The Secret Family Recipe

This post was inspired by the Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop and my beloved No Shoe Left Behind.

The other night, Stephen Colbert – a man I hold in the highest possible regard – showed an image during his broadcast that I cannot get out of my head. It is so disturbing I can’t even post it here, as it would haunt you, too, and I would feel bad about that. I very much wish I could share it, as the memory is a painful burden most difficult to cope with. But I shall have to. It is my cross to bear.

“It” is a photo showing juicy, tender, sliced Cookie Monster meat – blue, fuzzy crust and all. It will stay with me until the day I die.

Why is this such a troubling concept, you might be asking?  For one thing, it leads me to assume that in fine restaurants around the globe, waiters are now serving whole Cookie Monster on ornate silver trays, seasoned with oregano and rosemary, googly eyes still in place, giant biscuit in his felt mouth.  For another, it was like seeing the lifeless, oven-baked body of a close friend or relative … it was like seeing … me.   

[Insert dramatic music.]

Cookie Monster and I have been kindred spirits since the mid-70s. He may not know it, of course, but it’s true. We are bound by our passionate, relentless pursuit of circular baked goods. At this point, I’m probably a bit more discriminating than he is, and no matter what Healthy America says, I still maintain that cookies are an “anytime” food.

Which brings me to the Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Story of 2005 and the whole point of this post.

When we lived in Philadelphia, Dave and I were in very similar boats. We’d both left fulfilling jobs and relocated to a strange city for our significant others. We were both stay-at-home Wheaten terrier parents with a lot of time on our hands.  We passed many a day praying that Howie and Ollie wouldn’t take their afternoon constitutionals on the carpet and reminiscing about the foods and restaurants we missed in our respective hometowns.  It was during this time that I first learned of Whattaburger, Taco Bueno, Blue Bell ice cream and Dave’s mom’s secret recipe/homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Secret recipe/homemade chocolate chip cookies, you say? I’m intrigued. Tell me more.

He described them in detail and they sounded more fabulous than any cookie I’d ever known.  Their not-too-thin, not-too-thick width. Their perfect ratio of chip to delicious, brown sugary dough. Their melt-in-your-mouth texture. 

I had to have Dave had to have them for his upcoming 30th birthday. A day that would no doubt be emotionally challenging for him, being so far away from home on such a milestone and shit.  

I called his mom and asked her if she was willing to provide the recipe so I could surprise Dave with the cookies. 

This is how the conversation went, essentially.

Me:  I know you don’t know me very well. For all you know I could be a corporate spy for Mrs. Fields.  A con artist from the big bad city. I totally understand if you don’t feel comfortable sharing the recipe – I know it goes back a few generations in your family and that it’s a big secret. Feel free to hang up on me.

Dave’s Mom [insert kindly Texas-via-Pittsburgh accent]: Aw sugar, those are just Toll House cookies I take out of the oven a few minutes early!

Well, that was easy.  

And here, courtesy of Nestlé® and Dave’s mom, is the not-so-secret (and slightly modified) chocolate chip cookie recipe that will change your life.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Generous 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (preferably the fancy Nancy Madagascar liquid kind)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (unless you have a lethal allergy, obv)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition (take out all your aggressions on those fookers). Add flour gradually. Stir in chips and nuts. Drop by generous tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheet.

Remove after less than 9-11 minutes, depending on how much you obsess over salmonella. Cookies should in fact be cooked, but still a little “wet.”  

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The Secret Family Recipe

They’re Not Your Grandmother’s Macaroons

French Macaroons

They look, on first glance, like a morph of a shrunken, pastel-hued Mallomar and a bite-size hamburger that has been inexplicably dyed pink or mint green.  I began to notice these mysterious little puffs putting in cameos at upscale bakeries around the city last summer. I didn’t know what they were, but they fascinated me — not so much because they looked tasty (I actually imagined them to be very dry and a total waste of calories) but because they were a form of junk food I had never before encountered. It didn’t seem possible.

But it was, and as the months passed, they began to taunt me from behind the glass. Finally, culinary curiosity got the better of me. It was a dreary Sunday on the Upper West Side.  H and I were enjoying a hot beverage at Georgia’s, and I asked the waitress what the hell these things were.

“French macaroons,” she replied.

I would have sworn that the words “French” and “macaroons” had never, ever been uttered together.  The only macaroon I’d ever known was that of the Manischewitz ilk, came in a thin cardboard canister and was eaten strictly at Passover — in desperation. (The chocolate-covered coconut specimens were adequate and were a suitable accoutrement for the ultra-savory boiled chicken often served at festive seders, but come on. They had no business wearing the badge of dessert.) I felt it was my moral obligation as a connoisseur of baked goods to try this so-called French version. 

So we did, and as it turns out, French macaroons are quite “dee-licious,” as a certain furry blue monster I know would say.  They came in classic flavors like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and pistachio.  They were nothing like I’d thought they’d be — and even less like the Passover macaroons I’d grown up with. Their texture was perfect — like a very moist cake, but with a hint of stickiness and a hint of bounce. They were sweet, mildly almond-y and offered just the right ratio of filling to cake. I was sold.

And a little obsessed, apparently. The next day, I happened to attend a breakfast meeting at Madeline’s on West 23rd Street. Madeline’s was actually the first place I’d noticed the French macaroons, but knowing their true identity gave me a whole new perspective.  I couldn’t believe the vastness of the flavor selection! It was as if the previous day’s selection was a box of government-issued primary-colored crayons and this was the 64-pack of Crayolas.  I had never seen anything like it.  The macaroons were bright pink, pale pink, light turquoise, dark turquoise, buttercup yellow, mustard yellow, deep burgundy, and rich lavender. I would bet there was even a raw umber specimen in there somewhere. 

As such, the bakery’s chalkboard listed fabulous flavors like Cassis, Dulce de Leche, Strawberry-Coconut, Port Wine, Mocha and my personal favorite, Champagne-Apricot. My friend K and I gazed longingly at the macaroons, trying to match up the exotic flavor to the Crayola shade. They were absolutely beautiful, each perfectly shaped and sprinkled with a light dusting of metallic gold or copper powder. We had to have them.

I bought four for us to share, not realizing at first that they were about double the size of the ones at Georgia’s.  There was no choice but to eat them all; far be it from me to let a French macaroon go to waste! K and I had them after lunch and since then, my life has not been the same.

Quite simply, Madeline’s French macaroons are absolutely divine. They blow the ones at Georgia’s away (although I certainly wouldn’t kick those out of bed). They blow every cookie I have ever had away (with the possible exception of the chocolate chip masterpiece from Levain, on West 74th Street). I warn you: DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT try these macaroons if you have an addictive personality and a sweet tooth. You’d be better off just heading straight to the methadone clinic.

They’re Not Your Grandmother’s Macaroons