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Chocolate Chips and Birthdays

April 13, 2012

In a few days it is my dad’s birthday.  So to celebrate, I am shipping him a collection of the fruits of my hobbies–a can of homemade salsa, home canned pineapples, a jar of strawberry jam, and some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

Canning is a recent hobby of mine, but one I have come to love.  But the chocolate chip cookies are more than sharing a hobby with my dad–they are full of hundreds of childhood memories.  The recipe was handed down to my dad from his grandmother.  Cooking was different back then, and the recipe reflects it.  It is full of things like eggs, sugar, lard, and butter.  You could describe these cookies as mini-heart attacks, but I prefer to think of them as delicious.  Although I won’t share the entire recipe, secret family recipe that it is, I will drop a few hints as to making a good, old-fashioned cookies.

The first thing I learned from my dad was to start with all the liquids in the recipe–the exact opposite of most recipes I have read.  I don’t know if it really makes much difference, but my dad swears by it and they have always turned out wonderfully.

In addition, Dad always melted his lard and butter, swearing that it helped them get through the dough evenly.  Again, most recipes don’t tell you to do this, but since ours have always turned out so well I have stuck with the method he taught me.

After the liquids and butter and lard are all mixed together, I then add the salt, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice.  Lemon juice?  Yes, lemon juice.  It helps to activate the baking soda which gives the cookies a little bit of lightness.  Plus, the ever so slight tang tastes delicious.

Probably due to the lemon juice pre-activating the baking soda, I have always found these cookies spread out nicely into short, wide cookies.  They are also very rich, and it only takes a few to fill your belly.

After Valentine’s Day, I picked up a cookie mold on clearance.  It seemed like a relatively useful shape even outside of the Valentine’s Day season, especially with two little girls at my house.  I had never used one before but will probably use it many times from now on.  They turned out beautifully.

Every time I bite into one of these cookies, I am flooded with memories.  About once a month my dad and I would bake–everything from cookies to pies to zucchini bread.  But most often we made these cookies.  It was my dad who taught me how to bake, and I still prefer baking to cooking.  I remember spending whole days running back and forth from the living room to the kitchen to help him pull out trays of cookies and shifting them onto cooling racks.  Dad would hold the trays firmly in two hands and fan me with them to cool them off quickly.  At six foot three, he would get a huge range with his arms and large gusts of hot, then cool air would fly across my face.  To a little girl, it was the ultimate fun.  It was also special time with my dad which has meant so much to me.  Things were not always easy between us, and have not gotten any easier  now that I am a grown adult living twenty six hours away with a family of my own.  But every time I bake a batch of these cookies, I feel connected to my dad in a way that warms my heart.  I can’t wait to call him on his birthday and hear about him biting into a batch of “our” cookies.

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From → Baking, Food

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