
2. Blend the oats to a powder in a food processor or blender. Combine the oat-flour with the regular flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, set aside.
3. Cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and the vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the chocolates and nuts, if desired.
4. Place golf ball sized cookies two inches apart on a greased or lined baking sheet. Bake the cookies 6-10 minutes, until just golden.


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Mercedes, that is one of the most lovely and well written tributes to a mother I have ever seen.
The cookies look grand.

Helene said...

Cookies look great! Mom's a lucky one, you are a wonderful person!

Anonymous said...

I loved this post, Mercedes, and you are very right, the way we behave in the kitchen and how we see cooking are directly linked to what we received from our mothers. And your mother did a fine job with you, so now send her some cookies as a reward ;)

Jenny said...

How beautiful!
Oh, the cookies sound wonderful too!

Laura said...

A delicious way to celebrate Mothers Day Mercedes.
I have oatmeal flour in my cupboard do you think that would be suitable instead of blending the oatmeal flakes?

Peabody said...

Yes, the ground oats really do add something. My mother makes a similar cookie with the ground oats.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Mercedes, this post is so beautiful! I love it!
My mom used to work as a cook but she died when I was only 7, so we didn't spend much time in the kitchen.
I'm so glad I inherited her love for cooking!

And the cookies look delicious.

Mercedes said...

Thank you all for the thoughtful comments.

Laura- I think oat flour would work well, as long as it's not too fine. I once tried to make them trying to substitute whole wheat flour for the ground oats, thinking it would have a similar nutty/chewy effect, but, it didn't work at all! However, I think oat flour should work (keep in mind the amount given in the recipe is for the whole oats, so the amount of oat flour yielded is less, though I don't know how much exatly). Let me know if you try it.

shiko-chan said...

Hello! New reader who wandered over from Tastespotting. These cookies look gorgeous and I can't wait to try them myself.

One question though, just to be sure: How much butter is "1 stick"? In my country, 1 "stick" of butter equals 1/2 cup. We have bigger packs that equal 1 cup.

Thanks so much for a great post and a delicious recipe--I can almost taste the chocolate melting on my tongue right now! :)

Mercedes said...

Hi Shiko, and welcome! 1 stick of butter is indeed 1/2 cup, also 8 tbl or 1/4 lb or 4 oz. I know there are international readers so I'll try and be more clear in the future.

shiko-chan said...

Thanks so much! :D

amy said...

Made these last night- Wonderful. Small, yet thick, very chocolate-chippy, the oats add a pleasant chewy-ness. I only baked half and wrapped the rest of the dough in plastic wrap and put into the fridge. I'm baking the rest after work today. Fresh baked cookies every day! Thank you so much!

amy said...

Was talking about how good these cookies were to a co-worker and he instantly recognized the ingredients. Check out this urban legend. Thank you for not charging me $250 for the recipe!

Anonymous said...

very good Mother's Day gift

Anonymous said...

You have a lucky MOM

Mercedes said...

Amy- I'm glad you made and enjoyed the cookies. I didn't know that was the famous Nieman Marcud version, I'd seen one before, but didn't remember it having oats. Anyway, recipes are always free around here!

Keyes- ;-)

Kate said...

Deeeeelicious! And totally worth the slightly burnt finger tips (I need to learn that the baked goods can be as hot as the pan).

Anonymous said...

I made these cookies this past weekend. They were an absolute hit, in fact, I think they could be the best cookies I have ever personally eaten. Thank you so much for sharing this great recipe with us.

charlotte s said...

what a beautiful post about mother-daughter relationships and cooking....
your site is inspirational!
charlotte ;)

julie said...

After the kleeja, I had to try your mom's cookies. Though I omitted the grated chocolate, they are fabulous, and I'm always on the lookout for the ultimate CCcookie recipe. These come quite close!

And it's so true that how we behave in the kitchen is a direct result of our own mothers' relation to cooking.

opinion said...

A friend gave my boyfriend and me some 85% bitter chocolate so we used generous chunks of it, and I substituted the oats with almond meal.

They taste fabulous! However, next time I'll try the oats and see how the texture varies.

Michelle @ 5 Forks said...

I made these this weekend. I knew when I came across your recipe I had to try to them. Thanks for the recipe.