My grandmother is, hands down, the best person I know. Known to different people as Natalie, Nadly, Ba, and B.A.G. (Bad-Ass Grandma), she’s the matriarch of the family. I could write a dissertation on all the reasons why I love her, but I’ll hold off because we’re here to talk about her cookies!
Every family gathering is at my grandparents’ house, and Ba always has a bag or two of her famous cookies to pull out when people get peckish. Everyone eagerly looks forward to eating half a dozen of them every Thanksgiving, sometimes even choosing them over pie. They’re unlike any other chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever tasted – instead of soft and chewy, they’re thin and crispy. The batter spreads so thinly that it tastes almost caramelized, giving these cookies a delightful crunch.
This cookie recipe has acquired mythic-rare status in the family. Many family members have attempted to recreate it without success. We wondered if maybe Ba’s oven was unique in some regard, or if she had a special mixing method that wasn’t communicated in the recipe. I decided to get down to some good old-fashioned field research in order to figure out what the secret was.
It turns out there are a lot of secrets.
- Don’t use an electric mixer for any part of the recipe. My grandmother has been making these cookies by hand for decades, and my guess is that doing it this way keeps excess air out of the cookies. Don’t cream the butter and sugar together, just mix them with a wooden spoon.
- It’s essential to sift the flour twice, once before measuring and once after.
- When you bake the cookies, use a rack in the middle of the oven, not the top or bottom.
- Limit yourself to about 6 cookies per baking sheet so they have room to spread out, and place the dough close to the edges of the baking sheet since it tends to spread toward the center.
- Don’t remove them from the baking sheet until slightly cooled, about 10 minutes, and make sure the sheet is extremely well-greased so they don’t stick. They might stick anyways; just use a spatula and some elbow grease.
- If you can, don’t use those new, shiny baking sheets. Instead, use the older, darker nonstick ones, the kind that have faint grease stains from decades of use. The cookies turned out much better on these baking sheets.
- I also found that the cookies were better baked and easier to remove when I baked my second and third batches, making me wonder if there’s some benefit to using a baking sheet that’s already hot. Just make sure to re-grease it between batches.
Brown sugar: I used dark brown sugar since I think the flavor is much better than that of light brown sugar. Either would work, though.
Chocolate chips: I used chocolate chunks since that was all I could find that was both organic and fair trade. I recognize that buying fair trade chocolate isn’t accessible to everyone, but I strongly believe that my cookies shouldn’t involve slave labor. There are horrible labor practices in much of the cocoa industry, including child labor, slave labor, and human trafficking. Check out this source for a list of slave-free chocolate producers, or use the rule of thumb that as long as it’s certified fair trade and NOT from Nestlé, Hershey, or Mars, it’s probably okay. If you only have access to chocolate chips from these brands, please just don’t make these cookies. Sorry, not sorry 😉
Okay, heavy stuff aside, let’s bake!
Nadly’s Famous Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter softened
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour sifted before measuring
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 cup chocolate chips or chocolate chunks
- Preheat the oven to 375º F. Grease two cookie sheets and set aside.
- Using a wooden spoon, combine the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Mix well, then add the egg and vanilla and stir until completely combined.
- In a separate small bowl, sift the flour before measuring. Sift it a second time along with the salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips.
- Drop small spoonfuls of the batter onto the greased cookie sheets, leaving plenty of room for the cookies to spread. Bake until deep golden brown (not beige!), about 10 minutes. The cookies will be very flat.
- Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack. Serve the cookies cold with a glass of milk, or store them in the freezer.