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). 🙂

Domo Sandwich Cookies

Not too long ago, a friend of mine sent me a picture of these Domo cookies and asked me if I thought I could make them for her.  Well those of you who know me know that I LOVE A CHALLENGE, so of course I said “yes.”  🙂  I did a little online research (during which I learned that Domo started as the mascot of a Japanese TV station, then developed into a cartoon, and now has 5 of his own Nintendo DS games).  I also decided that a slice-and-bake style cookie would be best.  So for those of you interested in my adventure or in making your own Domo cookies, see below:

First, I had to plan some dimensions:

Then, make red and brown dough.  See recipes below:

Red Dough:
1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp. flour
1/8 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. margarine
red food color (about 1/8 tsp.)

Brown Dough:
2 1/2 c. flour
1 c. cocoa powder
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) + 2 Tbsp. margarine

Instructions:

1) To make doughs, mix all ingredients until well combined.  Add a little more flour if dough seems too soft, or a little more butter if it seems to dry.  I like the dough to be play-doh consistency.  🙂

2) The easiest way I found to form the domos was to make logs of dough, and then slice and bake.  I started by making a log 1.5 inches wide and 1 inch tall.

Then add a log of the red dough that’s 1 inch wide and 1/2 an inch tall.  Center this log on top of the brown log.

Next, add strips of brown dough beside the red dough.  These strips should be about 1/4 inch thick and 1/2 inch tall.

Next, add a brown log 1.5 inches wide and 1/2 inch tall to the top.  Then gently smoosh the dough so that the seams stick together smoothly, without deforming the shape.  I like to gently tap the sides of the log on the counter to help smooth all the edges.

Then, wrap this log in plastic wrap and store it in the freezer.

3) Next make an all brown log of the same overall dimensions.  This log will be used as the backs of the Domo cookies.  Wrap the log in plastic wrap and store in the freezer.

4) Once the logs have firmed up in the freezer, you can take them out, cut them into slices about 1/8th inch thick.  Lay the slices out on an ungreased cookie sheet (I like covering my baking sheets with parchment paper), and bake at 350 for about 8-10 minutes.

5) While baking all the cookies, you can make the white chocolate ganache filling:

Ingredients:
12 oz. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. + 1 Tbsp. heavy cream

Bring the cream to a boil, then remove from heat and pour over the white chocolate chips in a bowl.

Let stand for 1-2 minutes, then stir until smooth.

Then allow filling to cool and thicken (I usually throw it in the fridge for a bit).  You want it to be thick but spreadable, like peanut butter.

6)  Once all the cookies are baked and cooled and the ganache filling has cooled and thickened, you’re ready to assemble the Domos! 🙂  Take an all brown cookie, spread some white chocolate filling on it, then put the Domo cookie on top.  I think it’s easiest if you put the filling in a bag and pipe it onto the cookies (it’s faster and makes less of a mess).

7) After assembling all the cookies, you just have to add eyes and teeth.  I use black and white melting chocolates (Wilton Candy Melts, or Almond Bark).  I put some in a plastic zipper bag and microwave it a little at a time to melt.  Then cut a small hole in the corner of the bag so you can pipe it onto the cookies.  For the teeth, I pipe a line of white at the top and bottom of the mouth, then I use a toothpick to shape the chocolate into teeth.  Then use the black chocolate to make eyes.  And TADA, you have Domo sandwich cookies!!!  Enjoy! 🙂

Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies

I have a brownie recipe that I love!  The brownies are delicious and a perfect blend of chewy and cakey.  And they’re made from ingredients that I nearly always have on hand, so it’s my first resort when my brain says “I want chocolate, NOW!”  However, I’ve noticed the recent trend of spicy chocolate products (I recently bought a chocolate bar that had chilies and cinnamon, and later came across brownies of a similar nature).  So naturally I decided to make my own version, which a friend said reminded her of Mexican hot chocolate.  And I thought I’d share them with you, in case you feel like spicing up your standard brownies.  🙂 Oh and PS – if you prefer “normal” brownies (to each his own), just omit the cinnamon and chili powder.

Ingredients:
1/2 c. margarine
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder

Directions:
1) Melt the margarine.
2) Mix all ingredients until well combined.
3) Pour into greased 8″x8″ pan.
4) Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.
5) Allow to cool, then cut.
6) DEVOUR!!!