Granny’s Cookies

Chocolate Chip Coookies in a SpoonAuthor’s note: I originally set out to write a post about two easy chocolate chip cookie recipes I’ve recently tried. Before I knew it, I was writing this post instead. I expect that means it just needed to be written. When you’re done here and craving a chocolate chip cookie, the post Easy Dessert: Two Quick Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipes, is a good next read. And when you’re ready to make your cookies, make them with someone special. You never know what kind of tradition you’ll start.

My grandmother was an avid cookie baker. Growing up it seemed there was at least one batch of cookies tucked away in the well-worn lime green square Tupperware container that called the corner of our kitchen counter home. And while her cookie repertoire was vast, from pecan sandies to chocolate-covered coconut balls that I desperately wish we still had the recipe for, when friends and family spoke of “Granny’s cookies” (with much awe and hope that they would receive some of the next batch), they were invariably thinking of her signature sweet treat: chocolate chip cookies made each and every time by the recipe on the back of the Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips bag.

If you were gifted with cookies from Granny you were special. My classmates looked forward to school parties because it meant I would bring Granny’s cookies. The cookies invariably found their way into teacher gifts, birthday gifts, and care packages. At Christmas dozens of cookies would leave our house in holiday tins or on simple plates wrapped in plastic wrap and topped with a bow from one of those $1 bags of 100 bows. A gift of Granny’s cookies was more than a treat for your palette; it was her way of sharing her affection and appreciation, even though words of affection and appreciation were few and far between for her. She expressed her love in cookies.

I wish I understood that then like I do now. I would have eaten more cookies.

I don’t even have to close my eyes to remember standing on a stool in the kitchen watching the well-used Kitchen Aid mixer cream margarine and sugar into smooth crystalline perfection that I would have been content to eat right from the bowl if she would have let me – which of course she didn’t. There was no interfering with the cookie making process. I could eat the crust off of as many pies as I’d like, but cookies were sacrosanct.

I’ve carried on Granny’s cookie baking tradition. Every holiday I make a huge production of cookie baking, turning out dozens up on dozen of cookies, managing the whole process with a spreadsheet and a plan for how I’ll start even earlier the next year to produce even more cookies. I’ve even ventured in to the land of decorated cookies and have cutters, tips, colorings, and sugars galore. Cookies are the star of my holiday dessert table and I look forward to the day I can make enough cookies to give out a cookie tin to everyone who leaves my home during the holiday.

You won’t however find a single Toll House chocolate chip cookie among my holiday treats. I have never made a batch of Granny’s cookies without her.

I’m sure she’d be more than a little bit put out with me for this. After all, why did she bother teaching me how to make her cookies if I wasn’t going to put the knowledge to good and practical use? But the truth is most of my techniques she taught me and my entire approach to cookie baking starts with what I learned right there by her side, peering into the bowl of the mixer. I learned the meaning of a baker’s dozen and how to count by twos from her as she tallied up her finished cookies. My preference for a particular style of cooling rack and my method for adding flour in batches to mixer bowl while the paddle is moving are artifacts from our baking sessions. She used two teaspoons to drop her cookies on to sheets and even though the directions called for baking the cookies on ungreased cookie sheets, she always sprayed her pans with original PAM. And while I’ve turned to a spring-loaded scoop for drop-cookie baking, rarely do I bake a cookie without first spraying my pans with PAM or laying out a Silpat. After all, why take the chance cookie will stick and go to waste. As a child of the great depression Granny disapproved of waste.

And so why haven’t I ever made a single batch of Granny’s cookies? The simple truth is I can’t make Granny’s cookies because she was a much a part of the making as the ingredients, the techniques, and the equipment. No, she was more. She was the difference between chocolate chip cookies from the Toll House recipe and Granny’s Cookies. And because I can’t make them with her, I simply don’t make them. They just wouldn’t be the same. And that’s okay. In the end I suppose, it was more about making cookies with Granny than making Granny’s cookies.

My mother and daughter have carried on the grandmother-granddaughter cookie making tradition. Every holiday season they make a collection of cookies and each year my daughter does more of the making and my mother more of the guiding, just like it was for Granny and me, 30 or so years ago. And while pecan pie bars have become one of their signature cookies, rarely a holiday goes by that they don’t make a batch or two of Granny’s cookies. Granny died almost exactly one month before my daughter was born and while my daughter will never know her great grandmother or bake a cookie with her, I like to think there are three generations of bakers in the kitchen every time they mix up a batch of Granny’s cookies. One just happens to be there in spirit.

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