Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Mrs. Fields'" Cookies

A delicious urban legend.
If there is a recipe in my collection more quintessentially ‘80s than this, I have yet to find it. Mrs. Fields’ cookie stores were founded by, yes, Mrs. Debbi Fields, in the late 1970s and soon turned into a phenomena, fueled by the popularity of the new mall culture. What’s really intriguing about this recipe, however, it that it was a popular pre-email chain-letter circulating in the mid-80s after the stores became successful. (And, one assumes, frustrated bakers nationwide were slapping their foreheads and moaning: “Why didn’t I think of that?”)

The typewritten, photocopied recipe looks like an “official memo” from one “Jo Spotts” (whom nobody actually knows). Jo reports that an anonymous “woman” who works for the American Bar Association (why is this important?) was gouged after she innocently called Mrs. Fields’ headquarters and asked for their cookie recipe. Told it would cost “two fifty,” she happily agreed, assuming she would be charged $2.50. When her Visa bill came due, however, she realized she’d been charged $250 – and promptly went into chocolate-chip induced revenge mode, passing out copies of the cookie recipe to anyone with a will to bake, and a taste for sticking it to the man. Or in this case, woman.

This is what 8 oz. of grated chocolate looks like. Also grated, but not shown: My NERVES.
Mrs. Fields’ has since publicly denied ever distributing any of their recipes, stating they are a “delicious trade secret.”

Be that as it may, let me add my own $2.50 to the intrigue. Whoever came up with this recipe – even if it's not a trade secret – could charge at least a fiver. In fact, with apologies to Debbi Fields, they are better than any cookie I’ve ever had at the mall. They are better than any cookie I've had in most other locations, too. This recipe may be the best thing to come out of the time capsule yet. These cookies are delicious.

Basically, it’s a chocolate-chip cookie recipe with two unique twists: the addition of 5 cups of pulverized oatmeal, and 8 oz. of grated Hershey’s milk chocolate. My Cuisinart took care of the oatmeal, but I was on my own for the grated chocolate. (If anyone has a secret for how to easily grate chocolate, please let me know. I am willing to pay up to $2.50.)

Now of course there are issues, and not just my disloyalty to the baking sisterhood. One is the industrial-sized amount of cookie dough this recipe makes. This past weekend, I had lots of reasons to make 112 cookies – an end-of-year party at my daughter’s school, Father’s Day, binge eating – but when I make this again – and rest assured, it will be in heavy rotation – I’ll halve the recipe.  With the original quantities, I thought I was going to lose my loyal KitchenAid mixer. It wheezed through the gargantuan amounts of butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal, chocolate and eggs, and I ultimately had to put it out of its misery and mix the ingredients by hand. (Haven’t done that since the ‘80s, either.) My biceps, already sore after grating 8 oz. of chocolate, quivered in silent protest.

The KitchenAid takes a break.
I like to think the workout I got preparing this recipe offset the enormous amount of calories I consumed once the cookies were out of the oven, but that’s probably wishful thinking.  These are moist and chewy, with just the right ratio of chip and chopped nuts. The oatmeal adds a nice texture, but unless you know it’s in there, you’ll be hard-pressed to identify it (proving that Jessica Seinfeld’s not the only one with stealth-food tactics). The Hershey’s bar adds an extra boost of chocolate delight, and also flecks the dough, giving the cookies a freckled appearance.

Equally good hot out of the oven with a glass of cold milk, or eaten at room temperature with a cup of hot coffee. I’m not sure why you’re still reading this. Do not pass the mall, do not collect $250 – go to your kitchen and make these cookies.

“Mrs. Fields’” Cookies
Cream together: 2 c. butter (use real butter); 2 c. sugar; 2 c. brown sugar. Add 4 eggs; 2 tsp. vanilla. Mix together: 4 c. flour; 5 c. oatmeal (put small amounts into blender until it turns to powder. Measure first, then blend.); 1 tsp. salt; 2 tsp. baking powder; 2 tsp. baking soda.

Mix together all ingredients and add 24 oz. chocolate chips; one 8 oz. Hershey’s Bar, grated, and 3 c. chopped nuts (any kind). Bake on ungreased cookie sheets. Make golf-ball sized cookies, 2” apart, and bake at 375-degrees for six minutes. Don’t overbake. Makes 112 cookies.

The end results -- worth $2.50, at least.
·      Pack the brown sugar when measuring. My preference is dark brown for the richest flavor.
·      I used toasted, cooled and chopped walnuts.
·      My cookies were still raw after baking for the six minutes recommended by the recipe. I had better success with 10 minutes, but your oven may run hotter than mine. Start checking at 9 minutes.
·      Cool them on the baking sheet for approximately 2-3 minutes, then transfer to the cooling rack. I find this helps lock in the “chewy” texture.
·      These freeze really well. Scoop dough onto cookie sheets and stick in the freezer for a few hours. Once they’re hard, transfer the dough balls to a Ziploc freezer bag. Add a minute or two to your baking time.
Why Don’t You …
·      Substitute white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts?
·      Substitute dark chocolate chips and a grated Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Bar?
·      Add dried cranberries or cherries (which would be especially good with the dark chocolate option described above)?

1 comment:

  1. I am definitely going to try these out! As soon as the weather cools down and I turn on my oven again.