March 11, 2011

an american in zürich

Yesterday I spent the day learning the ins and outs of the Swiss and Zürich and today I spent the day embracing being an American in Switzerland. This morning I enjoyed coffee and cookies with fellow American women at the American Women's Club of Zürich. It was so nice to be surrounded by people who speak English and have experienced the ups and downs of picking up everything and moving abroad. And this afternoon I enjoyed baking an American treat!

Learning about Swiss specialties yesterday, such as dried meat, made me think about an American specialty - the chocolate chip cookie! In the land of chocolate I have not come across an abundance of chocolate chip cookies. The Chips Ahoys are stashed in a teeny package on the bottom shelf of the cookie aisle in the grocery store. There are biscuits, and chocolate cookies and shortbread and a lot of chocolate bars, but certainly a shortage of chocolate chip cookies. In fact, I couldn't even find bittersweet chocolate chips. Crazy right? The land of chocolate, literally, and they don't having baking chips? I also can't find brown sugar here. I can find something that comes close, but it is still leagues away from the soft Domino brand light brown sugar in the states. And I must admit, these cookies fell short of my expectations. They were flat and crispy, not fluffy and doughy. I think it could be a a variety of factors - perhaps the butter wasn't cold enough when I mixed it, or the dough got to warm before I put the balls of dough on the baking sheet or maybe it was the brown sugar because I can't believe my beloved Swiss butter would let me down.
In lieu of baking chips I bought a couple different brands of dark chocolate and chopped it up with my new, fun, amazingly pink, knife. Although the cookies didn't turn out that well I actually think I might prefer the chopped chocolate to the chips. Chips are all the same size, whereas the cut up bar varies from a thin sliver to a thick chunk, resulting in a cookie that has subtle chocolate bites and intense chocolate bites. I have friends who like their chocolate chip cookies to be 80% chip and I also have friends who prefer the exact opposite, praising cookies that only have two or three chips per cookie. I wonder if the chopped/shaved chocolate bar would satisfy both of these groups.
This new knife is pretty great huh? It's fun, but it does have one fundamental flaw, which I didn't realize until I had already unwrapped it at home - it can't go in the dishwasher. I'm glad I didn't know this in the store because then I would not have bought it, but I love it and it brightens up my kitchen so I think a little extra hand scrubbing might be worth it.
I found this recipe on smitten kitchen, where it had been adapted from a David Lebovitz's recipe. I did something wrong along the way which resulted in flat, crispy cookies and not the deliciously gooey, cakey cookies that were promised. If you are a cookie baking fanatic and think you might know what I did wrong, please let me know because I love chocolate chip cookies and I hate goofing up a recipe!

- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 stick of COLD butter (8 tablespoons)
- 1 large egg
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract (beans are much more popular in CH)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup chopped/shaved chocolate bar - or 1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 300 and place your oven rack in the top portion of your oven.

Beat the sugars and the butter together until smooth. Do not over beat or you will introduce air into the batter. Once smooth, mix in the egg, vanilla and baking soda. In a separate bowl mix together the flour and salt and then mix into the sugar-butter batter. Chop the chocolate bars until chunks appear to be a reasonable size and then add to the mixture. Scoop dough onto baking sheet and place in the oven for 18 minutes or until edge of cookies is golden brown.
After this first batch came out like pancakes I did a little research and concluded that my dough was probably to warm so I stuck the bowl with the dough into the freezer for ten minutes before scooping the next batch. I was convinced this would solve the pancake problem, but alas that batch resulted in flat and crispy cookies too! They were gooey when they were hot, but they quickly transitioned to crispy

The truth is that by the time the cookies came out of the oven I was over my cookie craving. While the first batch was in the oven I occupied myself by eating a healthy portion of the dough. Tisk tisk, I know, and mom if I get salmonella you can say 'I told you so,' but it was just so delicious, so sweet and salty and gooey. Why do we even bake cookies?
Cookies and milk, the classic combo. But what do you do when the thought of drinking a glass of milk repulses you? Add coffee! For my entire childhood, both at home and at school, the drink options were milk or water and now the thought of taking a sip of straight milk makes me gag. Eww.
I thought it was fitting to enjoy my American snack while reading a trashy American magazine.

Happy weekend everyone!


  1. i remember a similar experiment in europe--i always attributed it to the fact that the butter is much richer--fundamentally changes the chemistry of the cookie. wonder if trying to do recipe w less butter, and more egg or something would help. hope you are well!~

  2. Love your knife! Could you pls write where you bought it?

  3. Hi A,
    I bought the knife at Sibler, a kitchen store located at Münsterhof 16, just a few blocks from Bahnhofstrasse. It also comes in blue and a plum color I believe. Hope you can find it!

  4. it's the same store where I bought all the stripped dish towels that are featured so frequently in the posts, including this one

  5. Thanks for the info, much appreciated!

  6. ..Hi, I stumbled upon your blog by chance...and I love it! You've posted your chocolate chip cookie recipe a while ago - but I thought I might be able to help you with "baking cookies in Switzerland". There are a few things you need to consider. The Swiss butter has a higher fat content, so the cookies usually spread more. The flour isn't as fine, which means that 1 cup american all-purpose flour is more than 1 cup Swiss all-purpose flour. Then, the brown sugar makes all the difference. Make sure you use the real deal - and not Swiss Rohrzucker. You can buy DOMINO sugar online at for CHF 2.90 (great service by the way). If you don't have vanilla extract on hand, you can substitute Swiss vanilla sugar (Vanillezucker, be careful not to use Vanillinzucker). Last but not least, if you add chopped chocolate instead of chocolate chips the cookies will spread more as well - so be careful with adding lots&lots of chocolate :). haha, a lot of information just to bake a decent cookie in Switzerland :) anyway, I hope this helps. Thanks again for your lovely post!

  7. This really looks delicious. I'm definitely craving for a plate of that right now. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. This is definitely a must do recipe this weekend since I got my Food Safety Training.