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Lunch Box Crunch

Back to school means bake more cookies.

August 30, 2000|MARCY GOLDMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"I'm for a bulging cookie jar."

--James Beard

*

Cookies: Images of idle school lunch moments, legs in knee-socks swinging under the table, moving in tandem with the munching above. Cookies hastily crammed in pockets while racing out to the backyard to catch every last minute of afternoon play.

Small and sweet--but not decadently so--with just the right amount of crunch and chew, cookies satisfy all sorts of appetites, real or imagined. A slice of cake can give the guilts but "just one more cookie" is humble stuff, as sweet addictions go.

At this time of year, with school lunch boxes needing to be filled, cookies move to center stage. Summer's cobblers and shortcakes, move over--cookie time is here.

America's cookie repertoire has been a melting pot of tastes and styles from the time of the colonists. Spice cookies, soft raisin cookies, shortbread, brown sugar-laced oatmeal, molasses and ginger drop cookies were all familiar from the beginning.

Yesteryear's cookbooks yield countless recipes for traditional delights like snickerdoodles, raisin-filled hermits, sand tarts and jumbles, as well as all sorts of delectable butter cookies such as Southern tea cakes.

That's to say nothing of the myriad sweet delicacies inspired by Pennsylvania Dutch groups such as the Mennonites, Amish and Moravians.

But around the middle of the 20th century, this vast assortment of cookie-dom was all but supplanted by one infinitely important cookie that broke the mold--the tollhouse.

The original chocolate chip cookie had its debut in the 1930s in the cozy but inspired kitchen of Ruth Wakefield, the new owner of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Mass. One day, presumably embroiled in her favorite butter cookie recipe, Wakefield threw some chocolate pieces into her Butter Do-Drop batter. The tollhouse success story awakened an insatiable chocolate chip cookie appetite that has never abated.

Despite more than 50 years of bakery trends--cinnamon buns/muffins/croissants/bagels/muffin tops and others--cookies have retained their throne.

Make all the tiramisu you want--kids (as well as other family members and lucky guests) will still root through your cookie jar, looking for a good munch.

Extra Crisp and Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 40 minutes plus 20 minutes chilling

To make these work, follow the directions closely. They are somewhat fragile, but perfect for those allergic to wheat flour.

1/3 cup butter

1 1/2 cups oatmeal

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

* Melt butter and set aside to cool.

* Place oatmeal in medium bowl. Stir in granulated and brown sugars and salt, and blend to break up any lumps. In separate bowl, whisk together melted butter, vanilla and egg. Stir into oatmeal mixture. Chill dough 20 minutes.

* Roll dough into 1-inch balls and set on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with moist fingers.

* Bake at 350 degrees until edges are nicely browned and tops of cookies are medium golden, 9 to 11 minutes. Cool well on baking sheet, about 10 minutes, before attempting to remove with metal spatula or icing knife. Cookies can also be brought to room temperature and flattened more to make them larger, more crisp and lacy-like. Cover loosely and keep refrigerated.

18 cookies. Each cookie: 93 calories; 55 mg sodium; 21 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.07 gram fiber.

Commercial-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies

Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

These are just great cookies--oversized, thick but crisp outer edges with densely chewy centers. Best of all, they feature wonderful crackly tops and look like they were plucked out of a general store cookie jar. You can also make them smaller, but these large versions--about 3 inches in diameter--are dynamite. For a lighter, even more commercial-style texture, substitute 1/4 cup golden Crisco to replace 1/4 cup of the butter.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 egg

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 to 3 cups chocolate chips

* Cream butter with brown and granulated sugars until well blended. Stir in vanilla and egg. Fold in flour, baking soda, salt and last, chocolate chips.

* Form dough into rounds slightly larger than golf balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

* Bake at 350 degrees until just light brown around edges, 14 to 16 minutes (overbaking will make cookies hard). Cool on racks; cookies will crisp as they cool.

30 cookies. Each cookie: 218 calories; 88 mg sodium; 24 mg cholesterol; 10 grams fat; 21 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.03 gram fiber.

Triple-Threat Chocolate Cookies

Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

A crisp and chewy chocolate batter, bolstered with chunks of white chocolate and semisweet chocolate chunks or chips.

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter

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