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.
Before we get started on the recipe, here is a list of baking tips I learned from Mary 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
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 (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)
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 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.
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