Mary’s Award Winning Chocolate Chip Cookies

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 a little less crunchy.

It turns out, I was looking for Mary’s chocolate chip cookies, all along. But that’s jumping the gun.

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 scoops, Cookie Scoops as a Unit of Measure.  Who knew the tiny numbers on cookie scoops described the number of scoops of dough in a one-quart container?

During my research, I learned a nifty way to scoop and freeze cookie dough before storing it.

My kids went home with bags full of frozen cookie dough every time they stopped by to visit; tasty rejects from the recipes I tested.

Ultimately, I realized my favorite cookie was the one my dear and funny, food-styling, recipe-developing friend, Mary Carter, sold back in the summer of 2011 at Nashville’s 12South Farmers Market. By the way, Mary is an artist, as well.

Her best selling cookie at the market 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.

What is not to love here?

Many years ago, I tried making her recipe, but my cookies didn’t come out as well as hers. Last week, she came over to my house so we could bake them together to see what went wrong. I learned I was cooking them too long, mixing them too long, and not using the right amount of flour. To come up with a reliable amount of flour to use, I weighed each cup as she added it. The cookies came out perfectly under her tutelage

A few words on measuring flour:

When I write recipes, I envision my boys making them and add the specific chopping or measuring instructions I think they might need. IF they were to measure flour, they would stick a measuring cup into the flour bag, use their finger to level it off, and dump it into the batter.

So, that’s what I did. I measured 4 cups of what is ultimately packed flour, poured it into a glass bowl, and measured the weight of the flour (having first zeroed out the weight of the bowl). The flour weighed 21 ounces.

Compare that to the way I learned to measure flour (in Junior High Home Ec) where you lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and use the backside of a knife to level it off. Measured that way, 4 cups of flour weighs only 17 ounces! Scooping flour directly into a measuring cup can result in using more flour than the recipe writer may have intended. This discrepancy in amounts has become more common and is the reason many recipes now include a weight measurement in parentheses. Here’s  a video from King Arthur Flour that shows how to properly measure flour.

Pro Tips

Before we get started on the recipe, here is a list of baking tips I learned from Mary over the course of our afternoon together.

  • Do not overbeat 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. I always use my beloved Kitchen Aid.
  • 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 makes up new recipes.
  • One level cup of self-rising flour weighs 4.25 ounces and is comprised of:
    1 cup of all-purpose flour
    1½ teaspoons baking powder
    ½ teaspoon salt
  • Bake cookie less than seems right. She 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. This makes them so much more flavorful.
  • Place 3 chocolate chips on top of each cookie before baking; that’s a food-styling tip.
  • For whatever reason, this cookie dough doesn’t taste as good raw as Toll House cookie dough. We decided that was a good thing:-)
  • As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, Mary uses the tip of a spatula to smush the edges that have spread out too far, back inward. It makes the cookie 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

Ingredients:

½ cup (8-ounces) salted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (8-ounces) 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 (16 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)

Topping Ingredients
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes or fine sea salt
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate  chips
1 cup pecans

Instructions:
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 mixer off and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Don’t let batter get soupy.

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 lightly 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 center of cookie 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 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.

Thanksgiving is coming up. Take a look at THIS page for a list of tried and true recipes, especially Foolproof Make Ahead Gravy, my Mom’s Pumpkin Pie, and my Grandmother’s (killer) Cranberry Chutney.

Related Posts
Cookie Scoops as a Unit of Measure
Stocking Stuffers: Tools for the Cooking Life
Home Ec: How to Measure Ingredients Properly
Pecan Picking in Mississippi (and recipes to go with them)

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Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies!!!

Yesterday, I was cooking at The Nashville Food Project with my friends when I spied Catering and Events Manager, Katie Duvien, pulling out two sheet pans of peanut butter cookies from the oven.

They smelled so good, I had to have a taste. Just a smidge, as my mother would say. I wasn’t the only one breaking off smidges.

“They only have three ingredients: one egg, one cup of peanut butter, and one cup of sugar,” said Katie. This easily-remembered recipe makes them perfect for scaling up in a commercial kitchen and at home.

After she recited the ingredients, I was already thinking about adding crunch by using a crunchy peanut butter. And why stop there? What about adding M&M’s, oats, or a Hershey’s Chocolate Kiss?

On my way home, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a container of all-natural crunchy peanut butter and a few ingredients for dinner. I prepped and baked the cookies while my Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers, and Potatoes cooked in the oven.

These cookies make for a great quick dessert. A tip from my husband — if you are going to use all-natural peanut butter, you might want to consider adding a little salt to the top of the cookies before baking.

Yield: 12 cookies

Ingredients

1 egg
1 cup crunchy or creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar (could use half white and half brown sugar)
Optional: dot with M&M’s or chocolate chips on the top

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350º

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Add dough by the spoonful to a parchment-lined sheet pan. Use a fork to make the traditional crisscross marks on the top. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

By the way, The Nashville Food Project caters events as a social enterprise. Katie and her crew of volunteers are always coming up with new ideas for boxed lunches for board meetings and luncheons across Nashville. Email her at katie@thenashvillefoodproject.org if your organization is interested in home-cooked meals made with fresh ingredients. If you are interested in assisting with meal prep, sign-up at Hands on Nashville.

I spied them making these gorgeous spinach wraps yesterday.

Other Darn Good Cookies:
Mary’s Award Winning Chocolate Chip Cookies
Italian Sesame Seed Cookies
Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies
Oats, Sorghum, Ginger and Cranberry Cookies
My Favorite Rollout Butter Cookies

Other fun recipes from The Nashville Food Project:
Oven-Roasted Strawberry and Rosemary Jam

Outrageous Roasted Rosemary Cashews
 

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Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Italian Sausage, Peppers, Onion, and Potato Sheet Pan Supper

Last fall, my friends, Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, asked if I would develop quick and easy dinner recipes for their readers at Mason Dixon Knitting. Specifically, they wanted recipes for sheet pan suppers.

The first one I created was called Sheet Pan Supper Italiano. Here is a link.

Their introduction to the new column was generous and kind.

Knitters, we bring help. In the quest to increase time for knitting, we proudly present a new series devoted to cooking. Simple cooking. Beautiful cooking. Cooking that you can pull together faster than you can drive through the Burger Weenie. Cooking that cleverly requires a one-hour oven time so that you have a built-in hour to knit while your delicious dinner is roasting away.

Who is our guide to this life-altering way to cook? Our adored gardener, food blogger, and maker: Judy Wright.
—Kay and Ann

Ann and Kay know how to make people feel good. They do it every morning with a daily, upbeat post. It’s one of the reasons their blog/e-commerce website is so popular. You never know what they are going to write about. Take a look at this country music parody they co-wrote and starred in called Pardon Me, I Didn’t Knit That for You. They are a crack up!!

Ann and I are neighbors and have had a lot of fun cooking together at The Nashville Food Project, too!

The first recipe I wrote for their website was a spin-off of the Italian Sausage and Peppers I grew up eating. It was served over pasta at the dinner table and in an 8-inch crusty roll at cookouts and street festivals.

At the time I wrote the sheet pan version, I was on Whole30, a nutritional “reset” diet. To make the recipe Whole-30 compliant, I switched out the pasta with white and sweet potatoes.

This recipe is also a good one for feeding a crowd. I once quadrupled the ingredients and served it at Room in the Inn, a winter sheltering and hospitality program in Nashville. The men paid me the ultimate compliment when they exclaimed, “You put your foot in it!” When they saw me look a little disheartened, they laughed and said that was a good thing. Those men made my day.

Here’s how the piled high and deep ingredients looked when tossed together and spread out into four sheet pans. The key to getting the ingredients to cook evenly is to chop the potatoes into smaller, bite-sized pieces.

Yield: Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes   Roasting time: 1 hour

Ingredients

3-4 sweet bell peppers (1 pound)
4-6 potatoes, a combination of sweet and white (2 pounds)
1 sweet onion (½ pound)
1 medium head of garlic (1-1½ ounces)
4 or 5 whole Italian sweet sausages (a 1¼ pound package) Do not pierce.
1 teaspoon fine salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400º.

Prep peppers: Remove pepper cores and seeds. Cut into 1 to 2-inch chunks. Add to parchment-lined sheet pan.

Prep onions: Remove the outer layers of skin. Trim off root. Slice thickly. Add to sheet pan.

Prep potatoes: Scrub potatoes. Do not peel. Cut into bite-sized chunks. Add to sheet pan.

Prep garlic. Smash the whole head with a meat mallet and remove outer layers of skin. Then smush each clove with the flat edge of a knife and peel off the loosened fine skin. Add to pan.
 

Sprinkle mixed vegetables with salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss together in the sheet pan. Add sausages and toss again. Spread ingredients uniformly. Place roasting pan in oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven and turn ingredients with a spatula, including the sausages, for even browning. Roast for 30 minutes more.

Since there are only two of us in the house, I often have leftovers to scramble up with eggs for breakfast the next morning. Yum!
 

You can find instructions on how to roast various vegetables by clicking on one of these links: eggplant, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, zucchini, butternutpatty pan, pumpkin, and spaghetti squashes.

Other Dinner Ideas:
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
Baked Ziti with Roasted Eggplant, Mozzarella, and Marinara Sauce
A New Take on Chicken Marbella
Chicken Cacciatore
Pot Roast with Herbs and Root Vegetables
Brooks’ Pork Tenderloin with an Amazing Marinade

Apples are in season and this is my absolute favorite apple pie recipe. The crust is made of crumbled cheddar cheese, butter, and flour. It is incredible. The recipe is from my mother.  Here is a link.

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

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Always check this website for the most up-to-date version of every recipe.

© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Crostini with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Burrata, and Basil

Although my tomato garden started out pretty, it did not produce all summer. I heard similar comments from many of my backyard gardening friends. About two weeks ago, I cleaned up my 26 tomato plants and gave them one last chance to make fruit before pulling them. I picked every tomato in sight in various stages of ripeness.

At our next monthly Master Gardeners of Davidson County meeting, I asked our UT Extension Agent, David Cook, if he had an explanation. He said in long periods of heat and drought, tomatoes take longer to ripen. Additionally, he said the plants do not set new fruit because the heat coupled with high humidity cause the flowers to shrivel up and drop. He said he’s been wondering if it is time to rethink when we plant tomatoes locally.  Perhaps later in June would work better since we have a long growing season. Coincidently, I learned my father-in-law planted his tomato beds on July 1st, and they were lush and producing when I saw them last week.

The first thing I did with the ripe portion of tomatoes I harvested was to make and freeze a few batches of @JudysChickens Marinara Sauce. Soon after, I had the pleasure of tasting Robin Verson’s slow-roasted tomatoes while attending an indigo dyeing workshop at Hill and Hollow Farm, in Kentucky. I’ve made oven-roasted tomatoes before, but their flavor wasn’t nearly as intense as these. These were like little flavor bombs.

I asked her how she prepared them. She wrote, “Cut off the tips of Roma tomatoes, then cut them in half. Place in baking pan and sprinkle olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put a nice
amount of freshly pressed garlic on top of each half. Bake at 225 for many hours, usually half a day.” Thus began my days of slow-roasting tomatoes.

Slow Roasted Tomato Ingredients

4 pounds small tomatoes (I used 3# Roma and 1# cherry)
5 -6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic pepper (used only for cherry tomatoes)

I divided the tomatoes into cherry (Juliettes and Sungolds) and the larger tomatoes (Romas and Lemon Boys). I found that garlic doesn’t stick well to whole cherry tomatoes, so I used garlic pepper for them.

Instructions
Preheat oven to 225º
Line two 13″ x 18″ rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

For the pound of cherry tomatoes: mix tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of garlic pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet. Set aside.

For the three pounds of Romas and Lemon Boys: cut the tomatoes in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with your index finger. Mix olive oil and minced garlic in a small bowl to moisten the garlic. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer. Use a teaspoon to drizzle the olive oil and garlic over the tomato halves.

Slow cook tomatoes for 4-5 hours. The cherry tomatoes were ready about 30″ before the Romas.

We call the cherry tomatoes “poppers.” They are fun to eat individually or to throw in sauces, salads, and vegetable dishes for a burst of flavor.

The roasted Romas are good to eat as an appetizer, a side dish, or as a mix-in for foods like hamburgers, vegetable dishes, and even over pasta. They are especially good smushed on bruschetta, or on crostinis, as we shall see. They will last in a covered dish for about a week in the refrigerator, or they can be frozen.

Crostini Ingredients
Yield: 18 Crostini

1 baguette
½ recipe of slow roasted tomatoes (see above)
4  2-ounce balls of burrata cheese
a few leaves of basil, minced
balsamic vinegar
Cracked sea salt and pepper

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400º

Slice a baguette into ½-inch slices. Lightly brush each with olive oil. Place slices on a sheet pan and toast for about 7-8 minutes.

Slice the burrata and place some on each slice of bread.

Top with one roasted tomato half.

Grind a little sea salt and pepper over each crostini. Sprinkle with chopped basil. Drizzle each with a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Arrange crostini on a serving platter.

If you are looking for other ways to cook tomatoes check out Tomatoes! on the MENU page.

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Remember to always check this website for updated versions of a recipe.  

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.