Friday, July 8, 2011

The Return of Dessert

Despite temperatures in the eighties making for less-than-ideal baking conditions, I had a wonderful time Tuesday afternoon putting together some corn-free chocolate chip cookies.  To my surprise and delight, it actually isn’t hard at all, given the time, resources and willingness to research all the ingredients and go to a few different places for them.
First stop was Copley Square Farmers Market.  The second biggest farmers market I’ve ever been to (the first being on 14th Street in Manhattan, but everything’s bigger and louder and flashier in Manhattan), it takes full advantage of its location, where there’s both scenery and plenty of foot traffic.   

John Copley, who arranged the lesser-known Boston Corn Party.
I lucked out with Stillman’s at the Turkey Farm, based in Hardwick.  Theirs was the only booth I saw offering eggs from free-roaming chickens.  Stillman's also wins the prize for providing the most literal half-dozen eggs I’ve ever bought; the woman got out a pair of scissors and cut a carton containing a dozen eggs in half right before my eyes.

I was frustrated in my search for butter, however.  No one had brought any to the market, but, encouraged by finding the eggs, there was no way I was going to give up on the idea of eating a fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie before the day was over. 

So the next logical stop was Whole Foods.  If I couldn’t find grass fed butter here, there was always the option of looking up a vegan recipe, but I have yet to master the texture issue with vegan cookies, and besides, you usually need to substitute something like applesauce, and that would mean I’d have to look around for applesauce that didn’t have ascorbic acid and...luckily, the dairy section offered Organic Valley brand pasture-fed butter, saving me a whole bunch of trouble.  

Now all that was left were the chocolate chips.  All the other ingredients can pretty much be taken at face value, and were already in the pantry at home.  I was a little worried about the chips though.  Do they normally have dairy ingredients in them?  I’ve been eating them for more than two decades.  How do I not know this already?

Whole Foods doesn’t carry Toll House, of course, and I almost scrapped the whole project right there.  How can I be expected to bake cookies if the chocolate chips don’t come in that comforting yellow bag we all grew up with?  It’s downright un-American!

Nonetheless, I screwed up all my courage and read the ingredients list on the Whole Foods brand chocolate chips (which come in an unfortunate blue bag).  With a huge sigh of relief, I realized the cookies were going to happen after all.  Nothing in these chips but pure cane sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, and pure vanilla extract.

But wait. Right next to these, in a green bag, were vegan chocolate chips.  What could possibly be on the above list that isn’t vegan?

The ingredients in the vegan chips were: evaporated cane juice, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, ground vanilla beans.

Am I missing something here?  Technicalities in the processing of the sugar and the vanilla, but nothing else is different…right?

I opted for the vegan chips just to be on the safe side. They don’t come with a recipe on the back, by the way.  What is that marketing team thinking?  Thanks to the internet, I was able to get my hands and the good old time-tested Toll House recipe, which is reproduced below, with corn-free adjustments in italics.

·        2 ¼ cups flour (unbleached if you don’t like chlorine in your food)
·        1 teaspoon baking soda
·        1 teaspoon salt
·        1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (The package should specify grass fed and finished, or, better yet, pastured.  "Organic" can still mean that the cow has a very unpleasant life on a factory farm eating an unnatural diet of government-subsidized corn.)
·        ¾ cup granulated sugar
·        ¾ cup packed brown sugar
·        1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·        2 large eggs (Even free-roaming hens are often fed at least some corn.  The only way to be sure is to get the eggs straight from the farmer, and ask what he or she feeds the animals.)
·        1 12-ounce package chocolate chips (Check the ingredients list and make sure there are no animal products or corn-derived sweeteners from our growing glossary)
·        1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat over to 375.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in large mixer bowl until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.  Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.  

And voila!
They ended up tasting great.  It's back to the farmers market on Tuesday.  Maybe next time I'll have a recipe for something a little more nutritious.

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