20 February 2010

Back to Basics....

I love to experiment with new recipes and try new things with my baking.  Every time I taste some new delicacy or lay eyes on some stunning pastry creation, I see it as a challenge... I putter and play in my kitchen, making a huge mess and plenty of mistakes until I achieve some sort of success.  Often times though, it's nice to get back to basics and make something that puts a smile on everyone's faces without breaking a sweat.  Everyone needs a recipe like this, even if they don't cook very often.  I'd bet that for most people (in North America at least), that back-to-basics recipe is Chocolate Chip Cookies.

When I make them, I'll often make a double batch, baking only 6 or 12 of them at the time.  The rest of the dough, I scoop out into individual balls onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze for an hour or so, before transferring them to a ziploc bag, to store in the freezer.  If the need or craving strikes, I can have hot-from-the-oven comfort food in the 15 minutes they take to bake.  This trick has come in handy for lots of little "emergencies" over the years... like the time one of our nieces walked through the door asking "Auntie, do you have any treats you baked?" before she even had her coat off.  Or when I got a panicked call from a friend, needing help getting her home ready for a last-minute showing, I grabbed the bag of frozen cookie dough and ran out the door to help - remembering a realtor's tip I read, saying that homey smells like vanilla and fresh-baked cookies help sell homes.  That realtor must be right, because the couple who viewed the house that day moved into it several weeks later.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from Cook's Illustrated's The New Best Recipe)
makes 36-42 cookies

2 1/8 Cups (300 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Cup (200 g) brown sugar
1/2 Cup (100 g) granulated sugar
3/4 Cup  (180 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 Cups (200 g) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300F, adjust rack to middle of oven and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking soda and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer (or if mixing by hand, use a large mixing bowl), blend together melted butter, granulated and brown sugars.  Mix in egg & additional yolk and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and mix until well combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Using #70 disher, or two table spoons, drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 1/2 - 2 inches apart.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the cookies edges are firm and golden brown, while the centres are still soft and puffy.  Allow to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.  Voilà!

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