Thursday, February 9, 2012

Adventures in Baking

Call me naive, but until I got to Martinique, I didn't realize that cookies are a very American (North American) treat.  Martinicans specialize in cakes, and I'm not a fan.  I just miss the wonderful gooey-ness of a homemade chocolate chip cookie.

So my favorite Canadian, Joelle, and I decided to bake some the other day.  Little did we know that it would be such a difficult task...

We found a simple recipe online at handletheheat.com:

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies 
From All Recipes
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or using a hand-held electric mixer, cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water then add to batter along with salt. Mix in flour until incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips with a rubber spatula. Using a spring-loaded ice-cream scoop, drop even and large spoonfuls of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned

On the website, it lists this recipe as "super easy"... but obviously, that doesn't apply when living in Martinique.

Obstacle #1: Finding the correct ingredients.
Butter?  Sure.  White sugar?  Check.  Eggs, salt, flour?  Check, check, check.  Chocolate chips?  Umm... those don't exist.  Let's improvise by buying a bar of chocolate and chopping it up.  Brown sugar?  Oh, damn.  There's white sugar and cane sugar... Hey, that's two different types, close enough.  Baking soda?  Uhh... What is that in French?  After an extremely unsuccessful call to a French friend for help, we made an educated guess and bought la levure chimique "alsacienne."


Chocolate bars, as cheap as we could find

White sugar and Cane sugar

Still not sure if this is really baking soda, but it was close enough

Obstacle #2: Measuring.
Obviously, an American recipe is going to have US measurements.  It would be easy enough to convert measurements into Metric on Google, but do I even have any measuring cups, spoons, or a scale?  Of course not.  So again, we had to improvise.  Luckily, I at least have a pot that has the measurements etched into the side.  Baking doesn't need to be precise, does it?  

Close enough to a teaspoon

Look closely, US Cups are etched inside.  A pot is a perfect measuring cup!

Obstacle #3: Utensils.
A mixing bowl?  No.  Hand mixer?  Ha, no way.  Cookie sheets?  Yeah, right.  Something to chop up the chocolate?  Banging with a plastic spoon does the trick, right?  Cooling rack?  Eh, a large serving tray will do.

Using a pot as a mixing bowl, fork as a hand mixer

"Cookie sheets"

Pounding out some chocolate

Cooling rack (or "drying rack" as I kept calling it)

After successfully overcoming all obstacles, we decided our dough was pretty tasty, so the cookies, logically, would be too.  Into the oven they went.  (Trying to figure out exactly how my oven works is still a mystery...)

All mixed up

Ready for the oven

Perfectly browned

End result: Martinican-style American chocolate-chip cookies.
And they taste pretty damn good if I do say so myself.  Did the recipe yield 4 dozen cookies as indicated?  Of course not.  I don't think they take into consideration eating the dough while you're waiting...

But overall: Baking in Martinique?  Success.