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This must be chocolate chip heaven

Published: Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 11:29 a.m. CST

Many folks claim — and sometimes it’s hard to argue — that cakes or brownies made from a mix are just as good as those made from scratch. But no one can reasonably maintain that a chocolate chip cookie made with refrigerated dough or a mix beats the from-scratch version. As for packaged, store-bought chocolate chip cookies? Entenmann’s fans will (quite rightly) put up a good fight. But in the end: no contest.

Even as an 11-year-old, Kathleen King understood the almost druglike appeal of homemade chocolate chip cookies. She began selling homemade cookies at her family’s farm stand in Southampton, N.Y., and soon was selling more cookies than her father was selling eggs. A baking star was born.

King is now the successful owner of Tate’s Bake Shop in her hometown, a bakery that has drawn praise from food megastars such as Ina Garten and Rachael Ray. She is the proud author of three stylish, self-published baking books, the most recent called “Tate’s Bake Shop: Baking for Friends” (2012).

“Baking for Friends” is a lot of fun. It works its way from “muffins, scones & shortcakes” through “pies, tarts & crisps” all the way to “icings, frostings & sauces,” with stops along the way for quick breads, cakes, cupcakes and the like. There’s even a chapter on “health & lifestyle baked goods.”

I got hung up on the cookies chapter, drooling over the many variations of chocolate chip cookies. They’re made with mint, macadamia nuts or pumpkin, and there’s a variation with raisins that King says is reminiscent of a Nestle’s Chunky candy bar.

But her biggest contribution may be her recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. If you’ve ever had to struggle to choose between the two homemade goodies, you will be supremely grateful.

King also contributes tips for baking cookies. These include:

• Always allow the baking sheets to cool between batches. But don’t rinse hot baking sheets under cold water to cool them because they may warp.

• To get parchment paper to lie flat on a cookie sheet, dab a bit of butter under each corner.

• If your cookies brown too quickly on the bottom, stack the sheet of cookies on a second baking sheet for insulation.

• Always rotate the cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back midway through the baking time.

As for her original recipe for the chocolate chip cookies she called “Tates” (named for her dad), it’s available in her first book, “Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook” (2005), and on various websites.

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Yield: 21⁄2 dozen cookies

• 11⁄2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

• 1 teaspoon baking soda

• 1⁄4 teaspoon salt

• 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

• 4 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature

• 1⁄4 cup vegetable shortening or coconut oil (see note)

• 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

• 1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

• 1 cup creamy peanut butter (see note)

• 1 1⁄2 cups (9 ounces) chocolate chips

Position the oven racks in the top third and center of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter and shortening with an electric mixer set on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the egg, followed by the egg yolk and vanilla. Add peanut butter and mix well. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour mixture just until combined. Mix in chocolate chips.

Roll dough into 30 walnut-sized balls. Arrange about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Using a dinner fork, press an X into the top of each cookie, flattening it to about half its original thickness. Refrigerate the remaining dough balls on a plate while you bake the first batch.

Bake, rotating the positions of the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking, until the cookies are golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough balls, using cooled baking sheets.

Notes: Consider using virgin (not hydrogenated) coconut oil, for taste and for its purported healthful properties. Likewise, a peanut butter without any additives but salt (e.g., Smucker’s Natural) is a good bet.

Recipe from “Tate’s Bake Shop: Baking for Friends” by Kathleen King (Tate’s Bake Shop LLC, 2012).

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