I named this recipe Michelle Obama's Chocolate Chip Cookies because it was originally attributed to Michelle Obama in the old Family Circle Presidential Cookies feature that put presidential candidate's wive's cookie recipes against each other. The winning recipe was supposed to predict the winner of the election. Alas, Family Circle is no more. The important thing to know is that the Michelle Obama recipe was called Mama Kaye's White and Dark Chocolate Cookies. It was basically the Toll House recipe made with half butter and half shortening.
1 Cup Butter or 1 Stick Crisco
The other thing to know is that if you Google Mama Kaye's White and Dark, the recipe that comes up the most has a major error. The recipe calls for 1 cup of butter and 1 stick of Crisco. A stick of Crisco is actually 1 cup, so that would be like making the regular Toll House recipe with double the fat. It should be 1 cup of butter OR 1 cup of shortening or it should be ½ cup butter and ½ stick of shortening. I'm sure Mama Kaye made it correctly using either one of those ways.
Mama Kaye's Recipe
So I've been calling this Michelle Obama's recipe, but really it's Mama Kaye's. It's also my great grandmother's recipe. She made these every Christmas and gave them out every year on Christmas Eve. We all have taste and smell memories, and the smell of these cookies, which were often packaged with pecan crescents, says Christmas to me. I'm starting to think I should just make Pecan Crescents, chop them up, and bake them into the chocolate chip cookie dough.
Trying To Get the Flavor Right
I make these cookies all the time trying to get the flavor just right and revive the holiday memory, so this recipe and the notes are based on trying to get the recipe to taste like it did back in the 70s.
Butter vs. Shortening
My grandmother was generally a margarine user, but when it came to these cookies she splurged and used real butter -- probably salted Land o' Lakes. I'm not sure if she incorporated Crisco, but her cookies always tasted fresh even after a few days, so it's likely. I
sometimes pretty much always make these with half butter and half shortening. The texture is just so, so much better with shortening. If you want an all-butter recipe, I recommend the Gold Medal Extraordinary, but so far nothing can replace the texture the shortening gives. Or at least for those of us who like cookies that are slightly crunchy.
If you're going to make these with shortening, you might as well go ahead and use bleached flour as well. Or at least that's my line of thinking. I typically used unbleached for just about everything, but these chocolate chip cookies come out a little thicker with bleached. I feel like my grandmother probably used bleached flour as well.
Pecans Tossed in Butter and Salt
Finally, Michelle Obama's Chocolate Chip Cookies (and my Grandma's Chocolate Chip Cookies) are best with nuts. If I'm making cookies without nuts I generally use one of my other favorite recipes, but these taste so good with Texas (or Georgia or North Carolina!) pecans. Walnuts are an option too, but I personally like the pecans because it reminds me of the cookies from childhood.
Michelle Obama's Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 1 cup pecan halves feel free to use more plus a teaspoon of butter
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (weigh for best results) (285 grams)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup salted butter, softened (114 grams)
- ½ cup Crisco (96 grams Crisco)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (150 grams)
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar (150 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs**
- 2 cups Nestle Tollhouse Morsels or whatever brand you like Semisweet Chocolate Chip
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lay pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 5 to 7 minutes or until they start to release their oil. Toss the pecans with butter and let them cool, then chop them up. Set aside.
- Adjust oven heat to 375 degrees F.
- In a medium size bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt.
- In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter, Crisco, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract. With mixer on low, add the eggs and beat on low just until mixed -- don't beat a lot of air into the batter.
- By hand, or if using a stand mixer use the paddle on low, stir in the flour mixture.
- When flour is blended, stir in the chips and nuts.
- Drop batter by tablespoons (I use a medium cookie scoop these days) onto ungreased or regular foil lined baking sheet and bake at 375 for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.