Last winter, I was on a mission to find a chocolate chip cookie recipe to love. Don’t get me wrong, I love the queen of all chocolate chip cookie recipes, the one I have known by heart since I was ten, the venerable Nestle’s Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie. But I was looking for something thicker and less crunchy.
It turns out I was looking for my friend Mary’s chocolate chip cookies!
Did you know that back in the 1930s, when Toll House Inn owner Ruth Wakefield first published her famous cookie recipe, she called it Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie? Ruth meant for her cookies to be crunchy!
I tested many recipes during my search for a chewier cookie.
In the end, I couldn’t find a favorite and instead wrote a post about cookie dough scoops, Cookie Scoops as a Unit of Measure. Who knew the tiny numbers on scoops described the number of scoops of dough in a one-quart container? Or, used another way, how many scoops of ice cream one could get from a one-quart container.
I may not have found the recipe I was looking for, but I did learn a nifty way to use a scoop to measure and freeze uniform cookie dough amounts.
My kids were the winners here — they went home with bags full of frozen test batches of cookie dough whenever they stopped by for a visit.
Ultimately, I realized my favorite cookie was the one my dear and funny, food-styling, recipe-developing, artistic friend, Mary Carter, sold back in the summer of 2011 at Nashville’s 12South Farmers Market.
Her best selling cookie was Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt. She submitted the recipe to Southern Living Showhouse’s “Ultimate Southern Cookie” contest and took home first place!
I ask you, What is not to love here?
I tried making Mary’s recipe, but my cookies didn’t come out as well as hers. Last week, she came over to bake them together to see what I was doing wrong. I learned I was mixing the batter and baking the cookies for too long and using too much flour. To develop a reliable amount of flour, I weighed each cup as she added it to the batter. The cookies came out perfectly under her tutelage.
A few words on measuring flour:
When I write recipes, I envision how my boys would make them. IF they were to measure flour, they would surely stick a measuring cup into the flour, use their finger to level it off, and dump it into the batter.
So, that’s what I did. I measured out 4 cups of what turns out to be packed flour. It weighed 21 ounces.
I was taught in Home Ec to fluff up the flour first, spoon it into a dry measuring cup, and level it off. Measured that way, 4 cups of flour weighs 18 ounces (4½ ounces/cup). That’s almost an extra cup of flour I was adding to Mary’s recipe.
Before we get started on the recipe, here is a list of baking tips I learned from Mary on our afternoon together.
- Do not overmix the fat, sugar, and eggs. A soupy batter leads to pancake-like cookies. When Mary makes these cookies at home, she dumps all the ingredients at once into her favorite mixing bowl and mixes them by hand.
- Mary uses self-rising flour when developing recipes. Cup for cup, it has the correct proportion of flour to baking powder and salt, making it easy to increase or decrease flour as she creates new recipes.
- One level cup of self-rising flour weighs 4.50 ounces and is comprised of:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
- Bake cookies for less time than seems right. Mary bakes them until they just start to tan on the edges and are still quite pale in the center. She leaves them on the pan to cool completely.
- Placing pecans on top of the cookie allows them to toast while cooking. Toasting nuts gives them extra flavor.
- Place 3 chocolate chips on top of each cookie before baking; that’s a food-styling tip.
- As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, Mary uses the tip of a spatula to smush the edges inward that have spread out too far. It makes the cookies rounder and taller. Here is a video of her demonstrating.
Mary’s Southern Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt
Yield: 24 3-inch cookies
½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large (4 ounces) eggs
3¾ cups (17 ounces) self-rising flour (I use unbleached King Arthur’s)
2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I love Trader Joe’s chips)
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes or fine sea salt
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans
Preheat oven to 350º.
Add butter, shortening, sugars, salt, vanilla, and eggs into a mixing bowl.
Blend together for one minute on medium-low speed. Halfway through mixing, turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add flour and mix on slow speed until flour is just incorporated into batter, about 45 seconds. Fold in chocolate.
Using a #30 (2-ounce) cookie scoop, place dough on a parchment-lined or ungreased, insulated cookie sheet.
Gently flatten the top of each cookie with the palm of your hand.
Sprinkle each cookie with sea salt flakes or fine salt, three pecans, and a few extra chocolate chips.
Bake for 14-17 minutes, or until cookie edges start to tan and the cookie center is still fairly pale. In Mary’s oven, that’s 14 minutes; in mine, it’s 17 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately use a spatula to adjust the outer edges as described in the video. I’ve noticed the cookies appear a little darker a few minutes after they get out of the oven.
Leave on baking sheet until cookie is completely cooled. Enjoy!
Some readers might remember a story I wrote about Mary and a food-styling job she brought me on, Food Styling with Mary Carter.
Cookie Scoops as a Unit of Measure
Stocking Stuffers: Tools for the Cooking Life
My Favorite Rollout Butter Cookies
How to Make Royal Icing and Decorate Cookies
Pecan Picking in Mississippi (and recipes to go with them)
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