Perfecting the Chocolate Chip Cookie


I’m a foodie–with an unfortunate addiction to sweets. That’s why I clicked with Leah Singer, the second writer I’m introducing, who’s part of a special networking project (a few weeks ago, you met V.V. Denman).

Leah blogs at “Leah’s Thoughts,” and like me, she loves food, family and words. I’d like you to join me in welcoming Leah as a guest blogger today, where she draws a profound conclusion for writers, from chocolate chip cookies:

Perfecting the Chocolate Chip Cookie

By Guest Blogger Leah Singer

I’ve spent many years of my life obsessed with making (what I believe) is the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I had a picture in my mind of what this perfect cookie looked like – soft, chewy, puffy with texture (not flat!), sweet, but a little savory too. And I’d stop at nothing to get it that way.

I tried everything – changing the oven temperature; more baking powder; less baking soda; hundreds of recipes; Crisco instead of butter; semi-sweet chips; milk chocolate chips; refrigerating the dough; using vanilla pudding; you name it, I tried it. Yet still, nothing I baked came close to what I considered the perfect cookie.

Countless times I’d try a new recipe, pull the tray out of the oven, and … flat cookies – my nemesis. “But they taste great,” my husband would reassure me. But his words meant nothing to me. The cookies were a failure, and I could not fathom eating them.

Interestingly, I realized through this journey that the process of “perfecting” the perfect cookie was how I used to approach writing.

I was one of those people that drafted something and thought, This is it! Perfection. I seemed to be under the illusion that I could write something and it would be immediately perfect. And we writers know that is just simply not true. Rarely do we ever write something that’s perfect. There’s always editing or word-smithing that can be done.

I’ve considered myself a writer all my life. But one reason I never started a blog until somewhat recently was the fear that my posts wouldn’t be perfect. Once I realized and accepted that nothing is perfect – and that the imperfections are what makes thing special – my creative juices started flowing.

During my “day job,” I’m a speechwriter at a large university. I have learned so much about the process of writing in the short time I’ve had this job. I NEVER write a speech and it’s ready to go after the first draft. That’s just the beginning of the speech. I sometimes go through 5 – 10 versions of “perfecting” the remarks. And that’s okay. Because I know what I’ll finish with will be better than what I started with. And what I learn while “perfecting” the speech is exactly what makes the writing good.

For writers (and bakers), it’s not perfection one should strive for; it’s the process of perfecting. That’s where the magic happens, the ingredients come together, and the learning takes place. The perfecting is the beauty of the writing process.

With respect to the chocolate chip cookies, I’ve since eased up on myself and realized there is not the perfect cookie. (Or at least I’m not meant to bake it.) Each cookie I made had its strength and weakness; its perfections and imperfections. I accepted that fact and I’ve learned so much about baking along the way. And, oh yeah, I now bake cookie bars instead.

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By day, Leah Singer is a freelance writer, as well as a speechwriter and communicationsprofessional for the largest university in San Diego, Calif. By night, Leah blogs about family, motherhood, traditions, cooking, her crazy animal family, and other such topics at Leah’s Thoughts. Blogging is a way for Leah to journal, share ideas, essays, musings, frustrations, recipes, funny stories, and – most importantly – exercise her lifelong passion for writing. Read more about Leah at: www.leahsthoughts.com.

19 thoughts on “Perfecting the Chocolate Chip Cookie

  1. ha, ha – I just did several rounds of cookies (same dough but adjusted ingredients, baking time, chilling time, etc) – this is what I found:
    1. Add 1 tbl of cornstarch to keep them soft (this is what the instant pudding does but I don’t like the taste of the chemicals that are in there).
    2. The extra 1/4 cup of flour definitely combats flatness.
    3. Cook them at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes to reduce spreading (dough must be chilled first).

    I did get a cookie that was much closer to my ideal version! hope this helps.
    BTW – I won’t eat the rejects. I give them away.

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  2. The funny thing is that I am known for my delicious FLAT chocolate chip cookies. They’ve been dubbed “ugly” cookies…but they are really quite delicious!…almost toffee like…Great post!

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  3. Leah, thanks for sharing this idea. I’m going to remember that the way to perfection is more important than the ideal itself. Strange that it hasn’t occurred to me before. 🙂

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  4. I love cookies! and I love writing! I have learned to hate perfection. Cookie batches are different from one to the next, and writing is an evolving production too. I don’t think it is an accident that my most favorite part of making cookies is trying the dough…and I have come to love the gooey part of writing creation too. Good post! MMF

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  5. What a wonderful post! Aren’t we all on the quest to strive for the perfect this and the perfect that? Sometimes I feel it’s tiring, and other times I find it energizing; the chance to reinvent, redo or remake is just too tempting! And now I have to eat something. Your cookie photo has left me drooling! 🙂

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  6. Even though I’ve just had some red velvet cupcakes, but because I’m a sugar-aholic, I’m REALLY craving some chocolate chip cookies!!

    Not only did I love your comparison of baking to writing, but I share your quest to find the “perfect recipe”. UGH!! I’ve had the flat cookies too many times, and so I just had to giggle-snort when I saw that you, too, had gone to cookie bars. They are soooo ooey gooey yummy & are NEVER flat 🙂 (p.s. I just use the recipe off the Tollhouse choco chip bag–easy peasy.)

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  7. Being a foodie myself, and a bit of a perfectionist, I totally can relate. I can be satisfied with a dish or baked good for my own consumption if it’s not perfect, but you can forget cooking for others unless it is a tried and true recipe that I KNOW comes out fantastic every time. Same was true with my writing. I wrote, but for myself, always afraid it wasn’t perfect enough for others to read.

    That’s why I love this paragraph:

    “For writers (and bakers), it’s not perfection one should strive for; it’s the process of perfecting. That’s where the magic happens, the ingredients come together, and the learning takes place. The perfecting is the beauty of the writing process.”

    The process of perfecting a meal is enjoyable. I don’t mind trying a dish again and again until it’s right. I like the idea of approaching my writing the same way.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment and compliment on that paragraph. It really is a learning process – baking and writing. One in which I’ll keep practicing!

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  8. What a great metaphor! And you have no idea how close this hits home — I too have the EXACT requirements for the perfect choc chip cookie and have tried everything, too. So, I MUST have your ideas. And maybe your recipe for bars, too. (is it choc chip?) I have found that crisco/butter combo plus a little extra flour and keeping dough in the fridge seems to work, but as you say, not consistently. Plus, it’s a little like: take four steps to the left, now turn around, put your hand on your head, do the hokey pokey, now shake your right arm, okay close your eyes and touch your tongue to your nose…. good grief, the machinations I go through! Great post, as always, Leah! 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much, Julia! Yes, the butter/crisco combo does work well because it doesn’t melt as fast as just butter. I’ll try adding more flour next time too. The bars I make are just the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, but spread into a pan rather than scooped as cookies. They always turn out great and leave me less frustrated.

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  9. Okay, now I want cookies for breakfast!
    I love your comparison, Leah, between baking perfection and writing perfection. Your experience as a speech writer has taught you a priceless lesson. Many folks never learn to trust the process that rewrites will create a better, more polished piece in the end.
    You me and melissa have all written blogs about the same issue this week. Funny 🙂

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  10. Oh, ladies… You had me at “chocolate chip cookie.” Sweets are also my nemesis, Leah & Shari. And I, too, love baking and have tweaked chocolate chip recipes along the way. I’m very happy with the dry packet of vanilla pudding added to the traditional Tollhouse recipe, and reducing bake time to 7-8 minutes :-). I’ve even made a cherry choc-chip walnut version. I don’t care if they come out slightly flat. If they’re soft and chewy, I’m happy! Love the analogy of baking and writing. Indeed, it is an issue of balancing and tweaking. Thanks for the sweet thoughts to start our Monday.

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  11. I am SO hungry for cookies now, but it’s just now time for breakfast.

    Excellent post. A perfect metaphor for the revision process. I often find myself seeking perfection, then frustrated when it can’t be attained. Thank you for this reminder to give myself a break. (and a snack)

    I’m not much of a baker, but a friend swears self-rising flour is the secret to cookies. Who knows?

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