Monday, January 12, 2009

The Impostor

I have
been on
a baking
spree the
last six
Maybe longer, I have lost track. I have been getting
nostalgic now that I have children of my own and have been baking and cooking a lot of the recipes I remember my mom making as a child. The three cookbooks that I remember my own mom looking for guidance from the most were James Beard on Bread, Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, and Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. Now in my own kitchen, I have an absolute love affair with Beard on Bread, and my copy of Better Homes and Gardens has become indispensable when I am trying out something new and just need some general direction. But the absence of Crocker's Cooky Book was gnawing at me. Of all the three, my mother's copy was the most well worn. We had it out on the kitchen counter a lot. She has mentioned sending it to me a few times always to follow up with the comment that it was probably too worn out to be usable. I could stand it no longer. But I couldn't locate it for sale, which I soon determined because "cookie" was "cooky" on the front cover. Once the title was deciphered, I immediately found a facsimile copy at a good price and waited what seemed like an eternity until it showed up in it's brown mailer. I was giddy with delight. The new version was EXACTLY the same as the old. Not one slight change had been made. What to make first? While the children were napping I was conjuring. How is it that I settled on chocolate chip cookies? I have made the Nestle Toll House recipe so many times that I no longer need an even quick glance at the recipe printed on the back of the package of chips. But the chocolate chip cookie is still my favorite. I was just looking over the nice little story about how it was cookie of the decade in the forties when it occurred to me that my chocolate chip cookies, though good, were not as good as my mom's. So I went over the ingredients and this is where I found a surprise. Betty Crocker called for shortening instead of butter. My gag reflex immediately began. I cannot help this as I am a product of the anti-fat in cooking years. I was thinking to myself that this cannot be when I had a flashback of that good old shortening can on the kitchen counter of my childhood. I, like my mother, pull all my ingredients out of the cupboards before I begin the recipe. Holy cripes had I consumed a large amount of shortening as a kid. This realization was shocking- and humorous too as I have better than good cholesterol levels. My mom's chocolate chip cookies never fell. They maintained their nice little domes and the texture while biting into one is something there are no words to describe. All I can say is that it has just the right amount of resilience and then it's like sinking into one of those memory foam beds. It's the fat solids in shortening. Even if you use vegetable shortening, it still does the trick. This recipe also called for about 1/4 cup more of flour to soften the cookie even further. I would bet dollars to donuts my mom adds that 1/4 cup extra. All these years I had been making the Impostor Cookie, at least the Impostor to my childhood cookie. But why then the use of butter on the Nestle Toll House package? That cute little history bit had given me the clue. The World War was raging and there had been rationing on items such as butter. Now it all made sense. When Betty Crocker published her book she simply used the 40's era recipe instead of the original Toll House recipe. People say you cannot beat the Toll House recipe in terms of texture and taste. Well, I have news for them. In this case, the shortening wins.

No comments: