August 1, 2011
A classic at any time of year…
Summer might not seem an obvious time to get baking. The brighter days and lighter clothes call for salads and fruits and less of the doughy stuff. Still there are some recipes that cry out for a summer’s day. A lunch of quiche lorraine, warm from the oven with a peppery salad, or a loaf of the crustiest bread, to accompany that simple meal of salamis and cheeses that suddenly seems so right. In my house even the sweet stuff is never very far from our thoughts. The refrain of; “What’s for pudding?” doesn’t cease just because we happen to be eating it in the garden for once. And if I am planning a dinner party I still feel the need to offer something indulgent at the end. And the problem remains that the weather may or may not be good. We may or may not be able to eat it outside. We may want something to cool us down, or we may still need a little bit of comfort food. English weather eh!
This is where I usually plump for ice cream. Firstly because there is an endless array of flavours you can buy or make to suit any meal you might be serving. And secondly it gives me the perfect excuse to get baking again. Because to turn ice cream into the ideal pudding, you need a little something alongside it. Just add a slice of some simple homemade cake, or a triangle of shortbread or the like. Or best of all, the king of foodie marriages, ice cream and chocolate chip cookies.
Making chocolate chip cookies is a bit of an art. Not that they are hard to do, not at all. And making the cookie dough is an absolute doddle. But cooking them right, so the outside is crisp, the chocolate in large melting chunks, and the rest remains a soft and chewy glorious indulgence, takes the right technique.
All is revealed here, not complicated at all. It is a technique I perfected over years of being my family’s designated cookie baker. It is a family tradition in my house that during the Wimbledon tennis finals chocolate chip cookies get baked. I never saw anything but the final set, at which point I would emerge from the kitchen, with a large plate of newly baked cookies.
I have specified dark chocolate and walnuts, simply because I think that is a perfect combo. But that is just my personal preference. You can do milk or white chocolate, no nuts, other nuts or any combination thereof. I have even been known to throw in a large handful of mini-marshmallows, to the great delight of the tableful of children to whom they were presented. They are best on the day they are baked, warm from the oven. Though they do freeze well. However it does have to be said that during the Wimbledon finals of my youth there were never any left by the time someone had made it to champion. Incidentally, to go back to the ice cream for a moment, wodging two together with vanilla ice cream in the centre before freezing wrapped in clingfilm, makes an ice cream sandwich that will make you your children’s favourite ever person.
Makes approximately 24 large cookies
12 tbspns unrefined caster sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
175g sifted plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp soda
75g roughly chopped walnuts
150g dark chocolate chips or chunks (large is best as they don’t melt down too much)
Cream the butter in a large bowl.
Add the sugar gradually to the butter and beat until creamy.
Beat the egg and vanilla into the butter mixture.
Mix together the flour, salt and soda and stir in to the butter mixture.
Stir in the nuts and chocolate.
Drop the dough from a teaspoon, well apart, on to a couple of greased cookie sheets. Don’t over grease the sheet, if you do the mixture will spread too wide making for thin cookies.
Bake the cookies in a moderate oven, 190 degrees C, for about 8 minutes, but do check after 6, especially if you have a hot oven.
Take the cookies out a little before you think they are cooked. They continue to brown and set for a while as they cool. With a spatula of some sort, remove the cookies one at a time to a cold flat plate. Don’t place one on top of the other, just in one layer. You will likely need a couple of large plates to accommodate two baking sheets worth. I seem to manage about eight cookies per sheet.
Then fill up the baking sheets again and bake the second batch in the same way. By the time these come out of the oven you will find the first lot are pretty much set and can be removed, and piled up, onto a large serving plate. So you can use the other plates to set the new batch.
Continue until you have cooked all the cookie dough, serve and enjoy!
This article first appeared in Cakes & Sugarcraft Magazine issue 114.
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