Fresh eyes are what we all need from time to time, and this week, hosting my dear teacher-friend from Geneva (while her 19 students are all being hosted by my student’s families), we discovered much anew in our daily routine, stuff we don’t even give a second thought to, as, well, something now worth renewed admiration. Take rural mailboxes for example. The string of boxes mounted on a long board about a 1/4 mile down my road represents just how far the mail carrier will come to deliver. This simple fact elicited quite a discussion, even an excursion for photos, and a flurry of excitement afterwards: yes, adventure in the ordinary. Same with the covered bridges that span many of our small waterways here in Vermont. I stop the car and we step out to hear the rush of a high spring river, a chorus of curious crows, and the banter of sweet chickadees, all while investigating the ordinary bridge that we often cross without a thought. But oh my, what a beauty!
An added delight of such a cultural exchange is often in the sharing of recipes, cooking meals together, and the discussion of the subtle differences in local ingredients. We had many marvelous meals together over our short week, cooking up fresh kale and local tofu, stopping by the bakery to get our favorite sunflower and flax slow-rise bread, pulling out the last of my summer jam, and of course cheering our friendship with a lovely wine. After all, this is an exchange that we have participated in long enough to become true friends.
Along the way discussing foods we stumbled on the American classic: Toll House cookie squares. How long has it been since you baked this classic yourself? Before the kids left for college? Or your last parent-teacher meeting? No matter, it’s time again!
More conversations ensued about systems of measurements, and all the particular ingredients that give these tasty morsels their infamous, and apparently, world-wide renown. As so, we baked. We have a slight variation on the amounts and recipe, but I guarantee delight for all who partake.
Ingredients are the basics: 2 1/4 cups flour, 2 cups chips, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp vanilla, two sticks of salted butter, (if you use salted butter you don’t need to add salt), 2 eggs, 3/4 cup white sugar, 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed, and walnuts are optional. As with any recipe, play around with different combinations to make this dessert taste exactly as you wish: substitute whole wheat flour or white chocolate chips.
In a standing electric mixing bowl, add the two sugars and softened butter, and blend until creamy. Add vanilla and two eggs. Mix well. Combine the dry ingredients together, (the flour and baking soda) and add slowly to the creamy mixture. Be careful to not over mix! Watch until all is blended, and that is enough.
Not over-mixing is key. You don’t want to make butter. During the last few spins add your chips. Could you hand-mix? Why yes, of course, but we were gifted this blue mixer and love any reason to pull it out from the bottom cupboard and use it!
Spread the cookie dough into an ungreased glass baking pan, and bake for 25 minutes in a preheated oven at 375. Don’t overcook!!! The center may even look a bit undone, but no matter, it will firm up as it cools.
Remove from the oven and cool completely on a rack before cutting into small squares.
Seriously, these are one of the best treats to share with anyone, and if they are from Switzerland, well, maybe even better!