Today, I am baking chocolate chip cookies for a church bake sale. They want to raise money for missionaries, so they asked me to help. I am more than happy to bake for them. As I am baking, I am thanking God for my blessings here in America in my kitchen. I have been overseas so many years in several countries, and there is no kitchen like an American kitchen!
I began by turning on that nice big American oven that I missed for so many years overseas. You see, in Korea, I was baking part of the time in a toaster oven, and part of the time in a confectioner’s oven someone brought me from the American military base. Even if I had a cookie sheet, it wouldn’t have fit, and making big batches of cookies took all day, but it doesn’t here in America. In Romania, I began with a toaster oven, then I graduated to an oven that was an old wood stove that had been converted to gas. The oven on it was small too. After that, in Romania, we went to Hungry to look for what the Romanians call an “aragas.” An aragas is a small stove very similar to what we have in America, but a fraction of the size. We found an aragas in Hungary that had a nice big oven, and I was happy. However, when we got home, there were always problems with the big oven and the gas, so I hardly got to use it. In Nigeria, we had a stove that was exactly the same as what the Romanians call the aragas. However, we had trouble getting it. We had to petition to the teacher’s ministry to get it. The people who had lived in the house before us had just built a big fire in the middle of the concrete kitchen floor and cooked like that. The smoke from the fire had made all the walls black, and we had to paint the kitchen when we moved in. Life is so much different in America than overseas. I set my oven to 325 Fahrenheit (162.7 Celsius).
I began mixing by putting one and a half cups of white sugar and one and a half cups of brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. (One cup of sugar is 225 grams.) I used my Korean spoon and mixed them together.
I love to use Korean spoons as mixing spoons. The are made of stainless steel, they are like an American table spoon, but they have a really long handle. The handle makes them easy to grip, and since they aren’t big like a regular mixing spoon, they actually mix better.
After that, the recipe called for 2 cups of solid shortening. I haven’t used solid shortening for many years. It just isn’t sold in other places. I always had to find a replacement when I was overseas. In Nigeria, I used a kind of butter than came in a can like a shortening can. In Japan, I used lard that came in a plastic tube like bottle from the grocery store. In Romania, I had to make my own lard and butter, and I chose one or the other for the recipe I was using. In Korea, they had what they called “cooking butter” in the store, but no shortening or lard, so I used the cooking butter and added a little liquid cooking oil to soften it a little. It all worked.
When I began to use the shortening here, I thought, I am missing the taste of the butter in the cookies I got in Korea. I decided to change the recipe from two cups of shortening to one cup of shortening and one cup of cooking butter. The Korean spoon worked really well to cut the shortening and butter into the sugars.
After working the shortening, cooking butter, and sugars together, I added three eggs. I could get eggs in most countries, but in Romania, you had to shop at just the right time to get eggs or you couldn’t get them at all. Once Christmas, I didn’t shop at the right time, and there were no eggs to buy, so I had to come up with a cookie recipe that didn’t require eggs if my kids were going to have Christmas cookies, and there was no internet in Romania at the time to surf and find a recipe, but I figured it out anyway.
After I mixed the eggs in, I added 1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Vanilla was something I couldn’t always get everywhere overseas, and I was sure to take it with me when I traveled because it is in a small bottle. In Romania and Korea, I found little packages of what they called “vanilla sugar” that was in powder form, and I used that. Many things I found in Romania came from Germany, and I learned the German names for a lot of things I needed to find.
Next, I added 5 1/2 cups of flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda. (Remember, if you need to know, one cup is 225 grams.) Four teaspoons is equal to one tablespoon. If you don’t have measuring spoons, use the spoons in your drawer. The soup spoon, the bigger one used for eating soup, is usually the size of a tablespoon. I mixed everything together with my Korean spoon. Toward the end, I put the spoon down and kneaded the dough a bit and kept turning it upside down to make sure every bit of flour got mixed in.
After that, I got my package of chocolate chips. In several other countries, you can’t buy chocolate chips, so often, I used to buy a chocolate candy bar and just crunch it up and put it in my cookies to make chocolate chip cookies. In Korea, before I left, the baking supplies became more and more plentiful, and I was able to find packages of chocolate chips to use in my baking in Korea. Initially, I had to go to just the right store to find them, but eventually, they were in several of the stores. Korean grocery stores are pretty well blessed like American and Japanese grocery stores. My boss in Japan proudly said to me once, “Anything you can find in an American grocery store, you can find in a Japanese grocery store.” She was almost right, and the same thing can be said about S. Korean grocery stores, as long as they aren’t one of those Farmer’s Co-op stores because they basically have Korean things. In Japan and Korea both, they almost had everything we have in America, but there were times I had to go looking for a specialty import shop in both countries to get what I needed or wanted. As far as the chocolate chips go, I was going to put semi-sweet chocolate chips in my cookies, but my daughter stopped me. She said, “Use the milk chocolate chips because they are sweeter. You are not in Korea now where they are scared of sweets. You are in America where they can’t get enough,” so we bought milk chocolate chips.
I was so happy to put my cookies on the big cookie sheet I had been unable to use before because of the small ovens! I baked my cookies for 8 minutes, and they came out nice big soft, chocolate chip cookies. I now need to put them in individual packages so they can be bought at the bake sale to raise money for missionaries.