I first heard about Cakewalk, the food memoir by Kate Moses, at Tipsy Baker, who claimed that the recipe for chocolate chip cookies in it might be unbeatable. I mentally scoffed, as the recipe I use, by Pam Anderson*, is a slam-dunk that’s been requested numerous times. But I borrowed Cakewalk from the library and made the cookies. Very good, I thought, but I didn’t like how they turned -wise, since I wasn’t able to refrigerate the dough up to 48 hours as she suggested. Then I had to return the book, and wait a long time to get it again. This time I made the cookies with Moses’ ingredients and Anderson’s method of freezing scoops of dough for 30 minutes then baking in a 400 degree oven till they collapse, then finishing at 350. A bit fussy, yeah, but wow. The Moses recipe with the Anderson method might well be unbeatable.
So if you’re looking for a good chocolate-chip cookie recipe (and if you aren’t, why not?) get this book. But if you’re a fan of messed-up-family memoirs, like those of David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, and you like food, then this book’s for you. Also, it’s for those of you who loved Norah Ephron’s book and the movie adaptation of Heartburn. Kate Moses is a strong writer, and tells good stories, even when they’re full of tragedy, like her home life and her middle-school life, and more and more. Good book, good recipes. Highly recommended.
Life does not always reward us with the best cookie in the box, or the happiest family; sometimes you take what you get and make the best of it. In my case, that’s where imagination came in as handily as learning how to bake. For both of those lifesavers, I have my confusing, painful, unforgettable childhood to thank. Which makes me wonder if my cake obsession, really, is not much more than my struggle to find a way to redeem with sweetness those moments that left, however bitter on occasion, such a lasting taste in my mouth.
* Pam Anderson’s recipe is no longer available online, though apparently it’s in her book CookSmart, but here’s her recipe:
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies I use 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups bleached all-purpose flour (use a 3/4 cup measure for this and the sugars: 3 x 3/4 = 2 1/4.)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. salt
14 Tbs. butter (2 sticks minus 2 Tbs.), cut into chunks
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs. flavorless oil, such as vegetable or canola
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or 8 ounces good-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate cut into 1/4-inch chunks, about 1 1/2 cup
1 cup each chocolate chunks or chips and 1 cup toasted nuts (pecans, walnuts, unsalted peanuts or macadamias)
Mix flour, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside. Mix eggs, vanilla and salt in a small bowl; set aside. Microwave butter on high power until just melted but not hot, 30 to 45 seconds; set aside. Mix brown and granulated sugars in a large bowl. Add butter and oil; stir until smooth. Add egg mixture and stir until smooth and creamy. Add dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Stir in chocolate and optional nuts. Using a 1 1/2-ounce (3 Tbs.) ice cream scoop, spoon 16 dough balls onto a pan that will fit in your freezer. (Don’t worry if the dough balls are crowded. They pull apart when frozen.) Freeze until dough is hard, about 30 minutes. (Once dough balls are frozen, they can be stored in freezer bags up to 3 months and baked as desired.)
Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Working in half batches, place 8 frozen dough balls onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake until set, but not brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue to bake until cookies are golden-brown around the edges and lightly brown on the top, about 10 minutes longer. Let cookies cool on cookie sheet. Repeat, preheating oven to 400 degrees again before baking second batch.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container up to 5 days.