Chocolate Chip Cookies: A Work in Progress

Chocolate Chip CookiesSo, turns out I’m kind of a cookie snob. Cookies are my absolute favorite dessert–simple and sweet. But it has to be a good cookie. Dry and crumbly–ew. Crunchy, bland or too salty–not happening. And don’t even get me started on overdone cookies.

But when I get a perfectly soft, dense cookie with just the right amount of rich sweetness I feel like I could conquer the world. (Insert slow-mo fist pump here.) I’ve made a few pretty boss batches of cookies in the past several months–but I’ve also scraped my share of flat, burnt or otherwise sub-bar messes into my trash can. I have not exactly reached (can we talk about making raught a word–like teach ,taught, but reach, raught. Do you feel me here? Did I miss a critical part of basic grammar?) a state of consistency when it comes to the chocolate chip cookie. But hey I’m only 23–I’ve still got a few years to figure it out.

Now let’s go back to those perfect cookies. I whipped up a damn good batch last week, so I thought I’d document the greatness to see if could be recreated.

I started with the basic Nestle recipe and made the following adjustments:

  • Butter (not margarine!) softened on the counter for two hours and beat in the mixer before adding the sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar (instead of 3/4 cup each)
  • 2 egg yolks and 1 egg (instead of 2 eggs)
  • Homemade vanilla extract (great Christmas gift from my SIL)
  • 3 cups of flour–added one cup at a time (add the salt and baking soda with the first cup)
  • Added a splash of skim milk with the last addition of flour
  • Half semi-sweet chocolate  chips and half milk chocolate chips
  • Baked on parchment paper for 9 minutes and moved immediately to cooling racks

Do you have any magical cookies secrets? Tell me! Tell me Please!

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Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

DSCN8895I’ve been trying to stay away from posting found recipes lately, since I’m not sure how much they really add to the blogosphere. And have you ever been really excited to find a new recipe on Pinterest, just to find out that it only links to a recipe you’ve already tried (and aren’t crazy about). No? Just me? Probably, I do spend an insane amount of time on Pinterest. Anyhow, I digress. What I’m trying to get at, is that I’ve made an exception and I’m posting a found recipe for these incredible cookies!
DSCN8898I made these last fall and took them to work to share and they got rave reviews. Like raving rave reviews. And they deserve them. They are soft, moist and perfectly spiced for a delightful pumpkin bite. And the just-sweet-enough cream cheese frosting puts them over the edge. I can’t keep them in apartment, literally. I either send them away with friends or eat them all in one sitting and have to wear sweatpants for a week. DSCN8899I whipped up this batch last week to finish off a dinner of hearty chili, beer bread and seasonal brews I made for Dana and Theresa while they were in town. I don’t think anyone went away hungry. DSCN8890So here’s the deal, you need to make these cookies. You won’t regret it. If you live within the greater Des Moines metro you could probably convince me to make another batch for you too. The recipe comes from My Baking Addiction. I followed it pretty much to the T. I only made half a batch of the frosting (powdered sugar shortage) and it was almost enough, I was left with about half dozen unfrosted cookies. In the original recipe she makes really large cookies to yield two dozen. I made standard size cookies (with a scoop) and it made a generous four dozen.

Easy Caramel Apple Dip

DSCN8805With the pumpkin-paloza in full swing (heck, it’s been in full swing in my world for a good three weeks now) it’s easy to overlook fall’s true star–apples! While I love me some pumpkin spice everything, there’s just nothing that compares to fresh crisp apples from just a few counties over. So, this fall, in addition to my ridiculous over-production of pumpkin goods I’m going to try to get some apple action in my life. Starting with this tasty snack dip.
DSCN8800Now, there’s not actually any caramel in this dip. But the combo of sugars, vanilla and cream cheese whips together to make a sweet, creamy dip reminiscent of a gooey dipped apple. My mom has been making this dip for fall celebrations since the beginning of time and it. is. bomb. Make it for you kids, make it for your friends, make it for your neighbors or if you’re really cool like me, crack open a seasonal brew and have a well rounded dinner of apples, dip and beer.  
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Ingredients
8 oz. cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sliced apples for dipping

Directions
Mix all ingredients together in a stand mixer, or with an hand-held electric mixer. Whip on high speed until well combined and smooth. Store in the refrigerator.

An Old Favorite

DSCN0286Almost everyday I immerse myself in new information on the web–most often in the form of Pinterest and  food blogs filled with the most inventive triple-chocolate-nutella-drizzled-secret-ingredient-best-ever-recipes. With all of these new and exciting dishes floating around my noggin it’s easy to lose sight of the recipes that I know and love, the recipes I can make by memory, the recipes that come from my mom, my aunt, my grandma’s recipe box.

DSCN0272I tend to get more gratification from making recipes I’ve made before than I do making new ones. It might have something to do with that fact that I know they will turn out. But there’s something else too. While a beautiful Girl Scout Cookie-inspired cheesecake is sure wow your friends with its rich, decadent deliciousness, a 40-year-old cookie recipe from your grandma’s collection feeds the soul. There’s something special about going through the same motions, mixing together the same ingredients that your mom did when you were a kid and your grandma did years before you were born.   DSCN0281Now, by no means am I abandoning the 779 recipes I have pinned to my Yummies I must try Pinterest board. I will always love trying new recipes and experimenting with creative ideas, and I encourage you all to do the same. Afterall if everyone always just made the same dessert their mom made we’d still be eating snow candies. But next time you’re craving a little treat call your mom or your best friend and ask for one her old favorites.

Recipe for Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

 

Strawberry-Peach Crumble

DSCN0248I bough a sack of peaches at the grocery store last week in hopes of enjoying impossibly sweet, chin-dripping juicy fruit all week long. But, alas no such thing happened. They never ripened and after half-hardheartedly throwing one into a smoothie I decided there was a much better use for them. Dessert. I had about a half pound of strawberries that were on their last leg too–so I threw them in to keep the peaches company. DSCN0211Now, not so long ago I posted about how I was trying to move in the opposite direction of relatively unhealthy food. And while this certainly falls into the relatively unhealthy category I tried to make it just a bit better by reducing the butter and sugar. And I didn’t have any white sugar, so I used all brown sugar (and brown sugar is totally better than white sugar. right? no? Oh well)  DSCN0216Since peaches and strawberries are already pretty juicy I didn’t miss the sugar.
DSCN0218The only difference I really noticed was in the topping. I based this recipe off of my apple crisp recipe which gives you a thick, gooey-crispy (yeah gooey-crispy is a thing) topping that you can sneak of in chunks when no one is looking. (Don’t even pretend like you don’t do that.) But with half the butter it’s more of a sweet crumbly oatmeal cookie-like topping. Still delicious, but slightly less indulgent. DSCN0219

Ingredients:
4-5 small peaches, chopped
1/2 pound strawberries, chopped
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice

3/4 cup Old Fashioned Oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup butter


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Directions:

Toss peaches and strawberries with sugar, flour, cinnamon and lemon juice. Dump into an 8 x 8 pan. Soften butter to room temperature. Mix together with oats, sugar, flour cinnamon and butter–I used a fork to start with, then finished with my hands. Sprinkle on top of fruit in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

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Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes

Strawberry Margarita CupcakesHappy Cinco de Mayo! In honor of this festive occasion I whipped up a batch of Strawberry Margarita inspired cupcakes. I adapted my favorite chocolate cake recipe to make these moist, strawberry cupcakes with just a hint of lime. Then topped them with lime-cream cheese frosting. They make for  one bright and tasty summertime treat!

Strawberry Margarita CupcakesCupcakes:
1 strawberry cake mix
1 pkg instant vanilla pudding
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 lime

Frosting:
1 package cream cheese
1 stick butter
juice of one lime
2-3 cups powdered sugar

Strawberry Margarita CupcakesMix together all of  the cupcake ingredients with an electric or stand mixer. Batter will be thick. Spoon into lined cupcake pans. Bake 29-31 minutes at 350 degrees or until toothpick comes out clean or with just a few crumbs. Let cool.

Beat together butter, cream cheese and lime juice until smooth. Add in powdered sugar until reaching desired consistency. Frost cooled cupcakes. Garnish with addition lime slices and strawberry slices (optional).

 adapted from this recipe

 

 

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake | Tulips & Rain

Carrot cake is the essential Easter dessert. I originally planned on making a small Easter lunch for my parents this Sunday, but I’m back in eastern Iowa for an interview today, so we’re celebrating Easter tonight with a yummy spring dinner. We dug into this dessert last night (and I might have had a slice for breakfast) and it did not disappoint.

Carrot Cake | Tulips & Rain

It’s a total pain to sit down and shred almost a pound of carrots–but its so worth it! I considered using my Kitchen Aid grinder attachment to shred them, but wasn’t sure if it would work. Let me know if you have any carrot shredding secrets! Oh and when making homemade cakes I always use cake flour.

Carrot Cake | Tulips & Rain

I found a tip a while back to make your cakes bake flat, and I was so delighted to find out that it works great! Just wrap very wet dish towels around the cake pans while baking and they’ll come out even on top.

Carrot Cake | Tulips & Rain

I made the cake layers last weekend and froze them. Whenever I make a layer cake–even if I don’t make it that far in advance I always freeze the cake before frosting it. It’s much easier to frost frozen layers, they’re firmer and less likely to crumb.

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After seeing Inspired by Charm‘s adorable cake banners a few weeks ago, I just had to try my own!
Carrot Cake | Tulips & RainHappy Easter!