Thursday, 13 December 2007

The cookie conundrum


This has been written about many times before me. I came across Poppyfield's (whose blog I read from time to time) post on the subject while googling for answers. But this subject still warrant to be addressed for the good of all American expats in France craving chocolate chip cookies.

Why do my chocolate chip cookies lack their chocolate chip cookie-ness?

I've been in France for over 10 years, been making chocolate chip cookies for most of my life. Yet, whenever I make them using the Tollhouse recipe from my stash of Nestle semi-sweet morsels, my cookies either crunch too much or spread, but they NEVER rise and they are NEVER gooey. My cookies are flat, boring and greasy (kind of like my hair these days, except my hair's not greasy).

I've tried increasing the flour, decreasing the butter, freezing the dough (come to think of it, the cookies I made with the frozen dough from my nesting period were not so bad), and they are always just a little off. On top of it, the baking soda and baking powder seem to leave a weird taste.

And it's not the oven because it's the same in every oven I've tried.

Is the butter too creamy? French butter is special - apparently it's all the rage in the US these days.

Does this mean that not only do I have to import chocolate chips, Arms and Hammer baking soda and Davis baking powder, but now I have to smuggle in American butter too? Can you imagine the shame at customs? It's bad enough that I drag Cabot's Seriously Sharp Cheddar back with me (did I mention the 5 pounds I had in my suitcase?)

At least what passes for "cookies" in France is still sub par to my sub par Tollhouse cookies so I'm safe from embarrassment. But still, it hurts the American pride.

Now all of this isn't a big deal and normally wouldn't make me panick but...I've promised oatmeal-cranberry cookies for Christmas gifts. I'm now taking suggestions...

8 comments:

Pardon My French said...

This post made me think of that Friends episode where Monica spent hours trying to duplicate Phoebe's grandmother's recipe only to discover it was Nestle Tollhouse. Anyway, it took me a little while to make cookies that were pretty much like the ones back home, and for me the key ingredient was authentic brown sugar. I hear that there's an equivalent here but I can't always find it and so've never tried it.

The other thing is that the cookie recipe on the Tollhouse chips I import (swirled) doesn't call for baking powder. It has flour, baking soda (French one works well), salt, butter, gran sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and eggs, plus the chips. They end up a soft cookie. Don't know if that helps.

Samantha said...

Okay, this is my offical "dietitian" answer - French butter has a higher fat content than American butter does, and thus it melts faster and causes the cookies to spread out more.

I've never been able to get them exactly as they were in the US, but I've found that a combination of using a little less butter, a little more flour, and using chilled dough at least helps.

Deb said...

There is no such thing as cookies in France! The only thing that comes close are the cookies at Subway....but they're a bit too greasy for me.

I was thinking about making holiday cookies too, but decided against it because I am not much of a cook and I don't really have the patience! But I found this website and they seemed to have a lot of cookie ideas.

http://www.northpole.com/Kitchen/Cookbook/cat0001.html

L said...

I know shortening makes the plumpest cookies, then butter, and margarine tends to make flat and spread out cookies. I used to use a recipe that had both butter and shortening. There's a British woman in my town that imports ingredients, which is the only way I can get shortening here (besides Pinto in Montpellier). And I've found pretty decent brown sugar labeled as Vergoise made by Saint Louis and also Beghin Say. Brune means very dark and blonde is medium light. There are pictures of crêpes on the package, so the French must use it just for that. I brought back some vanilla extract with me because the stuff I bought at Carrefour is just artificial flavoring. Maybe a specialty épicerie will have real vanilla extract, brown sugar, and shortening? Good luck with your baking. My problem is that I only have an oven sheet that fits 6 cookies. You can imagine how long it takes to bake a large batch of cookies.

Reb said...

thanks for the input everyone. I'll let you know how it goes. I knew I was right about French butter having more fat!

No worries about a lack of brown sugar here since I am in vergoise territory - up here in the north, brown sugar is something we have lots of (along with beets, potatos and leeks) ...they even make great brown sugar pies. I'll post the recipe some day soon.

wcs said...

Why not get some Petits Ecoliers and be done with it? They're my favorite cookie...

And the French do cookies. I mean, LU is one of the biggest cookie makers around and has been doing their thing since the mid 19th century.

The classic Petit Beurre and the chocolate covered Ecolier are just two of their huge line of cookies.

Granted, French homemakers don't do the cookie thing à l'Americaine, but why would they when the patisserie down the street does such wonderful things?

That's my deux centimes. Happy Holidays!

Reb said...

wcs, you are right. there are great pastries and LU makes some incredible "gâteau" like pear PIMS. And delichoc are wonderful. But sometimes I just crave a gooey oatmeal or chocolate chip cookie. I like cooking and want to share American victuals with my entrouage. And then, if I make French stuff and it turns out bad everyone will know...

Hannah Sobel said...

That is a lot of cheese. Do they not have Cabot in France (pardonnez-moi, je ne suis pas intelligente)?

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