I didn’t go to culinary school or learn from a highly talented family member or friend. I learned by experimenting and by making some mistakes.

Nestle Cookie

When I was a young, Nestle chocolate chip cookies were every family’s cookie recipe of choice.  It was so easy.  You didn’t have to even open a cook book.  The recipe was right there on the package.

One day while mixing up my cookie dough by hand, I added a little more flour than the recipe called for by mistake.  I must have been yammering on to my mom or a friend and I wasn’t paying attention. This was the first time I noticed what happened when I changed ingredients in a recipe.  When I made my little mistake, I learned that adding an extra 1/4 to 1/3 cup thickens the cookie.  They came out of the oven with some heft, some meat on their bones.  This is what made my chocolate chip cookie special to my grade school friends.

I was always a rule follower as a kid.  I never used a fake ID, never stole anything, never really did anything without asking first.  This can be a good mind set for an early baker.  You have got to learn how things work before you start playing around.  You’ve got to follow the recipe,  get a good result and gain some confidence.  After you have made the same recipe over and over for years, it can be a lot of fun to play around with your old stand by and see what kind of results you can get.  See what other people are doing for inspiration.  This can be a great way to get a new idea.

ButterGirl's chocolate chip cookie

For example, my chocolate chip cookie today has a pinch of coarse salt on top.  I loved this idea when I first noticed it in an a story in the New York Times.  Chocolate covered pretzels are immediately what came to mind.   This salt trend is popping up everywhere from salted caramels to bacon flavored chocolate bars.  Salt is one little secret that enhances the taste of my chocolate chip cookies today.

Another small adjustments from my childhood chocolate chip cookie is using high quality mini chips.  The smaller chip covers more surface area in each bite therefore you get a bigger chocolate taste.  In addition, never compromise on the quality of your chocolate.  Nestle is ok but you can do so much better.  A higher cocoa content makes a less sweet, more bitter chocolate.  This contrast can add depth to your cookie.

Start experimenting in your own kitchen. Let me know how your experiments are going.