Uncle Tom's chocolate chips a family favorite
It’s always “Uncle Tom, you got any cookies?”
That’s how my nephews Nathan and Seth greet me. It’s never “Hi Uncle Tom, how ya doin’?
And I don’t mind. Why would I? The boys are big fans of my chocolate chips. My own two kids, now grown, have always liked them, but some of my nieces and nephews are flat-out addicted. None more so than Nathan and Seth.
My sister, her husband and the four kids moved to Alabama a year-and-a-half ago. They come back for a week around Christmas and another in the summer and stay with my Mom and Dad. So while the big greeting from the two youngest boys occurs less often now, it still makes me feel good.
My sister Bonnie always has to make sure the boys eat their lunch or dinner before they run off with two fistfuls of Uncle Tom’s Chocolate Chips. Otherwise the cookies become the main course.
When I was a kid, I sometimes helped my Mom when she made cookies. That’s how I got my start, though I don’t remember ever making them on my own. Then early in my marriage, I wanted to help Dana out. We had to take cookies somewhere, so she handed me a recipe and I went to work.
They turned out all right and people liked them. I started making chocolate chips for family birthdays — we both come from large families, so there’s lots of birthdays — and over time tweaked the recipe until they became Uncle Tom’s Chocolate Chips. It is what I bring to summer cookouts. No one needs to ask and I don’t really need to offer anything else. This is what Uncle Tom brings.
The original recipe I worked with is scrawled on a small sheet of plain white paper. Turns out it is pretty much the Nestle Toll House recipe. But I tweaked it early on. I use more flour, baking soda and brown sugar than is called for in the recipe I was given way back when.
For example, 2 1⁄3 cups of flour has become 2 level cups followed by the 1⁄3 cup filled to heaping. It’s actually probably more than a 1⁄2 cup when all’s said and done. I just eyeball it. It’s my system, it works, so I’m sticking with it.
Over time, I have shortened the baking time from 9 minutes to 7:45. I have started making the cookies a little smaller in the past few years. I used to get about 44 chocolate chips per batch; now it’s usually in the 54 range.
One hurdle I’ve had to overcome is achieving room-temperature butter, which in my house only happens naturally in the fall and spring. We keep the house cool in winter, so leaving butter out doesn’t soften it. In summer, even with AC, it would get too soft. So I just take the two sticks out of the fridge, toss them into the microwave and hit 8 seconds. I then turn the sticks and repeat until all four sides have faced up once.
The fan base goes beyond family. I have brought them to other functions and they have even been raffled off at fundraising events. I’m always surprised when weeks or months or even years later someone will say: “I’d love to have some of your chocolate chip cookies again.”
‘Nope, they’re mine’
It happened the other day in church of all places. After Mass, I was picking up Girl Scout cookies for a colleague and the “supplier,” Dorine, and her sister-in-law Marybeth turned the conversation to my cookies. It’s a little weird and a lot flattering, because they’ve only had them once or twice and that was quite a while ago.
It’s also fun to answer this question from first-timers: “Your wife make these?” While my wife is an awesome cook and baker — and certainly would have made them just as good as me — it’s kind of fun to answer: “Nope, they’re mine.”
Uncle Tom’s Chocolate Chips
2 cups flour plus 1⁄3 cup, heaping
1 teaspoon of salt
1 heaping teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla, or maybe a little less
2 sticks butter, room temperature
3⁄4 cup sugar
3⁄4 cup brown sugar, packed and heaping
1 package chocolate chip morsels
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
I use my wife’s Mixmaster and always put the ingredients in the order listed — which I did in the old days with regular beaters, too. Don’t know if the order matters, but that’s what I do.
The mixture will remain dry, even with the butter mixed in, until the eggs go in. As soon as the batter begins to moisten, I dump the chips in.
Form round cookies, about the size of a ping-pong ball, 12 per tray. Bake for about 7:45 minutes. Leave cookies on tray for 3 minutes before removing.
Makes about four dozen cookies.
“In & Out of the Kitchen,” a wide-ranging column about cooking, eating and buying food, is written by Gazette staffers. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.