A Night with the Girlies

Our girls wanted to make dinner together tonight and learn how to make what we would eat.  They have absorbed a lot by osmosis, but don't always want to help me in the kitchen anymore.  Of course when they were little and wanted to be in the kitchen with me all the time, it took more time to clean up than it did to make anything!

This is the dinner menu they chose (after I nixed the boxed orange mac and cheese first, of course.)

Roasted Garlic with Herbed Crostinis
Poached Salmon with Rosemary, Pancetta and Mushroom Sauce
Roasted Asparagus
Baked Potatoes
Chocolate Chip Cookies made with Browned Butter and Sea Salt

And a word about the cookies.  We used the latest Cook's Illustrated recipe which promised chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside.  And does it deliver.  I'm so thankful it wasn't me testing 400 plus versions before arriving at this one.  This is the chocolate chip cookie I've been trying to create for years. 

And we may have added a new twist.  After tasting our first cooked batch I realized that with three cooks, we forgot the salt.  I sprinkled some on the top of the rest just as they came out of the oven and was it good!

Having fun with my girls

© 2009 Anne Mahle

The Dessert Bible – Better Chocolate Chip Cookies

A read through Christopher Kimball’s, The Dessert Bible, makes me feel as if I should stand up and salute.
“Yes, sir.  I will follow the directions exactly.”

Which just makes me need to break a rule or, well, not follow a recipe.  There are two kinds of people in this world, at least through my steam-fogged cooking goggles.  One kind revels in the freedom of cooking, of adding a little bit here and changing a recipe there.  When something doesn’t turn out just right, it’s only an opportunity for creativity.  And sometimes it’s not pretty, but most of the time, their passion carries them through to something wonderful.  The other kind is thoroughly satisfied when following a recipe.  When they get the recipe exactly right, there is a sense of completion and all is well with the world.  They are passionate about ingredients too, but just the right ingredients, the ones listed exactly in the recipe, rather than what they discover at the farmers market.  Often, but not always, cooks are in the former group and bakers are in the later.

I would definitely fall into the first category and Christopher Kimball the second.  I bless all of those bakers and recipe followers who test and test to get it just the way they want it.  They test and fuss and perfect and this is exactly what baking is about.  It’s a science as well as an art where as cooking is an art that is affected by science.

For some, the variations with ingredients and the different sizes and looks and feels and tastes are a little unnerving – how do you know it will come out just right?  You don’t and that is the part I love the most.  For whenever I see a recipe, it begs to be adjusted somehow, even just a little, so that it’s mine, not someone else’s.

In any event, thank you Christopher Kimball.  You wrote a wonderful book, full of science and the passion for getting your recipes exactly right and in the process you explained how you got there.  I so enjoyed spending time with you in your book and I’m so grateful that you do what you do.  So that I can do what I do, which is love the messy, unpredictable and infinitely interesting ways ingredients play with each other.

I did manage to follow this recipe exactly.  Well almost exactly.  The only thing I changed was the chocolate, and I used one less bowl, and I didn’t shape the cookies by hand but just dropped them on the cookie sheet and I didn’t use parchment paper underneath the cookies.  But other than that….

Kimball recommends using really good chocolate and so would I if you didn’t have an entire case of Hershey’s Bars leftover from making s’mores on the beach all summer long.  I liked how the cookies sat up rather than spread all over the pan.  There is one thing Kimball and I agree on (well, I’m sure more than one) and that’s that chocolate chip cookies should be crispy on the edges and chewy on the inside.  Unlike the Tollhouse one’s which always end up like a flat, fully crispy waffer.


The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie
adapted from Christopher Kimball

1/4 cup Crisco
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened but still firm
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
10 oz. chocolate chunks (I used Hershey’s Bars and the girls had a blast banging them on the counter to break the bars before we opened them.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium bowl beat the Crisco and butter until fairly smooth.  It’s okay if there are some bigger chunks.  Add the sugars and stir until well blended.  Add the egg, egg white, and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix together until smooth.  Add the chocolate and mix until just combined.

For large cookies, place heaping tablespoons of dough on the paper with 1 1/2 inches between the outer edges of the balls of dough.  Bake for about 12 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned.  Rotate pan front to back halfway through baking; do not overcook.  Repeat until all the dough has been baked.

Makes 20 large cookies

The dough is just as good as the cookies

© 2008 Baggywrinkle Publishing