Virgin no more ...

I had a rare and very welcomed day off work a few weeks back. A whole day I could do with as I wished, imagine my excitement! So I spent the day with a very dear friend who also shares my cooking, food and kitchen accessories passion.

Felicity, or Flick as she is to me, and I go waaaayy back. Longer than both of us probably care to admit because then we would have to fess up to our actual age. We met when we were 18 when we wound up working for the same finance company and soon became fast friends. A number of years later here we both find ourselves living in Singapore.

Flick moved here with her family 6 months ago after a 12 month stint in London and it has meant the world to me to have a close friend around. Being an ex-pat your friends are your family and when Flick told me she was rocking into town, well I was just beside myself!

Don’t get me wrong I love to meet people and make new friends but there is something very special about someone who truly knows you, who has been around for all of ‘it’ and you don’t need to do any explaining, they just know ‘it’.

Anyway not being sure how long her time in Singapore will last we are taking full advantage of every minute we get and most of our activities centre around food. Flick is quite the cook and shares my passion for food and all things kitchen related so we decided to spend my special free day touring Singapore’s various kitchen stores.

Many hours and many swipes of the credit card later we arrived home laden with goodies and ideas. One store I particularly liked in Holland Village was Lemon Zest, probably the highlight of the day and where I found my new cookie jar!

I have never owned a cookie jar before! My Mum used to have a bright canary yellow plastic one that sat atop the fridge. It was tall and the lid had a round knob on top. My Nanna had two fawn coloured plastic containers for biscuits that also sat on the fridge. The large one held the cream biscuits my Uncle Jeff liked the most and the other held the good old fashioned plain “granita’s”.

As history commands I am supposing mine will need to live on top of the fridge too, but I have part broken with tradition and mine is glass. Pondering how best to fill it up it occurred to me I had never baked chocolate chip cookies before either, a virgin act for a virgin jar! So I set about finding a decent recipe.

I wanted something excessive, rich and downright naughty for the maiden filling of the virgin cookie jar. Who could make cookies like that? The Yanks, that’s who! I first consulted my Momofuku Milk Bar book, these guys know excess! I did pause over the cornflake-chocolate-chip-marshmallow cookies but I felt that I needed something more missionary for the first time … stop, Orangette! I have been a fan of this food blog for a long time and was sure there would be some traditional chocolate chip goodness in there somewhere. I was right,  the below recipe was one that Molly found in the New York Times in July 2008.

Being inexperienced in this space I don’t have much to compare it to but Molly says that it is the best chocolate chip cookie she has ever tasted, I tend to agree with most of what Molly has to say about food and she did not let me down! All I can say is I think for the jar’s maiden filling it housed the Rolls Royce of chocolate chip cookies, crisp on the outside with soft, chewy insides and chocolate that oozed out if you ate them when they first came out of the oven.

Once cold the cookies had a harder exterior that required a firm bite, after crunching through that layer you came to gooey chocolate, no longer oozing as it was now cold, but still gooey and soft and on the occasional bite you would get a hint of the sea salt as it slid over your taste buds.

If you ate more than two in a sitting your heart would start to race a little bit and deary me the come down was sharp, perhaps they should be called "crack cookies", like Momofuku's "crack pie!". They seem to illicit the same result.

Very few of them actually made it into the jar …

Andrew was the main offender and brought a whole new level of meaning to the expression "caught with your hand in the cookie jar". By the Sunday night he was on watch, "No cookies for you!". However Monday rolled around and he left work early that day knowing there was one cookie left at home. The following message exchange took place ...

Andrew "Just got home, went to the kitchen for a drink, and that cookie in the jar, I didn't like what it said about my mother.

Me " I see ... what did it say?"

Andrew "Details Cowan, details. Irrelevant. But rest assured I took care of that abusive cookie!".

THE Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Orangette,
The New York Times, David Leite, and Jacques Torres

Molly recommends using a kitchen scale if you have one and I agree, when baking use weights wherever possible.

2 cups (240g or 8 ½ oz.) plain flour
2 cups (240g 8 ½ oz.) bread flour
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. coarse salt, such as kosher
1 ¼ cups (283g or 10 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups (283g or 10 oz.) light brown sugar
1 cup (226g or 8 oz.) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ pounds (566g) bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks, preferably about 60% cacao content
Sea salt, such as Murray River Pink Salt Flakes

Combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk well and set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined. Unless you have a plastic guard that sits around the rim of the bowl, this will make a big mess at first, with flour flying everywhere so be sure to keep the speed on low. Molly recommends holding a kitchen towel around the top of the bowl.

Add the chocolate chips, and mix briefly until just combined. Molly recommends using a standard-size ice cream scoop -  about 1/3 cup –  to scoop the dough onto a sheet pan, large platter, or anything that will hold about two dozen dough portions in a single layer. I used the Tupperware large Season Serve container placing baking paper between the layers of dough. Molly recommends that you cover and chill for 24 to 36 hours - and up to six days.

I decided to run a little experiment, room temperature vs frozen vs chilled in the fridge just to see what all this freezing fuss was about! I found for me the most favoured method to achieve the desired texture I enjoy most was to place the dough in the freezer for 2 hours. The dough was still pliable enough to use but firm enough that when you baked the cookie it spread nicely and came out of the oven at just the right consistency, firm on the outside and till slightly doughy in the middle.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 180
°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Place six mounds of dough on the baking sheet, spacing them quite wide apart as they will spread as they bake. Sprinkle the dough lightly with the sea salt, and bake until golden brown but still soft which should be around 15 to 20 minutes depending on the oven.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

Yield: Approximately 24 cookies depending on how big you wish to make them!