In which our heroine gets a taste of home.
As much as I love using Japanese cookbooks and finding new fusion recipes to make in Japan, sometimes I just want something American. And what could be more American than homemade chocolate-chip cookies?
I wanted to try something different here, though.
First, because my “oven” is a Japanese “moven,” or an oven range, it’s a pain in the butt to make big batches of American-style cookies. I don’t want to spend hours switching out cookie trays. (Of course, I could just halve the recipe, but more on that later.)
The moven works on convection, and so it rotates everything on a plate (or metal toaster rack for the toaster function) in the manner of a microwave. This means that anything bigger than the cake pan will make the moven extremely cranky, so you have to scale things down a bit to get it to fit AND rotate.
Second, at the time, my computer was down for the count, and I was in no mood to look up metric conversions for butter on my Japanese cell phone, which does not have a full browser mode. (I do have an American measuring cup for emergencies, but measuring butter is different.) So, The Joy of Cooking recipe was out; instead, I decided to try The Program Cookbook, the official cookbook of The Program, in which the editors were apparently not interested in converting to actual metrics. Literally all the measurements are in ml to mimic the US method of measurement by volume. I think that’s kind of lazy for a published book, even a small-scale, small press book, but I can understand that decision on some remote level, even if I don’t agree with it. So I’m checking the ingredients, shaking my head at “milliliters of flour,” and I come to the butter.
It asks for milliliters of butter.
Wait, what? How exactly does that work? Am I supposed to melt it first? Am I supposed to cut it up into chunks and stick it in a measuring cup? What on earth? I might mention that it’s quite simple to convert US cups of butter to grams when converting your recipes to metrics, and that Hokkaido Brand butter marks the grams on the package, just like how tablespoons and cups are marked on US butter, so there is no excuse for “milliliters of butter” in this particular situation. But converting milliliters of butter to cups and then to grams with a broken computer was just not going to happen that night.
I was kind of at a loss at this point. And then I remember that my moven came with an instruction manual (in Japanese, naturally). An instruction manual with recipes in it. Recipes that use correct metrics.
So, in today’s edition of The Gaijin Chef, I present “Simple Chocolate-Chip Moven Cookies.” This is a really simple, straightforward recipe. I did alter it from the original version, as the original was so small that it called for half of a medium egg. Not just the yolk or just the white, but half of an egg. I’m sure if you have a kitchen scale at home, you could pull this off, but it’s easier to just double the recipe and, you know, use a whole egg. This makes about three batches of 6 cookies, depending on how big your cookies are and how close together they are.
Speaking of which, what’s cool about this recipe is that it doesn’t use baking powder or baking soda. In other words, the cookies will remain more or less whatever size you make them initially because they won’t rise or expand very much–and they won’t run together, which is really great when you’re using a cake pan as a cookie sheet and can’t get as much leverage with a spatula.
Finally, the manual says that you can swap in all sorts of things for chocolate chips: almonds, matcha powder, cocoa powder, raisins, etc. This is a very versatile recipe, so go for it!
Simple Chocolate-Chip Moven Cookies
Translated and adapted from the National Brand オーベンレンジ Official Instruction Manual.
Makes about 18 teaspoon-sized cookies.
90 grams of softened butter
90 grams of granulated sugar
1 medium egg
A shake or two of vanilla essence* バニラエッセンス (banila essensu)
180 grams of cake flour 薄力粉 (hakurikiko)
50 grams of chocolate chips** チョコチップ (choko chippu))
1. Cream butter until whitish. Add sugar in 2-3 parts and cream together.
2. Stir in the beaten egg and vanilla essence until creamy.
3. Sift flour and stir in. Do not overbeat.
4. Cooking in the moven: Drop cookies by rounded teaspoonful about 5 mm apart onto a cookie sheet or into a cake pan. The pan or sheet needs to be small enough to be able to rotate properly. Set the pan or sheet on top of the round ceramic dish in your moven.***
5. Press the “cookie” button (it’s number 12 on my moven, but it has a picture of cookies on it if you have a different model).
6. Watch the magic happen! Each batch takes about 18 minutes. The second and third batch might get a bit crispier, so you might want to remove those a little sooner. (Sometimes my moven “knows” and sometimes it doesn’t.)
*My vanilla extract was located in the baking section of the grocery store; the label reads vanilla essence in English.
**You can use more or less as you see fit. The grams should be marked on the package, so it’s pretty easy to buy a 50 g package and use the whole thing or to use half of a 120 package. These will be with the baking goods at the store, and since the packages are clear, it should be easy to visually locate.
***I have a National Brand NE-NS4 moven (aka, oven range or オーベンレンジ). The instructions state that the round ceramic dish is to be left in the moven at all times except for when using the toaster. For toast, you need to remove the dish and just stick the bread right on the metal thing. You’ll get lovely all-over even toasting this way. (If you stick the bread on a plate, you’ll get a done top and a soggy bottom.) Wipe down the metal after it cools.