Wednesday, January 21, 2009
In terms of foodstuffs, I mean. And in that category, apple pie is considered the ultra-American dessert. But really, I think chocolate chip cookies deserve a mention on the all-American list, don't you? I mean, they were developed in the United States - in Massachusetts, the home of the Revolution, no less - so they must be at least as American as apple pie. And yet, they are never uttered in the same breath as As-American-as-apple-pie, are they? Let's do a little something to change that, shall we? In addition to returning to a sense of financial restraint and a responsibility to help those less fortunate than us, as our new president has requested, let's all take up chocolate chip cookie baking and see if we can't add it to our list of patriotic sweets. I have to admit, I'm not one-hundred percent sure why a dessert should be considered patriotic, but on this, the day after the Inauguration, I'd like you to entertain this folly if you don't mind. After all, you will certainly benefit from baking and eating chocolate chip cookies with your friends and family. Just think of all the joy freshly baked chocolate chip cookies will bring, even if you aren't quite clear how we arrived at this all-American edibles discussion.
The inspiration for this chocolate chip cookie recipe came from one of my family members. My brother was making his favorite chocolate cookies - not chocolate chip, mind you - over the weekend. He's all about mixing it up, even if they are his favorites, so this time he made them with orange zest instead of mint - and he asked me if he could use dark brown sugar in place of light brown sugar. Sure, I replied, but dark brown sugar will lend a deeper, more molasses-y flavor to the cookies.
And then I started thinking about my favorite, should-be-all-American chocolate chip cookie recipe and how it might benefit from a little molasses-y flavor. And how turbinado sugar (sold as Sugar in the Raw, among other brands) might also jazz them up a bit. And you know what? The two of them did. This is my new perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, and replaces the one I've been using for the last ten years.
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies:
1/4 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (a.k.a. Sugar in the Raw)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (such as Whole Foods 365 brand)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (for crispy cookies, preheat to 375 degrees). Grease two cookie sheets (hint: the wrapper for the softened butter will usually provide you enough residual butter to grease the cookie sheets.).
In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter and sugars together until well-combined - also known as creaming the butter and sugar. You may read this somewhere else down the line and I want you to be informed so it doesn't take you by surprise.
Add the egg and vanilla, and mix well to combine.
Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together to be sure the baking soda and salt are evenly distributed throughout, and then add the flour mixture to the creamed butter-sugar mixture (and you weren't surprised because you know that it is called "creaming". See?). Stir until combined, then add the chocolate chips and mix those bad boys in.
Using two spoons or a small ice-cream scoop, scoop out the dough and place it on the greased cookie sheet so that each ball of dough is approximately two inches from any neighboring balls of dough. Bake on the middle rack for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown, turning the cookie sheets midway through the baking time. If you are unable to fit both cookie sheets on the middle rack, place the oven racks just above and just below the middle rack and, in addition to turning the sheets midway through baking, switch the top sheet to the bottom rack and vice versa.
Allow to cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack, and enjoy with a big glass of cold milk, or maybe a coffee or hot chocolate. You feel more all-American just reading about it, don't you?
Yield: 24 cookies. However, if you are a dough-eater such as myself, you may yield closer to 22 than 24. You know, it could have been 23 for me, but that little wee bit of dough just didn't seem like enough for a whole other cookie. But this is one of the joys of adulthood. You can eat the dough if you want and no one can reprimand you for it. So go ahead, feel the joy.
Dinner tonight: JR will be having beef stew, and I will be having whatever I can make quickly as I am going to a class tonight to learn how to effectively pitch magazines my stories. I sure do hope I can be trained. But for the sake of the cost of our meal tonight, let's assume I will also have beef stew as it needs only to be reheated, so that seems quick enough. Estimated cost for two: $4.48. The beef was $6.01 for 1 and 1/2 pounds. The wine was the $3.99 bottle of Portuguese wine that I bought the other morning at 10am. The broth was $2.19 for Whole Foods store brand beef broth. I used one onion, which we estimate is 50-cents on the high end (actually, in this case it would be 32.5-cents as it was a half pound at 65-cents per pound, but just to be fair in case you pay 99-cents per pound of onions). The carrots were 1 pound - in this case, 8 carrots - at $3.99 for 5 pounds, so 80-cents. I used 1 1/2 pounds of potatoes at 57.5-cents per pound, so that's around 86-cents. The celery was 4 stalks from a bunch containing 12 for $1.99, so that's 66-cents. The flour was about a half-cup, so at $3.99 for 19 cups, that's 11-cents. The mustard was 20-cents, the horseradish about the same, and the thyme was 10-cents or so. The marinade consisted of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, a clove of garlic, and a tablespoon of mustard, so all of those items together are roughly $2.34, with the soy costing 68-cents, the Worcestershire $1.36, the garlic 10-cents, and the mustard 20-cents. The stew yields 6 to 8 servings, so for $17.96, figuring on the low end of the serving spectrum, it's $2.99 per serving. And on the high end at 8 servings, which is what it's working out to at my house, it's $2.24 per serving.