baking sweets travels

Springtime in January

17 January 2008

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A few times a year I have an almost physical longing for spring, heightened on days (like Sunday) when the weather behaves very unseasonably and foreshadows what’s to come. I feel the warming wind coming off the sea, see the bright sun blazing down on the green hills, feel that anticipatory energy that heralds the growing season and time of light — and I get impatient. Can you feel it? There’s only a few more months until Daylight Savings Time (March 9, not that I’m counting — much), and I know I’ll be ready.

I am feeling that wishfulness today, during this time when night descends so early. It’s cold. The light is still bright, true, but in a different way. The Bay Bridge looks chilly and uncomfortable, and the headlights of cars blur sharply as they pass over it. I want to eat soup (and I have: the roasted- vegetable barley, and a potato-leek-spinach I made last night) and sandwiches stuffed with melted cheese; I want to wear the warmest sweaters and tall boots and stay inside in front of a fire.

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Some of these I can do (the sweaters thing, and the boots) and some I can’t (my apartment woefully lacks a fireplace, sob), but what really helps ease winter’s bite is to bake. This past weekend I made a lot of vegan treats — chocolate cake, a galette, sugar cookies — to be discussed at a later date, but then on Tuesday night, possibly to remedy all that healthful stuff, I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies with loads of butter that were absolutely delicious.

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This is a recipe I found ages ago on allrecipes.com when I was searching for a good-looking recipe that was also quick. It seems I have a pattern of always feeling pressed for time, and thus I’m often drawn to recipes that are time-saving as well as good (the good thing is imperative). This one is a little different from more traditional chocolate chip cookie recipes, but it’s simple, and, dare I say, produces some of the best cookies I’ve ever eaten.

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I don’t know if it’s the brown sugar or the melted butter that make them so soft, but they are, and it’s wonderful. Still, they’re not too soft — their inherent chewiness saves them from being just ordinary, and if you use a good organic butter that clean flavor will sing through and you’ll be glad you spent the few extra pennies for it (note to Bay Areans: I always buy Clover, not least of all because I have passed by some of the dairy farms out in Marin and Sonoma Counties, and I played against one of the family’s girls in high school basketball — they’re ‘local’ to me, and I hope I’m making the right choice; plus, their stuff tastes pretty darn decent).

I could eat these cookies by the plateful, which is saying something for a girl who prefers salty to sweet. I try to limit myself but, well, sometimes I’m powerless. What can you do?

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This weekend there are super top-secret missions in the works, that are so super top-secret they can’t be shared until next week. Until then — make these cookies. And then let me know what you thought.

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Chocolate chip cookies, adapted from allrecipes.com

1 cup butter, melted
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda, gradually stir into the sugar mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.

3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: I use a whisk to mix together first the butter, sugar, and eggs, and it really helps make that batter nice and smooth. I also use it when I add the dry ingredients but after that, just a wooden spoon is needed. I think you can make the batter in about six minutes, tops.