Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Tao of Dough

Those who know me are well aware that I have a strong love/hate relationship with the whole notion of "cooking". It's really not hard to explain: I adore eating, but I find the actual concoction of a meal to be a chore. I don't harbor fond, misty memories of learning the culinary craft at my mother's elbow, in a steam-filled, cozy kitchen, surrounded by a blanket of enticing aromas. (Clearly I've been watching waaaayyy too much Food Network this Summer, yeah?) Nope--Mom was eminently practical, focused on getting the grub on the table in as efficient and timely a manner as possible...and I channel her spirit every evening that I'm in charge of feeding the ravenous masses...um, "the family".

However, there is one priceless recipe she taught me, that I cherish to this day. That's right, folks, I'm talking about the iconic, the delicious: Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. If memory serves, I was about 12 when Mom imparted the great, mysterious secrets of CCCs (as my Dad dubbed them, and so they became forevermore). Apparently I did a good job, because they earned my father's approval, letting Mom off the hook from ever preparing them again--I mean "allowing her to pass the ceremonial Baking Torch to her eldest daughter"...or whatever. Over the years, first in my parents' house, then on my own as an adult, I made those cookies so much that I never even had to glance at the recipe for amounts or directions. And no matter what else was going on in my life, or the world at large, I could always count on those dependable dough balls to come out of the oven transformed into chewy, melty little nuggets of chocolatey goodness. Mmmmm...

You might wonder why I'm rhapsodizing about cookies, out of the blue. And I really wish I could tell you...but I can't remember exactly why chocolate chip cookies suddenly sprang into my brain the other day. I just know that the Male Posse and I were in the car together, and it occurred to me from something we were discussing that I haven't baked in...well, approximately forever--I mean, not counting brownies from a box (albeit a totally acceptable means of obtaining a pan full of gooey cocoa love, as far as I'm concerned) or those super-convenient-but-cheating pre-mixed break-apart packages (again, nothing at all wrong with it...just doesn't constitute actual "baking"). So I informed the boys that they would be assisting me in whipping up some dessert, using Grammy's classic recipe.

I'll be honest--I expected some excitement....enthusiasm....okay, maybe...mild curiosity? What I got instead was a dual...hissy-fit...like I'd asked them to do something absolutely heinous (scrub toilets...or shoot puppies...or dance with girls, for example...) "M-oooo-ooo--mmm, we don't waaaannnnnt to!" they whined. I just stared at them, astonished by their emotional over-reaction. I tried to reason with them, pointing out that rather than requiring an entire day tied up in back-breaking, boring, menial tasks with no discernible reward at the end....I was instead asking for 20 minutes of cooperation for what should be an enjoyable, bonding activity...at the conclusion of which there would be WARM COOKIES. Sheesh, eyes on the prize, people!

So...after the "tirade portion" of our little adventure came to a close, we finally got around to the actual fun stuff. I guess I didn't hadn't thought about the fact that--while they've helped in the kitchen before--neither of the boys has much experience with the precision required of baking. Husband and I both typically follow the "eyeball it" measurement technique and also the "go with your gut" seasoning corollary, but sweet treats demand that you actually follow the rules. Thus, we practiced filling and leveling the cups and spoons, stirring together the dry ingredients, slicing off the exact amount of butter called for, mixing the wet components...etc. (But not breaking the egg--the newbies still insist that I perform this delicate task...probably for the best, at this point...)

Once they got involved in the process, the boys really did find it entertaining. Especially when I instructed them to dump almost a full bag of chips into the batter. (Hey, I TOLD you it'd be worthwhile, didn't I? It's the way Mom taught me--extra love and attention goes in there with every little morsel of chocolate, I tell ya... ) And when the scent of cookies wafted out of the oven to permeate pretty much the whole house? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about! Not to mention the ultimate payoff: freshly-baked delights to the chefs. I think it's safe to say they get it, now. I suspect there will be no more complaining about being forced to help with the CCCs...hmm, maybe for next time I can even convince them to ride to the store and stock up on the ingredients, so we're always ready in case a sugar-deprivation...emergency...crops up. Mwah hah hah, Mom the Cookie Tyrant is born!

No comments: