Archive for July, 2007

July 13, 2007

Saying Goodbye

The pink house on the left corner is my beautiful apartment building in Radeberg

I don’t have a lot of time to post this, so I’m sorry if there are errors. I realize I haven’t posted in a really long time. It’s been busy here. David and I visited friends in Hamburg and Berlin last week, which was a grand time. Both of us caught some kind of bug though, which took me out one day in Berlin, and caught David when we arrived back home. Other than that, and the Bahn locomotive drivers going on strike on our way back to Radeberg, everything was wonderful.

This week we’ve been busy packing everything up. I feel like there is so much stuff in my apartment, but also I feel strangely calm about this whole thing. We’ll see how I feel Sunday morning when we leave for my parent’s house with all my belongings. Tomorrow is going to be busy – aside from packing I am having some of my Sachsen Fulbright friends over for one last brunch (leek quiche with a cornbread crust is on the menu). Then in the evening I am attending my school’s Abiball, which is for all the 12th-grade students who completed their Abitur (high school exams) this year. It’s kind of like our Prom in the States, except that students only have one ever and it’s after everything is over. Needless to say I’m sure there are going to be some incredibly happy students at that party. I’m looking forward to seeing them and many of my teacher colleagues one last time as well. I’m not looking forward to the rumored ballroom dancing that’s going to occur. Why do disco fox and tango have to be on the German curriculum, but not the American?

Now that I’m done here in Germany, you might ask what’s next? Well, that’s a very good question. I’ve been accepted by Boston University’s masters program in gastronomy. There I will start in the fall with a hands-on culinary arts course (I already bought my knives and I have to buy a thermometer and two chef’s coats when I arrive in the States). After the culinary course I’ll continue on with being a part-time student (hopefully employed full time somewhere) learning all about food in the context of history, culture, sociology, anthropology, and so much more. I’m looking forward to it – I have many ideas of what I’ll do with this degree. Food journalism is probably the most tangible one, but I’d love to combine my food degree with my love of teaching languages. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to make that work. In the meantime, David and I are busy packing up my life in Germany, moving back to Oregon where we’ll teach at our favorite language camp again for a week, and then packing up our lives in Oregon for the big move to Boston. But don’t worry, I plan to take the blog with me. I think it’s a great place for me to practice my writing and explore my love of food and culture. Although there may be a bit of silence on this blog for the next few weeks, I can promise you I will pick it up again when things settle down and I’m in Boston. Until then, may your summers be wonderful and safe! Hope to see you all here again soon!

July 1, 2007

Chocolate Chip Cookies

As Michael of The Office says, Wikipedia is great: anyone can write what they think on it, so it must be true! I personally like Wikipedia a lot, but I know that it’s not always true. The funny thing is, they almost always have what you’re looking for… In this case they have a very informative article on chocolate chip cookies, whereas I struck out at Encyclopedia Britannica. All they could tell me was that a cookie is

primarily in the United States, any of various small sweet cakes, either flat or slightly raised, cut from rolled dough, dropped from a spoon, cut into pieces after baking, or curled with a special iron. In Scotland the term cookie denotes a small, plain bun.”

Curled with an iron? What kind of cookie is that??? They don’t explain further. Wikipedia on the other hand is full of information. Not only does it talk about what kind of cookie it is (it apparently belongs in the “drop cookie” category because you drop the cookies onto the sheet in little balls) but it also hints at the somewhat debated history of the cookie (which must be true since it matches up with the history given with the recipe I ended up using…that is, unless she got the information from Wikipedia herself!).

To go into this history, first I have to say that I never understood that Nestlé Toll House actually meant something in terms of the cookie’s history. There’s the famous Friends episode where Monica and Phoebe try to recreate Phoebe’s deceased grandmother’s “perfect” recipe that was called “Toulouse” only to find out it was the Toll House recipe after all. But I never thought that Toll House itself had any meaning, I thought it was just part of the Nestlé name for the chocolate chips. But apparently not. Toll House Inn was the inn that started it all: the birthplace of chocolate chip cookies. And where was said inn located? None other than Massachusetts. Even though it still takes me six tries to spell the state, I knew I was moving there for a reason!

The history itself is hotly debated: did the owner Ruth Wakefield herself, known for her fantastic sugar cookies, accidentally make the cookies one day while trying to make chocolate cookies, or did her cook George Boucher convince her to save a batch of cookies she thought she’d ruined? We probably won’t ever know, but whatever happened I’m glad it did!

People have searched high and low for the perfect recipe. But what entails perfect? The Amateur Gourmet claims that they must be crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Meg agrees, saying that they shouldn’t be cakey or too thin (and in the end she decided to average a bunch of recipes together to create the best one). However, I didn’t look at either of these sites until I, as a present to my teachers at school for my last day there, decided to bake for them. Instead, I used trusty Google and found this recipe. I think Stephanie Jaworski of Joy of Baking will become my new favorite resource for baking. This recipe was hands down the best recipe I have ever made for chocolate chip cookies. And let me tell you my friend, I’ve made many a recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

These cookies were excellent right out of the oven, as almost every chocolate chip cookie is. However, the true test of a chocolate chip cookie is time. Most cookies, as they cool, lose their moistness and become crunchy. That’s where milk comes in and you can dip your cookie to soften them. Not this cookie. This cookie has no need for milk, other than to accompany it with the flavor. Even after three days these cookies were just as moist and soft as they were when they came out of my mini oven. And let me tell you: everyone loved them!

Chocolate Chip Cookies (from Joy of Baking)

1 cup (6oz/180g) coarsely-chopped Semi-Sweet Chocolate*
½ cup (50g) toasted Pecans or Walnuts (optional)
1 cup (226g) unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 cup (216g) Brown Sugar**
¼ cup (50g) granulated White Sugar
1 large Egg
2 tsp Vanilla Extract***
2 cups (280g) Flour
¼ tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda

Mix together flour, soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside. Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy (about 2-3min). Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Slowly add the flour mix and beat until combined. Don’t over mix. Stir in chocolate and nuts.

At this point the dough is really soft. Put it in your fridge for an hour, or leave it overnight if you wish. Then preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees Celsius. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper and roll 1 ½ to 2 Tbsp of the dough into a ball and place on the sheet. Repeat until the sheet is covered, leaving a couple inches between each cookie. Bake about 8-10 min, or until golden brown.


* I used one bar of Ritter Sport Halbbitter chocolate and one bar of Ritter Sport Dunkle Vollnuss. These were a semi-sweet chocolate and a chocolate with whole hazelnuts. The hazelnut chocolate replaced our use of nuts in the recipe. I personally like making my own chunks better than using chips, which are difficult to find in Germany.

**Brown sugar is the most important ingredient to real chocolate chip cookies. This is what makes the cookie moist. You need moist brown sugar, so if you’re making this in Germany listen closely. Do not make this recipe with German granulated brown sugar. It won’t work. The worse news is that it can be almost impossible to find American-style brown sugar in Germany. If you can sneak into an American army base somewhere it’s worth it to buy the brown sugar (and you can get a chunk of cheddar cheese while you’re at it). Some Asian food markets carry it as well. Or your best option is to have someone from the States send you a package.

***Vanilla extract is equally difficult to find in Germany, but much less important. I left it out completely. I don’t like using vanilla sugar packets, which are sold in baking sections, because I think it makes the cookies cakey. We don’t want cakey.