New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

22 04 2012

All that glitters golden and chocolate-studded is worth the wait – specifically, because the agonizing hours in the fridge are what allow the gelatinous eggs the time they need to deeply hydrate the pair of flours in this perfectly balanced cookie dough.

The scatters of crunchy salt crystals coax the palate wide, allowing the consummate toasty butter nuttiness to stop time dead in its tracks. Creamy dark chocolate serves as bitter foil.

These are Cookies. Enjoy them with Milk.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies
barely adapted at all from the NYT.

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons/8.5 ounces/240 g cake flour
1 2/3 cups/8.5 ounces/240 g bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/4 cups/283.5 g unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups/10 ounces/283.5 g light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/8 ounces/225 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
2 bars dark or bittersweet chocolate, broken up into bits, perhaps with a hammer
Sea salt

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes with an electic mixer, or with a fork until your hand feels like it’s about to fall off in protest.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

4. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Incorporate chocolate. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for at least 24 hours (NYT claims 36 is optimal). Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day.

I froze half my dough; results pending experimentation.





País Vasco/La Rioja: Nibbling the North

15 12 2010

País Vasco/La Rioja Introduction here.

Both el País Vasco and La Rioja are internationally famed for their gastronomy, the former for its cutting-edge kitchen techniques and the latter for its age-old vineyard traditions. Here’s a peek into what we munch.


The Bilbao weather that greets us can be gently described as “blustery with a hint of hail,” and we take early evening refuge from the ice onslaught in a covered barbeque stall at the end of a river fair. Huddled up in a mass of mujeres around the space heater, we request a little bit of everything, accompanied by a miraculously warmth-bestowing bottle of wine.


The waiters bat their lashes at us just enough to keep things playful, but we only have eyes for the mountain of meat. Chorizo, torreznos, and ribs roasted over the fire, accompanied by the crustiest of hearty Spanish bread and salty year-old sheep’s milk cheese (not pictured) makes for supreme satisfaction, medieval carnivore style. At some point during the fleshfest, a troop of trolls comes bounding past, skipping and jiving to vaguely Celtic tunes despite the hostile weather. The wine invites me to high-five them, and I do so with enormous joy and a bulging belly.

Upon arrival in Donostia-San Sebastián, we head towards La Zurri, recommended as an inexpensive menú del día of “delicately cooked Basque food” on WikiTravel. Emily zeroes in right away on the volovanes con foie, puff pastries overflowing with incredible cream sauce, marvelous mushrooms, and decadent duck liver. Yes. Welcome to town.

As Spanish cuisine ekes its way into the international mainstream consciousness, it becomes more and more chic to “go out for tapas” – which probably doesn’t mean what most Americans think it means. Rather than mere “small plates,” tapear is a social bar-hopping activity, where each bar gifts you some kind of edible along with your caña or vino. In Madrid, this is not all that common a practice, although post-Rastro Sundays in La Latina are certainly worth a jaunt or two; Granada to the south and León to the north hold much more claim to tapas fame.

In País Vasco, tapas are not called pintxos. Pintxos are called pintxos. Vital differences:

Tapas are:

  1. free with your drink,
  2. bar food – usually greasy, starchy, and/or recently unfrozen, and
  3. often found congealing in questionable metallic cafeteria trays on the bar,

while pintxos are:

  1. paid for separately, ranging in price from 1-5€,
  2. miniature obras de arte – usually beautiful, elaborate, and/or recently reheated, and
  3. found tastefully arranged on plates lining the establishment, intended as the center of attention.

In pintxo bars, just like in the huge majority of other eating establishments ’round these parts, you tell the bartender what you’ve consumed at the end and pay accordingly – none of this cash-up-front crap. If you encounter a pintxo bar where you are handed a giant plate and told to go to town on your own and pay according to toothpick, you may also want to look for the door – custom is to eat one pintxo (and down one small beer – known as a zurrito – or glass of wine) per bar, then scoot, or stumble, to another locale.

Leah informs us that it is mushroom season, and the champis on a stick – accompanied, inevitably, by a salty slice of jamón – is a crowd favorite. The shrooms’ already meaty flavor blossoms into fully-fledged fleshiness on the grill, accented by a healthy drizzle of sharp garlic sauce. We devour them with our first sip of txakoli, a very dry and slightly bubbly Basque wine.

I can relate to a people this serious about their garlic.

Occasionally the girls would even convince me to go for sweets. But when they’re this elegant, who can stand to eat them?

… what? You say that’s mango sauce? Where’s my fork?





Chocolatería San Ginés

24 09 2010

Ganas are one of my favorite aspects of Castellano. Tengo ganas means that I feel like doing something, that it sounds good to me, that I am anticipating with glee. Me faltan las ganas means that I’m lacking the lil’ puppies, and as such am disinclined to rise from my snuggly bed.

From whence do these ganas come? And when they lack, where is it they hide?

Neither Em nor I is privileged with knowledge of the mysterious mundo de las ganas. All we know is that tonight we’ve got a bad case of ’em for a dinner of chocolate y churros.

My favorite photo from Spain thus far – gonna get it blown up to poster-size.

We get the skinny on Madrid’s best chocolatería from Fausto; however, he refuses to join us as “chocolate is a winter thing.” We care little. The ganas don’t take no for an answer.

Sam texts at precisely the perfect moment and joins us at Sol’s bear statue.

Chocolatería San Ginés is tucked in a surprisingly snug street branching off from the main arteries of Sol. Chatty tables line the corridor, and the magic of ganas makes one of them immediately available.

There’s no need for a menu here – even if San Ginés offers further goodies, you’d be nutty not to get the eternal hot Spanish chocolate and fried churros combo. We tack on an order of porras – which are basically oversize churros – for good measure.

Not so drinkable as much as dippable and perhaps spoonable, Spanish chocolate is thick and darkly sweet. The churros lack the crunchy sugar coat of their Mexican cousins, upon which the three of us reminiscence about with great fondness, but it’s hard to complain when they’re accompanied by a cup of liquid gold.

It’s far from my favorite Spanish treat – I’d choose llao llao over churros any day – but who am I to deny the honeyed allure of the ganas?





Retiro/Prado/llaollao

16 09 2010

Today is slated as lazy exploration of a few famous Madrileño sites within walking distance of our piso – it’s the final day before I begin work at José Luis Sampedro, and we wouldn’t want me to stress. As such, the first item on the agenda is a picnic lunch in Retiro, the enormous and very well-groomed park about ten minutes away.

Leah and Elena join us for leisurely chats and eats. The Sriracha on my cumin-paprika spiced chicken and semi-cured sheep’s milk cheese bocadillo is blissfully piquant. Everyone digs on the variety of crunchy Taiwanese sesame seed cookies I’ve snagged from the Asian market.

We wander, and it’s immediately obvious that one could quite easily get lost within acre after acre of manicured grounds. Unlike the symmetrical control of the French style, which I find off-putting in its harshness, this Spanish park conveys a sense of tranquility to be found in cooperation with nature. I mean, let’s be honest, it is designed to the nines, but the paths are wandering rather than strict and straight, and interruptions by man-made objects are spaced-out and surprising.

The Spanish sun is particular insistent this afternoon, and we can feel our skulls sizzling in their shells. It’s perversely pleasant – I will forever be a masochistic desert girl – but also quite draining, so we make our way over a few grassy knolls towards the sounds of traffic.

On the way back towards the Atocha metro, a gorgeous church-esque building is far too prominent on a street corner not to explore further. It turns out to be an extremely souped-up mausoleum for several select Spaniards, entombed beneath elaborate statues of gods and owls. Not that hanging around corpses is exactly my scene, but it’s absurdly cool that this kind of stuff is seamlessly intermeshed with the Mercadonas and doner kebabs in this city. In my city.

Elena and Leah are called away to their respective barrios, Emily and I to our Street of Delights. It is well past siesta time, but we make a futile attempt at an hour of rest. The day’s rigors have worn us thin.

Yet we persist in our dogged exploration of Madrid’s finest, particularly because “Prado” rhymes so well with “helado” and the plan just seems divinely proclaimed. Each night from 6-8 PM, the museum opens wide its doors, such that one may view scads upon scads of masterpieces for free. This offer entices plenty of other potential appreciators of the arts, but the line hustles right along.

I remember not being at all into the Prado when I visited it a couple years back with the Earlham Spain program; my memories are tinged with the resentment I felt at being forced to go see “great art” instead of exploring what the backstreets of Madrid had to offer. Today is wholly different. I visit of my own volition, and at leisure – the great art is ten minutes from my house, so Em and I plan to check out only a very small percentage of what’s here today, returning for future visits such that we may give the space its proper due consideration.

Once inside, we head straight for The Garden of Earthly Delights, as I recall loving its hyper-detailed, almost cartoon-like style, so distinct from the majestic portraiture found in many other parts of the museum. It’s still there; it still fascinates. After, we casually make our way towards Goya’s Pinturas Negras, passing a billion representations of Christ and plenty of stunning ancient statue work.

Spending too much time with Goya takes a lot out of a person, especially two that have been subjected to such a brutally stressful afternoon. We require icy cold sweets for dinner to recover.

llaollao, conveniently and mnemonically located just off metro stop Callao, is Fausto’s favorite yogureria in town. There’s only one flavor – natural and tangy-sweet – and plenty of topping options, from fresh fruit to fudge sauce. Fausto highly recommends a specialty concoction called “Sanum,” which Marta and I opt to split.

I know this photo came out blurry, but there’s no way I’m not including it.

I’m just gonna say it straight up – it is better than Pinkberry. This mountain of creamycold yogurt and fruit and granola and chocolate bits drizzled with honey was 3€, and more than enough to split (Fausto devoured his solo).

Yeah. You needed a closer look.

Best dinner in Spain so far.