Sunday, May 30, 2010

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

As you might have read in one of my previous posts, I've been struggling with making good chocolate chip cookies and am on the search for the perfect recipe. Out of the dozens and dozens of batches of chocolate chip cookies I've made over the past couple of years, only one has turned out well. Most turned out so bad that they weren't even edible! But I still felt something was lacking in the taste of those last cookies, but they sure looked pretty! (You can read about those cookies here ~ So I continued my search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I think, just maybe, I might have found it! The world can rest easy.

I've made a version of these cookies before - Chocolate Pudding Cookie - and they were perfect. So perfect in fact that I've made them many times. I love them. Seriously, they are one of the best cookies I've made. Did I mention that I love them?

So, since I love the recipe, I used it as a base for making plain chocolate chip (well, actually M&M but that's ju
st a little detail) cookies, and they turned out perfect. Not only did they look pretty, they tasted delicious. Which is actually more important than the way they look I suppose!

Here is the recipe in case you're struggling too with finding a good chocolate chip cookie recipe. I realize that there are
many different recipes out there for chocolate chip cookies and quite a few of them are labeled as "the best", and "most perfect". I don't claim this to be the best, or the world's greatest, but it is the perfect recipe for me. They taste amazingly yummy, and they look just as good. If you make them, enjoy! And I hope they turn out as well for you as they did for me.

Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies
2 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Butter, softened
3/4 cup packed Brown Sugar (light or dark will work)
1/4 cup Granulated (regular white) Sugar
1 small package (3.4 oz) Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract (imitation will work as well)
2 cups Chocolate Chips or M&Ms

How To:

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. (I use a wire whisk to sift them together.)
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in the vanilla pudding mix until blended.
Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well blended.
Slowly beat in the flour mixture, or mix together by hand.
Stir in the chocolate chips or M&Ms.
Refrigerate dough for at least one hour.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until they turn light golden brown.
Remove from oven, let rest on cookie sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Eat and enjoy!

Yields: 3 dozen cookies

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pumpkin Cupcakes

In the last couple of years I have discovered my love for pumpkin. I've always stayed away from pumpkin because I've never been a fan of traditional pumpkin pie. I figured that meant I just didn't like the taste of pumpkin. However, I realize now that it's just that I don't like traditional pumpkin pie. At least the ones the grocery stores sell. During Thanksgiving I make a pumpkin cheesecake pie that I love, and I also have a recipe for a Pumpkin Streusel Cake that is one of my favorite cakes. In other words, I like pumpkin!

I like to continue to explore my love of pumpkin flavored treats. This time around I decided to try to make Pumpkin Cupcakes. Because I love the pumpkin cake I make so much, I thought I would love pumpkin cupcakes just as much. I was imagining them topped with cream cheese frosting, and they would taste oh so delicious. I decided to find a different recipe to use than my go-to recipe for the cake, and I wish I hadn't. The cupcakes turned out to be okay, but not what I was imagining. The end result was a pumpkin bar taste rather than a cake taste. They tasted good, just now what I was going for; not as sweet as I was expecting.

My husband said they were good and we put them to a taste test. He brought half the batch into work and they were gobbled up instantly! Plus, we managed to finish all of the rest here at home, but next time I'm going to make them with my regular recipe. Hopefully that will be just what I'm looking for in the taste!

Also, I cheated with the frosting. I went to the store and bought everything to make cream cheese frosting. However, once I tasted the cupcakes, I didn't want to waste all my time making the frosting so I used good old Betty Crocker cream cheese frosting from a can. The horror! However, at least I could keep them out on the counter rather than in the fridge! But now what am I going to do with two things of cream cheese??

Here's the link to the recipe I used for the pumpkin cupcakes. A couple of notes: I substituted chocolate chips for the maple chips, and it says it makes 17 - 18 cupcakes, but I got 21.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Homemade Pudding and Candy Cups

I have never made homemade pudding. In fact, I haven't even thought of trying to make it before. I don't even know if I've tasted homemade pudding before in my life. I would guess so, but I'm not sure. Pudding comes pre-made in a plastic container that my husband eats constantly and loves, or else you just easily make it from a Jello mix. I figured the Jello mix was as good as pudding could get. But, I was wrong ...

For Mother's Day I wanted to make something special, but not cupcakes or cake. I just wanted to do a simple, but fun dessert. Something unexpected. I was watching a show on Food Network and they were making fun cups out of candy melts that started my idea. I thought the cups would be easy enough, but they're small so what to fill them with? Something I could make ahead and easily travel with so ice cream was out, and I had to make something that my grandpa could eat so mousse was out ... but, wait ... pudding is like mousse. Sounds easy enough, and everyone loves chocolate pudding. Homemade pudding it is, served in candy mold cups to fa
ncy it up.

First I made the chocolate cups a day ahead. I love these chocolate cups. I used the same chocolate I use to make cake bites, and used a pastry brush to brush it inside of a paper cupcake liner. First, I started with dabs of pink, then just used chocolate. I put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes, then did another coat of just the chocolate. I did two coats to guarantee they wouldn't break on the rough ride out to my parents' house! After the chocolate set, I peeled off the paper liner and then I had the perfect little cups for pudding!

Then came the pudding. I now know if I want pudding, I will make it by hand. Yum, yum, yummy! And relatively easy too! Jello pudding or pudding in a container will never compare to this pudding! I made it in the morning, let it set slightly, then piped it into the candy mold cups. I just w
anted it all to look a little fancy, even though it was pudding. But homemade pudding, not just Jello pudding! If you want the recipe for the pudding, send me a message because I definitely recommend trying homemade pudding some time!

When it came time to serve dessert, I topped each cup with some Cool Whip and a small candy heart. My mom got a special candy that said "Mom", and then I brought them out. It took everyone awhile to figure out the cup was edible, but after th
at I got rave reviews on the dessert. They all loved the pudding and thought the cups were fun. I'll definitely make this one again!

I apologize that the pictures aren't the greatest. My family doesn't understand this whole food blog thing and thought me taking pictures of my food was weird so I had to quick take a few pictures. I was hoping it would be okay to take pictures out there since I loved this dessert so much, but some people just have to have their chocolate RIGHT AWAY!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Birthday Present Cake

Happy Birthday Grandpa!
My Grandpa had his birthday on May 5 and we celebrat
ed with a small party at my aunt's house. This is the first year my aunt asked me to make the cake. Usually one of my other aunts is always the cake maker. I was so excited to make his cake! I thought long and hard, and did lots of research to try to figure out what to make him. I didn't want to do a cake that looked like it was for a kid's birthday, but I also wanted to make a cake that would impress my family. I want to keep being asked to do desserts! I came up with a cake that looks like a present.

I really wanted to use fondant as I've been wanting to experiment with it after watching all those cake shows like my favorite Ace of Cakes, Amazing Wedding Cakes and Cake Boss. All of their cakes look amazing, and they're mostly done with fondant. However, I didn't want to do the whole cake in fondant since I had no idea what it tasted like, so I just thought I'd do the ribbon out of fondant. I bought the Wilton Rolled Fondant at Walmart, used about half of it,
put in a little vanilla flavoring and started to roll it out. I made a few strips for the ribbon, and also cut small strips to make the bow. I didn't think fondant really tasted like anything. I could taste the powdered sugar from rolling it out, but that's it. I want to try making my own some day since it can do such amazing stuff! The ribbon and bow look fantastic on the cake!

The cake itself is a Chocolate Fudge cake, with a buttercream-type frosting tinted leaf green. I like this frosting because it's made out of marshmallow fluff, butter, vanilla and powdered s
ugar. It doesn't taste super powder sugary like some buttercreams taste to me. Plus, it takes color really well, and spreads nice and evenly. The worst part is, I always use the wrong size bowl and get frosting everywhere ... on the floor, the counter, the wall, the toaster, my dog ... but, that's not new to me. I'm very messy when I bake. Isn't that normal?? Plus, my dog likes to taste what I'm making too!

The cake was a hit! Everyone at the party loved it, and I think I'll be asked to make dessert again! (I'm keeping my fingers crossed at least!) Everyone wanted to know what the ribbon was made out of and were impressed that it was edible. I think they all thought I used paper ribbon on the ca
ke at first! Most importantly, my Grandpa liked it and was happy that I made it for him!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How I Hate My Oven, but Love Chocolate Chip Cookies

Like I said in a previous post, my oven and I have a frustrating, issue-filled relationship. It's overly hot, and I learned from many bad experiences that it's at least 30 degrees hotter than what it should be. I once put in an oven thermometer, and it said it was around 100 degrees hotter than it should be (yikes!), but I don't really believe that. I think the oven thermometer was wrong. That's what I get for buying a $3 thermometer! However, I might try it again some day soon to see if it still says that.

The biggest issues with m
y oven come to light during my chocolate chip cookie baking attempts. I can cook cakes, cupcakes, brownies, sugar cookies and chocolate pudding cookies with no to little issues. I just turn the oven down around 30 degrees cooler than the recipe calls for, and check the baking items a few minutes before time is up. A few times I've burned some things or have had other issues, but none compare to the issues I have with chocolate chip cookies!

I have been making chocolate chip cookies for years with my mom and grandma. When I was younger and made them at home, the cookies would always turn out perfectly. Nice and fluffy, never flat. In our first home, the cookies also turned out well.

However, now that we've moved into this home, my cookies always burn on the pan after 5 minutes with a raw center, and turn super brown, almost black. I have tried numerous recipes including the one I grew up with, the one on the back of the Tollhouse chocolate chips, quite a few recipes other bloggers have posted and on and on. All with pretty much the same results ... dark b
rown on the outside, raw insides and flat as a pancake. Not what I want out of my chocolate chip cookies! I have thrown so many batches of cookies away it's ridiculous! I don't understand what is really wrong with the recipes so I blame it on the oven. What else could it be? I use fresh ingredients always, and add more flour so the dough isn't sticky. Nothing has really helped.

I still love chocolate chip cookies however, and every few months will get an itch to try another recipe to find one that works. This time around I did a Google search on why cookies are flat. Most people said to use fresh ingredients or add more flour - all which I do already. Then I read one that said to use part butter and part shortening. Okay, haven't tried that. I then read that using baking powder along with baking soda can help. I searched and found a recipe on All Recipes that filled this list.

The cookies actually came out well! They looked light golden brown, and didn't turn out flat as a pancake. There was shape to the cookie!! They also didn't burn to the pan - score for this recipe! I found a chocolate chip cookie recipe that made pretty cookies in my oven!!!

The only thing lacking for me on this recipe is the taste. I feel as if something is off on th
e taste, or that's missing something. I think next time I'll try adding an extra egg, and also use butter flavored shortening instead of regular shortening. Maybe those changes would help. However, I think I'm going to stick with this recipe as a base to build on!

I wonder if I use a vanilla instant pudding mix if that would help me out since I have such good luck with my Chocolate Pudding Cookies. Maybe something to try next time!

If you have any ideas for me on why my cookies aren't turnin
g out, please share your thoughts. I'm open to ideas on how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie! Actually, I'm begging for help! ;o)

Here's the link to the recipe I used. Feel free to share what you would change to make the recipe taste better to get the best tasting chocolate chip cookies:

Aren't they pretty???!!

P.S. If you're mother-in-law, please realize that I don't actually hate this oven that's part of your lovely home that you've allowed us to stay in as you live in beautiful Arizona. I just have this strange, love-hate relationship with it. It's very temperamental and I have hard time figuring out how to adjust all my recipes for it's moods. But I love that it works, it cooks my food, and it bakes my goodies! Thank you for letting me live here and use your oven. ;o)