Friday, August 13, 2010

The BEST 1st Day of School Cookies

I'm lucky. My kids have been waiting and waiting and waiting for the first day of school to start . . . pretty much since summer started. Summer used to be a time to laze around with friends all summer, but people do so much these days (camps, trips to the mountains, trips to the beach, and visits to relatives in far away places) that we really don't see their friends all that much. And this is really the first summer that I've been with them 24/7 the entire summer! I used to work through the summer, so they'd go to camp after camp. But not this summer. Even when they went to vacation bible school, I was there with them volunteering, so needless to say, I couldn't WAIT for school to start. John asked me, "What are you going to do all day on their first day back?" My response: "Do I have to do anything? Can't I just sit and enjoy my solitude?" And so I did, most of the day.

But I wanted something fun awaiting them when they got off the bus. Years ago, I was in search of the perfect chocolate chocolate chip cookie. I tried a bunch of recipes, and finally settled on this one. I can't remember where I got it, but it's got many of my own modifications, so I guess I'll call it my own.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with m&ms (Makes 4-5 dozen or so)
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (320g)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened *
1 cup sugar (200g)
1 cup packed light-brown sugar (240g)
2 eggs
1 Tbs vanilla
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa** (~ 65g)
1 cup mini (or regular) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup mini milk-chocolate m&ms (They're in the BLUE bag. Don't get the semi-sweet ones.)
Plus more mini m&ms (about a cup maybe) reserved

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

First, whisk together your flour, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl. Next, combine your butter and sugars.

*Note for softening butter: I rarely take it out ahead of time, but I've figured out the perfect microwave setting for softening butter: 1 minute at 20% power. If that scares you, then just stick the butter in a ziplock bag and squish it around with your fingers. Don't you love physics?

**Dutch-Processed Cocoa: You can find it at Whole Foods or Williams-Sonoma. It will either say Dutch-processed or processed with alkali. I can't seem to ever find it at the grocery, unless it's Hershey's Special Dark, but I don't like that one. I never use the "natural" stuff anymore.

For this, and most cookie doughs, you can either use the electric mixer or a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and vanilla to the butter mixture, then add the cocoa, scraping down the sides as needed. Dump the flour mixture in and mix it all up until it's uniform. Finally stir in in the chocolate chips and m&ms.

Now, scoop your dough with either a spoon or one of these nifty little scoopers.

This was my first time using it, and I liked it because it made my cookies all come out about the same size. But it's not necessary, and it's harder than you think to get the dough to come out of it. When using either a scoop or a spoon, while the dough is still in it, press it down into a shallow dish of m&ms. Then put it on your cookie sheet with m&ms facing up.

Now some cookie sheet advice: If you think the color of your cookie sheet doesn't matter, you're WRONG! I have two air-bake sheets: one is silver-y and the other is "non-stick" and a darker grey. I can never use my dark one for cookies because the dark sheet makes the cookies brown too much on the bottom. The the top is left raw. Here's a link for Cooks Illustrated's pick for the best cookie sheet. 

Okay, moving on. Bake your cookies for 10 minutes. You want to take them out as soon as they are no longer poofy. It's really important not to over cook these. Because they're dark brown, you can't see when they're burning. You may think 10 minutes is not long enough, but just let them sit on the cookie sheet for a minute or two before you move them to a cooling rack (or plate if you don't have a rack).

They are AWESOME! The kids thought so too!

Oh wait, someone's missing. Ooops. Frances missed the bus . . . on the first day. She wasn't all that concerned though. She got her cookie on the way home from our picking her up.

And I couldn't resist this picture. Leroy's sitting in the booster seat.

I'm making another batch right now for Frances's inaugural benefit for Kids Against Childhood Cancer, a charity she and some friends have started. They're hosting a movie night in a friend's backyard and selling goodies to eat during the movie.