25 April 2010

Un piccolo pensiero

My parents always told us that we shouldn’t show up empty-handed at someone’s place.  My husband’s parents told him the same thing.  So whenever we are welcomed into someone’s home, it goes without saying that we will bring something: a bottle of wine, a bouquet of fresh flowers, a little gift for their home (if we know them well and have an idea of their style), a box of chocolates, or a freshly-baked treat – un piccolo pensiero, a little thought, as my husband says.

I don’t expect people to do that when they come over to visit us ... I invite people over because I enjoy their company, not because I want them to bring me gifts!  I’m sure that people who have us over are the same; nevertheless we would feel awfully uncomfortable if we were to arrive empty-handed – hence the piccolo pensiero.

My son started going to kindergarten this past school year, and every so often he gets invited to a classmate’s home for a play date.  Although a bottle of wine or a bunch of flowers isn’t exactly appropriate for an afternoon play date among five- or six-year-olds, we still want to teach our son that it’s important to be thoughtful, grateful, gracious.  We figure, the sooner he learns this, the better.

So what we do is bake.  I ask him to pick a goodie that he would like to help me bake for his friend, and he always picks chocolate chip cookies.  

The U.S. is the birthplace of the chocolate chip cookie, and when we moved here 5 years ago, I told myself that this was one cookie that I was going to have to get right.  I’ve made lots of chocolate chip cookies before, when I was a kid in the Philippines and a teenager in Vancouver and a sort-of-grown-up in Montréal, but found myself always on the lookout for the next “great” chocolate chip cookie recipe.  

When I find myself searching for a new formula for the same old thing, it usually means that I haven’t yet struck recipe-gold for it – because when I find a recipe that delivers my idea of perfect, I stick with it.

Thank goodness for David Leite's 2008 article in the New York Times.  Because of him, there is one less recipe that I have to be on the lookout for.

These cookies disappear very quickly: a testament to their good looks.  People also just as quickly come back for seconds: a testament to their deliciousness (trust me, there is no other word for it).  Mothers tell me that their kids proclaim these as "the best chocolate chip cookies" they have ever had.  And you know, kids that age don't lie.  All credit goes to Mr. Leite and his research!  

What I love most about this recipe is that my son and I can bake something together that he is always proud to present to his host.  After all, it is never too early to teach a child to say, “Thank you for having me over.  I made these just for you!” 

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from David Leite

Whisk together in a medium bowl:
  17 ounces all purpose flour
  1 ¼ tsp baking soda
  1 ½ tsp baking powder
  1 ½ tsp kosher salt

In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy:
  1 ¼ cups butter
  10 ounces light brown sugar
  8 ounces granulated sugar

To the creamed butter, add:
  2 eggs
  2 tsp vanilla extract

Stir in the flour mixture, as well as:
  1 ¼ pounds bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

Scoop the dough out in 2 tablespoon measures (I use a #24 disher).  Lightly roll the dough into balls, and lay these on a sheet in a single layer.  Cover the sheet tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24-36 hours before baking.  The dough can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325ºF.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick mat.  Remove the dough balls from the refrigerator, and position them on the sheet at least 3 inches apart.  Depending on the size of your sheet, you will be able to bake 9-12 cookies at a time.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown but still soft. Lay the baking sheet over a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cookies from the sheet and place them directly on the rack to cool.

This makes about 45 cookies – you could bake a dozen after 24 hours, and then another dozen the next day.  You could then freeze the remaining unbaked dough balls to have 'instant' cookies the next time you have a craving for them.  If baking from frozen dough, just extend the baking time by 5 minutes or so.

I think these are best the day they're baked, but they are still great up to the next day.


  1. can't wait to try this out, Cooks :) thanks for sharing :)

  2. If you're passing by LA, you can stop by our home...I'll make sure to keep the cookie jar empty. =)

  3. i wish we were neighbors:)

  4. awesome! thanks for the recipe - definitely going to try it with my monkeys!

  5. Gi and Anya, let me know how it works out for you!

    Rona and An(onymous?) if we lived closer together I would happily make "contributions" to your cookie jars!! :o)

  6. Thanks for sharing as I am sure this will be my new chocolate cookie "go to" recipe too!

  7. No problem! I hope you guys like it as much as we do!