Choose-Your-Own-Chocolate Chip Cookie

I dearly love this time of year. There is always an abundance of food and drink at hand, and it’s a huge blessing to be surrounded by loved ones. This year my side of the family came to the Northern Virginia area to spend time with my brother’s family which now includes my super adorable 3-week-old nephew! It’s wonderful making these memories as our family is growing, though the little guy is probably too small to remember this year.

Baking for Christmas is a favorite memory of mine, and I made these two varieties of chocolate chip cookies for friends and co-workers before I left town for Christmas. The chocolate chip cookie is not only my favorite cookie, it’s such a versatile one, I threw these cookies together with whatever I already had in stock.

The first is a white chocolate chunk cranberry with mixed nuts cookie and the second is a marshmallow chocolate chip with spiced nuts cookie. Since I don’t have specific measurements of each ingredient, I won’t be able to replicate these cookies ever again, but it’s a fun exercise to see what variety of chocolate chip cookie you can come up with. What a perfect thing to make next time you clean out your pantry! 😉

Choose-Your-Own-Chocolate Chip Cookie
adapted from previous recipe

2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups total add-ins (chocolate chips, white chocolate chunks, dried cranberries, chopped nuts, etc.)

1. Heat oven to 325 F degrees. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
2. Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips and other add-ins.
3. Spoon dough into tablespoon dough balls. Place formed dough onto Silpat-lined cookie sheets. Dough can be refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month—shaped or not.
4. Bake, reversing cookie sheets’ positions halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes (start checking at 13 minutes). (Frozen dough requires an extra 1 to 2 minutes baking time.) Cool cookies on cookie sheets. Serve or store in airtight container.

Pear Apple Plum Cake

For those of you who regularly bake, how much more baking do you around the holidays? Do you use tried and true recipes or do you like to explore new recipes? I usually turn it up a notch or two for Christmas since I tend to give baked goods for hostess gifts. And I’m not shy with experimenting with recipes, even for gifts, simply because I never seem to have time for a trial run.

This cake, on the other hand, was tried out a month ago by some friends, and I’m happy to say it passed everyone’s palate test. The judges included a butter-loather and a whatever-you-call-the-opposite-of-a-sweet-tooth. I modified the original recipe by adding pear compote I still had from my pear pies for moistness, but you could use 1/4 cup orange juice like the original recipe does. I also reduced the amount of sugar because of my pear compote addition, and I used melted butter in place of oil for a finer cake texture.

For those of you who need a recipe for a fruit cake that most* people will actually eat, you should try this one out this holiday season. I already did the work of testing out the recipe, and I, along with some friends, approve!

*Personally, I love and will devour fruitcakes from Collin Street Bakery in Texas, but I admit I may be biased!

Pear Apple Plum Cake
adapted from Country Living

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 plums, peeled, cored, sliced
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup pear compote

1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees and prepare a bundt cake pan by greasing.
2. In a large bowl, 2 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon. Add apples and plums and toss to combine.
3. In another large bowl, mix flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, butter, pear compote, and vanilla extract. Beat until batter is smooth.
4. Pour half of the batter into prepared pan. Top with half of apple/plum mixture. Spoon remaining batter over fruit mixture and top with remaining fruit.
5. Bake about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a paring knife around the sides and center of cake and turn cake out onto cake stand or serving plate.