Tuesday, 6 March 2012
Chocolate Chip Cookies
This is dangerous territory into which to venture because everyone has their own favourite version of chocolate chip cookies. Some like them with dark chocolate in a pale vanilla cookie base, others like them all dark - with dark chocolate chunks in an intensely cocoa-dark cookie. Others prefer their chocolate chunks to be milk or white. Some like the chocolate pieces to be small chips, others like them as hulking, great chunks. They can be flat spreading cookies with chewy centres or more domed and crisper. But there is no right or wrong in the chocolate-chip-cookie-field only a myriad of possibilities all with their own particular charm.
I don't therefore claim any special status for the ones that follow. They just happen to be the ones that are my own favourites and therefore the ones I make most often. The recipe is my own evolution from a variety of sources over the years. Its core comes from a recipe from my sister. But as I say, there are lots of recipes for chocolate chip cookies about and what I've come up with will probably be more or less similar to others you encounter. Anyway it has been tried and tested and not found wanting, many times over!
A word about the chocolate you use, first of all. The best chocolate chip cookies need good chocolate in them. I think of them as a way of eating chocolate I might otherwise consume neat so I don't use packets of pre-chopped chocolate chips. In my experience these can be dusty and flavourless and sometimes are not even proper chocolate. They are also chopped too finely for these cookies. Chocolate buttons are no good either - the discs are too flat. In summary I don't use chocolate that I wouldn't regard as more than good enough to eat simply on its own and I think this is a good guiding principle.
What you need:
8 oz / 225 g chocolate - a mixture of milk, plain and white, in whatever proportions you like, or have to hand. As indicated above, choose as good a quality chocolate as reason and budget allow. I think I like them best with a mixture of half milk chocolate and half white chocolate but follow your heart's desire here (as well as what's in the cupboard!)
4 oz / 110 g unsalted butter at room temperature
4 oz / 110 g light soft brown muscovado sugar
1 oz / 25 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (you need proper extract from the vanilla orchid pod here not vanilla essence or "flavouring")
5 oz / 150 g plain white flour
3.5 oz / 100g porridge oats (ordinary porridge oats or you could use oatmeal, especially if you haven't got a food processor to whizz the mixture in)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 large egg (or 2 bantam eggs)
What you do:
Firstly you need to chop the chocolate. This cannot be done in the food processor even if you use the food processor to make the cookie dough. You need, I am afraid, to chop the chocolate by hand for these babies because they have Chunks With Attitude, not niminy piminy dainty chips. I chop the chocolate on a wooden board with a small, sturdy knife used in a business-like, stabbing kind of way that splits the chocolate into smallish, but not too small, rock-like chunks.
Some chunks will be bigger than others. It doesn't matter.
Reserve in a bowl, having sampled the chunks to make sure the chocolate is OK and hasn't gone off or anything - like Winnie the Pooh with his jar of honey intended to be used as bait for the trap for Heffalumps, "you never can tell"!!!!!
The chocolate chip version of AA Milne's story, in this house, might run like this:
"As soon as she got home, she went to the larder; and she stood on a chair, and took down a very large bar of chocolate from the top shelf. It had CHOCOLATE written on it, but just to make sure, she took off the paper cover and looked at it, and it looked just like chocolate. "But you never can tell," said Mrs T. "I remember my uncle saying once that he had seen cheese just this colour. So she put her paw in and broke off a small piece, to taste. "Yes," she said, "it is. No doubt about that. And chocolate, I should say, right the way through the bar. Unless of course," she said, "somebody put cheese in the corners just for a joke. Perhaps I had better go a little further... just in case... in case Heffalumps don't like cheese... same as me... Ah!" And she gave a deep sigh. "I was right. It is chocolate, right the way through."
Apologies to AA Milne for paraphrasing his immortal words in "Piglet meets a Heffalump" but you see what I mean!!
For obvious reasons, do not ask for assistance with this task! In my experience you have to weigh out quite a lot of additional chocolate to replace the unaccountably short measure you end up with from your "helper"!
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Stick the butter and both types of sugar in the food processor. Whizz until blended and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients, apart from the chocolate, and whizz again until you get a smooth, blended dough. You can cream the butter and sugar by hand and stir in the rest of the ingredients with a spoon but you won't quite achieve the blended texture of the whizzed version. I prefer the whizzed version because it makes the texture of the oats disappear.
Now disconnect the food processor. On no account incorporate the chocolate chunks using the machine or your chocolate chunks will give way to chocolate specks instead which is Not The Idea. We are after Proper Chunky Bits here! (Makes all the difference!) I tip the chocolate in and stir it into the food processor bowl, gently but firmly, by hand, with a blunt knife, which does a good job at incorporating the chips without cutting them smaller.
Now use a teaspoon to place spoonfuls of the chunk-laden mixture onto baking sheets lined with baking parchment. They will spread a bit in the oven but not much.
Bake for 10 - 12 minutes until the cookie mixture is set and golden and the chocolate chunks have welded themselves into the cookies. The white chocolate takes on the most gorgeous, sun-kissed look as if it has been sunbathing in the oven, which it has, I suppose!
Leave them to cool! Yes, I know they are incredibly tempting when they come out of the oven but they are ridiculously fragile and are extremely messy and difficult to transport from baking sheet to mouth when they are still hot and the chocolate still molten! They need to cool down and firm up just a little and preferably until the chocolate is solid again. It is worth the wait!
They don't keep. By this I don't mean that they won't keep, just that they don't! If you want to make them a few days ahead of required eating you may need an industrial padlock on a very tight cake tin!!!
Marauding teenagers can devastate a flock of these in seconds! As can anyone else lured by the scent of them cooking or cooling! You have been warned!