Sunday, November 20, 2005

COLUMN: Cookies

I discovered something pretty nifty this week. I don't know about you, but I've got this one room in my apartment. It seems pretty useless, other than it's the room with the refrigerator in it. And, because it's the room that you step into as you walk into the apartment, it's also the room where all the junk goes.

I've found that I'm naturally gifted in the art of making piles. Ergo, this weird refrigerator room has spent most of its time with me succumbing to many, many stacked piles of random stuff. Mail, magazines, trash in bags, trash NOT in bags, etc. I'm pretty proud of these piles in an archaelogical way. Just as you can count the age of trees by counting the rings, thusly you can also count the age of my apartment by counting the layers of piles. In fact, I'm fairly convinced that, if you dig deep enough through the pile strata, you can find phone bills from the Paleozoic Era.

Recently I took it upon myself to begin the arduous task of de-piling. Just as society tears down to build anew, so must my refrigerator room. Lo and behold, though, I was side-tracked by a discovery of mind-blowing proportions. It turns out that, at the bottom of these piles, I found a strange large metal box that I had previously overlooked. At the top of this box was a series of knobs. Even more shockingly, when you TURNED these knobs, the metal box became extremely HOT in certain places.

I hastily called my friend and asked her if she had ever seen such a box. She explained to me that this box is called - get this - an "oven." Weirder yet, my friend swore up and down to me that there are some people out there - they must be incredibly neanderthal - who exist by eating food that's NOT distributed via a drive-thru window! It sounds crazy, I know, but apparantly, this "oven" can be used to heat and actually (gasp!) MAKE your own food. And this refrigerator room of mine? Apparantly primitive cultures refer to it as a "kitchen." Hrm. Learn somethin' new every day, I guess.

Well, since I had one of these kitchen thingamajigs, I figured that I might as well try to use it. What's the easiest thing for a single guy to make? The answer was easy: chocolate chip cookies. Not only did it seem like an easy prospect, the end result would contain both essential food groups: chocolate AND cookies. For knowledge, I quickly headed to the internet.

It turns out that there are approximately 10 kajillion people on Earth who make chocolate chip cookies. And every one of them puts their recipe on the internet. And every recipe claims to create the absolute, handed-down-through-the-generations, tried-and-true Greatest Cookie On Earth Ever. I found recipes requiring tobasco. I found recipes requiring sour cream. I found recipes requiring things I couldn't even pronounce, let alone procure legally in the United States. Finally, I found it. The recipe for a simple, down-to-Earth chocolate chip cookie. And the best part? I had nearly everything I needed.

Well, except for eggs. And flour. And vanilla. And chocolate chips. And shortening. And sugar. But I had a spatula and a cookie sheet, so I felt prepared. A 15-minute dash to the grocery store, and I was ready to do some serious cookie damage.

Some people like their cookies crispy, like you're biting into a Chips Ahoy or something. Me, I like my cookies chewy, ooey, and gooey. But I didn't know how to make one kind vs. the other. I deferred back to the internet. Making a chewy cookie, one website says, is easy as using more brown sugar than white, more baking soda than you're supposed to, melted butter instead of solid, and three times more vanilla than your recipe calls for. Not a problem, and heck, I even threw in some cocoa powder into the mix for fun.

For the next 4 hours, I was the Cookie Master. I might not be as famous as Amos, but I was rolling out the cookies like they were going out of style. They smelled good, they tasted good, they looked good. I realized that I might very well have a knack for this cooking stuff.

Then I woke up. And checked the cookies that I'd spent the whole night making. They still looked good. They still smelled good. They might have tasted good, were my teeth strong enough to bite through their outer, impenetrable protective layer. Yes, it turns out that I had spent the evening prior baking up a nice batch of great-smelling rocks. I'm quite positive that the recipe didn't call for rubber cement, but the cookies told a different story.

So now I'm scared. I ate several of those things as they came out of the oven. Are they currently lodged in their true rock-like consistency somewhere in my gastrointestinal tract? Where did I go wrong, Quad Cities? Help me make the PERFECT chewy chocolate chip cookie. Send me your recipes via e-mail to sbrown@qconline.com. I'll try them out, and if I find one that works, I'll put it up on my blog. Either that, or I'm gonna start piling again until I can't see the oven. At least now I've got some great paperweights for my piles.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

How is the cookie recipe hunt going anyway? I've got one you'll love. ;) Check that email.