Tuesday, August 11, 2009



For an American, nothing means home and childhood quite like brownies or chocolate chip cookies. And when so far away and nostalgia hits, what do we crave except brownies or chocolate chip cookies?

We may have grown up eating brownies that came from boxed mix and our chocolate chip cookies may well have come from a package with a weird little elf on the front or sounding a bit too much like a strange sailor, but we loved them all the same. Handfuls of cookies all to dunk in a tall glass of icy cold milk or smuggling brownies into our bedroom to eat hidden under the covers or in the jerrybuilt tent clothespinned to the hedges lining the backyard, it all stuck with us throughout the years as the ultimate childhood feast, topping the list of all-time favorite comfort foods.

Away at college, the cookies came under cellophane, as big as our heads, bought at the all-night corner shop on the edge of campus with money that should have bought food a bit more substantial, the brownies the size of 3 x 5 cards chockfull of nuts and chocolate chips that we knew were heading south straight to our hips, yet both were as necessary to our education as all the textbooks and classroom time combined. All-nighters spent giggling at the latest gossip, sitting up in our jammies stuffing one cookie after another into our mouths, pretending to study or crying over bad dates and lousy guys.

Finally learning how to make our own, reading the recipe off the back of the chip package, measuring, sifting, stirring, dipping fingers into the raw, uncooked dough which we then popped in our mouth, learning to bake the chocolate chip cookies and brownies from scratch to bring to parties, offer as gifts, arrange on trays for a Christmas party or package up pretty for Valentine’s Day. And we were so proud of those perfect, chewy, gooey treats. Oh, we may have made elegant, rich, dark truffles rolled in cocoa and carefully placed in tiny golden paper cups, eliciting oohs and ahhs from admiring guests, or wonderful apple and pumpkin pies carried into countless dining rooms and placed on Thanksgiving buffet tables, or any number of desserts much more impressive than simple, homey chocolate chip cookies and brownies, but isn’t simple and homey just what we need more often than not?

And now we are all grown up with kids of our own, all gangly arms and legs, who run into the house, slamming doors, sending pets skittering every which way, and clamoring for something sweet to eat. Or teens, skulking into the kitchen and dropping dead weight into a chair at the end of the table, never looking you straight in the eye and whining “what’s there to eat? There’s never anything good to eat in this house” and then tentatively asking in that round-about way they have of asking without quite asking “can you make some chocolate chip cookies? Or brownies?” Ah, they will never admit it, but they are still kids at heart. As we are.

As an expat, it thrills me to know end when my kids request something all-American and I know that somehow I have instilled my own love of those things of my childhood: sitting around a table playing board games or doing a puzzle “en famille”, pizza nights in front of an old black & white movie or something scary, eating hamburgers with their hands and not a knife and fork, and preferring a good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookie or a chewy, chocolaty brownie over an éclair or a palmier come snack time.

Here are the basic recipes; everyone knows them. The cookie recipe is a classic and the brownie recipe is for what my son refers to as “you know! “Normal” brownies! What you think of when you think of brownies!” Easy enough for even the kids to learn how to make.


2 sticks (1 cup, 225 g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
¾ cup (150 g) granulated white sugar
¾ cup (165 g) brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsps salt
2 ¼ (280 g) cups flour
1 – 2 cups mini chocolate chips as you like
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts as you like (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with the 2 sugars together until blended, light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended, and then the vanilla.

Blend together the flour with the baking soda and salt. Gradually beat into the butter mixture, stirring by hand at the end if it gets to stiff to finish with electric beaters.

Stir or beat in the chips and chopped nuts.

Chill if desired.

Drop by spoonfuls, as large or as small as desired, onto cookie sheets, leaving space in between for spreading.

Bake for 9 – 11 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies, until golden brown around the edges and barely set in the center.

Remove from the oven and carefully transfer to cooling racks with a spatula. If they are too soft to move, allow to cool slightly on the hot cookie sheets (they will continue to cook for a bit).


½ cup (1 stick, 115 g) unsalted butter
3 oz (90 g) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Lindt dessert 85%)
1 cup (200 g) sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 (85 g) cups flour
¼ tsp baking soda
½ - 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9-inch square pan.
In the microwave or in a bowl over simmering water, melt the chocolate and the butter. Remove from the heat and allow to cool as you continue stirring until all the chocolate is completely melted.

Stir the sugar into the melted chocolate/butter. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

Stir the baking soda into the flour and then stir it all into the chocolate mixture until just combined.

Stir in the coarsely chopped nuts.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes for the smaller pan, 20 - 25 minutes for the larger until just set in the center. Remove from the oven onto a cooling rack and allow to cool.

This recipe gives a crackly, pale crust.

It will sink in the center as it cools if it is not overcooked.

These brownies were amazingly chocolaty for a brownie that was actually much lighter than what I usually make. They are gooier than brownies made with cocoa powder. And they seemed to get denser and better the second day.



MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

;) is normal just another name for comfort. Those are both recipes of my childhood and still just excellent. Better than "normal".

Sippity Sup said...

It's terrific you assembled these classic after school snack recipes. Naturally everyone should have these GREG

Julie said...

These pics are making me all drool-y (is that a word?)
Favorite childhood treat would probably be the fried chocolate pies my mom made!

KennyT said...

Love your photos, love the way you write. ^^

Heavenly Housewife said...

Love those vintage pictures and the fabulous goodies you made. Those cookies look like the perfect texture :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Two delectable treats I adore!



Jenn said...

Gotta love Betty Crocker!!! You've got me craving for cookies ad brownies right now.

My favorite treats have always been anything with chocolate. Plain and simple. As long as there is chocolate when I'm as happy as can be.

Mamina said...

Je trouve parfois les brownies un peu sucrés mais tes cookies ont exactement l'aspect que j'aime.
Merci de ta visite.

LoveFeast Table said...

I agree....no matter how gourmet you get...you never can turn down the classic tried and true!! Glad to hear there's another sulking teen around the world saying, "there's nothing good to eat in the house"--made me smile. We're in this together us "Super Moms" :) Thanks for the reminder! -Chris Ann

zerrin said...

Brownies are always my favorite, we love to eat it while watching movies. As for the cookies, I love the easiest ones. And this seems an easy recipe, thanks.

Hilda said...

I didn't grow up with cookies and brownies in the beginning, but then I became quite fond of them when we moved to the US. Although I do admit I prefer a good chocolate eclair for le gouter simply because it's the right quantity and I know I won't overeat that way. I love the Toll House recipe too, but I've made some changes to it along the way and now I rarely make them simply as is.

Barbara Bakes said...

I love these all American desserts too! I loved seeing the French boxes though!

the ungourmet said...

My mom liked to make the boxed swirl cakes with homemade chocolate frosting. We would eat this with either a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a tall cold glass of milk. :P

Your cookies and brownies look fantastic!

vegetarianzoe said...

So yummy! I do perfectly understand this feeling. For me it would be Yorkshire pudding, Cornish pasties, coffee butter cream cake and buns.
I've transformed the recipes so that I can still have them as a vegetarian!

♥♥♥Ria♥♥♥ said...

You left me drooling througout Jamie!! Loved your treats!

mickymath said...

j'adore ce genre de photos!
les brownies me donnent faim! biises micky

Swedishclare said...

Hmmmm... double hmmmmm... and yum... doesn't get any better than those brownies!!!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Love the vintage photos and thanks for making "normal" cookies. Takes one right back to childhood.

shellyfish said...

I remember when I first came to France in '90 baking cookies and brownies for my friends in Lycée and they were so exotic - now the little kids I teach think cookies and brownies are French they are such a part of the culture! Et tant mieux!

Chef E said...

My sugar levels just jumped a few feet, but I might recover after I make some of these...darn you for putting the thought of baking into my mind, lol, I long for my mom's cream pies...I made them when the kids were little, but as you know it takes practice practice practice to get those to turn out...ask my son...

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Oh they look wonderful! :D Those B& W pics are so lovely and evocative too :)

EAT! said...

I always have to have some sort of baked good in my kitchen. Made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies the other day with my sone just so I could stash a few dozen frozen cookie balls in the freezer. I hope the kids don't eat them all before they make it to the oven.

foodcreate said...

Love your blog ! beautiful photos:) Lovely snacks..

thanks for sharing:)

Have a great Day ~

Reeni♥ said...

The tollhouse cookie recipe is still a favorite of mine - haven't found anything better. Give me nothing else but some fudgy brownies and I'm a happy girl. Pizzelles and peanut butter cookies remind me of home!

Cucinista said...

I could eat an entire pan of brownies, a sheet of those cookies. I think I might have actually had more self control as a child. Willpower has deserted (ha) me...

Mary said...

I'm a fan of regular ordinary cookies. The two you selected are among the best. I love the photos you used today. You are one clever lady.

Donna-FFW said...

2 classics that are timeless. Both delicious! Both comforting. This was a fun post to read!

nyonya pendek melaka said...

Just stumbled upon your really wonderful blog. Glad that I did as your posts are enjoyable to read. Love the vintage-looking pictures and the delectable brownies!

5 Star Foodie said...

The cookies and the brownies are scrumptious! A perfect afternoon snack! Yum!

mlaiuppa said...

Chocolate chip cookies were one of the first recipes I learned. And I like to experiment.

For instance I tried mint chocolate chip and learned that the mint extract was a lot stronger than the vanilla. So for 1 tsp of vanilla you substitute 1/4 tsp of mint. I've done it with orange extract too. Used 1/2 that time.

Also tried it with almond extract instead of vanilla.

I was quite the chemist.

I also learned the difference between baking powder and baking soda when I made my first cake from scratch.

asiangrrl said...

Jamie, I love your stories as much as I love your recipes and pics. You have such a vivid way of expressing yourself.

I gotta say, an all-chocolate post is most appreciated.

MeetaK said...

i love this post jamie! you bring up so many memories and these are such lovely classic recipes.

Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things said...

Jamie, you make your choc chip cookies just the way I like them! Gorgeous recipes.


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