Saturday, September 15, 2012

My favourite (ever!) Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

So what's the first thing you would do if you went to Australia?

The first thing I would do is bake Chocolate Chip Cookies.

And that's exactly what I did.

That's right. I'm way down under in the land of Oz pursuing a great new product development/pastry chef role for a wonderful patisserie. I'm in Sydney and it is such a beautiful city that surrounds the harbour. Everywhere I turn, I see parks, water and loads of darling specialty food shops and cafes. I don't really see how anyone could not like this place. Plus, Australian accents make everyone sound so fancy.

Yes, they drive on the wrong side of the road and sell brown sugar at $4.50 a kilo, but I'll survive. Well...if I keep forgetting to look RIGHT before crossing the road, I just might not survive. Let's hope I can get used to this.

By the way, I left my SLR camera all the way back home, so for now I hope you can put up with my regular old point-and-shoot camera photos. I'm really sorry about this but I'll make it work!

The first thing I had to do as soon as I settled into my new apartment was to bake some chocolate chip cookies. Nothing to me makes a home more like a home than a warm batch of ooey, gooey CCC's. Plus, I had to see if CCC's taste the same on the other side of the world! It was a great test to see how sturdy my recipe is after all right? I mean....across the world the ingredients must be different, the ovens are graduated in different units and fan forced (convection) is the norm.

Let's just say you can learn a lot about baking from a chocolate chip cookie recipe!

First thing's first: find good...really really good dark chocolate! A chocolate chip cookie can only be as good as the chocolate in it, so find the best block you can and chop it up into chunks.

Second: figure out this brown sugar situation! Over here in Aussieland, there is "brown sugar" and then there's "dark brown sugar". Dark brown sugar costs more than regular brown sugar and it is super dark with a very pronounced molasses flavour.

At home (in Canada), brown sugar is sold in two forms: there's "light/golden brown sugar" and "dark brown sugar", and they're the same price. For my recipes, I always specify whether I use light or dark brown sugar.

So, the first I had to do was sort out this brown sugar situation. I realized that there is not really a standard of identity for this stuff in Australia. There are several brands of brown sugar, but they all vary in colour somewhat. Then there's one brand (CSR) that sells expensive "dark brown sugar", which is much darker than the usual dark brown sugar I buy in Canada. When comparing them all, I noticed that some brands make a "brown sugar" that is light-coloured similar to light or golden brown sugar, whereas some brands make "brown sugar" that looks like the good old Canadian dark brown sugar.

Since my recipe calls for dark brown sugar, I went ahead and baked a batch using the expensive and fancy dark brown stuff found in the supermarkets here and, as I expected, the cookies had a strong molasses flavour and a much softer texture due to the extra molasses (liquid sugar).

Next up I mixed equal proportions of the lightest brand of "brown sugar" with this super dark "dark brown sugar" and got myself a perfect blend that matched our dark brown sugar commonly found in Canada. Kinda complicated right? Maybe I'm a little obsessive. Ok, I'm definitely obsessed, but these small things really do change the flavour and texture of my precious cookies. I'm not really OK with that.

Another important factor is the difference in oven settings and temperatures.

Always use conduction for baking cookies, which means use the setting with the fan off. Convection or fan forced is too efficient and usually results in puffy cake-like cookies or burnt cookies. No thank you.

PS. 350 degrees F is the same as 180 degrees celcius.

Butter is also sold by the 1/2 kilo (500 grams) and not by the pound, so you can't just use half a block to get the token "1 cup" of butter (remember 1 cup of butter = 227 g).

Good thing I explained all of the conversions in my book, so that will never be a problem for you.

Once you work out these kinks, my cookies work just the same in Australia! You might think, "Ya, of course...why wouldn't they?"...and then maybe whisper "weirdo" under your breath. But, I don't think it's that crazy of me to think my cookies would taste just a bit different on the other side of the world, or maybe explode confetti while they are cooling? ...maybe.

But they're just the way I wrote them out to be: golden brown edges, crispy cracked shell, gooey in the middle and they stay soft for days (thanks to some secret ingredients).

I think I'm going to like it here.

The recipe that I made for this post, "Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies" comes from page 31 of Scientifically Sweet. If you haven't got a copy, then ...someone better send you one!

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