Many of us cook because it helps us de-stress. For many in our class, the ability to cook freely is a liberating process. In particular, some of us found common ground in our enjoyment of "kitchen cabinet" cooking - where we use whatever is on hand to boost creativity with few other limitations. In these kinds of exercises, we create our own order of proceeding.
Baking is an entirely different world. Things are precise, from ingredient measurements to the order in which things are added to the specific way in which things should be combined (is it whisking? lightly stirring? blending?). For some of us, this regimented type of cooking feels more stressful. Others (like myself) find it oddly relieving to have the order of things pre-determined. In our most recent class, we wanted to see if the order really does matter when baking...and low and behold, the results certainly proved a point. We followed the same chocolate chip cookie recipe with several variations. One group baked the cookie exactly according to the directions. Another mixed all the ingredients together at the exact same time. Another substituted all brown sugar for white sugar, while another melted their butter instead of creaming it. A final group substituted maple syrup for sugar entirely. We produced cookies that looked nothing alike. Some were crunchy, some were fluffy, others were flat and wide and still others were tall and puffy.
Following this exercise, we broke off into groups to make our own cookie variations, using other sweet and salty ingredients like potato chips and cinnamon to achieve what we felt was a more personalized cookie.
The original cookie recipe is below - it's from Nestle Toll House and while I've tried many, many a cookie recipe, this still remains my tried-and-true favorite in the chocolate-chip category.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2) Combine dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, and salt - in a small bowl. In a large bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extra until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time.
3) Gradually beat dry ingredients into those in the wet ingredients bowl. Scrape down the bowl after each addition.
4) Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased baking sheet.
5) Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.