Sunday, February 21, 2010

America's Test Kitchen Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made the chocolate chip cookie recipe from America's Test Kitchen (A PBS Cooking Show that Rachel and I love to watch on Sunday afternoons.) The recipe is a bit more involved than the recipe on the back of the chocolate chips, but I think it's worth the extra effort. These were easily the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever made. They were chewy, but not too soft, and had a hint of butterscotch flavor. Rach took some great pictures while we baked them, so I thought I'd post the recipe and the photos together.

10 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 granulated white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Step 1: Find the cutest helper you can find.

Step 2: Preheat oven to 375 degrees f.

Step 3: Melt 10 tablespoons of butter in a pot (NOT non-stick.) The butter will foam up, so if you swirl it in the pan, you'll be able to see to the milk solids. (They sink and will be under the foam.) Just when the milk solids start to brown, take the butter off the heat.

Step 4: Add 4 tablespoons butter to the melted butter and let it melt (without heating it anymore.)

Step 5: Pour the melted butter into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup white sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 teaspoon salt.

Step 6: Mix the sugar and butter mixture for thirty seconds or so, and let it sit for a minute. (If using a stand mixer, the lowest speed is fine.) Repeat three times. -- This step is important since letting the sugar sit for a minute in between mixing allows the sugars to melt, and caramelize before you cook it. This way the cookies come out with just the slightest hint of butterscotch flavor.) When finished the mixture should be glossy.

Step 7:
Add the eggs and mix for thirty seconds or so.

Here's a shot of the mixture at this stage:

Step 8: In a separate bowl mix the flour and baking soda together. (I switched to a whisk at this point because I thought I remembered the TV show saying they whisked the flour in... but I think you could stick with the handle to avoid creating too much gluten.)

Step 9: Add the flour/baking soda mixture to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix until flour is incorporated. (If using a stand mixer, you'll want to scrape the bowl half way in between.)

Step 10: Stir in chocolate chips.

Norah kept telling Rach that the mixer was "Daddy's." I thought it was funny, so I made a label.

Step 11: Use 1/4 c. measuring cup to put hockey-pucks of cookie dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. (You can use parchment paper if you want. I didn't because my cookie sheet is really well seasoned.) If you then press the pucks a little flat, and use a spoon to create a tiny bit of a recess in the middle, they'll come out fairly uniformly cooked throughout.

Here's how I spaced the cookies out. Also, you'll want to cook one sheet at a time. Don't do two batches at once because the top batch will be over done, and the bottom will be under done. Because they cook so quickly, the time it takes to switch them in between will mess up the cooking process.

Sorry... no more cookie dough!

Step 12: Cook for 8 minutes or so. When the cookies are beginning to brown on the edges, and are still a little soft in the middle, take them out of the oven. They'll finish cooking while they cool for five minutes or so on the sheet. After they have cooled for a few minutes, let them finish cooling on a wire rack.

Step 13: Eat the best cookies you've ever eaten!!!

Hope you enjoy the recipe! And be sure to watch America's Test Kitchen... we love it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Warning!! School Work Posting!!!

The Code of Hammurabi is in the Louvre.
I have no idea why it is written sideways.

I've been knee deep in the Code of Hammurabi this quarter. (If you don't know, that's one of the earliest law "codes" that we have on record. I put "code" in quotes like that for reasons... but it's not worth going into here.)

Anyway, I'm really fascinated by what I'm doing, reading about soldiers and fisherman who loose their fields to another because they absented from their ilku service etc... (I know... BORING!) But to know that I am connected to these people who lived thousands of years ago, by reading their laws... its amazing. It's really, really amazing.

I get to learn what was important to them. The law codes deal a lot with slaves, and property and inheritance rules. I was surprised to see a law code in which the widow inherited a third of the father's land if he died and his boy was too young to inherit it. Which leads to questions like: why a third? How young is too young? What if he has no son? Etc...

I get to wonder whether or not people actually were put to death for all those things. A surprising number of the laws end with "iddak" meaning "He will be put to death." And, sometimes the penalties are strangely in favor of the wealthy. If you steal a boat from a palace, you have to pay back thirty boats. If you steal a boat from a commoner, you have to pay back ten boats. First of all, who has thirty boats? And why does the palace get a bigger recompense than the poor person? Oh, you don't have thirty boats? "iddak."

I get to ask questions about the practicality of the code. If a man's house is burning, and I am trying to put it out, and see something of his that I like, and take it... then they will throw me into that very fire. First of all, how often does this one happen that they took time to carve it into stone? Probably not that often... which leads us to guess that maybe these laws are supposed to explain really complicated circumstances, with the intention that easier cases can be judged based on them. If I steal something while putting out a fire in a guy's house (remember, that thing was going to get burned up if I hadn't come by) I get tossed into the fire. If I get killed for stealing something that was going to be destroyed anyway, then presumably, if I steal something from dude's house, when it isn't on fire... "iddak." But what about the fire? Remember, if I steal from dude's house while it's on fire... they will throw me into that very fire! Does that mean they had to keep the poor guy's house burning while someone fetched a judge to try the case in order for me to get tossed into that fire? Did the judge have to go check the stele to see what the law said before coming back to say, "Oh... toss him into the fire." It's odd how impractical some of the laws are, which leads me to think they were never intended to be real court guidelines. Yet, at the same time, some of them make perfect sense, and are likely to have served as real court case guidelines.

All in all, it's pretty dry stuff on the outside, but when you start picking it apart, and asking what does all of this tell you about society? You get to learn some pretty interesting stuff about how people lived and what they cared about several thousand years ago. And when you do that, you see that they were largely concerned about the same kinds of things we care about today. And that gives me a very eerie feeling of connection with people from thousands and thousands of years ago.

Well, I think it's neat anyway.