Sorry for the late post, but we’ve been making rather merry this weekend at Christmas in November. Saturday night was the gala dinner, at which I sat beside Michael Smith and Bill Pratt, the executive chef in charge of feeding the athletes at the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver. We ate asparagus shooters, salmon on chilled Isreali couscous, beef tenderloin with bearnaise sauce and cheddar scalloped potatoes, and a maple yule log for dessert. Eggnog and cranberry martinis before dinner and Mission Hill wines with, which were undoubtedly contributing factors to Mike (mine, not Smith!) dancing with a hundred or so women and a feather boa afterward, and doing the limbo. The next morning I found a feather boa at the foot of the bed, and a trail of feathers leading up to our cabin. The dance floor looked like we had been sacrificing chickens.
What I love about this shot: not only is he getting jiggy with it, he has Dwight Schrute hair.
At around eleven the power went out – the entire JPL property (200+ buildings) and half of the town of Jasper. I walked back to the cabin to relieve the babysitter (W fully expected a giant baby to show up on our doorstep when we told him about her coming) and with the stone fireplaces roaring and candles lit on every table the live band kept playing, and the party went on. The generators kicked in before midnight and all was well – it was, in fact, one of the highlights of the weekend. We may have to figure out how to pull the main breaker during the next gala evening.
During the days, the long main ballroom is sectioned off into three rooms, and I’m sandwiched between Chef Michael Smith and Ken Kostick as we do our respective sessions. It’s a ton of fun. Sunday morning we were all a little worse for wear, and Ken paid a visit to my room in an attempt to keep us quiet; I ran over to his and begged his crowd to laugh a little louder at his jokes. Then I went to the other side and heckled Michael about his baking pans (which were much shinier and newer than mine) and stole some of his cookies.
His topic: the science of the chocolate chip cookie. He claims to have come up with the ultimate recipe, and who am I to argue when faced with a basket full of them, warm from the oven?
This is his chocolate chip cookie recipe from the newly released Best of Chef at Home (which I’ll draw a name for tomorrow, and get him to sign it for you!). The addition of a bit of corn syrup allows the cookies to brown more quickly, so that they come out of the oven when they’re cooked properly, rather than overbaked – people tend to want their cookies to be golden, but that often means that when they cool down they’ll be crispy instead of chewy. So a bit of corn syrup helps them look done closer to the point when they actually are done. Consider it a little extra insurance against overbaking.
In terms of timing – I would have to add that exactly 12 minutes is going to produce different cookies depending on their size and the accuracy of your oven, so do make sure you check them early. It’s easier to bake them a bit longer than to reverse time. They should be golden around the edges, set but still soft in the middle – if you like them chewy, remember that they will firm up as they cool.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
from The Best of Chef at Home, by Michael Smith
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. corn syrup (optional)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 375F.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. If you don’t have a stand mixer, beat vigorously by hand in a mixing bowl.
Add the corn syrup, egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Using a spoon, scoop out a ball of dough, roll it a moment in your hands and then drop it onto a lightly greased cookie tray. Slightly flatten the balls but leave lots of room in between to allow the cookies to expand.
For a soft, chewy cookie, bake for exactly 12 minutes. For a cookie with a bit of crispy crunch, bake for exactly 15 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes on the cookie tray and then remove to cool further.
One Year Ago: We were on our way to CIN! And look how little W was…