June 8th, 2008

chocolate chips cookies!

chocolate chip cookie stack

if you take a look at my post archive, you might notice that i’ve been going sweet-savory-sweet-savory to keep things interesting. and in planning out my baking schedule (yes, i keep a loose schedule), i realized that i had skipped one of my all time favorites. the first thing i ever learned how to bake.

chocolate chip cookies

is there any more comforting smell than chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven? of course, my mom’s chocolate chips cookies were the only ones i really enjoyed growing up. no refrigerated cookie dough in our house – only real butter and sugar. watching her bake seemed so effortless, but the end result was a transcendental experience. very rarely did the cookies make it off the cooling racks before being devoured by my sisters, brother and me.

chocolate chip cookies 2

when i started baking in college, i requested the recipe from my mom, and she mailed it on a 3×5″ index card as always. after baking the cookies for the first time, i called her to let her know that they came out great and that i was now an official accomplished baker. but i had to know where she got the recipe. i expected a story of the recipe being passed down from great grandmothers. instead, she asked me if had a bag of chocolate chips there handy. i did. “turn it over,” she said.


all these years, my mom had been making the nestlĂ© toll house chocolate chip cookie recipe, a recipe that’s been on the back of every bag of semi-sweet morsels for about 70 years. i can still hardly believe it. but there’s something so indescribably perfect about the cookies she bakes, so i can’t bear to change a thing. to me, there is no better cookie.

i wanted to make something special this time, because these cookies are the last thing i will bake in my current kitchen. that’s right, i’m moving into a new place, leaving behind my 45 square food baking space that has served me so well for the past 2 years. the next time i post, it will be from a kitchen at least 3 times the size, so i’m ready to be spoiled by extra counter space and a full size oven with a working light.

i want to dedicate this post to my tiny efficiency apartment kitchen, because despite its limited size, i’ve never had any problem baking anything. it reinforces the idea that it doesn’t take anything fancy to produce delicious food that makes people happy. this is my old oven. modest, but never once let me down. thank you, old friend.

chocolate chip cookies and milk

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June 3rd, 2008

how to make brioche the easy way

brioche 8

paris was the first place i had ever eaten a brioche, and up until yesterday, it was also the last place i had ever eaten one. the girl and i were staying on the border of the 6th and 14th arrondissements for a week, and since it was my first time in france (and i don’t speak french), brioches became one of the only things i felt comfortable ordering myself because we call it the same thing in the states.

brioche 3

we fell into the routine of visiting the cafe down the street from our hotel for a quick cup of coffee and a pastry before heading out to see pretty much every historic point in the city (on foot) and collapsing back in our hotel room 10 to 12 hours later. while i can’t claim that my brioches are anything near what i assume most french bakers can whip up in their sleep, biting into these soft flaky rolls shorty after i took them out of the oven instantly took me back that parisian cafe.

the recipe couldn’t be easier – there are no tricks or special techniques you need to know.

brioche 7

the only consideration you may need to take is having the dough prepared the night before so it can rest in the fridge overnight.

getting the unique brioche shape is a matter of pressing a tiny dough ball into a slightly larger dough ball. i don’t happen to have brioche molds so they don’t have the fancy ridges, but each one came out differently, each a special little golden brown explosion of flaky goodness.

the dough is full of egg and butter, which makes them soft and delicate, perfect for breakfast or dessert. there are brioche variations that have chocolate, cheese or jam baked right into the center of the roll. try brioche in bread pudding, serve it with ice cream, toast it and make sandwiches…

brioche 9

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