Got carried away in the kitchen today (and it wasn’t the first time either). With the radio on, today showcasing best Polish hits of all time, I felt at home, listening to the songs I grew up with.
Spending a day in the kitchen is my idea of ‘rest’. When the radio is on, the washing machine quietly washing away, the windows are open and the big mug of tea is made – I am ready to conquer the kitchen. I’d plan my ‘menu’ a day in advance, walk to the supermarket in the morning, get my ingredients and then, little by little – I’d work my way through the mountain of tasks I entrusted myself with. Weighing the ingredients, kneading doughs, whipping creams, whisking eggs, creaming the butter, making custards, chopping, cutting, mincing and – in a joyful fury – swearing like an old sailor, when something goes wrong.
I love those moments of creative solitude, when I know that there will be two final outcomes: some delicious (or failed!) things to eat and one exhausted cook. It’s thrilling, it’s the sense of being on a mission, which can only be completed, if finished on time.
What’s on today’s “menu”? Broccoli and green pea soup with homemade choux-pastry ‘croutons’ and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I am a big fan of soups. Healthy, yet filling. Quick and easy to make. And the combinations are endless: whatever’s in the fridge, goes into a soup, making it an adventure every time. As for the chocolate chip cookies – the story goes far back, when I was working in a coffeeshop in Krakow.
It was probably one of the first ‘American’ style coffee shops in town, selling fancy sandwiches, a big choice of confectionery (brownies, blondies, chocolate chip cookies among them) and a wide array of coffees, ranging from a simple Americano to a sickly sweet Kahlua Caramocha (with kahlua and caramel sauces, topped with whipped cream). The coffeeshop was brand new and shiny, located in an old building, on the most famous street in Krakow, and I could never quite comprehend how on earth people could afford having a coffee there, as prices were ridiculous (I was not able to afford a latte with what I earned per hour).
It was my first encounter with the world of American-style coffeeshops (now many of the ‘chain’ coffeeshops sell the same stuff, just with different names): the Big City Life, Ultimate Modernity, represented by a takeaway cup of skinny latte with an extra espresso shot and a bagel with salmon and cream cheese. I was overwhelmed. And as we had to ‘study’ the ingredients of all the sandwiches we sold, I grew more and more interested in foods from around the world – they sounded so interestingly ‘exotic’: prosciutto, camembert, bok choy, focaccia, avocado, mimolette (which is to this day, one of my favourite cheeses) – so many things I have never heard of before.
At first, most of our guests were foreign tourists, which was quite challenging for us, a team made up of mostly students, who haven’t travelled abroad much (or not at all). I remember one day, marked by an ultimate embarrassment: one lady, I think she was from England, decided to correct my broken English (bless her, she did it subtly and quietly). She asked where she can get some sugar for her coffee, and I said: ‘behind the corner’, literally translating Polish phrase (‘za rogiem’). She smiled, leaned towards me and said (almost whispering): ‘around the corner, not behind the corner’. I instantly turned into a beetroot, my face redder than my shirt, mumbled ‘thank you’ and occupied myself with Very Important Tasks (wiping the sides, refilling the fridges, etc.), until she was gone. Since that day, I have never made this mistake again
But back to food. Indulged in the world of coffee, learning the secrets of brewing a perfect espresso, preparing a silky smooth flat white, pouring a mug of latte with a pretty ‘latte art’ on top, making fluffy cappuccinos and espresso machiattos, I found myself becoming a fan of this previously unknown world. And coffee often comes with a treat.
The cakes. Pastries. Biscuits. Cookies. Virtually all of them were new to me, I heard of them for the first time when I started working there. Carrot cake (cake made of carrots, how come?!), chocolate fudge cake (omg, so big and dark!), caramel brownie tower (probably 700kcal in 100g, if not more!), oreo cheesecake (wow, just wow), blondie (beautifully gooey piece with chunks of white chocolate), chocolate brownie, chocolate chip cookies, biscotti (how can a biscuit be so hard, yet so delicious?), American style apple pie – the whole new world of cakes I have never came across before. I spent countless hours ‘researching’ at home, browsing the internet, trying to find out what are those mysterious, foreign-sounding treats, I wanted to be able to explain to my family and some guests, who (like me) never heard of such treats, what they were.
And since they were sillily expensive, I attempted recreating them at home. I wanted my family to try some of the treats from ‘confectionery’ section, without spending a fortune. I decided that chocolate chip cookies will be the easiest to make, and so I started my search for a perfect recipe. I tried many, before I actually took some of my homemade chocolate chip cookies home. Some would turn out way too hard, like a stone. Some would be bland. Some would be way too sweet. It was then, when I discovered the The Joy of Baking, and there: the recipe for chocolate chip cookies that always works and makes soft, gooey cookies.
Here, slightly adapted for you guys, a recipe for these easy peasy Chocolate Chip Cookies. It takes about 30-45min and the cookies are ready!
CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
1 cup of butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
1 cup walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts, chopped
How to make?
1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Prepare two baking trays, lining them with a baking parchment.
2. Beat the butter with your electric mixer, until smooth and creamy. Add the sugars and beat until well incorporated and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at the time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and mix well again.
3. Add flour, baking soda and salt to the butter and egg mixture and beat until incorporated. Lastly, add chocolate chips and chopped nuts, and stir well with a wooden spoon (or your mixer). You can also use M&Ms, like I did, they add a nice crunch to the cookies.
4. Place the cookie dough in the fridge for at least an hour, but you can leave them to chill overnight. Preheat the oven to 180-200 degrees Celsius.
5. Now it’s time to form the cookies. Use a tablespoon for small-sized cookies and two tablespoons (or an ice cream scoop) for large ones. Form a ball out of dough, and place on the previously prepared baking sheets, pressing lightly. Remember not to place the cookies too close, as they will flatten when baked.
5. Bake for about 7-9 minutes, sometimes it takes a bit more than that, depending on your oven. If baked for too long, they will be stone-hard. Cool on a wire rack.
All done! Time to enjoy the cookies now.