Archive Page 073
On the Subject of…the Generation Gap
Is it true of every generation that they think that the ones that come after it are dumber and more foolish than they ever were? That they think that each new generation is the Antichrist and the End of Days? For example, our grandparents saw our hippie parents, with their long hair, their Beatles mania and their tie-dyed everything (after enough acid you’re convinced that it looks good) and thought, “well, that’s about it – we’re all going to die.” Although I turned out fine…so maybe it skips a generation.
The reason that I ask is that I’m occasionally observant and I’ve noticed a few things about modern kids that makes me wonder if this time it really IS the end of the world. I cite several examples: (1) baggy pants are still around. They’ve outlasted all other known fads. (2) Many of their heroes are Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Spongebob. (3) Text speak (IDK, my BFF Jill?), (4) Lady Gaga and finally (5) Farmville. While this latter is not directly related to the kids of today, it is related to their parents and their future parents, immediately predisposing them to being mentally handicapped. Apologies to everyone out there who is mentally handicapped, it’s not fair to lump you in here.
It’s not like I’m saying it’s something inherently true* or false, but I think that every generation sees in the next all the things that are different and then realizes that those particular traits are what will destroy us all. I just hope that it’s not my generation that’s finally right.
For the last time, I don’t WANT to read your goddamn poker face,
* like, for example, that Lady Gaga is a man
On the Subject of…Cookies
Friends, Romans, Countrymen and everyone else worthy of note*, today I will discuss something near and dear to my heart (or stomach) - cookies. Chocolate chip cookies to be exact. It’s going to be an exciting one, you bet you sweet ass. It’s going to be full of helpful tips, tricks and even a Q/A section! It’s long, but you’ll wish you had less fun.
Let me start out by saying that chocolate chip cookies are America’s number 2 favorite cookies. Number 1 being “Oreos.”*** Given that I have no idea how to make “Oreos”, I figure that I’ll “settle” for number 2.
Let’s start by looking at some of the major ingredients of cookies and what they do. It’s important to know some of these things so that when you’re making your cookies you’ll know what to do to get the desired results. I have compiled these facts from many sources including Wikipedia, the Food Network (we love you Alton Brown) and numerous other sources. Read them carefully because I guarantee that some of you are thinking about these incorrectly. Here I’m looking in your direction D.M. I’ll discuss them in the order of introduction:
Butter, shortening and margarine are all fats. These things are a major flavoring component of cookies. They also affect cookies by tenderizing them and they do this by coating the flour particles. These fats also do something else to your cookies. When you cream them together with your sugar(s) you create seed bubbles that later expand to help your cookies rise. I consider (and I don’t think that I’m alone) creaming to be the single most important technical component of the cookie making. You will never get ideal cookies if you don’t cream properly.
So let’s take a second to look at the different types of fats. What’s the difference? Two words – melting point. The temperature at which the fat melts helps determine how much the cookies will spread before they set. Butter has a melting point of in the low to high 90’s F (low to mid 30’s C), margarine has a melting point in the mid to upper 90’s F (mid to upper 30’s C) and shortening has a melting point between 100 and 120 degrees F (mid 40’s to just shy of 50 degrees C). Therefore, if you use butter, you get cookies that spread very early in the baking process, creating flat cookies. Using shortening yields cookies that spread little and late in the baking process, creating cakier cookies and margarine falls somewhere in between. While I have no idea if it’s smart or not, my favorite combination is to combine shortening and margarine, creating cookies that multi-task. Sweet!
Sugar (Brown and White)
Besides tasting fantastic and adding some structure, sugars do some other cool things to your cookies. For one, they are primarily responsible for cookie browning. You want golden brown cookies? Hoorah, sugar. Sugar is also another moistening agent. They do this by grabbing onto water and water equals moistness. Brown sugar is sugar coated with molasses. The darker the sugar, the more molasses you have. Gaming your sugars lets you let’s you play god with your cookies. For example, the darker your sugar, the chewier the cookies will be (more molasses = more moisture sucking capabilities = chewier cookies). Increasing the ratio of white to brown sugar yields crispier cookies and the inverse yields more tender cookies (go molasses)! Because I like cookies that walk a razor fine line between crispy and tender, I like equal parts white and brown sugar.
Vanilla is a flavoring; it really doesn’t affect the final cookie structurally.
Eggs, along with flour, are the major structural components of your cookie. Eggs provide moisture and protein and create puffier cookies. If you’re going for flat, crispy cookies, you may want to trade out some eggs for milk. A note for the health conscious – if you use solely egg whites in your cookies, you will have drier cookies. You need some of those yolks for moisture.
Baking Soda/Baking Powder (I’m specifically looking at you here D.M.)
Salt is a flavoring. Like vanilla it doesn’t play a major role in the structure of the final cookie, but a little salt pairs with the sweetness of the other ingredients to create a counterpoint to…you get the point.
Flour is one of the major structural components of the cookie. It contains protein and starches that act as the building blocks of cookiedom (and bread, cake and other thingsdom). Depending on the type of flour you use, you get different ratios of these components and you can bend your cookies to your will. If you use cake flour, the lower protein content will bind less moisture allowing the cookies to rise (cake-y cookies). If you use bread flour, you’ll have more protein, thus more gluten thus chewier cookies. If you use all purpose flour (my favorite) you will glean the perfect balance between cake-like and chewy cookies. Nom nom nom.
Provide chocolatey goodness. Semi-sweet morsels/chunks add a slight bitterness to the cookies that works deliciously well with the sweet and salty flavors already created. If you can’t have your cookies sweet enough, milk chocolate chunks are a fabulous way to go. Or you can just go drink some honey.
You can go #*$& yourself.
That’s science class. Ready to move on? Fantastic. Let’s get into some cookie Q/A. Which I made up, but believe me, you wish you asked these questions.
Q – My cookies stick to my pan and it makes a mess, what am I doing wrong?
A – Use parchment paper! It’s coated with silicon and you can reuse the same sheets all through your baking process and never have to worry about oils or even scrubbing your cookie sheets!
Q – My recipe says that it makes 5 dozen cookies, but I can’t get that many out of the batch.
A – You’re either making your cookies too big (who the #*$& cares?!?!?) or you’re eating too much of the dough yourself (again, who the #*$& cares?!?!?). Trust me, it happens to everyone.
Q – How do I know when my cookies are done?
A – When eating them presents the greatest satisfaction. Not scientific enough for you? Take them out when the cookies are turning golden brown and while they are still pliable. If you want them a little crispier, leave them in a little longer than that, but remember that they will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven, so if they look “done” in the oven, they’ll be burnt after you take them out.
Q – Do I need to use a special scoop for my cookies?
A – If you want each cookie to be Martha Stewart, Children of the Corn, cookie-cutter identical and you can’t do that by hand, then yes, you will want to use a disher (available in kitchen supply stores and many stores where you can buy kitchenware). If you are like me and you (a) don’t care and (b) actually like having each cookie be somewhat different and unique, then you need nothing other than a spoon, your hand or your mind (here I’m looking at you Jean Grey).
Q – You’re making me hungry. Do you have any cookies?
A – That’s all the time we have. Tune in next time when we talk about something else.
Q – You didn’t answer my question.
A – Piss off.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night,
* Mary, Queen of Scots**
** Sorry everyone else
*** I imagine that the favorite cookies in Heaven are “Oreo” cream filled chocolate chip cookies.