My obsession includes a collection of some one thousand cookbooks, stacks of cooking magazines, and boxes, files, and notebooks crammed with recipes. Recently retired (I was a teacher), I can now indulge my passion further by actually ferreting out the best tastes in my collection; or, if need be, developing the best. As William Shakespeare put it, “Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his [or her] own fingers.”
This blog is a record of my adventures and experiments in finding the ultimate recipe for…
I began my cooking experiments as a three year-old by dumping flour, oats (and everything else at hand in the bottom cupboard) into the middle of my grandmother’s kitchen floor and stirring them together. I am told there was no bowl or other container involved. Granny thought I was very clever; my mother not so much.
My other grandmother had some of her baking fall victim to my experiments with the dials on the front of her stove. She, however, had the wisdom to recognize a budding interest in cooking. She set about teaching me how to stir so ingredients stayed in the bowl. I also learned that there was an order in how things went together, and how things tasted (yummy or yucky). Once I could read, she taught me how to understand a recipe, measure carefully and, most importantly, to think about taste and texture and what I was aiming for. I began to develop pretty strong technical skills and was not frightened of trying new recipes, even those deemed difficult. By the time I was twelve my mother had me making soufflés for a ladies’ luncheon.
During the 1980s I spent a lot of time at Bonnie Stern’s School of Cooking. It was there that I really began to expand my taste experiences and consider the new flavours and ingredients that were flooding Toronto’s culinary scene. Bonnie’s recipes always provided that jolt to the taste buds, that “there’s the taste I was missing” experience. It was also where my obsession with recipes began; the search for the very best tasting recipe for whatever dish had captured my attention.
The Chocolate Chip Cookie
In the last few years that I was teaching, our school staff included a number of foodies and a social convenor who set up several staff bake-offs. The first of these I entered was for the best chocolate chip cookie.
It so happens that the perfect chocolate chip cookie was one of my first food obsessions. In the 1970s there used to be a Dutch bakery on the east side of Church Street just south of Wellesley, close to where I was working for the summer. Their chocolate chippers had a wonderful “tingle” of some subtle flavour in the background. It took me a long time to identify the ingredient – even now, I’m not sure, but almost certainly it was mace– and it became my secret ingredient too.
For the bake-off I seriously began experimenting with add-ins to my cookie dough. About eight variations later I had what my family thought was the best: a dough that contained not only mace but also orange zest and espresso powder. Intriguing, more sophisticated, not too sweet – and really good! (But not a winner – they came second.)
Recently Scandinavian baking has been capturing my attention. It has given me some new ideas to try with my chocolate chip cookie dough. I have introduced some rye flour and the zest of a whole orange for taste. In an old note book, I have a version that adds corn flakes (another uses Rice Krispies). I decided to try Frosted Flakes to add to the crunch. Further experiments have yielded some great variations, the overall favourite being one that included homemade candied orange peel (more about that in another post). Whatever the choice, you end up with a large, rustic-looking and utterly delicious chocolate chip cookie. One obsession down.
This is a very easy recipe to play around with. You can switch the cereal to another crispy variety; you can use all-purpose flour instead of the rye; if you love coffee flavour, increase the amount of espresso by ½ to 1 tsp; not fond of orange – leave the zest out. In developing this particular take on a chocolate chip cookie, I found that Kellog’s brand of Frosted Flakes is sturdier than store brands and maintains a somewhat better crunch when mixed in. This dough is best mixed with a stand mixer but can also be made with a hand held electric mixer or even by hand with a wooden spoon as no long periods of beating are required. If mixing with something other than a stand mixer, you might want to crush the cereal somewhat before adding it to the dough. The paddle or beaters of a stand mixer will crush the cereal for you.
(Makes 24 large cookies)
- Hands on Time: 10-15 minutes
- Chilling and Baking Time: 1 hour 13 min
- 1 ¼ c all-purpose flour
- ½ c dark rye flour
- ½ c butter, (either salted or unsalted), softened
- ½ c granulated sugar
- ½ c brown sugar (light or dark), firmly packed
- 1/3 c canola oil
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 tsp espresso granules
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 c Frosted Flakes
- 1 1/2c semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Combine the all-purpose and rye flours in a bowl and set aside. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. One of the sheets will be used for chilling the cookies.
- In a large bowl combine the butter and the granulated and brown sugars. Beat until well combined.
- Beat in the oil to combine.
- Add the orange zest and the espresso powder and mix in. I grate the orange zest directly into the bowl using a micro-plane so that none of the flavour in the peel is lost.
- Add egg and vanilla. Mix well.
- Sprinkle the salt and baking soda over the surface of the dough, then mix in well.
- Add the flour mixture to the sugar/butter/oil mixture all at once and mix just until combined.
- Add the cereal and chocolate chips and mix just to distribute through the dough.
- Scoop the dough in 2 tbsp balls and place on one of the parchment lined cookie sheets. As the cookies are going into the refrigerator to firm up, they do not have to be spaced far apart. All 24 cookies can go on one sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
- Just before the hour is up, preheat the oven to 350F.
- Remove cookies from the refrigerator. Place 12 of the cookies on the second prepared cookie sheet, spread out about 1 ½ inches apart. Bake this sheet first. Reposition the remaining cookies on first sheet and set aside. Bake cookies for about 13 minutes or until they have a light, golden colour. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely (if they don’t get consumed first).
- Replace rye flour with unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Substitute chopped, candied orange peel for the chocolate chips.
- Use a combination of chopped, candied orange peel and chocolate chips in either the rye or the cocoa flavoured doughs.
- Substitute a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, coarsely chopped, for the chocolate chips.
- Use mini-chocolate chips in place of regular sized chips in any of the variations.