American chocolate chip cookies, an introduction of sorts
In the past week and a half since I’ve been back (home!) in Paris, I have had a few of what I would consider are new and notable experiences:
- Buying a very, very good baguette for very, very cheap (0.55 euros). And yet, as amazing as this is, I don’t think I could help but be more distracted by the pisatche-chocolat pastries and apricot tarts that lined the pâtisserie counter. I have a feeling that it’s not going to be too hard discovering the food here…
- Having some après-midi snacks and white wine at a tapas bar, with Dorie Greenspan standing about 3 feet away from me. (!!!!!!) (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
- Being pushed around like a cattle, completely naked from the waist up, by a French government worker at the Office of Immigration and Integration. Good to know: I do not, indeed, have tuberculosis.
- Buying baking soda at a pharmacy, after I couldn’t find it in two grocery stores.
- Getting to ride the metro home by myself after midnight without feeling the slightest discomfort or fear. (US cities, why you so scary?)
- Living on a street that looks like this:
Or getting to walk throug things like this on a daily basis (these are a couple crummy shots of the Jardin du Luxembourg):
While some things are actually becoming somewhat normal to me (such as coming to terms with the fact that all Parisienne women are thin and chic, sigh), everything is still pretty exotic and new to me. This enthusiasm has most definitely come in handy when doing things like aforementioned cattle-like Office of Immigration and Integration appointment, but also with the smaller things, like figuring out the grocery stores. That problem, if not just a little bit stressful, is still really fun for me.
This past Sunday, I decided to make some cookies to welcome home the kids from their prolonged vacances (they had extra time away from Paris without either the parents or myself—I have meanwhile been having a nice time acclimating to Paris without worrying about chasing after kids, not a bad deal). I thought I would make some American-style chocolate chip cookies that would be big, thick, and chewy—so unlike all the delicate sables-style cookies I see line the shelves of the grocery stores. I had some hesitations with this, thinking that maybe French people only really do like crumbly and butter shortbread-esque cookies, but a couple American au pair friends assured me that my beloved American cookies would be well-received here. Plus, I mean I’m an American girl that likes to bake. This is my offering.
I trekked out to three different grocery stores in the attempts of finding equivalent-ish products to things like all-purpose flour, chocolate chips, and brown sugar. I had success with some of the things more than others—for the chips I ended up buying a bar of chocolate and chopped it into chunks, but I think I prefer hand-chopped chunks, anyway. I am not, however, totally convinced that the sucre cassonade that I found for brown sugar, however, is totally equivalent… but, the cookies had to happen. I made do.
Then came the next challenge: figuring out how to bake in my host parent’s sleek and ultra-modern kitchen (aka lots of buttons with no labels) and with their baking tools. I converted my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, transferring everything into grams, only to discover that the only measuring tool in my host parents’ kitchen is a large cup, marked with different gram amounts for different ingredients. To me, this is the worst of both worlds: I have to deal with volume measurements—and uncertain ones at that, since it was just a one-size-fits-all measuring cup—like in the USA, but I deal with volume measurements in converted amounts I’m unfamiliar with. But, once again, these cookies were going to happen whether they were a success or not. Plus, I figured since I was baking them when the parents were away, I could always have a sneaky throw-away batch if need be.
But by some miracle, the cookies came out almost perfect. I baked out the dough onto the itty-bitty baking sheet I found, only able to bake off 3 cookies at a time. But they spread just right, and were thick and pretty with the speckled chocolate chunks. Their only real drawback was that they were too sweet—I blame the weird sugars and trying to measure them in a gram-volume cup.
And in the end, my American au pair friends were right: they were most definitely well-received. Unfortunately, as a nasty little side-effect of the combination that my French is horrid and that I speak to my host family almost exclusively in French, I misunderstood my host parents when they said the kids would be returning from les vacances. The kids didn’t return last Sunday, as I thought, but are coming in with their grandmother tomorrow (wish me luck!). Anyway, back to Sunday night: it was just my host parents and I, and a big plate full of giant chocolate chip cookies. My host father ate 3 for dessert in quick succession, responding to his wife’s reproachful you-are-on-a-diet glance with “mais, j’ai faim! j’ai faim!“
That Sunday, I also brought a couple to share and test among my new Swedish au pair friends, who all loved them. A couple of them not-so-subtlety told me their birthdays, with the wish that this was the treat they wanted. (Guys, if you’re reading this right now, there will be lots and lots more chocolate chip cookies in your future, and not just for your birthday.)
Currently, about 5 remaining cookies are sitting in a tupperwear container, awaiting the return of les enfants tomorrow. I am antsy about these; I think that by now they’ve gotten crunchier, drier… and no, no, that will just not do. Not for my grand introduction of “this is the type of treats you can expect throughout the year” to the kids. But we’ll see, maybe I’ll just have to bake another batch. Plus—upon finding out that I baked the cookies, my host parents got me a weight scale (they are seriously the nicest, nicest people—French or otherwise. I really lucked out with them). So now, cookies of all shapes, forms and sizes, shouldn’t be too far out of my reach. Here’s to a year full of sugary treats—and pas de le régime.
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes about 18 3-inch cookies
These are, most definitely, my favorite chocolate chip cookies. You haven’t seen them here on this blog yet because frankly, I’m not that into chocolate chip cookies (I know, the horror). But these are always what I turn to: they have a slightly crispy edge, and a chewy-soft middle. If this is the way you like them, too, it’s important to note that you must take them out of the oven when they still look not quite done. They will be golden around the edges, but the middles will still look soft. Take them out. Let them cool on the baking sheets for at least a few minutes, until they’re firm and cool enough to handle. At this point, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Also! This recipe notes that you don’t have to chill the cookie dough, but I always thinks it helps with things (spreading, chewiness, flavor). So I wrote it for having at least a brief chill time. You could skip it, technically (lazy people!), but I wouldn’t really recommend it.
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (272 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (170 grams) butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 grams) regular granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ‐ 2 cups chocolate chips or cut-up chocolate chunks
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
In a medium-large bowl with an electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until blended, about a minute or so. Mix in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients; mix until combined (but don’t overwork it). Add in the chips and stir to combine.
At this point, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge. If you want to bake them immediately or soon, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F or 170 degrees C. Alternatively, you can chill them in the fridge for up to 2 days—if you do this, you may have to let the dough rest at room temperature for a little bit to soften it slightly.
When the oven is preheated, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take a scant 1/4-cup amount of the dough with your hands and form into a ball. Then, using both hands, pull apart two halves of the dough. Rotate the dough halves so the former-middle part “jagged” surface is facing up and exposed, and press the two halves together again to form a single cookie. You should see little bits of chocolate poking up on the top—this will make the cookies much prettier.
Place the dough on the lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining dough until you have filled the sheet, making sure to space the cookies at least 2 or 3-inches apart. Bake in the preheated oven until just golden around the edges and still slightly-underdone looking in the middle, about 12 to 15 minutes (see note). Be vigilant here—and pay attention to how they look as they get towards the end of their cooking time. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, until they are set-up and cool enough to handle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Written by Amy
August 30, 2013 at 9:20 am
Posted in Cookies and Bars
Subscribe to comments with RSS.