Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Search For The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Back in 1992, I read an article in The Winnipeg Free Press about a cookbook devoted to chocolate chip cookies. I still have the dated article. The cookbook was called: "The Search For The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" and written by Gwen Steege. It was a hard cover cookbook with just over a hundred recipes for that delectable delight! The book had been written as a result of a nationwide chocolate chip cookie recipe contest that was sponsored by Chester Soling, owner of "The Orchards", an inn in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. The contest was held in early 1987 and received over 2600 entries! Wouldn't you love to have been a judge for that contest?

"The Orchards" sounds like a great place. Rather than a mint on the pillow, when guests retire for the night they will find freshly baked, warm chocolate chip cookies and a glass of cold milk on the bedside table!. Apparently, the tradition continues, according to their website;"Freshly baked cookies are also provided with our nightly turndown service."

I kept the article and called a couple of local book sellers and was told it wasn't available anymore. Several months later, I was in Toronto for an eye treatment and phoned "The Cookbook Store". Sadly, I was informed the book was out of print. However there was always a chance that it could be reprinted or that some old copies could turn up in a warehouse sale of old merchandise. They asked if I'd like them to contact me if they found one. I said yes and gave them my Winnipeg number - assuming I'd probably never hear from them. Why would they bother with calling someone long distance and shipping a book?

Well about a year later, I got a long distance call from Toronto - The Cookbook Store had gotten copies of the book and would I like to order one and have it shipped? OH MY GOD!!!! They actually kept my info and called me!! The book was only $10.00 plus shipping and taxes. I think I paid about $15 or $16 in total. The book arrived a few days later.

I was in seventh heaven! I didn't know what to make first! There were several versions of common recipes like "Dad's CC"; "Oatmeal CC"; "Peanut Butter CC". I started making a list of recipes that I wanted to try. I wrote down at least 20. Over the years I've tried at least 2 dozen recipes and tweaked several of my favourites. The book is full of post it notes and pages are stained and a bit dog eared in places. The binding is starting to come apart. There are about 8 or 10 that I tend to keep in rotation and are always a hit with company or as gifts.

To the best of my knowledge, the hardcover edition of the book is no longer in print, but I have found copies for sale on amazon. All is not lost however, as I have also found a paperback version that seems to be readily available on; eBay, , borders and other websites. From what I've been able to see of contents and indexes it is the same book with a different title. The paperback is called "101 Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies" by Gwen Steege, and is also published by Storey Books.

I have read and made hundreds of chocolate chip cookie recipes in my life, but "The Search..." is still by far, my favourite source for amazing mouth watering delectable delights that will satisfy even the connoisseurs of the chocolate chip cookie world!

Over the next 2 days I will print two of my of my favourite (slightly modified versions) recipes from the original book.
If you ever come across a copy of this cookbook - BUY IT for yourself or as a gift for that chocolate lover or baker in your life.
I highly recommend the following recipes:
page 6 "The Orchard's Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies" (will print on April 14)
page 62 "Crisp Rice Chocolate Chip Cookies"
page 67 "California Chocolate Chip Cookies" (my version tomorrow!)
page 71 "Apple Orchard Chocolate Chippers"
page 81 "Milk Chocolate Chip Delights" (try with instant lemon or chocolate pudding mix rather than the vanilla!)
page 101 "Oatmeal and Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies"
page 102 "Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies"
page 118 "Ice Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies"
page 119 "Cheesy Double Chocolate Chip Cookies" (try with any fruit flavoured cream cheese!)
page 128 "Creamy Delightful Chip" (Instead of Irish Mist try other liquors!)
If those don't get your mouth watering and taste buds popping then you really aren't a true chocolate chip cookie lover! But that's okay - it leaves more for the rest of us!!

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