Tracy Turner has a recipe for you. One that moves her to song.
“Isn’t it amazing…what baking can dooooooo oooh oooh oooh,” Tracy sings and laughs. “Cookies have been a big part of my life since forever. Even when I was a little kid, my mom would make these super hearty survival cookies.”
Cookies are still a big part of Tracy’s life and home. She got her first cookie jar as a wedding gift.
“My sister-in-law held up a negligee, and said ‘Hey, how about this?’ and my brother said ‘That’s my baby sister. We’re getting her a cookie jar,'” Tracy says.
Now over two-dozen line the walls of her kitchen. From a Campbell’s Soup can to an antique bear from the 1930s. She finds many at garage sales. But her two favorites — a ceramic jar made to look like an oatmeal container, and an Archway cookie truck — have a special connection to one of her favorite cookie monsters.
“Both of those, my husband saved up the box tops to get me the cookie jar,” Tracy says. “For the oatmeal, he was actually taking instant oatmeal to work and eating instant oatmeal for lunch without me knowing it.”
Today, Tracy is making a cookie recipe that’ll fill one…or two… or three of those jars. A classic chocolate chip cookie dough she divides in three parts, adding different ingredients to make each batch stand out. Chocolate chips go into batch one. Coconut, oats and Rice Krispies in another. And for batch three? She tells me I have to do a taste test to decide.
TRACY: Our job now is to decide, and so what we’re going to have to do is sprinkle out a few of these. And then you’re just gonna have to take a little bit of each thing with a little bit of caramel. This is all you now.
KCAW: I don’t know if I want the responsibility.
TRACY: You know, it’s like making a quilt. The worst that can happen is you end up with something great.
She watches and narrates as I try the different flavor combinations. Cherries and sea salt chips. Apricot jam bits. And finally pecan and salted caramel chips.
“Yeah that’s like a classic,” Tracy says. “Oh my gosh, your face. Yeah, that’s the one.”
Now that we’ve decided on our three cookies, Tracy starts to prep the dough, chopping pecans, beating butter and cracking eggs.
Her recipe book is full of notes, from her daughter’s handwriting highlighting favorite recipes, to her own suggestions.
“Matt and Grandma like the not-flattened better than flattened in this particular cookie,” Tracy reads one a note in the margins of a recipe. “Lots of notes in my cookbook. And lots of stains. Remember, it’s your cookbook. Do whatever you want.”
She measures all of her ingredients with the same glass measuring cup. She uses her hand to measure too, airing on the generous side when she puts in ingredients like pecans and chocolate chips. But one thing is certain.
“I do, always always always use a recipe for baking.”
She has tons of tips. A bit of vinegar gives the cookie some crispiness. A few tablespoons of corn syrup make them chewier. Baking is a science and the chemistry is important.
“I think baking is also an art, but I’m a big fan of combining the arts and sciences. I think they’re just all part of the same game,” Tracy says. “And again, it is a science, but I’m not that exact.”
After mixing the dough, dividing it into three parts and adding the ingredients that make each cookie stand out, she scoops them onto a sheet-pan with a cookie scoop so they’re all evenly sized and spaced.
“A cookie? About 50 calories,” Tracy says. “Most cookies run around 50 calories. What I would tell you is that there is very little in life that can give you that much pleasure for fifty calories.”
And there’s another role cookies have played in Tracy’s life. Conversation starter with her kids.
“I would make a whole bunch of doughs and stick them in the freezer. Then, every day when it was time for them to come off the bus. I would pull out a roll and slice off a few and bake them. That way they came home to warm cookies. They would sit and they would relax and they would really talk and open up about what was going on. Instead of ‘how was your day? Fine. Did you do your homework?’ No, it was the real deal, it was ‘who’s passing notes, who broke my heart, who’s cute. All of it. That was huge in the lives of our kids growing up.”
And when the cookies come out of the oven, they’ll cool and go in the jar for anyone passing to take one or two, or three.
“That’s how I love people. I make them food. And cookies are something that anybody can appreciate.”
Tracy’s Cookie Recipe, adapted from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons cider or white vinegar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups sea salt and caramel chips
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup oats
1 cup shredded coconut
2 cups Rice Krispies
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease two baking sheets.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, corn syrup and vinegar, then beat in the eggs. Beat in the vanilla, almond extract, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Slowly mix in the flour to combine.
Divide the dough into three parts.
In cookie dough #1, add chocolate chips.
In cookie dough # 2, add oats, Rice Krispies, shredded coconut and milk.
In cookie dough #3, add chopped pecans and salted caramel chips.
Drop the dough by the tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, until they’re just set. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.