Saturday, 16 June 2012

More Spring Cleaning: No Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've begun organizing my belongings in preparation for moving out (ah, the transiency of young adulthood!) In addition to navigating the world of shipping options and coming face-to-face with the amount of unnecessary stuff I own, this has necessitated a lot of recycling and throwing out. Some late spring cleaning, you could say. There's something immensely liberating about disposing of a stack of school notebooks, the contents of which I will never need. I feel refreshed!

Assessing my belongings (and their individual futures) brought me back to the original driving force behind my recent cooking: using up the edible contents of my kitchen. My cornmeal and dashi powder are not notebooks. They have a culinary purpose and they deserve a chance to fill it.

On the theme of using up the goodies in my kitchen cupboards in preparation for moving out, I realized (rather belatedly) that even the basic, everyday ingredients, like cooking oil, will have to be used up a little more quickly. A very large and frankly imposing bottle of the stuff has in fact been sitting on my kitchen counter, silently questioning my decision to purchase it so soon before leaving. But cooking oil is so vital! It casually slips into innumerable dishes, a necessity that slips under the radar. We were running low, so I bought some more. Without a second thought.

I have decided not to regret that decision. Or rather, that spur of the moment lapse of judgement. Instead, dear Mr. Vegetable Oil will inspire me to cook in different ways. I've been using too much butter lately anyway (blasphemy, I know!)

My first thought regarding vegetable oil consumption was cookies. Sure, butter gives cookies that lovely crispness, a rich, almost creamy, crunchiness. But butter is not the only way. Surely oil is a valid addition to the cookie-baker's pantry. I started with the basics: chocolate chip cookies. As it turns out, the internet is full of chocolate chip cookie recipes using vegetable oil instead of butter. Many of them seem very anxious to assure us would-be bakers that the lack of butter will not hinder the taste or texture. I choose to believe and have faith.

This recipe is fairly basic-- just about what you'd expect in a choc chip cookie recipe, minus the butter. The use of walnuts particularly appealed to me because the recipe noted that the nutty flavoring made up for the lack of butter flavor. The comparison between nutty richness and that of butter sounded somehow just right and turned out to work perfectly. To be honest, I wasn't sure I liked the taste of these cookies when they first came out of the oven. But after cooling and having some time to rest, they proved to have a lovely rich flavor from the walnuts, enhancing what might otherwise have been a somewhat dull taste.

I didn't have any chocolate chips so I just chopped up a bar of baking chocolate-- not the best quality, but I have to use it up sometime...

Here it is: using up my kitchen basics, one batch of cookies at a time!

No Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
recipe from

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup roughly chopped chocolate (200 grams)
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

This is a pretty simple, two-bowl recipe, pretty common in cookie baking. You mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately, then combine them. Additions-- the chocolate and the walnuts, for example-- are usually added last, once the basic dough has been thoroughly combined.

Preheat the oven to 180° C (350°F)

In one bowl, sift or whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

In a second, large bowl, combine the sugars, oil, egg, and vanilla. Gradually stir in the flour mixture. Finally, add the chocolate and walnuts. Because this recipe uses oil, not butter, I found that the chocolate chunks didn't stick well to the slightly greasy dough, falling to the bottom of the bowl. When I spooned out the dough, I simply stuck extra chunks in the middles and tops of each scoop (keeping them off the bottoms of each scoop as much as possible helps to avoid chocolate chunks sticking to the baking tray and getting left behind when the baked cookies are removed).

Spoon the dough in heaped tablespoon-sized scoops onto an ungreased baking tray, spaced about two inches apart.

Bake for about 10 minutes (until very lightly browned). Allow to rest on the baking tray for a couple minutes before removing to a cooling rack using a spatula. Let these cookies rest a while before eating them (such a struggle, I know!) because the flavor really comes into its own after a while. It will be worth it. Honest.

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