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New Video: Experimenting with Cookie Ingredients

Check out the latest video on the Casual Confections YouTube channel.

Do your own experiment! Try it with the Tollhouse recipe or grab a recipe off this blog! Let me know what you did and how it turned out! Comment here or shoot me an email.

Pair this write up with the video to run your own experiments!

NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-ounce package) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

Notes: I left out the salt (personal choice) and nuts (better visuals for the trials I selected) for my experiments.

  • Determine what trials you’re going to run. For example, if you’re going to test how different amounts of flour change your cookies, then you won’t want to add the full amount of flour right away. Planning ahead will help you determine how you will modify the recipe.
    • I had a control and three changes: baking powder instead of baking soda, no baking soda or baking powder, and too much sugar.
    • Prepare labels that you can attach to your bowls and your cookie sheet so that you can keep track of your batches.
    • I broke my experiments out using two batches of cookies for a quick and easy breakdown but you can break down a single batch.
      • 2 ¼ cups of flour split into two is 1 cup and 2 Tbsp of flour
      • 1 tsp of baking soda split into two is ½ tsp of baking soda
        • I had four bowls of dry ingredients:
          • 1 cup and 2 Tbsp of flour + ½ tsp of baking soda (control)
          • 1 cup and 2 Tbsp of flour + ½ tsp of baking soda (too much sugar)
          • 1 cup and 2 Tbsp of flour + ½ tsp of baking powder (baking powder instead of baking soda)
          • 1 cup and 2 Tbsp of flour (no baking soda or baking powder)
        • I added the butter, sugars, vanilla extract, and eggs as instructed. I then separated out the wet dough into even batches, one part for each bowl of dry ingredients. One section of wet dough was kept in the mixer and had another 1/4 cup of granulated sugar added to it before moving on. (too much sugar)
        • Slowly add one bowl of dry ingredients to one bowl of wet ingredients. Once the two bowls are combined, mix in the chocolate chips and, if using them, nuts.
        • Section your cookie sheet(s) and be sure to label them so you can track which recipe baked up in which way. Scoop your dough onto the cookie sheet. Try to keep the size of the dough balls as similar in size as possible for a better comparison of how they baked up.
  • Science notebook: record what you notice during the experiment
    • Do your dry ingredients look different from each other once combined?
    • Do your wet ingredients look different from each other once mixed?
    • When your wet and dry ingredients are combined, do your doughs look different? What is the texture of each dough?
    • When you scooped out the dough, did your dough change texture?
    • What did each cookie look like before it was baked?
    • What did each cookie look like after it was baked? (please wait for cookies to cool to room temperature before examining with touch and taste)
      • Color
      • Texture
      • Shape
      • Spread
      • Smell
      • Taste
      • Mouth-feel (how it feels in your mouth while eating)
    • Why other experiments can you try based on your results? What do you think will happen based on what you saw in these trials?
    • Why did the changes happen? Investigate the chemistry of how ingredients combine and react to different conditions.

Nestle’s recipe:

Preheat oven to 375F.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon (I use a 1 ½ Tbsp sized ice cream scoop) onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes (start at 9 mins and then increase time if needed in small increments) or until golden brown (the golden-brown color may not be achieved depending on the trial you’re running. Be sure to run all trials at the same temperature and time). Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

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Casual Confections Q&A

Lauren Widrick of Lauren Widrick Coaching and I did a Q&A about Casual Confections. We discussed where I started, how I made the baking blog into a business in the past 5-6 months, and what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. There’s also a nice plug for the Charlotte Geeks Muggles Market and Geek Gala!

 

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Causal Confections Kids (CCK) – Chocolate Chip Cookie Halloween Cake

Baking with kids can be a lot of fun and very educational. It can also be a test in patience for the head baker. Finding the right terms and ways to explain measuring ingredients, why things need to be mixed a certain way, and what happens in the oven can be a challenge, but it is a great mental exercise and kids are typically fascinated to learn how things work. The absolute best part of baking with kids is seeing the look of pride, surprise, and satisfaction on their faces when they get to eat what they created.

This past week, a 3.5-year-old designed a cake with me. It started with a simple question: “Do you want to bake cookies this weekend?” After excitedly answering “yes,” I asked which type of cookie he wanted to bake. It was no surprise it was chocolate chip. They are his favorite to make. It escalated quickly from there. When all was said and done, the final design ended up being a devil’s food cake with orange-colored icing that has pieces of chocolate chip cookies in it. It typically takes me no time to whip each of these parts together, so I figured it would take a few hours, tops.

We compiled our grocery list and went to the store to get what we needed. We talked about why we were getting the smaller bag of sugar instead of the larger bag of sugar (storage), why we didn’t need marshmallows for this bake (any excuse to eat marshmallows is a good one), and the ways we need to be careful when handling a carton of eggs. After getting back to the kitchen, we prepped our ingredients, set out our tools, and selected our aprons (having at least two kid-size aprons around is great as it gives them a choice and they get to dress like you do in the kitchen). After selecting his apron, the young baker got a quick introduction on how to tie it around his waist. It will take some practice, but he loved seeing how easy it could be to tie something.

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We did this bake in three parts.

Part 1 – Chocolate Chip Cookies (soft batch recipe)

Chocolate chip cookies are a great first-bake for kids. The ingredients are easy and safe to work with, it’s more than four steps, and, for most kids, it’s a treat they love to eat. Flour and sugar are easy for kids to use to measure out ingredients and are easy to clean up if it results in a mess. While putting the dry ingredients together, it’s easy to talk to the young baker about ingredients that are safe to taste and ones that are not. For example, cookie dough that is just butter and sugars mixed together is safe to taste. Once the flour and/or eggs are added, however, the dough is not safe to taste. The flour and eggs can be unsafe to eat before they are baked or cooked. Speaking of safe to taste, a tradition I have when baking chocolate chip cookies with anyone is to pour out a few chips to eat before we dump the bag into the dough. It’s a special treat since the baker has not had a chance to sample anything in a bit while the dough was coming together and it’s a few small bites of chocolate. Yum!

This junior baker did everything for the cookies except for cracking the eggs (he decided it was too messy for him to do that day) and dealing with the oven (he’s not quite tall enough or his arms long enough to do that, yet).

For most cookies, and especially the soft batch, it’s a good idea to roll the dough into balls or mounds for them to bake properly. Some kids, however, struggle to roll a ball between their hands when they’re younger. This young baker decided that he was going to roll logs instead of balls. We did one full tray of logs and one full tray of balls so that we could gauge the baking time for the logs and have everything cook evenly. When we took the tray of logs out of the oven, we were excited to find that the logs had baked down to perfect dipping bars!

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Chocolate chip cookie logs or dipping bars

While the cookies cooled on our cooling racks, we did a quick clean up of the area and of the tools we’d need to use for our cake. At this point, the junior baker needed a break.

After a break watching some videos on his iPad and having lunch, we got back to work on part 2.

Part 2 – Devil’s food cake

For this bake, we kept it simple. We grabbed a box of Duncan Hines mix and doctored it. Doctoring a box cake mix can range from very simple to more complex. I like to keep it simple. Use the same measurements that are on the box but use milk in place of water and use butter in place of oil. Typically, I melt the butter to add to the mix, but this time, I tried creaming the butter first and then adding the other ingredients to the butter. Making a cake using a box mix is another great first-bake for kids, though it can be disappointing as there aren’t too many steps and it’s over quickly.

We poured our batter into two 9″ rounds greased with Baker’s Joy (this is my favorite non-stick baking tool outside of parchment paper). Once baked, we let the cakes cool in the pans before flipping them out onto the cooling racks.

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Two 9-inch rounds of devil’s food cake.

After another round of clean up and preparing tools and ingredients, it was time for the junior baker to take a good long break and for me to make the buttercream. This junior baker does not enjoy American buttercream as it is too sweet, so for him to really enjoy his creation, we decided to go with Italian meringue buttercream (IMBC). It’s less sweet, very creamy, and is easy to work with. Since the IMBC is basically boiling a syrup and whipping egg whites, there wasn’t much for this junior chef to help out with at this stage.

Part 3 – Italian Meringue Buttercream

For this cake, I halved the recipe I used in the pull apart cupcake cake (link above). It ended up being a nearly perfect portion! After adding the butter to the mixture, my buttercream wasn’t coming together. Having made this several times now, I was a big confused and just kept whipping. It took about 10 minutes for me to realize that I had only prepared and added half the amount of butter I needed! I quickly grab a stick from the fridge, throw it on a plate, and send it spinning in the microwave for a couple of 10-second rounds to soften it. After adding the second stick of butter, the buttercream came together quickly and beautifully! Phew!

A few years ago, a dear family member had given me a set of measuring spoons that included a pinch, a smidgen, a dash, etc. They’re an amusing gift for most but are extremely useful in my kitchen! For IMBC, I use these to measure out and add gel food coloring.

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Measuring spoons for smaller measures.

The junior baker wanted the buttercream to be orange. I did not have orange color (on purpose) and asked him which two colors we could combine to make orange. This is an easy way to work color lessons into baking. As he excitedly stated “yellow and red,” we grabbed the correct bottles of gel coloring and decided which order to add them to the buttercream. Once the colors were added, we set the mixer to run and watched as the yellow and red streaks started to combine into a light orange. Bouncing up and down with excitement, the junior baker proclaimed the color to be perfect so we stopped the mixer and grabbed our cookies. This was the moment the junior baker was waiting for. We crumbled the cookies into the buttercream. As we crumbled, we talked about the differences in adding big pieces vs. smaller pieces vs. crumbs. He decided for chunks instead of pieces. We added 3-4 cookie logs to the batter and folded the chunks into the buttercream.

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Orange-colored IMBC with chocolate chip cookie chunks.

Now for the new challenge, spreading the buttercream with large cookie chunks across the cake without ripping up the cake. Junior baker did a great job of spreading and our cake handled it very well.

Once the cake was iced, it was time to enjoy!

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Sliced chocolate chip cookie Halloween cake

We asked the junior baker what he was going to call his cake. He proudly proclaimed “Chocolate chip cookie Halloween cake because it’s orange and black!” and so the dessert earned its name.

The cookie chunks ended up working really well with the icing and the cake for flavor and crunch. The bake ended up taking us all day instead of the few hours I itiniall thought but it was well worth it. This cake design was definitely a success and the junior baker has told everybody who would listen, including a very nice lady at the deli counter in the grocery store, about the cake he designed and baked.

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Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes a recipe trial comes out of necessity rather than curiosity. My husband had oral surgery about three weeks ago and has had to be on a soft food diet ever since. This meant he had to cut out almost all of his favorite treats. One of his favorite cookies used to be Keebler Soft Batch. Like most things, the recipe has changed over the years and they just don’t taste like they used to. So I used this opportunity to seek out and test a recipe for soft batch chocolate chip cookies. To our delight, they came out quite tasty. The taste leaves a lot of room to play with different flavors (extracts or pudding mix) but isn’t bland in its first iteration. This pleasant recipe comes from Brown Eyed Baker.
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Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 small box) instant vanilla pudding mix (Brown Eyed Baker has a link to a homemade version in her recipe)
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, pudding mix, and baking soda and set aside.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, for about 3 minutes. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing only until a little flour is left in the dough. Using a rubber spatula, fold the chocolate chips into the dough.

With a medium cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop out dough and form it into balls and place on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until the outside edges are just set and light golden brown and the middles are still puffy (about 10-12 mins – mine were in for 12). Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for five minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to five days.