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Chipping In With an Old Favorite

December 26, 1996|FAYE LEVY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Levy is the author of "Sensational Chocolate" (HP Books, 1992)

I have good reason to appreciate chocolate chips. When I lived in Jerusalem 25 years ago, I couldn't find them anywhere. I wanted to bake some old-fashioned American cookies for the holidays, so I asked the manager of my supermarket if he would import chocolate chips. He looked astonished.

"We're in a wartime economy," he said, "and you want such a frivolous ingredient? Just cut a chocolate bar in pieces like everybody else."

Cutting the thick chocolate bars demanded time and effort and the pieces never came out even. So I have to admit that I didn't bake chocolate chip cookies as often as I would have liked.

When I returned to the United States, I was glad to see that chocolate chips were as popular as ever. In fact, the choice of chocolate chips has continued to grow and is now at an all-time high. In addition to the common semisweet chips, we have white, milk, bittersweet and "double chocolate" chips. When we want a bigger bite of chocolate in our cookies, we can buy jumbo chocolate chips, or we can get miniature chips for a tiny chocolate punch. For nutrition-conscious baking, we can purchase reduced-fat chocolate chips. For those of us who can't decide whether to make raisin cookies or chocolate chip cookies, there are chocolate-coated raisins that join the tastes of both.

Although chocolate chip cookies are traditionally made with walnuts, you can include any kind of nuts you like. You might want to use pistachios or macadamia nuts for an exotic touch. To skip the step of chopping nuts, purchase diced pecans or walnuts.

Chocolate chip cookies are among the easiest of cookies to prepare. Aside from their delicious taste, this may be the main reason for their frequent appearance in cookie jars from Maine to California. The dough is mixed quickly in one bowl, with or without a mixer. The cookies are shaped simply by putting spoonfuls of dough onto a baking sheet. They bake in minutes and can be prepared at your convenience, as the refrigerated batter keeps for a week. And, of course, there's a wonderful aroma in your kitchen when you bake them.

There's only one aspect of preparing chocolate chip cookies that demands care--their baking. To ensure that the cookies are moist and slightly chewy inside but not too sticky, bake them until they brown only lightly. They should be firm enough to be removed from the baking sheet but still soft in the center. When hot, they might appear too soft, but it is surprising how much they harden as they cool. If the texture of a cookie seems just right when it is hot, it will be too hard, dry and brittle when cool.

In recent years these classic American cookies have become international favorites. You can even find them at fancy Parisian patisseries alongside the croissants and the madeleines.

And by the way, that market in Jerusalem now carries chocolate chips. I hope this is a sign of more peaceful times.

TRIPLE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, slightly softened

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup diced or coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Full of morsels of white, milk and semisweet chocolate, these nutty cookies sweetened with brown sugar are crisp on the edges and moist inside.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Cream butter in medium bowl. Add sugars and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add egg and beat until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until blended. Stir in nuts and all chocolate chips.

Push batter from teaspoon with second teaspoon onto 2 lightly buttered baking sheets, using about 1 tablespoon batter for each cookie and spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350 degrees on center rack until browned around edges and nearly set but still soft to the touch in center, about 10 minutes. Using metal spatula, carefully transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Cool baking sheets. Clean off any crumbs and butter sheets again. Bake remaining cookies. (Cookies can be kept 1 week in airtight container at room temperature.)

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Each cookie contains about:

90 calories; 40 mg sodium; 11 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.03 gram fiber.

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