A curious red fox eyes a plate of Chef Andrew Maxwell’s fresh chocolate chip cookies, which Michelle Theall calls the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Photo by Eric Fisher.
My family—weary from travel, hungry, and anxious to go see bears—steps inside the Dolly Hut to unpack our bags at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. What’s this? A platter of warm-from-the oven chocolate chip cookies waits for us on the counter of the kitchenette. The cabin itself smells of vanilla and cocoa. As a chocolate chip cookie connoisseur, I hesitate—hopeful, but recalling so many teasing aromas of cookies past, in bakeries from the Arctic to New Zealand, small and large, renowned or recommended with five stars on Yelp, that never matched the actual end product. How hard could it be to screw up a chocolate chip cookie? Yet, my own never turn out great. Flavor, texture, and the slightly soft melted quality all make a difference. Chef Andrew Maxwell at Silver Salmon, though, seems to have it mastered. At the first bite of one of his, I believe I have finally met the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I scarf down three of them, and the rest disappear. I find more after lunch on a plate at the lodge. Finally, I corner Andrew…I’d like, no, need is a better word, the recipe for those cookies!
Andrew Maxwell, 35, has worked as a pastry chef at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge for five seasons. The lodge, a haven for bear viewing tours and sport fishing, sits on the west coast of Cook Inlet in Lake Clark National Park. Andrew says the remote location doesn’t factor into any problems with getting the ingredients he needs. “As long as planes are flying, we can get our supplies,” he says, though he admits that the bears can be a problem. Most of the time, however, they’re after the salmon more than the cookies.
Andrew tells me that this particular recipe was passed down to him from his grandmother, but he readily gives it up to me, promising he hasn’t withheld any secrets. “The key to the perfect chocolate chip cookie is not to over or under mix the flour into the dough, and also not to over-bake them. Also, extra chocolate chips and a topping of Alaska sea salt.”
Even with Andrew’s recipe, my attempt to duplicate his perfect cookie fails. But I promise to keep trying. It’s just a sacrifice I’ll have to make.
Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies
½ pound soft butter
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup sugar
2 ½ cups flour
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 cups chocolate chips
Black sea salt for topping (from Alaska Salt Co.)
Cream butter and sugars in a bowl. Add eggs and mix. Add flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix until just blended. Add chocolate chips and incorporate. Scoop batter onto cookie sheet and sprinkle with black sea salt. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Serve warm.