South Park Self

tchokka cheep

I can't make chocolate chip cookies without remembering the first Jo'burg roleplaying tournament I ever played, which was one run by the Wits crew, way before ICON was even a twinkle in Grant's eye. It was a cute tournament. We played pygmies, members of the Tchokka Cheep tribe, tasked with dealing with a crashed spaceship in our jungle. I was in the 'B' team, having had all of about two years of roleplaying experience by then, and we dismally and totally failed to do anything meaningful to the module. I don't even remember who else was in the team - Mike, certainly, possibly Anton? Carlo? I was probably 22, it's a hell of a long time ago now. It was fun. But it's the "Tchokka Cheep! Tchokka Cheep!" chant which stays with me, for some reason.

All of which is an unlikely segue into the fact that wolverine_nun asked me for my chocolate chip cookie recipe. Since I am still sinusy and pretty much without brain after a blissful four days of doing damn near nothing, I am delighted to oblige her and incidentally achieve a free blog post without needing to think about it.


(This recipe is based on the Quick Oatmeal Cookies one from The Joy of Cooking, with variations. I think if you stood over me with a whip you might persuade me not to fiddle with a recipe for the space of a single iteration, but it's a long shot).

  • 125ml soft brown sugar (they're currently selling it as treacle sugar, for no adequately defined reason)
  • 125ml brown sugar (i.e. the yellow-brown unrefined sugar with the same granule size as normal sugar)
  • 110g butter (not marg, it does affect the flavour)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tblsp milk
  • 250ml cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (optional, but I think it improves it - you can also stuff around with allspice and cloves if you feel so impelled)
  • 250 ml uncooked quick-cook rolled oats
  • 2 bars Bournville Dark (the 90g slab. And when did those start being 90g instead of 100g? Rotten swizz, if you ask me).
  • 100g pecan nuts

Right, so for various arcane reasons this recipe is much easier to make when the weather's hot, particularly since I just burned the motor out of my hand mixer. To start with, preheat the oven to 350/180, and leave the butter out on the counter for half an hour so it's a bit soft and you don't have to start the process with an ice-pick.

Either sling the butter and both sugars into your food processor and process the hell out of them with the normal blade, OR mix with a hand mixer, OR assault it sadistically with a wooden spoon. By whichever method, or preferred substitute (place in large tub and dance upon with clean wooden clogs?), you want the butter/sugar mix all creamy and slightly light. Add the egg, vanilla and milk to it and give it another whirl so it's even lighter and creamier.

If you're using the processor, at this stage use a rubber spatula to remove the mix and put it into a large bowl. If you're using a wooden spoon or hand mixer you should already be using a large bowl. Oops. Go back and use a larger bowl.

Right, now sift the flour, bicarb, baking powder, salt and spices into the creamed mix. Secret confession: I don't usually bother to sift them. The skies have not yet fallen, nor have the biscuits. Mix it all in, either by hand or by machine - it should be a slightly sludgy batter. Now sling in the oats and mix with a wooden spoon - trying to use a machine at this stage will burn out the motor, see above. You'll end up with a sort of crumbly oaty consistency, not a smooth batter.

Unwrap the two slabs of Bournville Dark and place them lovingly on a chopping board. Take a large, broad-bladed knife, a sharp one, and pray it's a warm day, softening the choc just enough to cut it easily. (Bournville Dark is very hard indeed in temperate climes. See ice-pick, above). Slice the bar in a grid both ways, so that each block is cut into two both lengthways and widthways. The best way to do this is to put the knife across the line you want to cut and lean on it heavily - as I say, works better if the weather is warmer. You could cheat like hell here and use commercial chocolate chips, but I don't like the grade of chocolate they use. Feel free to ignore my chocolate snobbery. Your delicate bar-hackery process should end up with a whole bunch of semi-regular chocolate blocks plus a whole bunch of shavings, bits and what have you. Fling the whole lot into the biscuit mix.

Coarsely chop the pecan nuts - I usually aim to cut them approximately in half down the length and in three bits the other way, but this is not an exact science. You want chunks of pecan nut of a pleasing size to bite upon unexpectedly in a cookie. Sling them into the mix.

Mix the mix a bit with a wooden spoon to make sure everything is more or less distributed. Your texture here should be a sort of sticky-together oatmealy not-quite-batter full of pleasing nutty/choccy chunks, i.e. it's not smooth. It shouldn't be smooth. It can't be smooth. Abandon smoothness all ye who enter here.

Chocolate chips in cookies melt and stick like evil-minded glue demons, so if you have teflon-coated baking sheets I strongly recommend you put down a layer of baking paper, or else the burned chocolate bits will lift the coating off the sheet. Take teaspoonfulls of the mixture and plop onto the paper in rows, leaving a good 5cm between dollops - they spread. I find the biscuits are a bit more regular and morphous (as in, not amorphous) if you very vaguely shape the dollop with your fingers before you drop it, so it's a sort of roughly spheroid thingy. Alternatively, cookie shoggoths are a valid lifestyle choice.

Bake for about 10 minutes, until they are starting to brown. They'll be a bit soft as they come out the oven, but harden and become crispy as they cool. The optimum time to nosh them is about ten minutes after they've emerged from the oven, when the chocolate is still soft but won't actually take the roof off your mouth.

Ways to mess with the recipe: responds well to flavour modulation, e.g. orange zest instead of the ginger, or fresh ginger in addition to the ginger. The original recipe doesn't include nuts and says the chocolate chips are optional, but they're not, trust me.

Let me know how they turn out!
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