Saturday, March 8, 2014

three bowls = cookies

full disclosure: 
If you are content with store-bought cookies, you can stop reading now. I won't be offended.
I'll be mentioning brand names.

Our crew likes to partake of fika in the mid-afternoons. A cookie is our usual choice. A home-baked cookie.

Baking cookies from scratch is well worth the time and energy, IMHO. The right ingredients are a big part of why the effort is appreciated. Here is my rant on the humble chocolate chunk cookie.

Assemble the tools: three bowls, a stirring spoon, measuring cups and spoons, a 9" x 13" baking pan, an oven.

Assemble the ingredients:

Bowl one:
1 and 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour (King Arthur)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Bowl two: 
1/2 cup softened butter. Real butter. If it's a sunny day, I let it get soft in the sun, only takes a few minutes. Use a bit of the butter to grease the cookie sheet first.
1 cup white sugar. I haven't ever bothered to test the difference between sugars. I buy store brands or whatever is on sale. If you are partial to brown sugar, go ahead and use that and ignore the molasses.
1 Tablespoon molasses
1 egg.  Organic, cage-free, free-range, omega-3 fed, yadda, yadda, yadda
1 teaspoon vanilla. Real vanilla extract, not imitation.  

Bowl three:
1 and 1/2 cups of your preferred fixings, chocolate chunks, chopped nuts, coconut flakes, whatever. In my book, cookies are only the medium for fixings. A cookie without nuts, is, well, why bother?

A note about baking chocolate. I recently did a taste test comparing Ghirardelli and Scharffen Berger. The Scharffen Berger was the clear winner for me. It has more robust flavor than the Ghirardelli. I use the 70% bittersweet bars. 

Here are the ingredients lists of each:
G - unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla, soy lecithin
SB - cacao beans, sugar, cocoa butter, non-GMO soy lecithin, whole vanilla beans

Not much difference, it would seem, but by calling out the whole beans, I think there is less processing of the basic ingredients and they might be fresher. There is definitely a taste difference for me and isn't that what making cookies is about?

Get the three bowls ready. Then turn on the oven to 350 degrees F. It takes much less time to pre-heat an oven than you might think. Better that you have to wait a few minutes for the oven, than waste energy heating an oven while you chop up a thick chocolate bar.

Mix the dry bowl into the wet bowl. Once they are blended, fold in the fixings bowl. Spoon out into the buttered baking sheet and mash it flat and even into the corners. Place it in the hot oven for 20-25 minutes. A 9" x 9" pan will work fine if you like them thicker, just bake a little longer.

Bar cookies are for the lazy efficient person, they are much less work-intensive to prepare than spoon/shaped cookies. They're just as tasty and I think it uses less energy to cook one full baking sheet than several sheets of round cookies. It's certainly less fuss. I can go off and do something else, rather than run back and forth to the oven.

Cool, slice and eat. Now, isn't that better than a packaged store-bought cookie? You can keep your little black, fake cream, sandwich cookie.