Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Comfort Food

Emma and I had a rough week last week.  Part of it is middle school.  One minute it's good, the next it's the 9th circle of Hell.  Frankly, you couldn't pay me to go back to middle school.  I wouldn't take a billion dollars delivered by Bruce Springsteen to go back to middle school.  All those complicated relationships, which are complicated further these days by facebook, email, text messaging... according to Emma, you can be friends with someone on facebook, but never speak to them in school.  It gives me angina just thinking about it.  

The issue here, is that it all rolls downhill.  Complicated middle school relationships for Emma translates to crabby relationships with everyone at home.  And who can blame her, really?  She can't say or do what she feels all day long -- it has to come out sometime.  As the oldest of four girls, I remember vividly the brutal pinches, bra snaps, nuggies and snipes I doled out to my sisters.  I'm quite sure they remember them too.

Which brings me to comfort food.   

When I was in middle and high school, the only time I got along with my sister Elizabeth was when we made oatmeal cookies on a Saturday morning.  Usually we'd mix all the ingredients together, and then eat half the batter before it made it into the oven.  The consequent stomach ache was well worth the time spent together.  So I made cookies for Emma:  Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.  I also made applesauce muffins from a Martha Stewart recipe, which was clearly missing baking powder as an ingredient because they didn't rise.  (The recipe called for baking soda only and had no other leavener other than eggs).  And finally, I made raisin bread.  For me, toasted raisin bread with good butter is the ultimate comfort food.  So throughout the weekend, the girls snuck cookies and I surreptitiously toasted slices of bread.  By Monday everything was gone.  

Time to make more.

Here is the recipe for cookies.  The muffins I have to experiment with again and I'm going to create a separate post for the bread:

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies:
(adapted from The Cook's Bible, Kimball, Christopher, 1996)

2 sticks softened unsalted butter (*see tips below)
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark, what ever you have)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs - room temperature (* see tips below)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt - Kosher is better)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg - OR 1/4 tsp cinnamon (don't use both,it's too much - but some kids don't like the taste of nutmeg)
3 cups rolled oats
1/12 cups milk or dark chocolate chips depending on preference

  1. Heat oven to 350.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer beat butter until creamy then add sugars and beat until fluffy.  Beat eggs in one at a time.
  3. Sift flour, salt and baking powder and cinnamon or nutmeg together. 
  4. Add to butter mixture using a spoon or rubber spatula.  Stir in oats and chips.  
  5. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of batter onto parchment lined cookie sheet  (Parchment just makes life easier, but if you don't have it just plonk the cookies onto a cookie sheet, no need to grease it)  Now, I like to get all my cookies plonked onto sheets of parchment, instead of just letting it all hang out in the bowl while the first batch bakes.  This seems to cut down on the amount of fingers swiping chocolate chips from the bowl.  Since I only have 3 cookie sheets, I reserve one cookie sheet for the parchment, and make layers -- batch of cookie dough, new parchment on top, batch of cookie dough new parchment etc.  
  6. Bake each batch for 15 - or so minutes -- until the bottoms turn brown.  Then slide the parchment with the cookies on it off onto a cooling rack (if you don't have one of these use the rack of the broiler pan that came with your oven, and if you don't have parchment, let your cookies rest on cookie sheet 2 min or so before spatulaing them onto the rack.  I just made up a new verb: spatulaing) and let them cool.
  7. Rinse your cookie sheet to cool it down before you slide the next parchment of cookie dough onto it.  If you don't your chocolate will start to melt too soon, and your cookies could burn and stick.
  8. If you can manage it, let your cookies cool 15 minutes or so before digging in.  I can never manage it, and always have burnt fingers and tongue after making cookies.

You really should use unsalted butter because otherwise your salt ratio in the recipe will be all messed up.  That said, I never remember my mom having unsalted butter in the fridge when my sister and I made cookies, and I never remember my cookies being too salty. Then again, I have a high tolerance for salt. Buy some unsalted butter and leave it in the freezer.  The softening tip below works as well with frozen butter -- it just might take a wee bit longer.

I can never seem to remember to take the butter and eggs out early enough for them to get soft, but I've found that if you cut the butter into teeny tiny pieces and spread them out on a large plate, by the time you've gathered together all the other ingredients and the bowls, and found the beater attachment for the mixer, and looked in the basement for another tube of parchment, and slapped your children's hands away from the chips, your butter will be just the right softness.

Eggs can easily be brought to room temperature by sticking the whole egg into a bowl of warm water for a minute.  Or you can crack the eggs into a bowl right after cutting up the butter, but before gathering, looking, arguing.  They'll warm up to room temp this way too.


1 comment:

  1. You are right Mom never had unsalted butter. To tell you the truth I still make my oatmeal cookies with salted butter. I think I like them better that way! Great recipes and fun to read.


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