I’ve been trying, trying, trying so, so hard to get into the spirit of this whole thing that we get pushed right into here in these United States but I’m unable. I don’t want to do it. I feel so lost and right now. In a few short days, we will be headed to much warmer Arizona. I have amazing relatives there (my mama’s brother). They are the kind of people that I know value the term “family” and yes, I have spent more than a few Christmases with them over the years while I was still living in India. They visited once every 2-3 years and us cousins would count the days till it was time. They were the closest far away cousins to us and that hasn’t changed much.
What I’m most looking forward to is Christmas mass. It’s something we’ve started the day off with as a family and something I like to keep close no matter how the symbolism seems to changes as I get older. I was hoping – just like last year – to have a traditional Goan sweet recipe up with the help of my sisters in time before Christmas but I might have to give it a miss. My mama, who usually initiates the sweet-making like her mother before her, did make some delicious marzipan (per usual) but she hasn’t been feeling too great with her medical issues so they’re keeping it simple. I’m hoping for some photos of the sweets they do make. If I do get some, I’ll post it for sure. I miss all of them. I miss not being the one to give out sweets to our neighbours. I never liked doing that as much as I liked eating ALL the bebinca. Layers. Yum.
Last week (or five days ago) I was sitting on the couch with the iPad, looking through the photos on it, like one of the very few people that actually take photos with an iPad. Or is it not a few anymore? It’s been a while since I’ve done that kind of travelling. I scrolled through and reached this photo. It was maybe the second photo I took on the thing after buying it. The first was me with two dogs on either side of me. It was a photo I took on the drive home from the airport. It had been a little more than a year since I’d left (the heartbreak!) and on our way Sidney decided to stop the car, cross the road and buy us choris pao (traditional Goan sausage bread). I thought nothing of it. These are the kinds of things Indians tend to do and have the option to as well. Whereas here in America we stuff our bags with granola bars and hope we don’t starve (FYI: Not me at all. I’m more of a get-home-eat-the-fridge kinda gal). Our roads have the BEST food. Make all the jokes about dysentery if you want. I don’t even care. My home wins anyway. Oh and about the photo on the iPad: It was taken exactly a year to the day I looked at it again. The feelings are bubbling, people.
Enter the kitchen. I’ve not wanted to do much, except mope since the Thanksgiving break passed. It’s one of the reasons I’ve not documented anything in detail. Last week, out of nowhere I got two signs that I had to get it together. Two people that play a big role in me still being alive in this country plonked two things in front of me and I knew I needed to bake again. It helped me, a lot. I meditated on butter, flour and voila: Cookies.
I know there are a lot of you going through much worse during this “You’re supposed to poop rainbows” season. I sincerely wish I could magically make that go away. Life isn’t cruel. It’s mostly wonderful but life is the way it is. Surround yourself with the people you love and make the most of the moments you have together. Live the deep life. That stuff works.
Everybody has their say on what the best chocolate chip cookie is. I am no expert but I did read through the entire Food Lab article of the science behind it and I’m a believer in this recipe. I’ve used it twice and the second time, it was markedly better than the first (the first time I just half-batched it). If I could give you any tips it would be to:
a) Let the dough sit overnight it in fridge. Resist the urge to bake it all off and hide it from cookie monster husbands.
b) Have your oven up to the temp specified before you pull out the cookie dough and shape it into little balls. I said balls.
c) If you’re not sure how much water is in an ice cube, just do the most brilliant thing and empty the ice into a bucket. Spoon water by tablespoon into one square in the tray. You need an ice cube worth 2 tbsp for this recipe.
d) I don’t own a cookie sheet because I’m not a fan of appliances that have just a single purpose in the kitchen. Cookie sheets do aid in heat distribution so what I did was flip over my baking sheet and baked the cookies on the bottom. It gave me the cookie sheet experience without having to buy one.
Now, we begin.
Adapted from Serious Eats and all opinions are my own
- 227 gms (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 ice cube (2 tbsp frozen water)
- 283.5 gms/10 oz unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 143 gms/5 oz granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 143 gms/5 oz light brown sugar
- 227 gms/8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips, roughly chopped with a knife into 1/2 inch chunks
In a small saucepan, melt the sticks of butter over medium-high heat. This is the part where you’re browning the butter for added flavour. Swirl around the pan a bit to get the butter going. Once it’s all melted just let it sit, swirling from time-to-time until it gets all bubbly and frothy. This should take a little more than 5 minutes. Once it starts to bubble, use a spatula to move the froth aside and check if the butter has changed to a darker colour. It should smell nutty and have some milk solids settled on the bottom. Transfer it to a bowl immediately and place the ice cube into the bowl. Cover and put the bowl into the fridge to cool for 20 minutes. Stir the butter occasionally while it’s cooling.
While the butter is cooling, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside. Using a hand blender or a stand in mixer, cream together the granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Scrape the side of the bowl to get it mixed evenly. Whisk on medium-high speed until the colour turns to a pale yellow and it falls off the whisk in thick ribbons. This should take 5 minutes or a little longer if you’re using a hand mixer.
Not forgetting the butter, peek into the bowl in the fridge to see if it’s ready to use. You’ll know it is if a ring of slightly solidified butter has formed along the sides and the middle is starting to turn translucent. Add the brown sugar and butter to the egg mixture and blend on medium speed until it’s combined. This shouldn’t take very long. Lastly turn down the mixer speed to low and add the flour. Mix until just combined, about 15-30 seconds. The original recipe says it’s okay to still see some dry flour remaining. Add the chocolate chips in at the end and mix on low for another few seconds. Scoop the dough into an air-tight container and refrigerate overnight (or up to 3 days). If you can’t wait, two hours should be okay to let the moisture spread evenly across the resting dough.
Is it tomorrow yet? Yes, it is time to bake these mother ships.
Heat your oven to 325 degrees F and place the baking racks on the upper and lower middle positions in the oven. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. You could also use a non-stick baking sheet and skip the parchment liner. Using an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, scoop about 2 tbsp of the dough. Roll it in the middle of your palms into a smooth round ball and flatten it just a little before placing it on the sheet. Each sheet should have about 6-8 balls of dough, well spaced.
Pop the sheet into the oven on the upper middle rack and bake for 16 minutes. A quarter into the baking process, turn the sheet back to front. At the halfway mark, put the baking sheet on the lower middle rack in the over and let it bake for the remainder of the baking time. The cookies are ready when the edges are dark brown and the middle is still soft and browned. Pull the sheet out of the oven and let it sit for about 3 minutes. Next, place on a wire rack to cool completely. But if you ask me, they taste best sightly warm. Store in an air-tight container and it should keep well for a week. Repeat the same baking process for the rest of the dough.
PS: I wrapped these in plastic wrap as presents for my lovely co-workers and friends. A little twine, a pine leaf cutting and their name written with pencil on paper made for a simple, yet delicious home-made present. If you’re wondering what to get without leaving the house (assuming you have a stocked pantry), this could be it.