Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Travel Tuesdays: Molasses and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Writing about ginger cookies and gingersnaps made me realize I've been deprived of molasses, and I finally went and bought some. And now that I think about it, I've actually seen molasses being made!

It was on a family road trip to Ratnagiri - a fascinating place on the west coast of India, with a history that includes everything from delicious mangoes (I could wax poetic about Alphonso mangoes for days, and would recommend that everyone should brave the Indian summer heat to drown themselves in their deliciousness - even if you melt to death, it will be a sweet sweet way to go) to being the birthplace of Lokmanya Tilak to having been the home of exiled Burmese King Thebaw.

This is the only place I've been where the fragrance of fresh fruit
- mangoes here - has quite literally hung heavily redolent in the air.

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was one of the first advocates of "Swaraj" (self-rule) in India's fight for independence.  
Burmese Raja Thibaw's exile - not too shabby eh?
As we were driving along, we pulled over to observe a hive of activity at the roadside. 

This was a really local village operation, with a group of workers boiling up a huge vat of sugarcane juice to be transformed into jaggery. The little factory was at the side of the road, so we could just hop out and watch the whole thing and then buy ourselves some jaggery! Talk about knowing where your food comes from...

Of course, being the city folk we are, we managed to be a little in the way as they moved the boiling vat off the heat to a separate stand filled with water to start cooling. Oops. Good thing we are quick scamperers when someone starts yelling "move!"- crossing streets in India will at least teach you a thing or two about leaping into a quick trot when necessary! Anyway, during this process, molasses (or "kakvi" in Marathi) is a delicious byproduct that's skimmed off the top. So for all I haven't tasted or used molasses before, I've actually seen it being made! Amazing!

Ratnagiri is also known for its cashew nuts - aren't the raw cashews growing on the trees pretty?
Also, molasses is/are (still haven't figured that one out) awesome because you can actually make your own fresh brown sugar from it. This is why the interwebs are great - how else would I ever learn these homesteady things in this processed age?! 

Anyhoo, all this to say, I got me some molasses and I've been wanting to try cooking with it. I think I'm going to leave any further gingersnappy items for the actual holiday season because time is moving too fast already (HOW is it the beginning of October? What is going on? The shops already have Halloween items up. Stoppit!). But in the meanwhile, there are always some chocolate chips lurking in the kitchen cupboard just waiting for that perfect moment to pop out and say "hey, miss us?" And every time they ask, there is only one response: Yes. Yes of course. 

And so it's time for yet another chocolate chip cookie. Adapted from Joy the Baker, with a little rejiggering here and tweaking there. A little olive oil, perhaps. A little more molasses. A sweet and rich cookie, with a nice bit of chew, and a crunchy crackly top. 


The brown butter adds a nutty depth to the flavors, and the olive oil a nice lightness.

Molasses and Brown Butter Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
6 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp molasses
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Sea salt for sprinkling

In a small pan (preferably one with a light colored bottom so you can see the color properly), cut up the stick of butter and start heating on medium. The butter will start to melt and foam. Stir around a bit so all the pieces are melting evenly. Keep stirring occasionally and keep an eye on the butter. Remove from heat as soon as it starts getting a deep brown (you don't want it to burn!) and pour immediately into a heat proof bowl. Let this sit and cool for 15-20 minutes.

In your mixer bowl, mix together the olive oil and brown sugar. Add in the vanilla extract, molasses, and granulated sugar, and mix.

Add in the egg and egg yolk and beat everything together until they are all "ek jiv" ("one life" translated literally from Marathi - so descriptive, isn't it?!). Now that the brown butter has cooled, add that in and mix everything (if it hasn't cooled for at least 15-20 minutes at this point, let it cool some more).

Add in the flour and baking soda and mix until evenly combined. Scrape the bowl from the bottom if you need to, to make sure everything is nicely mixed up.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper and scoop out the cookie dough (set each scoop about 1 1/2 - 2 inches apart). Pop into the fridge to chill while the oven is heating. 

Preheat oven to 350.

Once the oven comes to temperature, pop the cookie sheets into the oven and bake for 14-16 minutes. Remove and let cool at least 5 minutes before you devour.

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