Sunday, August 31, 2008

making hay

well...technically, i shouldn't be anywhere near a computer right now, if things had gone according to plan. i should be rousing myself from the kind of deep sleep you only get at the cottage, assessing the lake for how glass and canoe-friendly it is, and thinking warm thoughts about the pancakes and bacon i'm about to consume and the long day of idle swimming, sunning, and reading that stretches ahead.

unfortunately, life had other plans in mind. we found out on friday afternoon that our friend's mum had passed away. she had been sick for a while and while receiving treatment contracted another illness that her weakened immune system couldn't tackle. they're a jewish family and as i've recently learned, jewish funeral services happen as quickly as possible after the death (preferably within 24 hours). because yesterday was the shabbat, the service is today.

so the cottage trip was scrapped so that we might attend the service and support the dotytron's friend through a terrible, terrible time. i can't even imagine what that must be like and i don't want to ever know. there are people who say that you must experience ALL that life has to offer...that without death the joy of birth is dulled, the sadness heightens and highlights the happiness that will (hopefully) follow. i'm not sure i'm one of those people. i don't want to know. when events like these make bring the contingency of our existences to the fore, i really think that i could lead a happy and fulfilled life without this constant. it would certainly lead to less anxiety, fear, caution, hesitance, desperation.

in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, the dotytron and i have thrown ourselves into action. we're fighting back against the random capriciousness of human mortality in the only sad, futile, way that humans know how. we seized what slim control we had and tore apart our bedroom. the dotytron completely revamped his studio and got me my new sewing machine and i got a new crafting area out of the ashes of his old computer desk. this is what it looks like:

i love it. i can knit in the rocking chair and quilt and silkscreen and do all my other stuff at the table. the spacing worked out perfectly and our room is much airier and feels even larger than it already is (and our room is HUGE...bigger than some people's entire condos in toronto). i mean, it's not as nice as some of the other studios established craft bloggers these ones:

for some reason, that teal blue colour is really popular in the craft-blogger's world of crafting studios. EVERYONE has their studio painted that colour.

so we've taken comfort in order and family (house and blood). i had dinner with my mum and my bro s-dawg and her friends who are visiting from hong kong on friday and we're having dinner with them again tonight. so i have lots of restaurant reviewing to do (replete with pictures, natch). the house family have been together when we could, despite it being a bumper weekend for babies being borned for the roomie. last night, she bought us jean's vegetarian thai for dinner and we ate and watched the bbc's "blue planet." i still have movie reviews to do, too. and i finished reading "the road." so we have a considerable backlog of entries.

we've been noshing on the best. chocolate. chip. cookies. ever. a few months back, the new york times' dining section went on a hunt for the definitive chocolate chip cookie. they surveyed numerous pastry chefs and did a variety of comparisons, breaking down what is probably the most emblematic of all cookies into its' composite parts and analyzing their virtues. the resulting recipe swept the food blog world by storm, to put it mildly. my feeds were choked up with page after page of chocolate chip cookie execution. really, who can blame them? isn't the ultimate chocolate chip cookie a worthy life's goal? and isn't the new york times a reputable source to whom you would trust such a herculean task to be executed with attention to detail and tenacious commitment to veracity? some of the things they uncovered are a no-brainer. warm cookies, under-baking, a touch of salt, etc. the big revelation was letting the dough rest, which was then corroborated by no less a food-science pedagogue than harold mcgee.

well, we made the dough on wednesday evening and let it rest for the requisite 24-36 hours. the resulting cookies were simply beyond. i'm throwing out every other cookie recipe. there is no better. a sprinkling of sea salt adds the finishing crunchy crown of flavour-deepening bite, enriching the sweetness while providing a saline counterpoint. bittersweet chocolate is a must. the resulting cookie is chewy and moist (definitely not cakey, if your tastes run to that, although i turn my nose up at you), with a crisp edge and exploding with bitter, deep chocolate flavour. i highly recommend you all try it.


July 9, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Jacques Torres

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons

(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour

1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)

Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.

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