Friday, October 26, 2007

Dad's Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've enjoyed taking food to mom and dad's house since we moved to El Dorado County in late 1993. They often served as my official tasters for a sauce or salad recipe that I was testing. My motivation was often my love for cooking and my desire to please others with food.

Although mom served as the principle cook in the family, dad ruled three departments in the kitchen -- Saturday hot cake breakfast (hot cake recipe), the Weber grill and chocolate chip cookies.

Dad enjoyed baking chocolate chip cookies -- a "duty" that he acquired in the 1990s -- because they respond well to engineering precision. As a life-long civil engineer, dad perfected all he touched.

“His methodicalness really came out when he made the cookies himself,” said my sister Anne. Elizabeth agreed: "He baked those cookies like an engineer!"

To dad there was no difference between the design of an earthen dam and baking chocolate chip cookies for the grandchildren. I think he enjoyed the process of baking as much as he loved watching the grandchildren devour them.

Cookies might not need the precise detail as an earthen dam (dad designed the Brite Lake dam for the Tehachapi Cummings Water District), but I can attest to one fact -- each time I dipped my hand into the cookie jar, I was rewarded with the perfect cookie.

I think dad's cookie baking skill improved dramatically when I shared a Sunset magazine article ("Seeking the perfect chocolate chip cookie," December 1995, Northern California edition, pages 103-4) that demystified the mystery of soft and chewy vs. hard and crunchy cookies.

The article help dad understand how subtle changes in ingredient quantities altered the final product. Seeking to troubleshoot cookies that baked into crispy disks (from too much spread), dad studied the article and improved his recipe and technique.

I could see the culinary light go off once he understood the relationship between the fat, eggs and moisture in the recipe.

He bound the moisture (from the eggs, brown sugar and any added water) into the shortening through the whipping action of the beaters. The flour helped slow the spread of the cookie to yield a slightly higher, softer center.

Dad approached the Sunset article with the same attention to detail that he used to design the Brite Lake dam. With any engineering project -- earthen dam or chocolate chip cookies -- he knew that there were certain formula-driven principles at work.

Where am I going with this? I can't say with the same preciseness that dad baked his cookies. I wrote this article on a packed bus, fighting tears and trying to hide.

I miss his cookies. Although I can bake a killer chocolate chip cookie, there was something about dipping my hand into dad's cookie jar.

Maybe it's the wisdom that came with the cookie. -- like the time I told dad pressures at work were driving me to resign (he said hang in there and work it through). Or maybe it was the after-work Bible discussions we'd have on occasion.

All I can say is "I miss you, dad."


I've transcribed dad’s recipe as he wrote it. It still hangs on the refrigerator on a magnetized clip. There's a lot of unwritten technique in this recipe. This recipe produces a softer cookie with a slight cakelike texture.

2-1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

1 cup Crisco-brand shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs or 1/2 cup Egg Starts

Cream Crisco, sugars and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons water as necessary. Stir in 1-1/2 to 2 cups chocolate chips. Bake in 375-degree oven for 8 to 9 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Put on rack to cool further. Makes 5 dozen cookies.


  1. I stumbled upon this blog while randomly googling "Bennett Karoly." I'm Joshua Karoly, son of Bill Karoly son of Bennett Traber Karoly. (That introduction sounds like it came out of a Karoly version of Lord of the Rings.) If it's any consolation, our prayers were with your mother and your families as we heard about your father's condition from my grandfather and they will continue to be. I never really got to know my great uncle but did admire what I knew from my few meetings and from what I learned about him from my dad and grandfather.

    I'm excited to try out these cookies with my wife.


  2. Thanks, Josh ... it's been a few years. It's funny how we google our names! I found your dad's blog about his grandfather (and mine) several months ago while googling "Bennett Karoly" (

    Say hi to your dad ... Steve

  3. Hello, I'm Josh's wife, Adele. Just wanted you to know that we tried out the cookie recipe and LOVED it. Yum!