Sunday, March 31, 2013

Naughty Bunny

I'm a little late with this, but Happy Easter!

I spent quite a bit of time baking in preparation for Easter this year. I started with egg-less sugar cookies for Heather Picard's son Brayden.  He has an egg allergy and I was up for the challenge to find a tasty egg-less cookie recipe. They turned out great! In the process I came across a blog called "Egg Free Bakery." It's a great resource for anyone with this unfortunate allergy. I used a glaze instead of an icing, as the icing uses meringue powder. It was fun to see him scarf one down. I'm really bummed because I completely forgot to take a picture of the cookies!
Of course I had to make some regular old sugar cookies for my family for Easter. I chose a non- traditional color palette for my eggs.

The last time I was at Hobby Lobby I discovered an Americolor food dye called Ivory.  You would think that you could just add a bit of brown to make ivory but it turns out a lot different. Well, a lot different to me, but I'm a color nerd and I kind of like studying color. So you might not agree. I got on a kick and added Ivory to every color I used and it gave it a really unique tone.

I mentioned that I spent quite a bit of time baking this past week. I have been asked how long it takes to make a batch of sugar cookies.  A lot depends on how fancy I get with them and that is the fun part so I could spend hours and hours if I wanted to stay up all night.  Mixing, rolling, and cutting out about 18 cookies takes about an hour. Whipping up a batch of icing takes about half an hour. Coloring the icing and preparing the bags or bottles with tips takes an hour. Both the base layer and details of icing takes about 2 hours with clean up.  It's usually between 4-5 hours total. Yes, it's a long time, but I have never done it all in one day.  I break it all up over the course of several days so it doesn't seem like that much. I'm not really counting the time I take to come up with a design and draw it out but that part is fun and it's not always necessary if it's an easy cookie.

So needless to say I'm always looking for ways to shorten up the time it takes for everything but the actual icing details - I love that part. I've tried protecting my pastry bags with saran wrap for easy clean up which does sort of work.  And these new squeeze bottles that accommodate decorating tips, they work great!  I know most people can figure out how to do a simple batch of sugar cookies, but I've narrowed down some preparations that work great for me. I think I'll use a post soon to share some tips in case anyone out there might be trying it for the first time.

I also made a cake with a recipe from my mom. She found it on the Allrecipes website and it's a pretty tasty cake. It's a 9" round, 3 layer carrot cake with a crusting cream cheese frosting.  I saw a cookie with a bunny butt and I knew I had to use that somehow. What is better that a mischievous bunny stealing some carrots from the garden?  My husband wouldn't think that it's funny.  Every chance he gets, he protects our landscaping from the vermin with a bb handgun. It's makes me a little sad but I don't particularly enjoy our bushes eaten down to the ground either.

What a naughty bunny!

Here is our mischievous bunny in her pajamas having fun with her Easter basket.

I hope everyone had a great day!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dark Chocolate & Salted Mint Cupcakes

Even though most of my posts thus far have been sweets, I don't usually bake nutritionally dead sweet treats to keep at home for myself because I am tempted just by the sight of them.  I love to cook for us but I try to keep baking for others, mainly because of my sweet tooth and lack of will power concerning sweets. My husband and I both love chocolate and mint so this was a treat for us (although I did bring just a few to an old friend who had me over for lunch.) For at least a year or two, one of the latest dessert trends has been salted carmel.  I've never tasted salted mint frosting before so when I came across this recipe I knew it was perfect for St. Patrick's Day!  I found an airy dark chocolate cupcake and I was quite happy that I paired this extremely tasty combination!
My cupcakes couldn't decide how they wanted to look today so they changed their outfits a couple of times.  I'll comment on their attire:

Frosted as a swirl with a 1M tip, striped frosting, accented with clover royal icing run outs.

Frosted as a swirl with a 1A tip, two toned frosting, accented with clover royal icing run outs.

And my favorite is....frosted as a swirl with a 1A tip, light green frosting, folded parchment square liner, accented with a clover royal icing run out.

A word on royal icing run outs (also called transfers, or plaques.)
An easy way to add some personality to your cupcakes is to add a little shape or accent to the top in the form of a run out. Any royal icing recipe should work for this, but most recipes make a large amount that will cover a batch of cookies, so it's best to plan ahead and use some left over icing for these and just store them in an air tight container until ready to use.  They last a very long time.

I always start by spreading a teeny tiny amount of Nasty Crisco (this is the only name that I will ever call it) on a sheet of wax paper. Work from the top and use piping consistency icing to create your shape, and flood icing to fill it in as you can see in the picture below.  Some like to use an in-between consistency to pipe and fill a shape and just skip the outline. If you want a nice dimensional shape, the outline and fill method is best. This way you can build up the inside of the shape and "puff"it up.

Make at least twice as many as you plan to use if you create just outlines. I always still make a few extra even if they are pretty sturdy filled in shapes. Wait at least a day before trying to remove them from the wax paper.
There is only one way in which you will want to remove them.  Standing up against the counter, place one had away from you behind the shape and one in front. Slide the wax paper over the edge of the counter until it starts to peel away and then use a hand to lift or catch it when it has almost completely removed itself from the paper.  Place them on your frosted cupcake right away for the best adhesion.
They really are quite addicting. You can make them ahead of time and also add them to cakes, or glue them with some icing to a plainly iced sugar cookie. They come in handy for those of us who have to break up their baking and decorating into nap time increments. They are also great if you aren't a big fan of food colorings because you can frost your cupcakes with plain white frosting and then add some of these colored run outs, but remove them before eating. They can start to wilt 3 or 4 days later when placed upon buttercream frosting, but hopefully by then your cupcakes are all gone!

I have a feeling a few of these cupcakes are going to jump into my freezer all by themselves so they can pay me a visit later.

California Love

Who else is tired of winter?
I have never been to California. Someday I am going to do a top to bottom road trip of California even if I have to go by myself. Or....I can just hitch a ride with my brother in law, Shane.
My sister wanted some cookies made for her husband Shane who loves California. She really just wanted surfboards, and I couldn't help but throw in a sandy beach for him to dream about too.  Shane works non stop, all hours of the day, in his sleep, when he is sick, on vacation, every day. He has his own successful company that provides electrical, heating/cooling installations, etc in the Augusta, Georgia area. So, if she is gifting California cookies to him, does that mean that they are planning on vacationing there and just aren't telling us? No fair.

I had to add some brown sugar "sand" and of course a shark bite!

Happy Anniversary Bev and Shane!

We just took Amelie over night to a water park resort in Lake Geneva and she had a blast! The water and temp in the pool area was balmy so I guess that was our taste of warmth until the spring/summer. I'll be wishing for some sunshine daily until then....I hope you all have had a great spring break!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Duck and Carriage Baby Shower Cookies & Cupcakes

I'm excited to share these baby shower cookies and cupcakes! They really were a lot of fun to do. My sister in law Andrea needed them for a shower that she was having for a co-worker. We chose momma and baby ducks and a baby carriage.

I have used white sanding sugar on cookies, cupcakes, cakes, you name it. This baby carriage is the best example of how it can make your piped lines appear much more graceful. 
Speaking of sanding sugar....Did you know that you can make your own colored sanding sugar?  It's super easy!  Pour your sanding sugar into a ziplock, add a little gel food coloring, seal it and squish it around until you achieve the shade you desire. Then you will want to add some cornstarch because the sugar will get a little sticky without it. Start with a 1/4 of a teaspoon, but remember that the more cornstarch you use, the less sparkly the sugar. Squish the cornstarch, sugar mix around to break up any clumps and until it flows like normal sugar. Spread it out onto a cookie sheet to dry for a bit and you're done!

The cupcakes turned out kind of cute too. I used the 1M wilton tip to create the frosting swirl in which I placed the fondant duck. The duck is made out of rolled, dyed fondant and cut out with the baby duck cookie cutter. I added the beak, eye, tail feathers, and feet with royal icing.
Don't you love the single cupcake stand? It didn't stay full for very long. If it's on my counter and I can see it, it's gone.

On another note.....I started this blog mainly so that I can look back on some of my creations and have great memories of them and the joy that I get from creating for others. I've come to realize that it's kind of fun to share little tid bits of information about decorating, crafting that I have learned over the years. I'm definitely not an expert but if I can inspire someone or share a tip to help your creations, I am happy to do so! 
A few topics I am thinking of sharing are:
my favorite sugar cookie recipe
royal icing recipe
coloring and preparation for decorating with icing
different ways to frost cupcakes
I'm sure I'll think of more. Let me know if you are wondering about something cookie, cake, or craft related!

My next cookies are baking as we speak.  They are a gift from my sister Bev to her husband Shane for their anniversary.  I hope they survive the ride to Georgia!  I can't say what they are but I will share it in a few days.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Dunkin Cookies

Dunkin Donuts were always a rare treat when we were growing up.  I remember gorging on boston creme and chocolate long johns until I couldn't move. Ever since I made these cookies I've been craving a marble frosted and a cold glass of milk.
My brother Mike works for Dunkin Donuts, but not in a "What kind of donuts do you want?" kind of way. He oversees the construction of remodels and new locations. His birthday is tomorrow and I've been waiting to make donut cookies for awhile.  There is something about making cookies in the shape of another food, they are very fun to eat. It's not like you are expecting to taste a donut, but maybe just a little part of you is hoping to.
It has been awhile since I have had a Dunkin donut so I had to google some images. I had some chopped peanuts, coconut, and sprinkles on hand - perfect!

A note about dark brown icing: get a running start with Hershey's cocoa powder and then use Americolor chocolate brown color to achieve a shade slightly lighter than you want to use. Colored icing darkens with time. There isn't too much to explain about these cookies but sometimes the most simple creations turn out to be your favorites.
Happy Birthday Mike!!!!

What other foods should I make into cookie form? A slice of pizza?  Salmon? No, probably not salmon.

I am really excited to share my next post. My sister-in-law Andrea asked me to make cupcakes and cookies for a baby shower that she is having for a co-worker. I will add some pictures of my creations in a few days.....