Monday, September 27, 2010

Recipe: Chewy Chocolate Chip and Almond Cookies

When they won't let us eat cake.

Mama*’s got a fabulous toy – and it’s brand stamping new!

*For those sadly uninitiated with Tyra-speak (a.k.a. the language formerly known as 'ghetto slang'), mama refers to me and not, literally, my mama who, much to the deprivation of my childhood, has little interest in stamping, baking, or cookies requiring more effort than a queue for half-offs at closing time.

Which is why when I bake cookies, I have a tendency to fall back on my Ol’ Faithful of a recipe. It’s not glamorous, but it’s very reminiscent of the chewy soft cookies I grew up chomping – Mrs Fields’!

Warning: This recipe is very easy, but makes for an insanely huge quantity of cookie dough. I usually (a) give away plenty; (b) consume enough to power small countries; and (c) freeze the leftover dough in tubes, for continuing cookie comas in the weeks (oh alright, days) to come.

Wouldn’t it be more economical, you say so cleverly, and healthier too (insert grimace), to simply halve the recipe?

Clearly, my friend, you are not in possession of a beautiful mind. As long as you have an electric mixer to hand, and I personally wouldn’t attempt this recipe (again) without, the effort of mixing a half-portion of dough is the same as mixing a full amount. So for an equal measure of energy, I produce twice the output. It’s a simple mathematical equation.

Yes, I drew this.

But that makes no sense, you say, you still have to consume considerable effort and money purchasing twice the ingredients and then to locate large vessels in which to do your mixing (I recommend a huge bowl or a basin even) and post-baking you’ll have the added problem of making space in your freezer already entirely too full due to your inability to reduce the portions of anything else you cook. At this point I interrupt you and say you’ve gotten extremely droll will you please leave me in peace to bake my cookies otherwise you shan’t have any and then you retreat into the corner and the world can move on.

You can view the original recipe at the link above, but as it's American, I’ve converted the recipe (with my modifications) to metric. I also like doing this because it means I get to take my digital weighing machine out to play; it just tare-s me apart how good-looking and intelligent this baby is, and it can crunch my numbers anytime.


560g all-purpose flour (or 4.5 USA cups)
2 teaspoons baking soda
455g butter (or 2 USA cups)
330g packed brown sugar (or 1.5 USA...well you get the idea)
100g white sugar (or ½ USA cup)
2x 3.4 ounce packets instant vanilla pudding mix (I used Cottee’s Instant Vanilla Pudding, 100g each)
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
670g semisweet chocolate chips (or 4 USA cups...but I chuck in as much as the dough can take – in this particular exercise, this amounted to three bags of Nestlé Choc Bits: 375g+250g+250g)
244g chopped walnuts (or 2 USA cups, and you can substitute for any nuts you like – I used almonds this time)


1. Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside.

2. In a (very!) large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

3. NOT in the original recipe but which I think is imperative: CHILL THE DOUGH BEFORE USING. Otherwise your cookies will just spread everywhere. And that is just as unattractive in cookies as it is in people. I usually just leave mine in the refrigerator for 4 hours to overnight.

4. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

5. Drop the cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. (As the dough typically becomes quite solid from the cold, I usually put on plastic gloves and scrape out balled chunks. If you have children around, they are partial to such activities and make for excellent sources of labour. I would never say free labour because as everyone knows, that would (a) make them slaves, which is a crime; and (b) children don’t come cheap. I expect you expected a joke about politics, but both parties are doing a fantastic job of that all on their own.)

6. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown. Note: Even when cooked, cookies will still be as soft as ever - just leave them to cool and they'll be perfect!

***If using a cookie stamper, you should use golf-ball sized chunks of dough, flatten them slightly and then give it all you’ve got. Unfortunately, this appears to be the wrong sort of cookie to be using a stamper on:



Oh well – I suppose that’s the way the cookies crumbles! (You knew I’d get that in there somewhere, didn’t you?) And you can’t be disappointed at all with a jar (and freezer) full of cookies, can you?

I know I'm not!

In case you were wondering what makes these cookies so darn, tootin’ awesome - the proof of the pudding is in the eating (i.e. keeps the cookies soft and chewy)!

Santa never had a chance.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Papa Goose: Move over, golden eggs.

Papa Goose
91-93 Flinders Lane
(between Russell and Exhibition)
Telephone: 03 9663 2800

Opening Hours:
Lunch: Tuesday - Friday
from 12:00pm
Dinner: Monday - Saturday
from 5:30pm
Loose Goose Bar:
Tuesday - Saturday nights: from 5:00pm to late

Growing up, I like to think I was terribly generous. The 'candy' kid (sour tape, Apollos and Choki-Chokis - dentists and diabetes be damned), the 'chocolate chip' teenager (muffin tops galore in every sense of the word), and in my first year of college - the 'cookie' neighbour (one sleepless night, I made a thousand to glut and to give).

Needless to say, much of my clothing was also very 'generous'. I then became a food blogger, and my sharing of food now extends beyond the physical.

But everyone has selfish moments. Da Vinci wrote his inventions in mirror-image cursive, Magnolia Bakery's recipes never taste like the original, and Vanessa Paradis snared Johnny Depp.

Downstairs function room

So these are my selfish moments:

No 1. When I was twelve, my mother bought a giant bag of Hershey's Milk Chocolate Kisses with Almonds for my class party. I hid it in my closet, brought the tiniest packet of crisps in, and my entire school holidays that year was a blur of sweetly secret melted goodness.

No 2. For my fourteenth birthday, I received a carton of Haagen-Dazs Macadamia Nut (which remains my favourite flavour of ice cream to this day). To avoid having to share it with my grabby siblings (to say nothing of my dessert-a-holic mother), I wrapped it with newspaper and pushed it to the furthest end of my freezer (the corner with dubious and forgotten cuts of meat). The next two nights, my aunt was convinced we had rats; much furtive scrabbling was heard from the vicinity of the kitchen.

No 3. I really didn't want to write this post.

Because I loved Papa Goose. And love is such a dated, hackneyed word.

Also, (like many a romantic comedy heroine) I had absolutely no plans to fall so hard. Not because I am inherently critical (and not, of course, because Anton Ego is my favourite misunderstood non-villian villan ever), but because we were dining as guests of Papa Goose. And credibility, in my opinion, is better than anything you can get for free.

Two ducks (or geese perhaps) sitting in a window.
There's a joke in there somewhere.

As far as Internet geeks go, I'm as stalker-ish as they come. I'd done my research on Papa Goose; a 100% (revision: now 95%!) rating on Urbanspoon, with reviews so glowing they're as neon as China, Larissa Dubecki's blurb on its opening in July, and Chef Neale White's ridiculously impressive CV (buzzwords include Pure South, Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing, Sydney, etc.).

Upstairs function room

And so - great expectations were in order.

I am a big fan of bread. This bread is a big friend of mine.

An intense seafood velouté with a lightly creamy base. A fabulous scull.

The first entrée, a confit Huon ocean trout, avocado, cucumber, watercress, horse radish, tomato vinaigrette.

This dish is the epitome of having your sashimi and cooking it too. Glazed in lemon oil, vacuum-packed and placed in a warm water bath for 20 minutes; it tasted fresh, but with a firmly-layered texture. And the lick of avocado and little pearls of apple? Genuinely exciting.

A tiny mound of margherita granita posing as a palate cleanser.

Little hint of salt at the precipice.

Second entrée, a twice cooked quail, puy lentils, radicchio, saffron quince, pomegranate reduction.

Finger bowls were provided so we could use our hands. I didn't need a second invitation.

This was a slightly sweet dish, very reminiscent of Chinese barbecued pork. I liked that the quail was still moist and tender; lean birds can be so mean and dry (oh the entendres) and the lentils were lovely and crisp.

If I had to pick just one, I'd go with the trout, as I prefer my appetizers delicate rather than robust.

Our main was a hybrid of two dishes currently on the menu; Char grilled Hopkins River beef and braised oxtail with silverbeet, root vegetables, chervil, and salsa verde.

That hunk melts hearts.

I'm a 'rare' kind of girl (impressively well-rested; not a drop bled onto my plate) and I could barely speak from carnivorous joy.

I'll also be terribly torn the next (ten) time(s) I come here, as the oxtail was meaty, unctuous and not at all chewy.

A swallow of sorbet.

And desserts to make Willy Wonka weep.

Eskimo’s pie, ‘hot chocolate’

This was mine. In fact, it still is - hands off! My greatest regret with fine dining is always the pretty but petite desserts; little goslings you should introduce to your parents and carry down the aisle. This is the carnal antithesis to holy matrimony: a voluptuous, curvaceous figure of pleasure dotted with hazelnuts and praline sporting a full head of curly caramel tuille. Hello dolly, goodbye sensibilities.

And the polar opposite; a steamed mandarin pudding, warm citrus salad, blood orange ice cream.

I avoid citrus puddings usually. Like bad speeches, they are often heavy, bitter and never seem to end. This was neither of the first two, and unfortunately, not the third either. It was feather-light, almost spongy, and very moist. Juicy segments of fruit means you can tell mummy about this one.

And a third dessert I didn't get the name of; it had pumpkin, rhubarb and...I was very sated

Would I return, for a fully-paid meal? Undoubtedly.
Should you? Only if you are not competing with me for a reservation (I'm being perfectly truthful - selfish moment No. 4).

When you do go, tell them I sent you. Thanks are owed to Alison Hulm, General Manager, for my invite; you will recognize her by her fantastic haircut and wit. And as for Chef Neale White; if you're lucky enough to run into him, buy him a drink, loosen his tongue, and let the good times (rock and) roll.

The Loose Goose Bar

Also in absolutely charming attendance:
The boys from The Black Pearl Bar, Fitzroy
Robert Erskine, CEO Rely Culinary Technology (their kitchen gadgets are manic!)
Chris Bolden, Coombe Farm Wines
James Young - Torbreck Vintners
Damien Hardiman - Huon Aquaculture
Adam North - Hopkins River Beef; and
Andrew Natoli, Sofitel Hotel

And I'm still a little tipsy, so here's a rhyme.

This Papa Goose is good and cooked,
I am clearly very hooked,
So go but if it's fully booked,
I'll hunt you down, and you'll be f...

Papa Goose on Urbanspoon

Lastly - this is completely irrelevant to food or the post above - but if anyone has registered for the Melbourne Marathon's 5.7km run and would now like to pull out, please shoot me an e-mail ASAP as I'm keen on taking your place (and reimbursing you too)!