Yes­ter­dayLévana Kirschen­baum blogged about domes­tic dis­putes and gourmet food. She will be blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings author blog­ging series.

We all think of cook­ies as a short-lived and vague­ly illic­it plea­sure. Except I hon­est­ly don’t think, and you can ask any­one, there’s a cook­ie in the world more wor­shipped and more baked than my smart lit­tle choco­late chip cook­ie. I will attempt to give you an idea just how much mileage it gets.

The first time my daugh­ter Bel­la went away to sum­mer camp, I asked her what she would like me to bring her on vis­it­ing day, and she said with great glee: duh, choco­late chip cook­ies, mom, what else? For her and her bunk­mates. And, lots of them for the long hot sum­mer ahead.

I made a gigan­tic batch, filled an over­sized can­is­ter with (four hun­dred!) choco­late chip cook­ies and brought it along to camp. Bel­la called me the very next day, gush­ing: Wow, thank you so much, Mom­my. Every­one loved your cook­ies. Even the dri­ver had some. They are all gone. The whole entire camp agrees: Your cook­ies rule!” My daugh­ter couldn’t have known that, right there and then, she had become inad­ver­tent­ly respon­si­ble for some­thing very impor­tant in my sum­mer life: The abo­li­tion of the care pack­age cus­tom. They’ll all eat my cook­ies when they come home, period!

A cou­ple years after this deli­cious fias­co, at a par­tic­u­lar­ly painful peri­od marked by mul­ti­ple ter­ror attacks in Israel (the year fol­low­ing the fate­ful events of 9/11), my chil­dren and I and a few dear friends put our heads togeth­er to come up with the best pos­si­ble com­mu­ni­ty fund-rais­er project that would ben­e­fit the ter­ror vic­tims. The emerg­ing idea was to do some­thing fun. Some­thing that could be an anti­dote to the pre­vail­ing somber mood, and would bring peo­ple of all ages and all walks of life togeth­er. There was no hes­i­ta­tion: Make a mil­lion cook­ies and sell them online, was the unan­i­mous answer. As soon as the idea took shape, we all got crack­ing. I asked the admin­is­tra­tor of the JCC Man­hat­tan if she would let us bake in their kitchen, and I always remem­ber her answer with a chuck­le: The Mil­lion Cook­ie Project! I don’t know what I was smok­ing when I agreed to this, but I know it will be lots of fun.” It took us a cou­ple months to put every­thing in place: A giant mix­er, moun­tains of ingre­di­ents, the per­fect design for the cook­ie box­es, staffers in charge of sched­ul­ing the vol­un­teer bak­ing shifts, trucks for trans­port. The most won­der­ful- and won­der­ful­ly chaot­ic – sum­mer fol­lowed, with busses full of camp chil­dren pour­ing into the kitchen for the morn­ing shift, then oth­er kids com­ing for the after­noon shift, fol­lowed by the dizzy­ing­ly cos­mopoli­tan, mul­ti­lin­gual and mul­ti-denom­i­na­tion­al evening crowds: these includ­ed TV and news­pa­per crews, celebri­ties, aspir­ing actors, illus­tra­tors, sto­ry tellers. We’re bak­ing cook­ies to raise a lot of dough!” read one head­line. Your cook­ies are weapons of mass destruc­tion!” said one vol­un­teer. You mean weapons of mass con­struc­tion” replied anoth­er, point­ing to her ample hips. Lit­tle Tzip­po­rah, now a beau­ti­ful young lady, refused to go to day camp, pre­fer­ring to spend her morn­ings with me and oth­er big peo­ple, and sat pre­car­i­ous­ly perched on a high stool, strain­ing to apply the hot seal on the lit­tle blue cook­ie box­es before she dropped them into car­tons. We all baked, schmoozed, pack­aged, sealed, trans­port­ed, filled orders and loaded trucks till we dropped. And dropped we final­ly did, at the end of that sum­mer, with a lit­tle over a mil­lion choco­late chip cook­ies baked and sold, and all pro­ceeds sent to Israel. This is why I am for­ev­er known as the cook­ie lady.

Just this year, a health site (www​.Health​Cas​tle​.com) approached me to ask per­mis­sion to use my choco­late chip cook­ie recipe, which would face off against a cou­ple hun­dred oth­er recipes: The goal was to try all recipes in a test kitchen over the course of three months, and deter­mine which recipe tast­ed best with­in the most whole­some guide­lines: Mine won!

I do have one bit­ter­sweet mem­o­ry, just one, asso­ci­at­ed with my cook­ies: One very rainy day dur­ing sum­mer camp in the moun­tains, Esther, who ran the camp, asked if I would mind spend­ing the after­noon mak­ing cook­ies with the chil­dren. I arrived to find a hun­dred kids jump­ing up and down with excite­ment. Every­thing was laid out impec­ca­bly on a giant kitchen table, we just need­ed to make the bat­ter, then shape and bake the cook­ies. With all the lit­tle help­ing hands we had, we made hun­dreds of cook­ies in no time, and they kept com­ing out of the oven, fast and furi­ous. It’s all the kids could do to keep their hands from get­ting scorched while the cook­ies were cool­ing off. Wow, they would exclaim, delight­ed, each time a tray was pulled out of the oven: they rose like crazy! The chil­dren were right, I thought, puz­zled: they look like cook­ies on steroids! One of the chil­dren spit out the cook­ie she had just tast­ed …. and made a dis­gust­ed face, caus­ing total con­ster­na­tion. We soon found out why. While mak­ing the cook­ies, we ran short just half a cup sug­ar, and one of the girls ran to a kitchen cab­i­net and took out …. sea salt she found in a lit­tle sug­ar bowl, and mea­sured half a cup into the bat­ter. We had to throw all of them out; the chil­dren were incon­solable (and Esther’s moth­er, a Holo­caust sur­vivor, cried at the thought of throw­ing away food, no mat­ter how flawed….), until the next day when we start­ed a whole new giant batch. We’re bak­ing cook­ies again?” Esther asked with a wink. Sure! With or with­out salt?”

My Famous Choco­late Chip Cook­ie Recipe


2 eggs (if you can’t have eggs: 2 table­spoons flax meal mixed with 1/3 cup warm water)

½ cup sugar

1 cup packed brown sug­ar or Sucanat

¾ cup plus 2 table­spoons veg­etable oil

1 table­spoon vanil­la extract

2½ cups flour: all-pur­pose, whole wheat pas­try, spelt (gluten-free — any GF flour, such as brown rice flour)

¾ tea­spoon bak­ing powder

¾ tea­spoon bak­ing soda

½ tea­spoon salt

1½ cups semi­sweet choco­late chips, best quality

½ chopped nuts, optional


Pre­heat the oven to 375ºF. Cream the eggs and sug­ars in a food proces­sor or with an elec­tric mix­er until light and fluffy. Add the oil and vanil­la and mix in thor­ough­ly. Add the flour, bak­ing pow­der, bak­ing soda, and salt and pulse (or mix at low speed) until just com­bined. Fold in the chips and nuts (if using) by hand. Drop the cook­ies in heap­ing tea­spoon­fuls onto a cook­ie sheet lined with parch­ment paper, 1 inch apart.

Bake 10 min­utes. The cook­ies will firm up as they cool, so do not be tempt­ed to bake them longer, or they will hard­en. Bake only one tray at a time. Store at room tem­per­a­ture in tin box­es. Sep­a­rate each lay­er of cook­ies with foil or wax paper so they don’t stick togeth­er. Makes about 4 dozen.

Lévana Kirschen­baums most recent book,  The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen: Glo­ri­ous Meals Pure and Sim­plewill be avail­able lat­er this month.