Monday, 15 July 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies, finally! (Wheat Free)

I must apologise for my lack of update last Thursday: I have been ridiculously all-over-the-place over the last fortnight or so. I took an impromptu trip to visit a friend up the country in Roscommon, and as such had no access to my kitchen to bake something. I also am pleased to announce that from now-on (as far as I know) I won't be using crappy mobile phone photos, as my camera seems to have recovered from whatever ailment was preventing it from taking pictures. Now, back to business.

If any of you read my previous post on my somewhat obsessive quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, you will know that finding the secret has been trickier than I first anticipated. However, after months of experimentation, many rubbished batches of innocent little biscuits, annoyance at cup-to-ounce conversions, and temperamental ovens, I have finally achieved what I consider to be the perfect American style chocolate chip cookie:

They're thick enough but flat -- not puffy -- having spread from a ball into a perfect round during cooking; it should be crispy around the edges, but chewy and soft in the middle; it has a slightly cracked surface like a ginger nut,  and has an even distribution of chocolate chips throughout.

I found that my mildly O.C.D nature of having whole ounces was standing between me and my goal: changing the measurements by half an ounce was sometimes all I needed to do, but half ounces kind of upset me. I like whole numbers, and usually whole numbers that have a common factor, like two or three. I get a little odd about numbers having a logical sequence, but it seems that baking is not as exact a science as I thought after all!

Now my search has ended, what will I search for now? I think my next challenge will be finding the best way to make ice-cream with no ice-cream churn; that certainly seems to be very difficult.

So here's the grand unveiling!

Makes 25 to 30 biscuits, depending on size

  • 7½ ounces (215 grammes) white spelt flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 ounces (115 grammes) butter, at room temperature
  • 2½ ounces (70 grammes) caster sugar
  • 3 ounces (85 grammes) light brown sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 7 ounces (200 grammes) chocolate chips of your choice, I personally like a mix of white and dark

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F, Gas Mk.3, or very moderate). Line one or two baking trays with non-stick baking paper, depending on how big your oven is. Make sure the shelves are in the middle of the oven.
  • Sieve together the baking soda, salt and flour together onto a piece of greaseproof paper and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy with a wooden spoon or electric hand mixer. Once creamy, add the two sugars and continue to beat until fully combined.
  • Add in the egg and vanilla essence, and beat until just mixed in. Here is where usage of the electric hand mixer ends.
  • Using a wooden spoon, mix in the chocolate chips. Adding in the chips before the flour means the chips get even mixed through, and that the flour doesn't get over worked, leading to tough biscuits.
  • Mix in the sieved flour mixture, and gently work in with the wooden spoon until all the flour has disappeared into the mixture. This dough doesn't need to chill, so you can use it straight away.
  • Scoop rounded teaspoonfuls of the mixture and roll into balls between your hands. Put on the trays 2 to 3 inches (5 to 6.5 centimetres) apart, and place the tray(s) on the middle shelf(ves) of your oven. Bake the biscuits for 10 to 12 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges, but still slightly gooey and un-set in the middle. They will puff up during cooking, but this is what you want for the cracked surface.
  • To ensure consistent and even baking, turn the trays around through 180° half way through baking, and swap the shelves if you have two trays.
  • When the baking is up, remove from the oven immediately. Don't look at them and think 'they don't look very done yet': their slight un-done-ness is part of the process. Take the trays out and leave them on the work surface, biscuits still on, for another minute until they sink back to being thick yet level biscuits.
  • Remove the non-stick paper, biscuits still attached, and place on the cold work surface for a further minute. Then remove the biscuits and cool completely on a wire rack.

Witness perfection (i mo thuaraim, pé scéal é). Four months of relentless experimentation and finally I have it. Of course, you can put any filling you want in here, or even flavour the base biscuit with spices or citrus zest; I personally like flavouring the biscuits ever so slightly with cinnamon, or even adding in some chopped crystallised ginger with the chocolate (but then again I do have a fascination with mixing ginger and chocolate at every available opportunity). Experiment, enjoy yourself! That's what baking is all about!

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