A Really Good Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate chip cookies have been around for nearly century, having been invented by a pair of American chefs in 1938. Like most North Americans, I have eaten my fair share of chocolate chip cookies, from soft cookies fresh out of the oven that ooze chocolate, to packaged varieties that are generally hard and not terribly satisfying. I have had overcooked ones, and undercooked ones. Double chocolate chip cookies, and cookies with barely a singular chocolate piece.

Recently, I was intrigued by an article in the BBC Good Food Guide magazine which claimed to have found “the best cookies” the author had ever eaten. I was intrigued, but also somewhat skeptical. So, naturally, I had to try out the recipe for myself.

The recipe produced a batter that was a bit too dry and mealy to mix together, so I modified it slightly to include a tablespoon of milk

The cookies certainly had a solid amount of chocolate chunks, and they smelled heavenly coming out of the oven. I tried my first cookie before it had cooled, and it was so-so. However, after the cookies sat in the tin for a day or two, they reached their full potential. Best cookie I have ever eaten? Maybe not. But they were pretty darn close!

The original recipe comes from Alison Roman’s cookbook Dining In. If more of the recipes in her cookbook are like this one, then it might be worth picking up a copy!

(Note: The ingredients are measured by weight, so use a kitchen scale)

Chocolate Chip Sea Salt Cookies

225g butter, softened
112g granulated sugar
42g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
350g all-purpose flour
1 tbsp milk (optional)
170g dark chocolate chunks
1 egg
Demerara sugar, as needed
Flaky sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla.
3. Mix in flour to make a dough. If dough is too dry to come together, add in the milk and stir to form a ball.
4. Fold in chocolate chunks.
5. Divide dough portion in two, and then form each section into a log shape. Wrap each log in cling film or wax paper. Chill for 2 hours, then unwrap.
6. Beat egg, and then brush over each log. Roll each log in demerara sugar, using wax paper to help adhere the sugar as necessary.
7. Slice each log into 1/2 inch-thick rounds, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
8. Sprinkle cookies with flaky sea salt.
9. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes. Demerara sugar will melt and caramelize on some of the cookies.

The cookies are really best enjoyed a day or two after they are baked! They are an adult’s cookie—not too sweet, and the combination of the crunchy demerara sugar with the surprise of salt and dark chocolate is very, very delicious.

Strawberry Season

Every year in late June and early July it is strawberry season. For a few brief weeks, fresh, local strawberries are available in shops and markets, or at “U-pick” farms where the public can go and pick strawberries. I have been picking strawberries since childhood. Every year I make the trek out to a U-pick farm to fill my baskets with plump, red fruit. And of course one has to test a few of the fruit while picking…

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights detail of strawberry, c. 1500, oil on panel. Prado Museum, Madrid.

Strawberries have been eaten since at least the Middle Ages. They famously appear in the fantastical and bizarre earthly realm in Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights triptych. The strawberries that we eat (and pick) are actually a hybrid developed in the 18th century from of North and South American varieties of the plant. Wild varieties are still found in forests in Europe and North America today.

Unfortunately, this year’s strawberry season was quite short, as we had a long stretch of extremely hot and dry weather. Most berries were small, but still sweet and delicious to eat and cook with!

With baskets of fresh berries, I rarely do anything too radical. I prefer to eat my berries plain, with sugar, or with cake and whipped cream. Living in the UK introduced me to the Eton Mess, which is gloriously delicious but utterly lazy. Mounds of whipped cream with crumbled meringue and juicy berries. What could be easier to prepare? You can make Eton Mess with any sort of fresh berry, really, but strawberries are ideal for me. Eton Mess works well as a dessert for a large group of people–as last year’s Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery showed–but it also is a great dessert for single servings. It’s best eaten immediately after assembly.

It’s a mess!

Eton is so simple to make you almost don’t even need a recipe (but if you do, Nigella has one here). Basically, hull and half your strawberries, then macerate with a bit of brown sugar. Meanwhile, beat your whipped cream (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup per person), add in a couple tablespoons of white sugar and 1 tsp vanilla. To the whipped cream mixture, fold in crushed meringue (about 1 meringue nest per person), and then fold in 3/4 of the macerated berries. Top each dish with the remainder of the strawberries, and enjoy!

This year I was also determined to make a batch of strawberry jam. I hadn’t made a batch in a few years, and I had far too many berries to eat all myself. Strawberry jam is a classic–delicious on toast, with peanut butter, and even spread on soda crackers (as one of my colleagues is wont to do). For strawberry jam, I follow the strict instructions that come in a packet of Certo pectin. Jam can be tricky if you try to stray from the instructions, but this year’s strawberry jam turned out well!

Rhubarb Cinnamon Muffins

What to do with a surplus of rhubarb? This happens every year—in late spring/early summer, rhubarb grows voraciously in my garden, much faster than I can use it up! I don’t mind a rhubarb upside down cake, or a bit of stewed rhubarb at breakfast, but I am forever searching for new recipes that will help me use up my rhubarb. I’ve heard of rhubarb used in Persian cooking, though I generally stick to sweet baked goods.

Although rhubarb is a ubiquitous plant in most gardens today, that was not always the case. Rhubarb originated in ancient China, but it was known in the west primarily as a medicinal ingredient (primarily using the root). Rhubarb rarely appears in Medieval or Renaissance cooking, and it does not appear in early modern art much either. In fact, it was not cultivated or consumed much in the West until the 18th century.

A work colleague of mine recently brought some rhubarb muffins in to work. They were very tasty, and I loved the combination of tart rhubarb with a sweet and cinnamon crumb topping. So I asked for the recipe, and tweaked a few things to suit my tastes. These muffins may seem a bit underdone on the bottom when you take them out of the oven, but that is only because of the moisture of the rhubarb as it cooks. These muffins are excellent both fresh from the oven, and on the second day. They freeze well.


Rhubarb Cinnamon Muffins

Makes 12-14 large muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk (or sour cream)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups diced rhubarb

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 365F.
2. In large bowl, combine flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Make a well in the centre.
3. To the well, add buttermilk, egg, melted butter and vanilla. Stir ingredients until just moistened (batter will be fairly still). Stir in rhubarb.
4. Scoop batter into non-stick, lightly oiled or paper-lined muffin cups.
5. In small bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Sprinkle on muffins. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.