Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some things have to be in colour.

A very long time ago a company made soft chocolate chip cookies that I quite liked. As is the case with anything I like, they disappeared from the marketplace. There’s some kind of law in the universe that says I’m not allowed any simple pleasures. Or sometimes even any pleasures at all.

Anyway the problem with being an engineer is that you have a built-in drive to change things to how you think they should be. True, the world and the laws of physics don’t always accommodate you in this. But … cookies? Come on: we can at least have cookies! Can’t we?

So I had a recipe that was ‘standard’ and not entirely adequate. The cookies tended to burn and be hard, as well as a little flat. What to do? A little applied chemistry, a few experiments, a couple of adjustments, and … viola! Er, voilà!

The Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.

1 1/2 cups brown sugar*.

1 teaspoon salt.

2 teaspoons baking powder.

1 teaspoon vanilla.

1 teaspoon water.

2 large eggs.

8 ounces margarine (softened).

1 small package (300 grams/10 ounces) chocolate chips (usually semi-sweet but use whichever variety you like).

Mix the dry ingredients (the first four) together, then add the moist ingredients in order up to the margarine last. The chips are added at the very end, just before baking. Note that the dough has a tendency to cling to the beater(s) and form a mass so you’ll have to stop and scrape it off every now and again. You just need it mixed (low speed), not whipped. You can do it by hand if you’re strong enough.

Bake at 375°F/190°C for approximately 10-12 minutes. Note that at higher elevations you may find turning the heat down helps as water boils at lower temperatures (I use 370°F @ 3200 feet). Also note the first tray full may need a little more time or the subsequent ones a little less as the baking surface itself will be hot for the later ones thus starting the cooking sooner. Oven rack should be in the middle**.

I use a metal cookie sheet covered with a silicon ‘barbeque sheet’ which eliminates the need for any lubrication under the dough and thus no grease/oil/flour added to the cookies. Easy to clean up too. (Notice the ingredients can be measured using one 1/2 cup and one teaspoon. Yeah, I’m lazy. Er, efficient.)

Size of the dough balls is important. This dough is a bit tough to work with as it is thick and doesn’t like to make nice, even sizes. You’re aiming for about a tablespoon full: enough to make a 2″ diameter cookie. Larger amounts will take longer to cook so if there’s too much inconsistency between them some will be burnt while others are uncooked in the middle.

Let the sheet of cooked cookies stand for a couple of minutes before trying to spatula them onto cooling racks. At this time separate any that stuck together using a spatula. Allow to cool thoroughly before storing in an air-tight container.

There should be about 36 cookies, but don’t be surprised if some ‘evaporate’ before you’re done. I haven’t yet worked out why this happens.

*A note about brown sugar. It tends to harden when left on its own. There are many hints about softening/keeping it soft on the Internet. Basically it comes down to moisture. So … keep it in an air-tight container, preferably with a small dish of water in it (it does not require a lot). If it dries out and goes hard, refill the water dish with hot water and seal it up again at least overnight – or until you’ve got enough softened for your project.

**Ovens have two hot levels; bottom and top. At the lowest level the underside of whatever you have in it will receive more heat than the upper side because the heating element/burner is beneath the oven chamber. On the top most level the upper side will receive more heat because heat rises. To get the most even above/below heat you try to put whatever you’re cooking as near to the middle as possible. Of course something like a roast is going to need more space and some things want more heat above or below. The worst-case scenario is trying to cook two things at once with each needing its own rack. Good luck with that.

Toy Camera

Inspired by Ritchie Roesch’s Digital Holga experiment.

Since my Panasonic Lumix ZS60 takes lousy photos anyway, it’s the perfect choice for turning on the “toy camera filter” and giving it a try. The Canon also has this “feature”, but it’s a bit silly to downgrade the quality of its lenses when the Lumix is pretty fuzzy to begin with. The Lumix results are A-okay, and simply a matter of whether or not the style is to your taste.

P1000410
Dreamscape
P1000411
Nebulous Moon
P1000412
The tall tree
P1000413
Distant flight
P1000420
This one hardly looks affected
P1000423
Marley hurries into Spring

Due to the erratic nature of the Lumix’s exposure control, all of these had to be adjusted a bit post-shoot in order to look ‘right’ – although what ‘right’ is under the circumstances can be debated.

So it’s quite the artistic little camera, but it does bring up a point I often try to make: why spend money to get soft images (as in buying certain low-quality lenses) when you can come by them so easily? Getting a good, sharp, realistic picture is the difficult bit. If your camera can achieve that, changing the look ‘downward’ after shooting is easy. The Lumix, alas, does not manage to make good pictures to begin with. It’s like buying a digital Holga – when you hadn’t intended to.