If you’re an 80s kid like me, you probably grew up thinking that salad was iceberg lettuce with thousand island dressing, orange juice was made from frozen concentrate, and Taco Bell was muy auténtico. Yeah. Food back then was not good. Not the way it is now. Living in Los Angeles, every now and then I taste something so mind-blowing that it completely transforms my idea of what that food should be. This is what happened when I came across Stella Barra, where chef Jeff Mahin has created a worthy rendition of the classic chocolate chip cookie. This is not your dry, crunchy, barely-there-chocolate, Chips Ahoy version. This is the holy grail of chocolate chip cookies. Why should you believe me? Because I have been on a years-long quest for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie and my research has led me to conclude that it should have these 4 qualities:

1. High chocolate to dough ratio.

2. Quality chocolate: Preferably semi-sweet or dark chocolate.

3. Chocolate chunks: Not chips. This contributes to the high chocolate ratio. See point #1.

4. Crispy exterior and chewy interior.

Stella Barra’s chocolate chip cookie checks off all these requirements. This is a cookie of contradictions: hardy and moist, delicate and robust, savory and sweet. It’s perfection. And it’s also packed with butter. Inspired by this cookie, I decided to adapt it into a dairy-free and lactard-friendly recipe using a butter alternative. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Makes 18 large cookies

½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup of Earth Balance Buttery Spread, cold
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (plus optional sprinkling on top)
1 10-ounce bag of semisweet or dark chocolate chunks

Wet ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugars and butter alternative until it has a frosting consistency. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

Dry ingredients: Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix. Fold in the chocolate chunks.

At this point the batter will probably be gooey because the fake butter melts much easier than regular butter. Pop the batter in the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm it up. Before you take it out, you can prep a few baking sheets with parchment paper, and preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place 6 balls of dough on each baking sheet, spaced 3 inches apart.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

For more from Cindy, check out her blog chronicling her home improvements: http://www.homeandgardenista.com


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