Click through the link above for info on the Holiday Spectacular -- it's a great collection of holiday stories sent to your in-box from Thanksgiving through New Year. It's been going on for a few weeks, but you can subscribe any time, and they'll send you all the stories that've gone out so far, so you don't miss anything.
"The Way the Cookie Crumbles" was available for free here on my blog until the 29th. Below is a recipe for one of the cookies mentioned in the story. It's currently my favorite cookie to make -- give it a shot!
If you've made regular chocolate chip cookies before, these are an easy variation. If you're new to cookie making, these are a good place to get your feet wet.
Chocolate Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 42 cookies, give or take a couple.
3/4 cup white sugar and 3/4 cup brown sugar OR 1 1/2 cups white sugar and 1/4 cup molasses
1 cup butter 1 tsp vanilla 1 lg. egg 2 cups AP flour 1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp baking soda 1 bag (2 cups) dried cranberries 2 bags (24 oz.) chocolate chips (whatever type of chocolate you like)
Heat oven to 375F.
Prep your cookie sheets. I like using three, so I can rotate them and have one cooling before I put more cookies onto it. If you have (new, unscratched) non-stick cookie sheets, you can just put the cookies straight onto them. If not, you can butter the sheets (works okay) or line the sheets with baking parchment paper (works beautifully).
Cream together the two sugars, or the white sugar and the molasses, into a large mixing bowl with the butter. I use the back of a large wooden spoon, mashing everything against the side of the bowl until it's pretty smooth and uniform.
Add the vanilla and the egg, and stir until they vanish into the sugar/butter mixture. You can't overmix at this stage, so go for it.
Add the flour, baking cocoa, and salt.
Sift the baking soda into the bowl with a small hand strainer. The baking soda probably has little rocks in it, and if you just dump it straight into the bowl and mix, a few cookies will end up with little rocks of baking soda in them. Unless you think baking soda flavored toothpaste is a wonderfully yummy ice cream topping or something, you won't like this. Mash the little rocks through the strainer, or just toss them out.
Mix everything until it forms a sticky dough that appears uniform. Make sure you dig your wooden spoon all the way down to the bottom of the bowl, every part, to incorporate all the sugar mixture with the flour. If you're not used to making cookies, you might need to take a break or two; that's okay.
Add the chocolate chips and the dried cranberries. Mix again until they're just evenly distributed through the dough.
Portion the dough out onto the cookie sheets. I use a 1 1/4" disher to get things fairly uniform, but I don't obsess about it; this isn't rocket science. Put the dough blobs at least an inch apart on the cookie sheet.
Lightly mash the dough balls with your palm. They should look like little fat (not thin) hamburger patties. There's a lot of stuff in these cookies, and they can use a bit of help shaping themselves. Just a bit, though -- don't try to make them the exact size and shape of the cookie you want. You're just giving them a head start.
Put the first cookie sheet into the oven, and set a timer for 13 minutes.
Portion dough out onto your other cookie sheets if you have them. How many bakes it takes depends on how big your cookie sheets are. If you can't get all the dough onto your cookie sheets, that's fine. Wait and re-use one or more sheets later.
Cycle cookie sheets through the oven, 13 minutes at a time.
As cookies come out of the oven, let them cool for about 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack. A large dish or platter works too, if you don't have a cooling rack. Using parchment paper, I can just pick up the cookies with my fingers and put them on the rack. If you use bare or buttered cookie sheets, you might have to use a spatula to get them off.
NOTES FOR BEGINNING BAKE GEEKS:
Again, this isn't rocket science. A certain amount of fudging here or there won't ruin your cookies.
Three cookie sheets is optimal. During the bake, at any one time you'll have one sheet in the oven, one sheet with dough balls ready to go into the oven, and one sheet cooling. You can manage with two, or even just one, so long as you allow enough cooling time in between batches. If you don't let used sheets cool before putting more raw cookie dough onto them, the cookies will start to bake and spread before they go into the oven, and that'll throw the baking time off. If you want to bake cookies regularly, I highly recommend getting three cookie sheets.
If you don't have a 1 1/4" disher, or if you want to make bigger or smaller cookies, use a tablespoon to scoop up dough, and eyeball about a 1" ball (or whatever size you want) as you roll it in your hands. Add or pinch off dough until the ball is the size you want. If you're making smaller cookies, take a minute or two off the baking time. If you're making larger cookies, add a minute or two. If you've changed the size of the cookies, let the first cookie sheet cool before putting in the second one, and try a cookie. (Let them cool down to lightly warm before you try one; a warm, fresh-from-the-oven cookie will feel underbaked because it won't set until it cools.) These cookies are meant to be chewy and a bit soft, but not at all goopy. If they seem underbaked when cooled, add a minute or two of baking time. Subtract a minute or so if they seem overbaked. Once you figure it out, write down the size of the dough ball and how many minutes you baked them on a sticky note, and stick it to the recipe so you'll remember next time.
Another variable is oven temperature. Different ovens heat to different actual temperatures, even if they're both set to 375F. If you use a 1 1/4" disher but your cookies seem over- or under-baked, your oven might be a bit sideways from mine. Adjusting the temperature up or down a bit is an alternative to baking for a longer or shorter time.
If you prefer other mix-ins, try them. If you want to use dried cherries and white chocolate chips, for example, go ahead and try them. If you want to add nuts, substitute them for some of the other mix-ins. So if you want to add 1 cup of chopped walnuts, for example, subtract 1 cup of the chocolate chips. These cookies are pretty full, and a greater volume of mix-ins might make the dough balls fall apart.
Substitute regular (unwhipped) cream cheese for half the butter to give the cookies a bit of a tang.
If you prefer your cookies cookie-flavored rather than chocolate-flavored for some odd reason, don't use the unsweetened baking cocoa. Add an extra 1/4 cup of flour instead.