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Jan 16, 2009 03:46 AM

I'm obsessed: Chocolate Chunk Cookie Recipe?

Okay, so, I keep reading about these chocolate chunk cookies from Baby Boomers Cafe in Des Moines, IA that the Obamas love so much. Here's a photo:
I was hoping to bake some for my little inaugural celebration this weekend.

Apparently, they are baked from a recipe that was handed down from one of the owners' great-grandmother, according to this article
and it has a "secret ingredient"-- "something they use at the diner that they won't reveal."

In this article, he says that it's his grandmother's recipe with a few variations, like using chunks of chocolate instead of chips.

Of course, if it's a SECRET, I HAVE TO KNOW.

In this article, they say it's using "chunks" of chocolate, instead of "chips", but, in complete paranoia, I just believe there must be something more.

In this article they say "But there's something else, a taste different from any store-bought cookie. Almond paste? More subtle than that. Vanilla extract? Nope."

"They're not telling. Their only hint for the secret ingredient: It's used on one other menu item."

What do YOU think the secret could be?

Do you have a delicious, even "secret", recipe for chocolate chunk cookies to share?


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  1. Has anyone had one? I'd be curious how it compared to, say the NYT ccc recipe. Could this be a lot of talk from people who just don't have ccc other than storebought or Nestle Tollhouse? I have a handful of ccc recipes that I like, for different textures, etc. Could their "secret" ingredient be espresso powder? That's the only ingredient, other than playing with different types of flour, that is different among recipes I've collected. The rest is in technique and ratios. There are some recipes that use ground oatmeal (too sturdy) or sour cream (too soft) but I don't care for the textures of them as much.

    2 Replies
    1. re: chowser

      Excellent question--I've just posted on the Midwest board asking if anyone has had these cookies and what they think of them. I think espresso powder or just plain old strong brewed coffee is a great guess, something a Midwestern grandma would totally toss in her cookies (or chile or beef stew).

      I've been poking around at cookie recipes--I'll have a look at the NYT one. Heidi Swanson has one where she uses mesquite flour. Otherwise, I've not seen a lot of variety. They do describe the cookies as very soft, so, I suppose it could be a touch of sour cream. They say the ingredient is in only one other dish on the menu. Drats! If only I could see their menu!


      1. re: chowser

        New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe

        Heidi Swanson's mesquite cookie recipe, as adapted by David Lebovitz --contains mesquite flour and rolled oats.


      2. Hmm - let's sleuth! I have a recipe for 'secret ingredient' chocolate chip cookies and the secret is nestle's quik. They have choclate milk on the menu - so that could be it. But that doesn't fit with the article where they call the cookies 'old school.'

        The menu I found on line was for breakfast only. It's very simple, dinerish food and from what I've read the lunch menu is similar. So that rules out more unusual ingredients. Could they be using the leftover cooked oatmeal?

        One comment from a frequent patron said the cookies are 'cakey, moist, soft and doughy.' Soft and doughy could come from underbaking but cakey usually means extra eggs. If they were using up the morning bowl of uncooked scrambled eggs that wouldn't be much of a secret.

        But it must be more strange than that, because they say "you'd never imagine this would taste good in a cookie" which is a big clue. And this is used in only one other dish. Without the lunch menu that's hard to guess.

        One interesting thing - this link has a review saying the chunks are milk chocolate, which hasn't been mentioned anywhere else. The reviewer also calls the cookies bland with no distinct flavor!

        Could the ingredient be something Italian? It was Magnani's great grandmother's recipe. What might an Italian baker add to an American recipe?

        I realise I'm not adding anything but speculations here! Maybe we can get a Des Moines Hound to go and report back to us?

        5 Replies
        1. re: lupaglupa

          Okay, so I posted on the Midwest board to see if some Des Moines 'hounds would chime in Oooh, nestle's quick is interesting, although, these cookies are pretty blonde looking by the photo, so it might just be a dash of it or of cocoa powder.

          Hmmm...something Italian that you wouldn't think would taste good in a cookie...garlic? HAHAHAHA! Tomato sauce? Parmesan cheese? I suppose it could be olive oil.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            I was thinking perhaps.... a touch of red pepper. Not the crushed red pepper flakes, those would be noticable. But Cayenne?????

            1. re: Gio

              Cayenne is surprisingly good in some chocolate recipes!


            2. re: The Dairy Queen

              The thing that gets me is his saying you wouldn't think it would taste good in a cookie - which means an ingredient or flavor the average person (not us crazy hounds of course!) would not associate with cookies. Which rules out a lot of our other speculations like coffee or sour cream or oatmeal.

              What about ricotta cheese? I have a cookie recipe which uses that and they are moist and cakey. I think that would not seem to be an obvious cookie ingredient to most people, is something an Italian grandma might add and would fit with not adding a lot of flavor.

              What do you think?

              1. re: lupaglupa

                I don't know... a lot of "average" people that I've baked my Sour Cream Chocolate Cake for, think that is really weird! What about a little grating of nutmeg or something? While nutmeg in a cookie isn't strange, I've never had nutmeg in a chocolate chip cookie.

          2. Any way for you to get a copy of their menu? How about ordering a batch and having them shipped so you could sample these "gems"? Then, you could play detective. I, too, thought about coffee extract or expresso powder as the secret ingredient. I sometimes use premium candy bars, (semisweet and bittersweet), cut them into chunks, and sub them for chips in my ccc recipes (usually back of the bag). A friend likes a combination of milk, dark, and semisweet chunks in hers.

            3 Replies
            1. re: addicted2cake

              I think I'm going to do as you suggest and order a batch of them. Of course, that will be too late for my little inaugural party. Nevertheless, I figure I have four years to get these cookies right... :).


                1. re: lupaglupa

                  I don't like to count my cookies before they're baked. ;-)


            2. Still thinking about ricotta - here's a recipe that makes cocolate chip cookies with ricotta:


              11 Replies
              1. re: lupaglupa

                Oh, how did I miss your ricotta comment above?! I think that's a GREAT guess!


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  Should we try? The recipe I have for ricotta cookies (no chocolate chips) has much less ricotta than the linked recipe does. It has 1/2 # butter and 1/2 cup ricotta as the liquid base, plus 2 eggs. That would seems to be the sort of addition that would slightly affect the cookie recipe wihout being really noticeable. What if we played with the basic tollhouse to include some ricotta?

                  1. re: lupaglupa

                    Yes, I think we should definitely try! Except that we'll want to use "chunks" of chocolate, apparently milk chocolate, instead of chocolate chips. But I think ricotta fits. It's the type of thing that would make the cookie soft, keep it blonde in color, wouldn't add a noticeable taste, really (in keeping with the person who reported that it was bland), that a non-chowhound wouldn't think to put in a cookie recipe, and that an Italian granny would have on hand. It's the type of thing that might be in one other dish in their menu--if only we could find out if they also serve the Italian granny's lasagna, we'd be golden!

                    I'm convinced ricotta is the secret. :) Having never tried these famous cookies...


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I bet they do serve lasgana, although a google search did not turn up any reviews that mention it. It seems to fit in with their style though. It also works with the person guessing about almond paste. Ricotta leaves a slight grainy quality in baked goods, much as almond paste would. I don't suppose they'd confirm our guess if we asked them....

                      I'm gonna go to the store today and pick up some ricotta. It's very cold here and my son and I are a bit house bound. Making a batch of cookies would make his day. I'll let you know results.

                      However - I'm going to use semi sweet chunks. Milk Chocolate is a crime againt cacao.

                      1. re: lupaglupa

                        i found their menu online:


                        no lasagna. i have to wonder if maybe it's cottage cheese, which they serve as a side...? that would definitely help with the moist texture, and even contribute a slight tang to the flavor.

                        my other thought in terms of a subtle flavor that you can't quite place...malt powder. they have a malt on the menu...

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          Very interesting sleuthing! They did say that the secret ingredient was "more subtle" than vanilla extract or almond paste...I suppose malt could fall into that category.


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            Now you've got me thinking more about this. Malt powder (and espresso) have been "secret" ingredients to ccc but malt supposedly give it a more old fashioned taste. I found this recipe which might be a good starting point. It's a chocolate ccc recipe but you could easily substitute flour for the cocoa. It calls for white sugar. I make my own brown sugar so I'd use the white sugar but add a tablespoon or less of molasses to it. But the description of this is very similar to what's been said of the Obama cookie (They're really soft kind of poofy cookies, which I don't usually like (like cakey banana or pumpkin cookies) but they tasted so good! And the next day, the seemed to be even moister and more perfectly delicious. They're like a soft, moist, cakey brownie in cookie form).


                            WIth a little brown sugar, the cookie would be a little chewier, more like a ccc. They said this is a sweet cookie but if you use malt powder, instead of ovaltine, that would make it less sweet.

                            1. re: chowser

                              Would someone's great grandmother have had malt on hand? I hate the stuff but I know some people love it. Would a home cook have had it?

                              1. re: lupaglupa

                                Good question. Not from personal knowledge but from what I've been googling they did.


                          2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            Oh! I found that but didn't see how to get the lunch menu. Good job!

                            I don't think cottage cheese works - they said the item was used in one dish on the menu, as if it's an ingredient. I also can't think how cottage cheese would work - you'd really have to beat it to keep it from staying in clumps. Malt would work but I don't think of that as so uncommon.

                            But none of the dishes listed seem to have something that would work - unless it's breadcrumbs from the meat loaf!

                            It may be an item used in such small amounts that it's imperceptible - like grated cheese or gravy! Which wouldn't be the secret really since it would have so little impact on the final product.

                            Maybe they're putting in a spice mix that contains salt as the primary ingredient and the additional spices aren't much noticed. Maybe they use MSG!

                            Or - maybe all of their hints as to the 'secret' aren't on the level......

                            1. re: lupaglupa

                              Well, if there's an opportunity to overanalyze this and read too much into the "hints" I'm always the first one there! HA! I've had really good luck (based on a tip from JoanN) putting lowfat cottage cheese in the blender with a bit of nonfat dry milk until it's smooth and using it as a lower fat alternative to heavy whipping cream, so I could see how cottage cheese, COULD work.

                              It's hard to know when they say people are surprised that "that tastes good in a cookie" what kind of people they are interacting with and whether they'd think malt or espresso would be unusual.

                              I agree--gravy or grated cheese would definitely be a surprise!


                2. TDQ - I'm curious - did you get the cookies you ordered? I hadn't thought about this but then I saw malt powder at my co-op today. I almost bought it to try in the cookies but I really hate the taste!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: lupaglupa

                    No, I haven't yet ordered the cookies, and I haven't tried to bake them, either. Thanks for the reminder. I will try to order them in the next few days! Then, onto the task of trying to duplicate them. :)