May 19, 2014 at 1:00 am

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food: Softer, gentler Toll House cookies, and how are you tweaking famous recipes?

With a few tweaks, you end up with a softer, chewier version of Toll House Cookies. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)

The Wednesday before my husband’s birthday, I’d gone to an excellent Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) session that focused on how to be a better wife — and totally held up a mirror to some things I didn’t want to look at (but needed to). So I was all hopped up with my vision of how to treat my husband on his birthday: I’d get up early, clean the house to sparkling and fill it with the scent of fresh-baked cookies, all in time to get out of the house together and on time (the Holy Grail!) for church.

But letting him pick his own Meijer cookie pack seems like a nice second.

That’s what happened, as I was waylaid by a toddler-transferred virus. I had high hopes of still squeaking out a Let’s Talk Food, since I’d never ever missed a week since it began — but when the virus dragged into week two, I ended up having to let that dream slide too.

Had I been less wobbly, I would have shared about his very favorite cookies — a tweak on Toll House that ups the brown sugar, splits the butter with shortening and lowers the bake time for a softer, chewier version — even though I hadn’t made them, ’cause fortunately I had pictures from a previous batch. My very last resort was going to be a weak wave and a link to another option, Kate’s recent column on a different take on chocolate chip cookies, as a tease to what was coming.

Instead, I wobbled, coughed and accepted my limitations.

But I’m back, with the details on this tweak and a query on whether you’ve messed with Toll House or other famous recipes with happy results.

Not long after my husband and I were married, I dug the details out of his sister, Michelle, of how their family had been doing it for years:

First you need Nestle Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (that is the big difference). On the back of the bag there is a recipe we use, but we change a few parts of it. We use 1 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of white (rather than the original recipes 3/4 cup of each), we go 1/2 & 1/2 on the butter part of it (1 stick of butter or margarine and the other 1/2 butter-flavored Crisco, rather than 2 sticks of butter). We also melt the butter/Crisco mixture some to make it easier for stirring. Other than that we keep everything else the same. Oh but we don't bake it as long. We start with 8 minutes and pull them out once they look a little golden around the edges (but not brown, you want them a little under done).

By the way, when I ran this article by my husband, he insisted it should be less than 8 minutes, which reminded me of a time I took them out when HE said was perfect, where they were so undercooked they wouldn’t even hold together. I reminded him. His response? “Cookie dough is good...”

Anyway, if I remember right, their mom once told me she used to stretch the chocolate chips by using less than the whole bag, but don’t tell my husband; it could be like the time he was aghast to realize I sometimes made his lunch sandwiches without cheese (though he clearly hadn’t noticed).

P.S. He loves Meijer’s chocolate chip cookies — and more fortunately, me (it would take waaaaaay too much of your time and my pride to tell you how much he put up with that weekend that was INTENDED to be A Triumph of Wifedom) — so he had no complaints.

Meanwhile, I’m setting my sights on Father’s Day to make it up to him — barring another toddler virus outbreak.

Do you have any tweaks on famous recipes? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below the recipe. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re easy to sign up for, and free. Over the next few days, Detroit News Food Editor Maureen Tisdale will respond to comments or questions. You also can follow her on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!

My husband's favorite tweak on Toll House Cookies

2 Ľ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 stick margarine, 1 stick butter-flavored Crisco, soft to slightly melty (try in the microwave a few seconds)

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 cups (a 12-ounce package) Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 8 minutes max (less if you really want to push it) and check; pull them out once they look a little golden around the edges (but not brown, you want them a little underdone).

Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.