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Starting from scratch
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY EDEL TRIPP/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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BY EMILY BATTLE
If you're looking to try your hand at baking from scratch for the first time, the original Toll House recipe for chocolate-chip cookies offers a pretty user-friendly experience.
You don't even need to make a shopping list. Just go to any grocery store and head for the baking aisle. Pick up a yellow bag of chocolate chips and turn it over.
Your supply list, instructions and key ingredient are all right there in your hand.
The chocolate-chip cookie was supposedly invented 78 years ago, when Ruth Wakefield--proprietor of the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts--threw a broken-up chocolate bar into her butter cookie dough.
It has since become an American favorite, even rivaling the much ballyhooed apple pie.
We buy them pre-packaged at the grocery store, piping hot and big as hubcaps at the mall. We substitute them for birthday cakes and put them on sticks like lollipops.
My husband and I were even given some treats for our dog that look like tiny chocolate-chip cookies--with carob standing in for chocolate, of course.
While the original Toll House recipe is a sure bet if you're looking to pull something fresh, tasty and homemade from your oven, that hasn't stopped America's home cooks from messing with it.
A Free Lance-Star request for readers' favorite chocolate-chip cookie recipes yielded about a dozen different dispatches from around the region.
They range from simple--yellow cake mix, butter, eggs, chips--to fine-tuned and complex. The recipes included four different kinds of sugar, four different kinds of chocolate chips and quite an array of fats.
We saw "secret ingredients" that ranged from Nestle's Quik powder to Amaretto to ground-up mint-flavored Oreos.
After baking just four of these, it was clear that the words "chocolate-chip cookie" doesn't conjure up a cookie-cutter image in our minds.
There are the cakey cookies, with a light color and soft texture.
There is shortbread-like dough that bakes up into the texture of a store-bought cookie.
Then there are the batters that go heavy on the brown sugar. Some bake into chewy little rounds, and others spread out into thin, wide treats with a doughy center and dark, crisp edges that taste like candy.
Which one is best depends on the cookie-eater.
I put the four varieties out in our newsroom and asked for comments.