Thursday, April 02, 2009

Baking in Buenos Aires

In honour of our Spanish teacher Alejandro's birthday next week, I decided to bake cookies. Tyler recently tagged a delicious-looking Smitten Kitchen recipe for me, so a few days ago I decided to give it a go. The only hitch: I couldn't find what I've always considered the most basic of baking ingredients at either of our local supermarkets. The stores only carried artificial vanilla extract, and brown sugar was nowhere in sight. While our package of oatmeal has a recipe for oatmeal cookies with chips de chocolate, I couldn't find those, either.

Since today was a holiday and we didn't have school, we decided to check out the widely-lauded and appropriately-named Jumbo Supermarket. You can read more about Jumbo on other sites, but it was pretty much akin to Wal-Mart or the Real Canadian Superstore. The produce at Jumbo was better than our local stores, but prices were more or less the same and the selection was almost overwhelming. I did manage to find baking soda and settled for artificial vanilla extract and baking chocolate that I could chop into chunks for the cookies, but was unable to find brown sugar, which I suspected would be key to the chewiness factor in this particular recipe. I finally bought a bag of azucar negra, or black sugar. Even though it looked much darker than standard American light brown sugar, it had a similar "sticky" feeling when I squeezed the bag (i.e., it didn't feel as granulated as white sugar).

When I poured the sugar into a bowl to measure it, it looked a LOT darker than I'd expected. Behold:


Aside from this substitution, the rest of the ingredients were as written, except I measured by weight instead of volume because we have a kitchen scale but no measuring cups or spoons. When I creamed the butter and sugars the resulting mixture was the colour and texture of used coffee grounds, and I was skeptical as to whether the recipe would actually work. To add to my skepticism is our oven dial (the one in the middle). Can you spot what's missing?

If you said a temperature setting, you're right! I set it somewhere in the middle and watched the first 2 batches of cookies very carefully to figure out the correct baking time.

And...? Success! I'm happy to report that we have a delicious batch of (very dark) chocolate chip cookies. We think they taste delicious; I'll let you know what Alejandro thinks.


Adam Wishneusky said...

brown sugar is just white (refined) sugar + molasses. try making your own! :)

montague said...

they look amazing! and that sugar is so sparkley! love it!

Kelley said...

You might be interested in the vanilla taste test in "Cook's Illustrated". (You'll have to sign up for a free trial of their online services - or, if you leave the site, it lets you sign in for a free day)

The results were surprising. Artificial vanilla beat out the real stuff in several trials.