Monday, October 3, 2011

Food and drink tidbits

From Lapham's Quarterly:
• In the 1790s in the United States, the average American over the age of fifteen consumed almost six gallons of pure alcohol per annum. The modern figure is 2.8. [Anybody catch Ken Burns' Prohibition on PBS?]
• About cilantro in a dish, Julia Child said, “I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.” [Boo!]
• Among the oldest known cheeses—and reportedly Charlemagne’s favorite—Roquefort must be aged in specific limestone caves near Toulouse to earn the name. French law mandated this in 1411.
• At thirty-one ounces, the Trenta, a new drink size introduced by Starbucks in 2011, holds the same volume as the average capacity of the human stomach.
• The G8 met in Hokkaido, Japan, in July 2008 to address the global food crisis. Over an eighteen-course meal—including truffles, caviar, conger eel, Kyoto beef, and champagne—prepared by sixty chefs, the world leaders came to a consensus: “We are deeply concerned that the steep rise in global food prices coupled with availability problems in a number of developing countries is threatening global food security.”

I came across the intriguing recipe below in a well-written blog called The Traveler's Lunchbox. Will anyone be willing to try it and let us know the results? It sound fantastic (alas, my oven is broken!). One of the key steps is freezing the dough before baking.

Holy-Grail Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 16-20 cookies
2 1/4 cups (315g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
14 tablespoons (210g/1.75 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
3/4 cup (150g) dark brown or muscovado sugar
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (30ml) flavorless vegetable oil
8 ounces (240g/about 1.5 cups) good-quality chocolate chips or your favorite bitter/semisweet chocolate cut into 1/4-inch (1/2-cm) chunks (I like Lindt Excellence 70%) OR 6 ounces (180g/about 1 cup) chocolate chunks/chips PLUS 3.5 ounces (100g/about 1 cup) toasted, chopped pecans or walnuts
flaky sea salt, for finishing (e.g. Maldon)
     Stir together the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl; set aside. Stir together the eggs, vanilla and salt in another bowl; set aside. Microwave the butter on high power until just melted but not hot, 30 to 45 seconds; set aside. Mix the brown and granulated sugars in a large bowl, then stir in melted butter and oil until smooth. Add the egg mixture and stir until smooth and creamy. Add the dry ingredients and stir again until smooth. Stir in chocolate and nuts, if using. If the dough is very soft, refrigerate it until it's firm enough to shape. Roll the dough into golf-ball-sized spheres (I made them 60 grams/2.1 oz each) and arrange on a pan that will fit in your freezer. Freeze until the dough is hard, at least 30 minutes. (Once the dough balls are frozen, they can be stored in freezer bags up to 3 months and baked as the craving strikes.)
     Meanwhile, put an oven rack into the upper middle position and preheat to 400F/200C. Working in half batches, place 8 frozen dough balls onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet leaving at least 2 inches (5cm) between them. Sprinkle the top of each ball with a pinch of flaky salt (don't worry if some salt falls onto the parchment—the cookies will pick up the stray flakes as they spread). Bake until set but not yet brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350F/175C. Continue to bake until cookies are golden-brown around the edges and lightly colored on top, about 8-10 minutes longer. If your cookies are smaller than Pam's, you may have to shorten each stage by a minute or two. My cue for taking them out is that the cookies are lightly puffed all over except for the centers, which should still look a little underdone. Let the cookies cool on the sheet before removing them to a rack. Repeat for the remaining cookies, preheating oven to 400F/200C again before baking each batch.
     The cookies can supposedly be stored in an airtight container up to 5 days, though I recommend freezing the ones you won't eat within a couple of days and thawing them as needed (I find this also helps to moderate consumption!).


  1. thanks for the recipe!

  2. I always found it so interesting that people either love (yay!) or hate (I agree, boo!) cilantro. I recently found out this taste preference could be genetic so I guess we can't be too hard on Julia. There's even an entire website, unbelievably enough, dedicated to people who hate cilantro!

  3. one friend says it tastes like soap. I love it so much it's almost like an aphrodisiac!

  4. I caught the first part of the Ken Burns documentary but missed the second two :/ I'm not entirely surprised by that statistic though, mostly just that the modern figure is only 2.8. The only thing that I though was surprising was that the rate was so high considering it wasn't considered as socially acceptable for women to drink back before the Prohibition, with the exception of maybe wine in the home, so only about half the population (meaning men) was being taken into account. These days alcohol consumption in more evenly distributed between the genders, and it's still at only about half of what it used to be.

  5. In the next two parts it evolved that women began drinking w/ men in the speakeasies; when the saloons came back they were no longer just for men.
    Also, I learned that "teetotal" came from the "total abstinence with a capital 'T'" slogan.