Not Your Grandma’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I LOVE chocolate chip cookies!  I always have.  How can you not – they can be warm, cold, chewy, gooey, fluffy, dunked in milk, crumbled onto ice cream…  They’re perfect!

So let’s start with the ONLY chocolate chip cookie recipe I ever use. It’s from my godmother, Wendy. It’s been in my family’s recipe book as long as I can remember; we even have one copy of it written in pink pen in my beautiful 3rd grade handwriting!  Maybe that’ll be worth tons of money someday!  Yeah, I know, keep dreaming…

Wendy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies:
(Yields 3-4 dozen cookies)

Ingredients:
2 1/2 c. flour + 1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda + 1 Tbsp. water
1 stick margarine + 1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. light brown sugar
1 pkg. (1/2 c.) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
about 2 c. chocolate chips

Directions:
1) Mix margarine, oil, sugars, pudding, eggs, and vanilla.  Add baking soda solution; mix.  Mix in flour mixture a little at a time.  Stir in chocolate chips.
2) Drop into rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.
3) Bake at 350 F for 8-10 minutes.

Now for my variations!  By all means, the above cookies are delicious as they are!  However, I love playing with different flavors and textures, and these cookies are the perfect medium!  I start by making the cookie dough exactly as above, just leave out the chocolate chips (FYI: you can freeze this dough for months and just thaw it when you want it).

Then I change the recipe up by adding different flavors of chocolate chips (milk, dark, white, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, cinnamon chips, lemon chips, cherry chips, or combinations of these – NOTE: some of the flavored chips are hard to find in normal grocery stores).  Sometimes I also mix in different nuts or fruits (chopped maraschino cherries, crystallized ginger, dried pineapple or mango, etc).  The take-home message is PLAY AROUND – HAVE FUN CREATING NEW FLAVOR COMBOS (and report back to me when you get a winner)!!! 😉

Over the years, I’ve made more flavor combinations than are worth listing (and some weren’t that great anyways), but here are some of my personal favorites:

White chocolate, ginger, and lime cookies:
In place of chocolate chips, add white chocolate chips, chunks of crystallized ginger, and about a tsp. of lime zest. It’s a great flavor combo!
Chocolate almond toffee cookies:
Use mini chocolate chips, and add finely chopped almonds and toffee pieces (I’ll have a post on home-made toffee soon). Mmm.
Mocha chip cookies:
In addition to chocolate chips, add espresso powder (about 2 tsp.) or instant coffee powder (about 1 tbsp.). You can add more or less coffee depending on your preferences. I like these with semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips.
Chocolate cherry cookies:
Use whatever type of chocolate chips you prefer (these work great with milk, dark, or white chips), and add in chopped maraschino cherries.  Sometimes when I use white chocolate chips, I also add in macadamia nuts for a little something extra.

Mother’s and Father’s Day Cakes!

Ok, time to catch up on the past 6 months!!! I’ve baked so many things, and even taken some pics, but have not got around to posting any of them until now. So consider yourselves warned: at least 3-5 new posts are going up in the next week or so! 🙂

Let’s start with cakes. I’ve only really started getting into cakes the last year (I’ve been perfecting chocolate chip cookies since I was like 8 years old)! I was recently asked to make a Mother’s Day cake, and then later I was asked to make a Father’s Day cake.

I started both with just standard yellow and chocolate cake recipes, and made double layer cakes with vanilla buttercream filling and icing. That wasn’t too difficult. Then I had to decorate…

The only direction I was given for the Mother’s Day cake is that it was to be heart shaped. So I googled through some images and formed a plan. I iced the cake with white vanilla buttercream, then decorated with red. I started by edging the bottom and top with a star tip, then made the lacy design with a small round tip. This was very easy to do, yet looked so fancy! And there’s so much room for error with the lacy part – just make squiggles all over! 🙂 I’m going to use this technique much more in the future!

Photos by Alison Domzalski (alisondomzalski.com)

As for the Father’s Day cake, I was given no real instructions other than to use the colors red, blue, and yellow. It’s hard to think of good cake ideas for dad!  I considered the standard cake decorations: flowers, pretty cursive writing, lacy swirly designs… then I pictured my dad making his “Are you kidding me?” face at these ideas and decided I needed to keep brainstorming!  After some more googling, I had formed a more manly plan: a shirt and tie, like the ones you buy at the mall that are already paired up and in a nice ready-for-father’s-day package (although I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen my dad in a tie – thankfully, this cake was not for my dad). 🙂