Fire up your oven – April Mega marathon

This is a recap of the month-long baking marathon – Fire Up your Oven- for April 2015.

You can imagine the sugar high and the weight gain in process ;-)

Click on the image to take you to the post.

Week 1 : Celebration Cakes

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Ponque – Puerto Rican pound cake

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Tres Leches – Three milk cake

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Ombre cake

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Sofa cake

Week 2: Simple fruit based Cakes (except the first one :D)

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Chocolate cake : base for sofa cake

Eggless fruit cake 1

Eggless fruit cake 1

Eggless Fruit cake 2

Eggless Fruit cake 2

Caramel banana cake

Caramel banana cake

Easy Banana cake

Easy Banana cake

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Strawberry cake

Week 3: Savory Bakes

“Crazy dough” focaccia

Baked potatoes

Baked potatoes

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Roasted garlic

Roasted vegetables

Roasted vegetables

Masala loaf

Masala loaf

Eggizza - Quiche with a fancy name

Eggizza – Quiche with a fancy name

Week 4: Cookies and quick breads

Eggless chocolate chip cookies

Eggless chocolate chip cookies

Ultimate chocolate chip cookies

Ultimate chocolate chip cookies

Oatmeal raisin soak cookies

Oatmeal raisin soak cookies

Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies

Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies

Quick chocolate cupcakes

Quick chocolate cupcakes

Coconut quick bread

Coconut quick bread

Week 5: Everything else

Plum Clafoutis

Plum Clafoutis

Egg puffs

Egg puffs

Pound cake

Pound cake

Rich chocolate buttercream

Rich chocolate buttercream

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Rich chocolate butter cream and an ombre cake

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Oh fine!! This IS a cheat recipe.

I already have the cake recipe on the blog and this one is just for the frosting.

But hey…the cake was a humongous effort. Three 9″ layer cake is no small thing for me. I could handle 6″ cakes, but 9″ isn’t so easy. Despite 6 straws for support inside, it was doing a jiggle jiggly dance when I was trying to frost it.

Finally, I gave up trying and reached out to my neighbor. I have told you that she is a professional cake decorator, rt?

Now this cake, which I baked for our friend’s son, is the biggest cake I have ever made. And for my neighbor, this is tiny. This would be the size of the top-tier of her cakes.

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It took her less than five minutes to frost this cake for me. FIVE minutes. And the finish was so much better than mine. Boy, I am so sorry that I have to move again! It’s so rare to get a friend who shares the same passion as you.

This frosting recipe is also from her. The quantity is huge, but it freezes very well. And if you freeze it, you can eat it like you eat ice cream ( you didn’t hear that from me :D).

The final decorations are made with ready-made fondant. I colored them and used a Wilton mold to get the designs. These can me made ahead to save time.

This cake is the final in the series of bakes for the month of April.  Check out the linky to see amazing entries from other bloggers.

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Recipe source:  My neighbor Lizy, originally from allrecipes.com

Makes : 10 plus cups of frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups butter (450 gms), softened
  • 2.5 cups cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 9 cups icing sugar
  • 1 – 1.5 cups milk

Method:

  1. Using a hand/stand mixer, beat the butter until its soft and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the cocoa, vanilla and sugar in batches adding enough milk till it reaches a good spreading consistency. You need to be careful and start slow with this, else the sugar will fly all over the place.

NOTE:

  • This recipe freezes well.
  • The quantity of sugar and milk are approximate. You need to adjust this until you get the consistency and sweetness you are looking for.
  • I have used only 8 cups of sugar here and 1 1/4 cups of milk here. I found the sweetness to be perfect with this quantity itself.
  • You can try salted or unsalted butter in this recipe. There will be a difference in taste, but both versions are delicious.

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Pound cake

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My husband shares his birthday with one of his close friend (and with one of my close friends as well). They all decided to come out of their mothers’ tummy just two days before new year. Another interesting thing is that their wedding days are a day apart. My husband’s friend was in the same neighborhood in India before he moved to US. And after ten long years, the two of them are in the same neighborhood again. Little surprises of life :-).

Same neighborhood means they could cut their birthday cake together after over a decade! And I jumped in at the opportunity of baking the birthday cake.

I wanted a ‘surprise inside’ cake which reveals their age when they cut into it. I wanted a gingerbread house cake for my son for his birthday. So I decided a trial cake would be a good idea for both the events. I am glad I did!! The surprise inside cake surprised me totally when the numbers just floated up!! It just wasn’t as elegant as I thought it would be. And the less I said about the gingerbread house cake, the better! Words are not needed to describe that.

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Yet, I wanted a surprise element for their birthday. So I baked this pound cake again (I loved the taste when I baked for the surprise inside cake) and didn’t decorate it. When everyone was up and looking for the birthday cake, I told them this was the one.

It was pin drop silence and a collective relief when they knew I was kidding :D. Happily they cut into their decorated cake and were happier when their age didn’t pop out of the cake.

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Recipe source: Martha Stewart’s book – Cakes

Makes : 2 9 X 5 inch loaves

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (~450 gms) butter, softened
  • 3 cups (~450 gms) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups (~450 gms) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 9 eggs (Yes, 9!!)

Method: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C. Grease two 9X5″ loaf pans.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar using a hand or stand mixer, until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the vanilla extract and salt.
  4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and beat it in.
  5. Add the flour in 4 batches, beating until just incorporated.
  6. Divide the batter between the pans. Smooth out the top.
  7. Bake for about an hour or until a skewer comes free of crumbs when inserted in the middle.
  8. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least  5-10 minutes before taking it off and letting it cool completely.

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Egg puff with puff pastry

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The best kind of food is whatever someone else makes. Doesn’t matter what it is… if its served on a plate and you don’t have to do a thing, its heaven I tell you!

This recipe is one such luxury. It was made by my friend and my only participation was tasting and nodding my head in appreciation.

One of the little joys of life in U.S. is filo pastry sheets. It had started coming in India too, but it was a rare find. The adventures with filo is endless. Egg or veg puffs are pretty much part of everyone’s childhood in India and the fact that we can recreate it is definitely a plus :-).

Scroll down for the recipe.

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Recipe source: My friend 

Ingredients:

  • Ready made filo pastry sheets
  • 3 boiled eggs
  • 1 big onion
  • 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2  tsp garam masala
  • a sprig of curry leaves, chopped fine
  • Oil
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Thaw the pastry sheets. Finely chop the onions and curry leaves.
  2. Boil water and add the eggs and let it cook for exactly 10 minutes. Let it rest in the same pan and shell it once its cool enough to handle. Cut each egg in half vertically.
  3. Heat 2-3 teaspoons of oil (enough to saute the onion) and add the curry leaves. Add the chopped onions, ginger garlic paste and saute until pink.
  4. Add the chili powder, salt and pepper and garam masala. Keep in mind that  these spices need to be adjusted according to your personal preference. Taste test and adjust accordingly.
  5. Take off the heat and let it cool. Divide into 6 equal portions.
  6. Pre heat the oven to 200 C.
  7. Cut 6 equal rectangles off the pastry sheets. Fill each sheet with one portion of onion mix and an egg-half. Fold the sheet and seal the edges by pressing with a fork.
  8. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the puffs are golden in color.
  9. Serve warm with a hot cup of tea and ketchup on the side.

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Clafoutis

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Well, if it’s a bag of coconut one day, it’s a bunch of fruits the other day.

So, if you are having fruit explosion in your kitchen, not to worry. You can use this basic clafoutis (cla-fut-ee) recipe and use up a lot of your fruits. Technically, clafoutis is made from black cherries and the dish is called flaugnarde (I didn’t bother to learn how its pronounced), if you use other fruits.

Anyway, it’s easy to put together and a great way to win the excess fruit battle.

Apples in the kitchen, beware!!!

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Butter and scatter 1 tablespoon sugar (I used confectioners sugar) over the base of a 10″ pie dish.

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Slice and arrange the fruit so that it covers the bottom completely.

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Whisk (or better blend) the flour, sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla.

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Pour over the fruit.

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Bake until the batter is set and golden.

Recipe source: Basic clafoutis recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fruit of your choice, plums here
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar + 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C.
  2. Butter and scatter 1 tablespoon sugar (I used confectioners sugar) over the base of a 10″ pie dish.
  3. Slice the fruit into long pieces and arrange it so that it covers the bottom of the dish.
  4. Blend or whisk the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, butter and flour. Blending is a better idea than whisking.
  5. Add this to the fruit and bake for about 40 minutes or until the clafoutis is golden and puffed up.

Note:

  • Clafoutis will fall and deflate once its out of the oven.
  • Sprinkle with confectioners sugar on top for decoration.
  • Serve clafoutis warm (not hot, warm).

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Coconut bread – quick bread

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We all make mistakes. Sometimes big mistakes.

Mine was also big. A BIG pack of coconut flakes.

Now, if you know how to use it up, then it’s not a problem. But if you are short of ideas, the bag will totally weigh you down.

Thank God for the internet and the problem isn’t that big anymore. It’s one cup short now and I am taking it cup-wise now a days.

Scroll down for the recipe.

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Recipe source : Taste of home

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flaked coconut, toasted

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Grease and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a big bowl (flour, baking powder, sugar, salt).
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg, milk and vanilla extract.
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients until just incorporated.
  5. Fold the coconut flakes and transfer the  batter into the loaf pan.
  6. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes free of crumbs.
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Quick chocolate cupcake

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This is another one of those 40 posts that has been sitting on the drafts folder for a long long time. This is a very quick and easy cupcakes from Hershey’s. I had baked these when I was in India, just before moving to U.S.

Another special thing about these cupcakes are these were baked for a friend of mine. He had dropped in at our place as he knew I was relocating soon. He is a great photographer and he taught me to click with the ‘Live view’ mode in the DSLR. I was using the viewfinder until then.

With the LCD display ON (Live view shooting is just that – it shows the picture in the LCD screen before we take the picture – just like how it is in a P&S or phone camera), clicking a picture is so much easier. For one thing, we can see our photo setup before we click. Secondly, you can switch on the grid display which helps with the ‘rule of thirds’ in photography. Third thing is it helps you focus where you want to.

These are the first pictures that I took with Live View mode ON and I use that feature a lot now. Check out this video which explains it so much better!

Before you go check out that feature in your camera, have a look at this easy-peasy cupcake recipe as well.

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Recipe source: Hershey’s

Makes 2 dozen small cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat oven 180 C/ 350 F. Line a cupcake pan with paper cups.
  2. In a big bowl, add all the dry ingredients and whisk well.
  3. Add the oil, vinegar and vanilla. Blend until well mixed.
  4. Fill the batter up to 2/3rd of the paper cup and bake for 20-25 minutes until the center is cooked.
  5. Let it cool completely and frost, if preferred.

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Chocolate chip cookies

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I always wanted to have a girl. Always.

But the minute I was pregnant, I knew it was going to be a boy. It was pure intuition, but it was so strong that we didn’t even look at girl names. (I guessed correctly for both my brothers as well, I should have charged them psychic fees! )

Once the kid was born, I knew the beautiful pink dresses were never going to come home. The doll house, the Barbie, the cuddly teddies… all the toys that I wanted for myself my daughter would never come. I was not just upset at this loss of toys, but I genuinely believed girls were easier to manage. Girls listen to you, are more obedient and a lot less rough than boys.

It was around this time that my brother’s call came. We were talking about our childhood and this thing of girls being nice and proper came up. He started laughing and reminded me of my childhood. Off the three of us, I was only one who was naughty. I was the only one who has broken stuff, lost things, gone missing and most importantly, the energetic one. If I am not to be found, they  would look up and not down in the house.  I was a climber apparently and I would be on top of a window or a desk than under the bed.

The stories went on for hours and lets just say, I was beyond convinced that not all girls are calm and quiet. As for the pink dresses and accessories, that’s for a different post!

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Pictorial:

In a bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together (flour, baking soda and salt). No picture :D.

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In a big bowl, use a hand or stand mixer to beat the butter with both the sugars until light and fluffy.

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Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat them in. Add vanilla and mix.

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Add the flour mix in batches until it forms a dough.

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Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts, if using.

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Drop by tablespoons onto a parchment paper lined tray, leaving space for the cookies to expand.

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Bake for 9-12 minutes or until the cookies turn golden brown.  Let the cookies sit in the tray for sometime before moving them to cooling racks.

Recipe source: Nestle toll house cookies 

Makes: about 50 cookies

Ingredients: 

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks ~225 gms) butter, softened***
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (I didn’t add)

***1 stick (approx 100 gms) of very softened butter would also work here. Cut down only the butter, make sure it is really soft and follow the recipe as such. 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together (flour, baking soda and salt)
  3. In a big bowl, use a hand or stand mixer to beat the butter with both the sugars until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat them in.
  5. Add vanilla and mix.
  6. Add the flour mix in batches until it forms a dough. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts, if using
  7. Drop by tablespoons onto a parchment paper lined tray, leaving space for the cookies to expand.
  8. Bake for 9-12 minutes or until the cookies turn golden brown.
  9. Let the cookies sit in the tray for sometime before moving them to cooling racks.

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Oatmeal raisin soak cookies

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I have been given a very different bringing up than others. For one thing, our parents never raised their hands on us. To be honest, we have driven them up through the walls especially in our teens. Yet, they were always lenient with us.

I still remember the kind of punishments I used to get when I was younger. My father would ask me to stand in a particular spot until he allows me to go. Surprisingly, I was the only one who got this punishment. Not so surprisingly, my brothers weren’t so much of a trouble :D.

I am talking about the early 1980s, when we have never heard of a thing called time out. I wonder how my dad got that idea when he had no parenting books, the internet or Dr. Spock to guide him!

Anyway, my dad is right now in Trivandrum and they are flying to my brother’s place today. So I was thinking of my dad, of my childhood, of my home, about the future and a lot about the past. So this just came up in my mind.

These cookies are also special, because I made it for my parents and my brother’s family two summers back. On demand from my dad. I didnt take any pictures then, because it was all over in a day or two. But still the memory lingers.

Browse through the pictorial and the recipe to know how it is made!

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Recipe source: Food.com

Pictorial

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Soak the raisins in the beaten eggs and vanilla for an hour.

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Beat the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy.

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Add the flour, salt, baking soda. Mix in.

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Add the raisin mix.

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Followed by oats and nuts, if using.

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Form a dough.

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Take tablespoonfuls of dough and place in a parchment lined tray.

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Bake for 10-15 minutes (took around 13 for me) in a preheated oven, keeping a close eye on it.

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The cookies are done when the base starts to brown lightly. Let them rest in the tray for sometime or they might crumble.

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Once cool, store in an airtight container.

Recipe source: Food.com

Makes : about 50 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 1cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 3cup chopped nuts(optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C.
  2. Beat the eggs well with the vanilla. Soak the raisins in the egg-mix for an hour.
  3. In a big bowl, beat the butter with the brown and white sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the baking soda, salt and flour (in batches) and mix it in.
  5. Add the raisin mix and oats and blend until combined. You might have to use your hands or a rubber spatula at this stage.
  6. Scoop and drop tablespoonful of dough or roll into balls and flatten a little with your hands. Place them in a parchment lined tray, leaving some space in between for the cookies to expand.
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned.
  8. Let the cookies rest in the tray for sometime or it might crumble when you try to take it out.
  9. Once cool, store in an airtight container.

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Ultimate Chocolate Chips Cookies

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This space was never meant to be a recipe repository alone. It was meant to be collection of everyday moments of our lives , a space to write down the simple things before life wipes out our memories and writes on top of it again.

I remember our father’s attempts to record our childhood. He still has a recorded audio cassette where we are singing rhymes, talking and fighting and everything. I don’t think I was even five then.

Though it feels very good when we listen to the cassette, its  my parents’ face that truly lits up whenever we put it on. Its like reliving our childhood once again for them. Unfortunately, the cassette is now kept aside safely because that technology is redundant now. We tried copying it into a CD, but they advised us against it since its very old. But still, whenever appa talks about it, he is very happy.

That’s what this place is for me. Reliving our everyday life.

I have no idea where this blog is going to be when my son would be inching towards his 40. May be blogs won’t be there and may be they would have advanced to something more efficient. But I had some of the best moments when last weekend, me and my son sat down together and went through some of the posts about him.

He laughed a lot.

Yes, I did the right thing by starting this place. I did the right thing by not giving up in between.

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Another right thing I did, was to bake these ultimate cookies. These are just amazing and pretty easy to put together.

Pictorial

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Cream the softened butter using hand or stand mixer.

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Add the white and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

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Add vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat it in. As you can see, I have no patience and added both in.

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Add flour (whisked with baking powder, baking soda and salt) in batches.

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Mix until just incorporated.

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Fold in the chocolate chips and chunks.

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Let the dough rest in fridge for sometime to firm up.

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When ready to bake, scoop tablespoonfuls of dough in a parchment lined tray, leaving space to spread. Take your kid’s help here :-).

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Bake for about 12 -16 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies.

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Bake until light brown on the edges. Let the cookies cool in the tray for sometime before taking them out.

Recipe source : Martha Stewart’s Ultimate chocolate chip cookies

Makes : about 48 medium cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 sticks(~500gms) butter, softened
  • 1.5 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 8(~240gms) ounces chocolate, chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C.
  2. Whisk the baking soda, baking powder, salt and the flour until well mixed in a separate bowl. Keep aside.
  3. Cream the butter until light. Add both the sugars and beat with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.
  4. Add vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat it in.
  5. Add the flour mix in 3-4 batches, beating it in slowly, until just incorporated.
  6. Fold in the chocolate chunks and chips.
  7. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes to one hour.
  8. Scoop out tablespoonful of dough and place it in a parchment lined tray, leaving space for spreading.
  9. Baking time would depend on the size of the cookies. For this size, its around 12-16 minutes.
  10. Take them out once light brown on the edges and let the cookies cool in the tray before taking them out.

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