Thursday, 22 October 2009

Chocolate chip cookies (Μπισκότα με σταγόνες σοκολάτας)

A while back, I saw some large chocolate chip cookies prominently displayed in a bakery in the town centre. They were about the size of a desert plate. I decided to snack on one as I was doing my jobs around he town.

"Would you like me to heat it up for you?" asked the shop assistant. What's she talking about? I wondered. It had never occurred to me that a biscuit could be warmed up before it was eaten.

"No thanks, I'll have it as it is."

She carefully picked it up with a pair of tongs and put it into a paper bag.

"Be careful, it's soft," she warned me. That got me a little worried: a hot crumbly biscuit wasn't what I was expecting to be eating. I had visions of dropping crumbs on the front of my blouse, and in the middle of a town like Hania, that would make me look like a monkey that had escaped from its cage.

trendy cafe bar hania chania
Make or break: new casual eateries are opening and closing all the time; this one seems to be doing quite well - it's all about location.

After a brief discussion with the shop owner, it transpired that the shop assistant had been trained to tell customers these things. He explained that the biscuits were made using a prepared dough sold by (if I remember correctly) Pillsbury, who had given him instructions on how to prepare, cook and serve these chocolate chip cookies, a novelty for Cretan tastes. The store where I bought this rather large biscuit was also selling other international forms of pastries that have become part of the global cuisine: American-style donuts, filled sandwich rolls made with ready-to-cook pre-risen bread dough, and muffins, among others. These places never last long enough in our town, unless they offer something 'trendy' and 'different'; this store probably didn't manage to get the message across very well, because, after changing ownership, it eventually changed product line and began to sell more conventional (for Greek standards) snack food.

American-style chocolate chip cookies are also sold in convenience stores, mini-markets and kiosks around the town, found in the same place as the XL chocolate-filled croissants, fake apple pies, and packets of potato crisps; in other words, the junk food counter. The kind of people likely to buy them are the ones who also buy their frappe coffee from a kiosk; definitely not cookie connoisseurs.

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My daughter recently found a chocolate chip cookie recipe in one of her little-girl magazines and asked me to help her make them. After checking out the recipe, I decided that it wouldn't work (it contained yeast and what looked like disproportionate amounts of butter and flour). She pleaded with me to make them, but I couldn't bear the thought of wasted ingredients and effort, so I got out my trusty recipe book (my laptop with its wireless internet connection) and found Ioanna's recent post for chocolate chip cookies. There are some cooks and recipe sources you trust, and there are others that you don't trust, and I've used quite a few of Ioanna's recipes.

chocolate chip cookies
Yeast, 50g flour and 80g butter? Try asking the gremlins for an explanation...


So I gathered the required ingredients and Christine offered to mix them. The children were more interested in the chocolate drops than anything else: chocolate in any form always has that kind of effect on people. We mixed everything together and left the dough in the fridge (this recipe requires making a dough which should be refrigerated for one day). The next day, we cooked a batch of chocolate chip cookies. When they were ready, I wrapped a cookie in a paper towel for each child.

chocolate chip cookies
Mama's little helper

"How's the cookie?" I asked my son.
"Tastes like popcorn," he replied.
"How about you?" I asked my daughter.
"Why are they soft?" she asked back.
"And why are they hot?" asked my son.

The children thought these cookies were rather 'different'. They did not 'smell' like a Greek biscuit (a koulouraki usually smells of orange essence or cinammon).

chocolate chip cookies
Making the cookies
chocolate chip cookies

In general, I can't complain: my children take an interest in what they eat. But they have been indoctrinated into the Mediterranean taste regime, not just through their mother's cooking, but from the society they live in: their school lunches are similar to their schoolmates', party food has a well-known form wherever they may find it, even the smells of other people's cooking in the neighbourhood are familiar to them. Their taste spectrum may sound limited, but it is historically and culturally linked to their home. Their idea of what constitutes 'good food' was formed from a very early age, influenced by the culturally-based diet they've been raised on.

This will change as they get older. Crete's dietary patterns are also changing for both the better and the worse; more foreign food is making it onto people's plates on the island these days due to the island's large non-Greek resident population, more foreign dishes are being introduced in restaurants and other food establishments BUT: children are eating less healthy food, more junk, and more no-cooking required ready-to-eat mass-produced snack food. Crete's food is altering in line with the trends of global cuisine.

We cooked up another batch of chocolate chip cookies with the dough the next day (this dough can be kept refrigerated for up to three days). This time, we let the cookies bake until they were much more crispy. Then we let them cool down completely before we had them with warm milk and tea, making them much more palatable in the Greek sense. But the damage had already been done: first impressions count tremendously in kidzone. Eventually I'll remake them, but I might call them something else (or at least find a way to tweak the recipe).

chocolate chip cookies
Eating warm soft chocolate chip cookies for the first time can be quite challenging...

If you follow the directions of the original recipe to the letter, you will make 18 overly large biscuits from this dough (I followed Ioanna's instructions and made smaller cookies: we got 28 biscuits). By the time we got down to the last few balls of dough, we had tired of the chocolate chop cookie idea, but I can guarantee that the dough balls freeze well and can be cooked afer being slightly thawed out of the freezer when required.

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17 comments:

  1. Remember the giant 'cookie time' cookies in NZ? Will have to bring you some next time I'm over.

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  2. yes (another nice memory - thanks). these cookies are part of a global cuisine, which we eventually have to learn to accept in crete too

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  3. I agree, the cookies in the kiosk aren't very good. We Americans love our homemade chocolate chip cookies and the super market ones don't cut it either.
    I do find it interesting that there was yeast in the recipe and that the dough had to be refrigerated for a day. I'll have to check Ioanna's instructions...probably more what I'm familiar with.
    Reminds me...I should probably bake a batch for the kids soon!

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  4. I had read that there are bakeries in New York that keep their CC cookies under heat lamps so as to always have that melted, straight from the oven chocolate goodness. It is only a matter of time before it is everywhere.

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  5. Magia se tetoia mpiskota? Pou akoustike?

    Can I tell you I bought a bag of choclate chips for the purpose of baking chocolate chip cookies a couple of weeks ago but keep putting it off. The reason: I will eat roughly more than half of those cookies and that is not a good thing!

    I love, love, love them straight from the oven ... I make them with a little oatmeal as well. Maybe that just helps me think I am eating something a little healthier?

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  6. Yep, Chocolate Chip cookies are a favorite here in the States. They have two loyal camps: those that like them crispy, and those that like them soft. During the summer, it's common to make an ice cream "sandwich" using two cookies as the bread and vanilla ice cream as the filling. If you make these again, one way to make them different is to prepare them "pan style" which is to spread the dough out in a baking pan, bake, and then slice as you would brownies. Even though your helpers were not impressed with the cookies, I bet they will always treasure the memory of baking with you!

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  7. Oh, I also meant to say that I'm so intrigued by the culinary tastes, preferences, and differences from culture to culture. Including how things are named. What you call a biscuit, over here it's called a cookie. If you ordered a biscuit, you'd receive a type of bread. Chocolate drops are called chips here. There's so many more ... what the English call chips, we call fries, etc. Love it!

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  8. brilliant comments paula - i will incorporate them in my next batch of CCCs - and there will definitely be a next batch!

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  9. An interesting post that reminded me of my recent visit to Greece and chocolate chip cookies, my nephew followed a recipe from a cooking magazine for chocolate chip cookies and they turned out to be horrible (to my taste). But everyone thought this was how they were suppose to taste, so I used a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and we made that recipe (with walnuts and chocolate chips) the following night. We made small size cookies and everyone loved them with their frappe or ice cream and definitely preferred them between the two recipes. While in Greece I have made (with many questions and concerns for what I was baking and the ingredients) lemon pound cake and banana bread for my husband’s family and each time they were surprised that they liked them. I really think using familiar flavors (lemons, walnuts, yogurt) in the recipes was one of the reasons they were a success, just as you modified the cooking time on your second day. Have you ever made a kiwi dish and added a Greek flare to it?

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  10. First of all thank you for the link! It is such a pity your kids didn't like those cookies. I have to admit though, I was raised on koulourakia myself. But, the first time I ever had a cookie (I was about 13-14yrs old) I got hooked, so give them some time...

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  11. The challenge of a warm cookie? I'm up for it! I love their puzzlement at them being hot when they'd just come out of the oven.

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  12. i've never been disappointed with anything i've made from your blog ioanna - your recipes have a modern twist to them in a greek environment (they are actually an inspiration)

    and i agree belpana - when you make something that is 'different' for other people, they are surprised that they liked it after all

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  13. Maria, shame the kids didn't like them! Maybe you could spice them up with a little kanela and walnuts or almonds and that might get them interested.

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  14. Yeast in a cookie????

    I haven't tried Ioanna's recipe. It sounds quite like a NY TIMES recipe I see a lot on the internet.

    My favorite recipe for choc chip cookies is
    Nestle toll house choc chip cookies. A quick google search will bring it up. It can be frozen or left in the refrigerator as well, plus you don't need to refrigerate it for 24 hours if you are craving them!

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  15. Oh, I just noticed it is the NY times recipe! Should have clicked on the links first. I hear this is a great recipe!

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  16. Glad to see so many intelligent readers making their comments into a discussion - this one is from joy via email:

    LOVED the post on the cookies. I think this post alone makes the point about cultural food differences. Here, kids might chew their arm off to get a cookie straight from the oven. Even as an adult, i hover near any cookie baker until i get the green light to dig in...melted chocolate chips on my fingers and all! To say that CCC are a loved American standard is hardly an overstatement. There is even a domestic airline in the states that gives people warm CCC during the flight--and has gotten a reputation for it. The company now sells the frozen dough in grocery stores in its flagship town!

    And really, everyone has a specific recipe that they love. The soft/crunchy debate is strong, as is the cakey/non-cakey dispute. Then there are the purists (only chocolate chips), the nut folks (walnuts, pecans or peanuts), the flour folk (white, whole wheat, oatmeal), and of course the chocolate (milk chocolate, semi-sweet, dark chocolate and chips/chunks/melted/shaved). Paula also mentioned the cookie versus "bar" distinction too--with cookies being individually baked and bars being the faster way to make all the dough with one shot in the oven, one pan to clean, etc. Whew. And all that is just for the basic CCC! I haven't even gotten into the cookie "cakes" very large (8-12 inches) cookies made to be sliced and served like cake for birthdays, etc. You can get them decorated with bits of frosting just like a cake too. Here is a link to a national bakery--you can see cookie cakes on the first page. http://www.greatamericancookies.com/

    So all that to say, your post hit on a huge cultural difference that really made me smile--so thanks for it! (and honestly, i suspect more than a few of your readers will be making cookies today!--It fits perfectly with the cold weather too.) I will think about some of my favorite cookie recipes and send them along at some point too.

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  17. I would be willing to accept a "care package" of orphaned chocolate chip cookies.

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