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The chocolate chip cookie compromise

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A farewell to warm summertime afternoons, autumn brings with it the cool breeze of a new school year and the promise of holidays on the horizon. For my family, this has always meant buckling down and getting productive — work hard now, play hard over Thanksgiving break. 

That’s not to say we completely abandon family time, however. Growing up, I remember coming home from school to my grandmother, partially obscured by the open oven, pulling out a fresh batch of her homemade chocolate chip cookies. “Fall fuel,” she called it, an easy after-school treat for growing children who worked (relatively) hard at school. Even now, I tend to dream of chocolate chip cookies come fall. 

While this isn’t my grandmother’s original recipe, I’ve tested this recipe countless times, making modifications here and there over the years and seeing what works. I’m proud to present my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, perfectly chewy with caramel notes from the not-so-secret ingredient: brown butter!

If you’ve ever used Google to find a recipe before, you’ve no doubt seen something that resembles the previous. It’s kitschy and perhaps a bit cringeworthy, but love it or hate it, it’s a classic recipe introduction. 

Personally, I can get behind the occasional reminiscing about grandma and the good old days because, let’s face it, we could all use reminders of the little things in life. When I find myself scrolling through multiple pages of this fluff though, it really starts to beg the question: who the hell has the time (and also, how can I get that life)? 

This brings me to my point about hobbies. Stanford publications — actually, publications in general — often feature students with some really neat pastimes. Whether it’s running a YouTube channel, flying airplanes or even running marathons, college students everywhere accomplish amazing things and still refer to them as “hobbies” at the end of the day.

Back in August, I remember reading The Daily’s article featuring Stanford’s own Rachel Fong ’21, whose dedication to her “hobbies” I continue to be endlessly inspired by. Having previously introduced myself to people as a hobby baker, yet also having resigned myself to the fact that baking and college are mutually exclusive entities, I felt a bit like I got punched in the gut: if Rachel could balance it all (and even write a cookbook!), why couldn’t I?

To bake or not to bake?

I’ve often been told that a hobby shouldn’t be a labor of love, but rather, it shouldn’t feel like work at all. If you truly love something, you’ll make time for it — easy as pie (or cookies). The problem is, a not-insignificant portion of my free time is spent napping, and what little remains is reserved for club or social activities. Adding baking to my daily schedule would honestly be exhausting, hence my predicament over whether or not I can tout baking as one of my passions. At the same time, however, in a strange way, baking less has helped me protect my love of it. Even if I can’t spend as much time in the kitchen as I’d like, I’m still able to fully appreciate the times I can. 

While I’m too much of a realist (and frankly, way too stressed) to set a goal like “bake X amount of recipes a week for the rest of the quarter,” I’m also too stubborn to admit defeat and completely quit until Winter break. We can’t all be superhuman like Rachel Fong, but I’ve done my best to find a happy compromise — simple, shareable recipes like this one — and I have to say, I’ve neither lost passion nor felt overwhelmed so far. Mission (tentatively) accomplished.

So without further ado, let’s try this again:

My Favorite Chewy Brown-Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)

Yield: Approximately 16 palm-sized cookies (these are fairly big!)

INGREDIENTS

¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cups bread flour (or all-purpose)

1¼ tsp. Diamond Crystal salt (larger crystals, flaky texture)

¾ tsp. baking soda

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

2 tsp. vanilla extract

CHOCOLATE OPTIONS

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (~60-70% cacao), coarsely chopped or in chips

OR

1-2 oz. milk (~30% cacao) or semisweet (~40% cacao) chocolate, coarsely chopped or in chips

4-5 oz. bittersweet (~60-70% cacao) chocolate, coarsely chopped or in chips

I use Bon Appetit’s preparation instructions, but here are a few pro-tips I’ve accumulated over the years:

Using half bread flour adds extra chew to the cookies, or at least I believe it does.

Depending on how much toffee/caramel flavor you want from the cookie, alter the ratio of chocolate types. Feel free to experiment — generally, I find a total of six ounces of chocolate to be a bit much, so I tend to gradually add chocolate instead of measuring it out. Aim for ~20% milk/semisweet chocolate if mixing chocolate types, and keep in mind that the brown butter already adds a caramel flavor of its own.

I find chocolate chips a bit too dense for my taste, but in the dorms especially, they’re often all that’s available. To coarsely “chop” them, I put them all in a plastic bag and—I’m not particularly proud of this—whack them vigorously against an angular surface or beat them with a heavy spoon. Whatever works, I guess.

Contact Carissa Lee at carislee ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Carissa Lee '22 is a writer for Arts & Life's Culture beat, an account manager for The Daily's Ad Sales team, and a member of the Social Media team. Her primary interests include Oxford commas, visual arts, and the culinary world--hence her passion for all things Arts & Life. When she's not obsessively scrolling through "Bon Appetit's" Instagram feed or going on long runs at 6 am to feel "productive," she is studying to major in Human Biology, with the intent to pursue a medical degree. Contact her anytime at carislee 'at' stanford.edu.