Sunday, October 11, 2009

VeganMoFo Day Eleven: The perfect cookie.

There are different kinds of people in the world. And that's alright - diversity is beautiful. There are those who want a fancy and/or schmancy cookie.
A mocha chip toffee crunch Pirouline-type rolled wafer, perhaps, or a creme de menthe meringue pouff. Well, that's all fine and dandy, but it doesn't quite have the warm and cozy feel of baking cookies with mom that you're sometimes searching for on a cool winter day, now does it? Nope, I says not. You can never go wrong, though, with a classic chocolate chip.

Shortly after I went vegan, I realized I needed to learn to bake vegan cookies. For any vegan with a sweet tooth, this is a fairly crucial skill to have. It just so happened that I had some chocolate chips from Key Foods around, which at that time were still accidentally vegan. (They have since started putting whey in them for reasons unknown, buncha jerks.) Lo and behold, on the back of the bag was a recipe for classic chocolate chip cookies. I've been tweaking that recipe for about three years now, and I feel I can truly call it my own - though it's really nothing revolutionary. At this point, though, it's my version of the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Watch out - this recipe makes a TON of cookies - depending on how big you dole them out, we're talking 4 to 5 dozen here. But consider this: you can always freeze some of the dough, and have fresh baked cookies on hand in short order. :)

Melissa Bastian's Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
4 tsp ground flaxseed
4 Tbsp warm water
2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
Optional: 1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/3 cups margarine (yes, almost three sticks)
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
4 tsp vanilla extract
8 to 12 ounces chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Set out your margarine to soften. Line at least two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. (You don't have to use parchment paper for these, but it just makes cleanup so darned easy! If you're not using it, use nonstick sheets or better yet a combo of a nonstick sheet with a very light coating of baking spray or oil. Very light!)

The first thing you're going to do is make your flax "eggs". If you haven't done this before, it's awesome. Apparently you can just mix the ground flaxseed with warm water and let it sit, so if you don't have a vegetable chopper no worries. But if you do have one, well that's my preferred method. Combine the water and ground flaxseed in the chopper, and pulse/blend for a few minutes until the mixture basically reaches the consistency of egg whites. It really will! It's kind of creepy, but very good for your cookies. Set aside.

Combine your dry ingredients minus sugars (flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon if you're using it) in a large sifter with a plate beneath it. This is the MB / NYiG one bowl + one sifter cookie making method; if you have another way you like to do your wets and drys, feel free, but this is my fave. I developed this when I started baking in my first NYC apartment kitchen; by that standard my kitchen was HUGE, but in reality it was a wide hallway with appliances lined up along one side. I could cook in it only because we bought a sideboard type thing; every inch of counter space was taken up by our dish drainer. Two bowls? Ha. I think not. Aaanyway.

In a large bowl (and if you're making the full recipe, I mean LARGE!) cream the sugars and softened (not melted!) margarine together until they reach a nice creamy even consistency. I find that sometimes this is a two spatula job - as in hold one spatula (or spoon) in each hand and work the mixture into itself by pushing the implements together. Just do it and you'll see what I mean. Then mix in your flax eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until completely homogeneous.

Now you begin sifting in your drys. Sift some and mix, sift some and mix. The more you add the more difficult it will become to stir (duh), so I hope you have a strong shoulder. Many people prefer to do this with a wooden spoon; I have this crazy pyrex spatula that works great. If you're fancy you can do it with your Kitchenaid mixer I guess; I have one of those but I don't use it which is a travesty that maybe we'll talk about later. Whatever you use, make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl regularly so that all of your dry ingredients are incorporated. Once your sifter is empty, take the plate that was beneath it and tap in its contents as well - there's important stuff in there! Mix until consistent - if you find any brown sugar lumps crumble them with your fingers. If they're too hard for that, probably better to just toss them out. (And if there are many that are too hard, you probably need new brown sugar!)

Now for your favorite part - chocolate chips! Fold those suckers in. Remember that if you OD on chips, your cookies may not hold together - you want to have a good cookie-to-chip ratio. This looks like a crazy amount of chips, but considering how much dough is under there it's just about right. Don't cheap out on your chips. Good chocolate chips is one of the secrets to good chocolate chip cookies. Like, duh. And when buying chocolate, consider your sources - there's some wicked stuff going on in the chocolate market (and I mean that literally).

This dough refrigerates well. So if you're like me, and you do something silly and short-sighted like start making cookie dough at eleven o'clock at night, and then need to go to bed, s'ok. Just cover it up, stick it in the fridge, and put off the fun part until tomorrow. If you pre-heated your oven thinking you were gonna power through, you probably wanna turn that off. It's a little pricey and not terribly safe as a heater.

Moon... stars... sunrise... TIME TO BAKE!

I have to say, baking cookies is an awesome way to start the day. Don't know if I could do it every day, but it sure put a smile on my face this weekend.

Alright. So what you want to do here is roll your dough into (to steal a PPK thing) "walnut" sized balls and place them at least two inches apart on your baking sheets. These suckers spread like whoa (for evidence see conjoined twins as pictured below). When placing them on the sheet, I also squish them down just a little bit with my palm. You can spoon them out instead of rolling, but they come out in nicer rounder shapes if you roll. I do use a spoon, though, to help me get the right amount of dough for the balls.

I had written down 10 minutes as the baking time, but then my old oven was a snarky beast whereas my new oven is a glorious goddess. At ten minutes they weren't right, so I waited till 12 and they were perfect. Whichever type of oven you're dealing with, you're striving for that gorgeous golden brown that we all covet. Currently, my advice is to bake for 12 minutes in your pre-heated oven. Let them cool for at least five minutes before you eat them - they come out VERY soft. Actually, they come out downright puffy, and you'll think something has gone terribly wrong like I did because I haven't made these since last year. But within a couple of minutes they sort of collapse, which unlike when your souffle does it is a good thing, and become just like you want them to be. (In case you're wondering, yes, Jonathan did already steal a cookie from the tray. And yes, those really are our kitchen curtains.)

Unlike the Earl Grey Tea Cookies, these babies are downright fabulous still warm from the oven. I highly suggest that you have a glass of cold almond milk (or soy or hemp or oat or whatever your school is) on hand, and taste at least one from each tray. After all, you want to make sure the quality is remaining on par, right?

And yes Jonathan baby, I'll make you a batch with walnuts.


The Voracious Vegan said...

I am always looking for a delicious choc chip cookie recipe! These look amazing! Thanks for sharing. said...

I have a banana bread in the oven but I'm totally making cookies as soon as it's done!!

melissa bastian. said...

Awesome!! ViB - let me know how they come out! :D

melissa bastian. said...

By the bye, I did make some with walnuts mixed in and they were/are really good!

Monique a.k.a. Mo said...

Woah. I am bookmarking this. Cinnamon in a choc chip cookie is very intriguing!