Sunday, July 1, 2007
Welcome to My Kitchen!
You and I are entering at roughly the same time, as my husband and I just moved into our new digs -- all 700 square feet of 'em -- yesterday. This galley kitchen boasts adorable white cabinets, butcher block counters, no disposal, no dishwasher, and a 40-year-old 18 inch Hardwick/Robertshaw apartment range. Lucky me, right?
Fortunately, this dinosaur comes with low miles, as it appears that I am one of five people in all of Boston who ever cooks or bakes at home.
Getting started in any new-to-self rented kitchen can be hairy. The appliances never fit on the counter exactly as you imagined, the pots and pans suddenly forget how to nest, and immediately after signing the lease at least one funky quirk pops up -- ours being the fact that despite the appearance of under-sink storage, you can't open that (would-be huge, relatively speaking) cabinet.
Once you've got your shelves and drawers wiped and stocked, you've only come 1/3 of the way. The biggest question remains: What is the story with the stove? How does it perform? Any gremlins in there? Rarely does the landlord know, and few of us get the chance to talk with the previous tenant (in my case, he didn't bake anyhow). I've found that the best way to learn a new stove is to bake something familiar, both low-cost and low-effort, that will accurately display the heating pattern (does the back get hotter? the left side?), and temperature tendency. What better thing to bake then chocolate chip cookies?
Baking on a cookie sheet, particularly one that fills the majority of the oven, will show you where hot spots form, and choosing a relatively fast recipe prevents you from getting tired of monitoring the oven. At 9-11 minutes per round, I didn't feel compelled to run around the apartment settling other issues, and instead worked on becoming more familiar with where my stuff ended up. Also, baking a half batch does double duty as damage control (particularly if the oven doesn't heat at all) and portion control.
Besides, what else so easily makes a new apartment smell like home, than the fragrance of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies?
Chocolate Chip Cookies -- Apartment-style
Preheat oven to 375
1 stick butter (flatter cookies) or margarine (poofier cookies), softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/8 c. flour
1/2 bag (about 1 cup) of your favorite chips
Using a fork, in a medium bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla and egg. Add soda and salt, and mix thoroughly. Gradually add in flour, scraping sides until fully incorporated. Then fold in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9-10 minutes, monitoring for doneness. Edges should be golden, but due to the high brown sugar content, these guys are a little more honey-colored than the usual anyway.
Remove from cookie sheet immediately and cool on wire racks. Yields 2 to 2 1/2 dozen cookies.
I was pleased to find that this little oven really does the job, only heating the back slightly more...but it shouldn't be a problem...