Novice Baker Adventure #3: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Almonds

I made these cookies shortly after trying the cupcakes. Again, I was in my Giada phase, hence, all these Giada recipes.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Almonds
From Giada De Laurentiis (link to original recipe here)

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
  2. Combine the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat the mixture until creamy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the flour, almonds, and chocolate chips. Stir until just mixed.
  4. Scoop out 1-inch balls of dough. Place on the cookie sheet. Bake until the tops look dry, about 18 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheets.
  5. Dust with powdered sugar and transfer to a serving plate
My Thoughts:

I didn't realize how expensive Pine nuts were! Giada's recipe calls out for pine nuts, but after a trip to Lucky and finding out a small bag is $5, I decided to use my leftover almonds instead. I thought, when pine nuts go one sale, then I'll try the recipe as it was designed.

I also didn't realize that this recipe didn't have an egg till I read one review mentioning this. The result is a cookie that's more like dry, more chalky. It's actually very good! My dad says it goes great with coffee. I loved dusting it with the powdered sugar, but I have not remade this recipe since I tried it a few months ago.

Overall, it was my first "successful" execution. It tasted good, an it was from scratch. I should definitely try this again.


Novice Baker Adventure #2: Chocolate Chip Walnut Cupcakes

This next recipe I tried because I had a Giada phase. Her foods always looked so good and easy to make. Plus, I loved chocolate and was very curious about "mascarpone" cheese.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cupcakes
from Giada De Laurentiis (link to original recipe here)

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips, plus 1/4 cup for garnish
  • 1 (21-ounce) box brownie mix (recommended: Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a small bowl combine the walnuts, 1 cup mini chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon of the brownie mix. Toss until all the ingredients are coated. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the remaining brownie mix, eggs, vegetable oil, and water. Stir for 20 seconds until blended.
  4. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan (cupcake liners will be full).
  6. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the cupcakes comes out with moist fudgy crumbs.
  7. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting, about 30 minutes.
For the frosting:
  1. In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the cheeses together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until smooth and spreadable. Refrigerate the frosting until ready to use.
  2. Spread the frosting on top of the cupcakes and garnish with the remaining mini chocolate chips. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve at room temperature.
My Thoughts:

I loved the taste of the Mascarpone & Cream Cheese blended together. It is yummy yummy yummy. What I didn't like is that the 3 cups of powdered sugar was just too sweet and took away from the yumminess of the two cheeses blended together. I have a feeling the large amount of powdered sugar is to make this a good frosting on top. But, it was too sweet.

The second time I did this recipe, I look down the amount of powdered sugar and loved the frosting. I love the frosting so much, Josh & I sat by the bowl licking the frosting away. But - this had consequences. It was only good when it is cold. On the other hand, I like my cupcakes warm. Therefore, predicament. If I topped the cupcakes and put them in the fridge, I was going to end up with cold/ thawed cupcakes. If I didn't want to put the cupcakes in the fridge, I'd have to frost the cupcakes at the very last minute.

The other thing i haven't mentioned was that I'm not fond of the packaged brownie mix. Although good, it still tasted like packaged mix - a bit generic. Still, it was a good try.

Other things I learned was that I should mix the nuts / chocolate chips in the brownie mix so that they can remain suspended in the air. Yeah! That was a good tip!


Novice Baker Adventure #1: Cheddar Cheese Cupcake

Happy Holidays Everyone! It's been a while since I last posted - and it was all about vampires. Hah! Can't wait for next summer for True Blood to start back up!

Anyway, one of the ways I spent my time recuperating from TB withdrawal was to bake! (what??) So, I'm no baker. I'm no cook. I don't have any expertise in the kitchen whatsoever so please do not get baking tips from me. But, as a mom, I do want to try...

I think it all started when I had this craving for the cheese cupcake that I've had when I was a kid in Manila. I don't even remember what that bakery was - but it did have these cheese cupcakes. I didn't love them as a kid - but for some reason, I had this craving. So I search the internet high and low for a cheese cupcake recipe and the only promising recipe was from RecipeZaar from someone named Shygirl. Adapted recipe below:
Cheddar Cheese Cupcake
(adapted from Shygirl at RecipeZaar)

  • 1 3/4 cups flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 8 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs and orange extract.
  4. Pour in flour mixture in thirds adding 1/2 can of sweetened condensed milk in between (beginning and ending with flour mixture.)
  5. Add in 1/2 cup shredded chedar and blend well.
  6. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.
  7. Top with the remaining cheddar cheese.
  8. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes.
My Thoughts:
I've made this recipe back in June and at least 3 times so it was pretty good although it's not perfect. The first iteration, I used Velveeta as per Shygirl's original recipe, but I found that I didn't like Velveeta all that much. So, instead, I've been trying to find the right cheese to substitute. I've tried Parmesan & Asiago - but they didn't holding up well after baking - and they get so crispy it was taking away from the moistness of the cake. So for now, I just doubled the cheddar amount.

The cake part turned out well and I actually like it. It's soft, fluffy - but I won't consider it "ultra moist". I brought this at one party - but didn't get any feedback, so aside from my review - I'm not really sure how this recipe stands.