Today is our Secret Recipe Club reveal day and have I got a doozy for you. My SRC Buddy this month is none other than our illustrious founder, Amanda Formaro! Her website, Amanda’s Cookin‘ is a treasure trove of recipes, each one more enticing than the last. I could spend the next year baking and cooking from her blog, but it didn’t take me long to find today’s special treat and I know you will love them!
In addition to Amanda’s Cookin’, you can find Amanda’s talents showcased on Crafts by Amanda, SheKnows.com, Family.com and Kaboose.com. It is no surprise that the Secret Recipe Club is an overwhelming success, virtually everything Amanda touches turns to gold!!
Not only are these chocolate chip cookies the product of copious testing by Amanda (a really rough job don’t you know), but also they include what I consider a secret weapon in baking … her own homemade version of vanilla pudding mix. So you get two recipes this month, one for the cookies and one for the pudding mix!
Just like everyone else on the planet, I love chocolate chip cookies and could eat them every single day without complaint. Most recipes floating around are based on the infamous Toll House recipe and they are all good. But I have to admit that Amanda’s addition of the vanilla pudding mix definitely took these over the top! It adds a depth to the cookie itself, helping it stand up more strongly against the chocolate, creating a perfect balance.
The dough, all on its own would make a great cookie, but if you want a change of pace you can replace some of the flour with cocoa powder for a chocolaty version. You can also add to or replace the chocolate chips with any add ins of your choice. Amanda has suggested a nice selection (look in Hints and Tips below), and I think mini M&Ms, butterscotch chips or a variety of chopped nuts would be outstanding as well.
The vanilla pudding mix can be made in large batches and stored in the pantry. Use it in place of store bought in any recipe calling for vanilla pudding or if you want a quick dessert for the family. This is a way to control the amount of chemicals, preservatives and excess sugar included in many commercial products. I am now actively looking for other recipes that call for it, and will be serving it for dessert soon. If you do not want to make your own blend, you can use store bought as well.
Amanda’s recipe uses a 50/50 blend of butter and vegetable shortening. Because I try to avoid trans fats, I used all butter. It made my cookies brown a bit more than Amanda’s. I can see why she bakes off a large batch at the beginning of the week, wraps the cookies individually, stores them in the refrigerator and includes them in her children’s lunches each day. What lucky kids!
As always, buy the best quality chocolate you can find and afford. My personal preference is Guittard, a local company. But if that is not available in your area probably the next best commonly sold chips are from Ghirardelli, another San Francisco area company. Once you taste the difference you will understand why I think the extra cost is more than worth it.
Thank you Amanda for my two newest favorite recipes!
Tips and Hints:
From Amanda: I’ve used chocolate chips, mint chips, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and chocolate chunks, among others. I’ve substituted some of the flour with cocoa to make a chocolate version and that works rather nicely too.
Kitchen Skill: The Appropriate Temperature of Softened Butter
From Amanda: Probably the biggest misconception in baking in my opinion (when listed in a recipe) is softened butter does NOT mean the butter should be soft. Properly softened butter is butter that has been removed from the fridge and allowed to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, just enough to take the chill off. If your kitchen is hot because it’s the middle of summer, then cut that back to about 15 to 20 minutes.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (see important note above)
- 1/2 cup butter flavored or regular shortening
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/8 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup Amanda’s homemade pudding mix (recipe below) OR 1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix
- 1 package semisweet chocolate chips (see Hint above for variations)
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
- In a mixer bowl outfitted with paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening, brown sugar, and sugar on low until bound together, then on medium-high until smooth and fluffy. Add vanilla, continue beating, then add one egg. Beat until combined, then add the other egg and beat until fluffy.
- In a large bowl, stir or whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pudding mix. Turn mixer to low and gradually mix the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture until well blended.
- Use a spoon or sturdy rubber spatula to stir in chocolate chips.
- For Regular-Sized Cookies: Drop teaspoons of dough 2 inches apart onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake in a preheated oven for 8 to 11 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove from oven; allow cookies to cool 5 minutes on baking sheets before removing them to wire racks to cool completely.
- For Jumbo (4″) Cookies: Use an ice cream scoop to measure out dough. Roll dough ball in hands and flatten gently with fingers. Place 2 inches apart onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake in a preheated oven for 11 to 13 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove from oven; allow cookies to cool 7 to 8 minutes on baking sheets before removing them to wire racks to cool completely.
- MAKE AHEAD: To freeze cookie dough, prepare cookie dough as directed in recipe. Measure out cookies as indicated above, but instead of placing them 2″ apart on cookie sheets, do the following. Place unbaked cookie discs on a wax paper lined cookie sheet, placing the cookies as close together as you can without them touching. Place the filled cookie sheet into the freezer and “flash freeze” for 2-3 hours. (Flash freezing allows the food to become frozen as individual pieces. This way when they are placed together in a bag they will not stick to each other in a bog blob.) Remove the frozen cookies from the cookie sheets and place them into a freezer bag.
- To bake, preheat oven to 350°F, place frozen cookies onto cookie sheet and bake 11 to 14 minutes. You can allow the cookies to thaw on the sheet first if you like; then bake according to the original recipe instructions.
- Yield: 31 jumbo cookies or 48 to 60 regular sized cookies, depending on the size of your scoop
- 3 cups instant nonfat dry milk
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cups cornstarch
- Combine dry milk, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a food processor and process until uniform. You may need to do this in 2 to 3 batches. Store mix at room temperature in an airtight canister or a closely covered jar.
- To Prepare Pudding: Stir the mix in the canister before measuring out 1/2 cup mix into a saucepan. Add 2 cups milk and 1 tsp of vanilla and cook over low heat, stirring until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Continue stirring for 1 minute, remove from heat and pour into individual serving dishes. Pudding will thicken further as it cools.
- Yield: 8 cups of mix