Friday, December 2, 2011

Ginger Sleigh

Please forgive the crummy cell phone photo, I was running late that day!

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother on my dad's side always brought us an Advent calendar on December first.  She still brings me an Advent calendar on December first!  They were the cardboard calendars where each day you open a new door to reveal a bible verse or picture or in some rare cases, a chocolate.  My sister and I would eagerly open each door every morning throughout the month of December.  I've always treasured that tradition, and this year I decided to do something for my nephew.  I saw this gingerbread sleigh filled with cookie packages in my copy of Cookie Craft.  They recommend numbering the cookies from 1-25 in the sleigh as an Advent Calendar.  It was perfect.  The sleigh is from a pattern from the book, cut out with an exact o knife, made of subtly spicy gingerbread.  I then frosted it with royal icing and was liberal with the sprinkles.  The whole thing is 'glued" together with royal icing and actually turned out to be pretty sturdy.  I drove it almost an hour with no trouble.  This successful experience with gingerbread and I hope to continue making Advent calenders for James for all the years to come!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Apple Pie

My husband's favorite kind of pie, possibly his favorite baked good is apple pie.  I a little bit hate making pie.  I feel terrible about this, I make a million different kinds of baked goods and what he really loves is apple pie.  When we were first married and I didn't have a job yet so I decided to surprise him by making an apple pie.  I got out the apple peeler and went to town on my apples.  And then, I sliced my finger with the apple peeler.

I am not a squeamish girl.  I grew up in the country with lot of animals and life in the country with critters does not allow you to be a squeamish girl.  However, I cannot, absolutely cannot deal with a finger wounds.  I was a mess.  I all but passed out trying to clean the wound, and when my husband got home, he had to bandage me up and there was no apple pie to be had.

I have since learned to peel apples with a knife, where there seems to be less risk of wounding my hands.  I know that everyone and their brother has a recipe for apple pie and I have certainly have tried a bunch.  My friend Katie clued me in on a way to prepare apple pie that totally revolutionized it for me.  She told me to cook the apples on the stove before putting them in the pie crust.  The apples can be prepared in advanced, the pie itself only taking a minimal time to bake.  There is no funny gap under the pie shell after the pie is baked.  It's perfect.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thank You Truffles

All to frequently I get caught up in my life, taking things for granted.  I fail to consider how lucky I am.  Recently, a new friend went out of her way for me out of the sheer goodness of her heart and I was touched.  She made me realize that I was fortunate to have people who care.  I made these for her as a small thank you, because it's really hard to beat the peanut butter and chocolate combination when it comes to tastiness and I wanted to do something to show her I appreciated her kindness.

Truffles adapted from Martha Stewart Living
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces Giradelli 60% cacao chocolate chips
1 cup creamy peanut butter
cocoa powder for rolling

Bring the heavy cream to a boil.  Pour over the chocolate chips.  Wait 10 minutes.  Stir cream and chocolate together until smooth.  Gradually add in peanut butter.  Stir until smooth.  Refrigerate overnight.  Remove from refrigerator 1/2 hour before you want to roll the truffles.

Scoop teaspoonfuls of chocolate out of the bowl. Roll into a ball with your hands.  Roll truffle in cocoa powder.  Store in the refrigerator otherwise the cocoa powder will be absorbed by the truffle.  (Yeah, I learned that the hard way).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Royal Icing and a Toothpick

Here are some other cookies that I made with leftovers from my sugar cookies project using my favorite cookie decorating tool:  the toothpick.  All three of these cookies were fast and easy, made by dragging a toothpick through the two colors.  The cookie on the far left was made by dragging the toothpick from the outside in.  The middle cookie was made by dragging the toothpick through icing dots and the rightmost one was made by dragging the toothpick from the inside out.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!  I hope there are lots of treats in store for you today.  I had the good fortune to be invited to my friend Mandy's Halloween party this past weekend.  Mandy loves this holiday and decorates more for Halloween than for Christmas.  Tonight, I get see my 1 year old nephew dressed up like a cowboy.  He will be my only trick or treater.  We live in a neighborhood with a busy street and not too many kids.  Growing up in the country we never had them either.  Good for my nephew though, I go out of my way to get him something special since he's the only one.

These cookies were left over from my recent sugar cookie project.  I also had a ton of black royal icing left over.  Luckily, I needed a teat to take to Mandy's anyway.  Spiderwebs are super easy with royal icing, all you need is a toothpick.  Simply pipe and flood your background with whatever color you desire (I chose white and orange).  Then take black flood icing and make three circles to look like a bull's eye.  Then, starting from the inside, drag a toothpick through the black and background icing at regular intervals to the outside of the cookie.  Allow to dry overnight.  The spider bodies are a royal icing "blob" made with a Wilton #12 tip and the legs were piped with a Wilton #1 tip.  If you can, give the spiders a few hours to dry a bit as well before taking them anywhere.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sugar Cookies

I made these cookies for my mom's school.  It's Be Drug Free week for the students and they asked me to make 275 frosted sugar cookies for the event.  The school mascot is a timber wolf, so they went with a paw print theme.  This is my first time creating cookies for an order that large.  I basically spent all weekend piping and flooding, calling in recruits (my wonderful mom) on Sunday to help me finish.   It was actually really fun to create cookies at such a large scale.

Sugar Cookies makes about 24 large cookies
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 stick margarine
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

Mix together the shortening, margaring, and sugar.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add in vanilla.  Mix in baking powder and flour.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.  
Lightly flour a cutting board.  Roll and cut out dough into desired shapes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 9-10 minutes for larger cookies.  Allow to cool and decorate as desired.

Royal Icing
2 pounds powdered sugar (about 8 cups)
10-12 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons meringue powder
2 tablespoons flavoring such as vanilla if desired

Put the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water in a bowl.  With the whisk attachment of the mixer, gently start mixing the frosting.  Mix on low to medium speed for 7 minutes.  The frosting will look a little funky for a bit, but at the end of the 7 minutes, it will come together as a smooth icing.  The icing will be fairly thick at this point.  Add food coloring if desired.  The black food coloring takes some time to mix in and become the correct color.  Gradually thin the icing one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

 When I first saw these cupcakes on Annie's Eats, I knew that I had to make them for my bosses' upcoming birthday.  I work in a small office, so ever since I started baking more, I like to bring in cupcakes for people's birthdays. (I have to get rid of all these baked goods somewhere).  My bosses' are married and they both love coffee.  In fact, I had just seen a new container of pumpkin spice coffee on the counter in the office when I read about these cupcakes.  I deviated from Annie's original recipe to accommodate the time I had available and the ingredients I had in the pantry.  I also chose a cream cheese frosting rather than a whipped cream frosting.  I feel like pumpkin and cream cheese frosting go hand in hand and always feel like whipped cream frosting leaves something to be desired.  The cupcakes are interesting in flavor because to me they have both a subtle coffee flavor and a subtle pumpkin flavor.  People who don't like pumpkin enjoyed them and people who didn't like coffee also enjoyed these cupcakes.  It's really the best of both worlds.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes adapted from Annie's Eats 
makes about 24 cupcakes (I got 24 regular and 6 mini)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
6 packets Starbucks Via instant coffee (I used decaf) (it's about 3 full tablespoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1/4 tablespoon ground cloves
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup olive oil (you can use vegetable oil, olive oil is all that I had in my pantry)
4 eggs

Mix together olive oil, brown sugar, and granulated sugar.  Add in eggs one at a time.  Mix in the pumpkin puree.  Next add the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking powder and baking soda.  Then mix in the instant coffee.  Finally, add in the flour and mix until just combined.

Put 2 tablespoons of batter into prepared muffin tin.  Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely and frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Buttercream
1 stick butter at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar

Beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add in vanilla.  Slowly beat in the powdered sugar until smooth.  If you want a softer frosting,  add water 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Interesting Things

Here are some interesting things I bookmarked this week:

Awesome looking fall inspired turnovers

Frito Pie-believe it or not, I have never eaten this

Peanut Butter Dog Treats-I am always looking for an easy homemade dog treat for my sis's dog

Delicious things to make with frozen pie crust-I especially love the leaf shaped hand pies!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chai Tea Concentrate

 When I was in college, our dormitories had a contract with Starbucks.  The cafeteria provided only Starbucks coffee.  My particular dorm had late night food and provided Starbucks coffee beverages.  This is where I had my first chai tea latte and I was hooked.  I thought it tasted just like Christmas!  I would order one almost every day.

Eventually I worked my way up to espresso based lattes, only choosing the poor chai on occasion.  I never became a true coffee drinker, needing to sweeten the black stuff with loads of milk and sugar.  After some time and some minor health issues, I decided to stop drinking coffee and get back to tea.  I had learned through my dorm that the Starbucks chai tea lattes were made from a concentrate.  I was so excited a couple of years ago to learn that I could purchase said concentrate in my grocery store.  Yay!  No more need for $4 chai tea.

Then I was fortunate enough to stumble upon this recipe from Tasty Kitchen for chai tea concentrate I could make in my own kitchen.  I made it once and I was totally hooked.  Now I make it almost every week.  I modified the original recipe some to accommodate what I typically have in my kitchen.

Chai Tea Concentrate adapted from Tasty Kitchen user thecatnipcat
makes about 1 quart of concentrate
10 tea bags (sometimes I use all black tea, sometimes 5 black and 5 green)
4 1/2 cups boiling water
4-5 anise stars
20 whole cloves
7 cardamom  pods
dash of nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 drops orange oil
2-3 small pieces fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon powdered ginger

Boil water.  Steep tea bags, anise stars, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, and ginger in water for about 20 minutes.  Strain.  Mix in honey, sugar, vanilla, and orange oil.  Pour into container and refrigerate

To make tea: mix 1/2 cup chai tea concentrate with milk and heat.  (I microwave mine for about 1 minute and 30 seconds).  My sister prefers to drink hers cold and I must say, that is quite tasty in the summer.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fun and Easy

I whipped up this cake last weekend for a get together with my parents.  I was just supposed to bring desert, nothing fancy, however I wanted to dress it up a little bit. 

I seem to collect sprinkles like they are going out of style, but in reality I hardly use them.  I took this opportunity to break some out.  I took one of my leaf cookie cutters and set it in the icing.  I then filled in the center of the cookie cutter with orange, yellow, and white nonperils.  Afterward, gently pull the cookie cutter off the cake.  Little lines are left imprinted in the icing but I liked the look.  If I would have had a bit more time, I would have piped around the leaf with icing to help hold the sprinkles in place, but overall I thought it turned out cute and was super fast.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Interesting Things

Here are some interesting things that I bookmarked this week:

A tasty looking sandwich rye bread with dill pickle juice as an ingredient

Pumpkin spiced cream cheese

This caramel chocolate cake looks amazing.  I am totally making this next week for project night.

As someone who still shoots with primarily her kit lens, I loved this article about how to love your kit lens.

Totally cool spider cake in a jar

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Uncle Al's Sweet Pickles

This summer, I decided to grow a garden.  For the past four summers I have attempted unsuccessfully to grow a container garden.  But this year, I put it in the ground.  And miraculously, it grew.  One of the things I had to have was pickling cucumbers.  I love love love pickles.  It was my goal to learn how to can this summer and I could think of nothing better than to make pickles.

These sweet pickles have been a favorite of my family for several generations.  When I was a kid, I used to eat these straight out of the jar.  They are super easy to make, however, a bit time consuming.  They are almost like candied cucumbers.  They make a nice snack and are also a great contrast to a big burger with a nice salty cheese.

To start with, wash 10-12 small (2"-6") pickling cucumbers and place in a crock.  Some of the pickles in the photo above are a little large to be ideal pickle cucumbers.  If they grow too large, they become very seedy and then when the seeds fall out, there are holes in your pickles.  However, I didn't watch my garden very well and consequently got big cucumbers and thusly holey pickles.  Holey pickles are alright though, they taste good. 

About the crock, my mother said that it's crucial for the flavor of the pickles.  Honestly, I don't know, I haven't made them any other way.  I would imagine that a non reactive bowl would work just fine.  But don't quote me on that, because my mother did tell me that a crock is the only way to go.  Whatever you decide, make it a large bowl.  It has to hold a lot of liquid for a significant amount of time.

The next step is to pour boiling water over the cucumbers.  You need enough water to cover all of the cucumbers.  If they feel like floating, put a plate on top of them to hold them under the water.  Leave them there overnight.  Drain and do it again the next day.

On the third day, drain the cucumbers and slice them up into pieces.  On the third day, the brine is made.

1 quart vinegar
8 cups sugar
2 tablespoons table salt
2 tablespoons whole pickle spice (for real it is called pickling spice, my husband thought it must have another name)

Bring all of the brine ingredients to a boil.  Pour over the sliced cucumbers.  Allow to sit for 24 hours.  The next day, drain and keep the brine.  Bring the brine to a boil again and pour over the sliced cucumbers.  Do the for 7 days.  Then, your pickles are ready.  You can can them or simply pour the pickles and brine into sterilized jars and into the refrigerator.  However, this recipe makes several jars of pickles, so I would recommend canning them.  I use my mom's copy of the Ball Canning Guide for times and canning technique. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

James' First Birthday

This was my nephew James' first birthday cake.  It was my first time making a three tiered cake and also my first time making a cake for that many people (50-55 people).  I learned a lot on this cake.

The tiers were 8", 10", and 12".  The 12" cake was by far the largest cake that I have ever made and also covered in fondant.  I also learned that I need to allow the 12" cake to cool for a considerable amount of time before turning it out of the pan, the first cake I made ended up in a million pieces on my counter because it was too hot and fell apart.

For some reason I couldn't decide what kind of fondant I wanted to use, and ended up with each tier having a different kind of fondant.  The red is Fondarific, which was easy to use and tasted good, but is pretty expensive.  The blue fondant was Wilton, my least favorite taste.  I learned to use Wilton fondant in my class though, so I knew how it would act.  Also, it's reasonably priced for store bought fondant (especially with a 40% off Michael's coupon).  The green tier was homemade marshmallow fondant.  Taste wise, this is far and away my favorite, however I have only made it a few times and the consistency was more difficult to work with.  As you can see from the photos, the green homemade fondant also showed more lumps and bumps than the other two.  I learned that if the budget allows, Fondarific is the way to go in the future, if not, I need to work out the kinks in my marshmallow fondant recipe.

The animals were all made from Wilton store bought fondant.  The yellow 1 was made of gumpaste.  The stand for the seal was made from melted green Candy Melts in a prep bowl, however it difficult to remove from the prep bowl.  Next time I would probably make it out of fondant.

At the suggestion of Rose Levy Beranbaum in her classic book The Cake Bible, my husband sharpened a dowel rod and gently tapped it through the three layers before placing the animals on.  This dowel rod made transport so much easier!  I would recommend that trick to anyone.

I also made him a 6" round smash cake with an elephant holding a candle on a ball.  Did I take any photos?  No, of course not.  I was running late. 

Even with all of the learning, the cake itself turned out ok.  My sister was happy with it and that is all that I can ask for.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Interesting Things

Here are some interesting things I bookmarked this week:

Sesame Street Cupcakes-I always wondered how to do Big Bird's beak

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Homemade Cow Tails-my best friend growing up loved theses things!

Grilled Veggie Pizza-I have fallen in love with homemade pesto!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Strawberry Tallcake

I wish that I had taken a picture of my 11 month old nephew eating some of this cake.  It made me want to fall off my chair I was laughing so hard.  He's a "big boy" now and insists on feeding himself...with his hands.  A vast majority of his cake ended up on the floor...and on him...and on me.  He was such a disaster, he had to go instantly into the tub.  But boy, did he ever enjoy himself.

This cake is a simple showstopper.  Easy to build, totally impresses, tastes amazing.  Strawberry shortcake, the quintessential summer dessert, taken up three stories.  I know we are a bit past strawberry season, but luckily I cheated an used some sweetened frozen strawberries I had tucked away in the freezer from another recipe.  It's hard to tell from the photo, but this is a 6 inch triple layer cake, which makes it look even taller.  It makes it a challenge to cut and a real challenge to transport.

Strawberry Tall Cake

5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2/3 cup powdered buttermilk
2/3 cup water 

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4-1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 16 ounce container of sweetened frozen strawberries, thawed

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beat until smooth.  Mix together the buttermilk powder and water, add to cake batter.  Sprinkle on the baking powder, mix.  Add the flour and mix until just combined.  Divide batter evenly among three 6 inch pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Beat heavy cream and vanilla together until slightly whipped up.  Add powdered sugar to taste. (I like my whipped cream a little sweeter than most).

Layer cake, cream, and strawberries.  The frozen, thawed strawberries are quite juicy so some will slop over the sides of the cake, this juice will soak in and taste delicious!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fondant Strawberries

These strawberry patch cupcakes were inspired by Martha Stewart from her Cupcakes book.  She recommends using marzipan, however, I had some red and green fondant lying around so that is what I used.

For a dozen cupcakes, I made about 20 strawberries.  I found that the cupcakes looked the nicest when there was some variation in size to the strawberry.  For the small strawberries, I took pieces of fondant that were about the size of a marble, rolled them into a smooth ball and then gently shaped them into a strawberry shape, elongated with a flatish top and bottom, fatter on one end than the other.  For the larger strawberries, I did the same thing, only using a slightly larger ball of fondant.

Next, I poked a bunch of small indentations all over the "berries" with my veining tool to simulate seeds.  You don't want to poke actual holes, just small dimples all over.  You are going to be covering the top of the strawberry, so you do not need to worry about indenting the top.

Now it is time to make the strawberry tops.  I used a small calyx cutter to make the strawberry tops.  Roll out a couple of ounces of green fondant very thin.  Cut as many tops as you can, reroll the fondant and repeat until you have enough strawberry tops for all of your berries.

For the larger strawberries, this sized top worked perfectly.  I took the top, painted the center with some water, and stuck the top on the berry.  I took the points and curled them up so that they looked a bit more like strawberry tops.  For the smaller berries, the tops were too big, so I took my exacto knife and trimmed the "leaves" to be shorter.  I attached the smaller tops to the smaller berries the same way I did the larger berries.

I let them dry for a few hours and then put them on top of the cupcakes.  For the cupcakes, I did a basketweave pattern.  Here is a good tutorial about how to basketweave on a cake.  I then used a #3 Wilton tip to pipe the strawberry "vines" and a small Wilton leaf tip for the buttercream leaves.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Strawberry Patch Cupcakes

This summer has gotten away from me.  I made a move to a new name and then promptly abandoned my poor blog.  There is no good excuse for my lack of posting.

I made these cupcakes for a co-worker's birthday.  She gardens.  She does other cool stuff too, but its hard for me to put everything on a cupcake.

The cupcakes themselves are my coconut cupcakes.  The coconut flavor is so discreet this cupcake has almost become my go to white cake.  Almost.  I do know people who hate coconut.  And some that are allergic.  I try not to kill people with my baked goods.  It makes a bad impression.

Hopefully soon I will have a tutorial for you on how I made these strawberries.  It will be my first tutorial...hopefully that will work out...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cappuccino Cookies

When I was a little kid, I used to get these horrible migraine headaches that would knock me on my butt for the whole day.  My parents tried everything to fix these suckers including eliminating chocolate from my diet.  All I could have was white chocolate.  Let me tell you, a white chocolate is no substitute for the real thing on Easter when you are a kid.  My sister got the real deal, but me, no way.  Needless to say, I have developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with white chocolate.  (As it turns out, chocolate was NOT the cause of my migraines).  I have generally avoided the stuff for years feeling that any cookie made with white chocolate could only be better with dark.  Then just last year I was turned around when I tried the pomegranate white chocolate cookies.  They were amazing, I couldn't get enough.  I knew then I had to include those pale morsels into more of my baking.  Enter: cappuccino cookies from Joy the Baker.  Fantastic.  Truly fantastic.  These babies are packed with espresso powder for a coffee flavored punch and a ton of white chocolate chips for creaminess.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Name

Well, I have decided to finally do it.  I have decided to change my name here.  Unfortunately Yeast Wrangler just doesn't seem to cover all the bases anymore.  I have branched out into other baking adventures and have been wanting a name that reflects that.  So now, I have decided to go with Heather's Sweets and Treats.  Hopefully I can make the transition smooth, but this is not my forte, so who knows.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pizza on the grill

Summer here in Illinois is finally right around the corner.  Spring here has been cold and rainy and now finally at the end of May we are just starting to enjoy the outside.  One of my favorite parts about the spring and summer is cooking on the grill.  Grilled food tastes amazing and it is fun to chill out on the deck and enjoying the outside while preparing dinner.

A couple days ago, we decided to try making pizza on the grill*.  Last summer, we tried it once and had mixed results.  We realized that making personal sized pizzas was far easier than trying to make one giant sized pizza.  Flipping a large pizza was too difficult for us.

Pizza on the Grill
1 recipe of your favorite pizza dough.**
1/2 cup tomato sauce
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
10 fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic salt (or fresh minced garlic)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Take your pizza dough and split in half (or quarters if you prefer even smaller pizzas).  Roll very thin.  Lightly brush with olive oil.  Put olive oil side down on the hot grill for 3-4 minutes or until the bottom is crusty.  Brush top of crust with olive oil.  Flip crust over so the doughy side is now on the grill.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Spread on desired toppings.  Ours were tomato sauce, fresh basil leaves, fresh mozzarella, red pepper flakes, and garlic salt.  Cook until the cheese is melty.  Enjoy!

*We used a gas grill, we have never grilled pizza on a charcoal grill so cooking times may vary drastically.

** I like the Pioneer Woman's Pizza Dough.  It rolls nice and thin.  Her recipe makes enough for 2 full sized crusts, so I usually freeze half for a later date.  The only change that I make is I substitute 1 cup whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose flour.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hi Ho Silver Away!

 I made these equine cupcakes for a co-worker for her birthday.  She, like me, loves horses.  The horse cupcake toppers are chocolate and the cupcakes are Martha Stewart's strawberry cupcakes with strawberry buttercream.  They were so light and tasty!  The only drawback is the frosting will melt if it is too warm in your car, which I learned the hard way with some leftovers :(

Horse Cupcake Toppers adapted from various places
1/2 bag dark chocolate Wilton Candy Melts
1 12" piping bag
outline of horses (hand drawn or from an image you like)
wax paper

Melt candy melts according to the directions.  If you have a disposable plastic piping bag, you can melt the chocolate right in the bag, if not, fill piping bag with the melted chocolate  Snip the teeniest tiniest end off of the piping bag.  Place wax paper over the image you want to outline.  Carefully trace over the image with chocolate.  Fill in the outline if desired.  I chose to fill in the outline because the horses' legs were extremely fragile.  Allow to dry for several hours or overnight.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Day Late...

Well, I am a day late and a dollar short, but these chicks are too fun to leave until next Easter.  So simple too, a Nutter Butter dipped in yellow Candy Melts with mini chocolate chip eyes and orange piping gel beaks...perfect.  When dipped in white chocolate with chocolate chip eyes, these make fantastic ghosts at Halloween.

Nutter Butter Chicks
Melt Candy Melts according to the directions.  Dip Nutter Butter's into the Candy Melts.  Place on wax paper to dry.  While cookies are still wet, place two chocolate chips for eyes.  Allow to dry for a few hours.  Once dry, using the orange piping gel, pipe a triangle "beak" below the eyes.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Drywall dust

When I was a kid, my family remodeled the house.  Completely gutted and redid everything.  Of all the cleanup involved in gutting a house, the one thing that my mother always hated the drywall dust.  The thin layer of white powder that coated everything, requiring twice the cleaning because it managed to hang on despite the copious amounts of soap and water.

Making Wilton buttercream icing reminds me of the drywall dust that would be the bane of my mother's existence.  No matter how careful I am, or whether or not I use the guard on the mixer, the powdered sugar always manages to poof all over my kitchen.  I always have to scrub everything twice, because the powdered sugar is so sticky.  But it's worth it.  That extra sweet buttercream is so tasty!

I made this cake for my friend's mom's surprise birthday party.  Buttercream flowers and gumpaste butterflies.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Coconut Cupcakes

I had a special request a few weeks ago at project night for coconut cake. Since I had a few other projects going on at the same time, I ended up making coconut cupcakes instead.  There are so many coconut cake recipes out there that only have coconut frosting, but I was looking for a nicely flavored coconut cake.  I mean really, can you call it a coconut cake if it is just sprinkled with coconut on the outside?  This recipe I found from Martha Stewart, combines both shredded coconut and coconut milk for an amazing coconut flavor without being overwhelming.  Her recommendation is to make a seven minute frosting, but I have always been told that kind of frosting needs to be eaten the same day and I was looking for something that could easily sit overnight.  I chose a cream cheese frosting, using coconut water for a bit of coconut flavor instead of just plain water.

I tried to be ambitious and make my own fresh coconut curls, but I ran out of time.  These cupcakes are topped with store bought, sweetened shredded coconut.  If I were to make them again, I think I would like to try and make some cute pineapple flowers for the top.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons coconut water (or coconut milk) (you may need more or less depending on the consistency you are looking for)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (you can use coconut extract here for extra punch, I don't have any)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Birthday Cake for Foster

I was lucky to be able to make my little cousin Foster's first birthday cake.  The theme of his party was farm animals, so I made a chocolate barn cake with a vanilla cake yard.  I covered the chocolate cake with red fondant and make a roof from brownie bites.  My grass and hair tip came in handy for this cake.  I made a little cow, pony and chicken out of marshmallow fondant.  His smash cake was funfetti with a marshmallow fondant sheep on top.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Daring Baker's March-Meringue Yeasted Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Baker’sChallenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s aFeast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeastedMeringue Coffee Cake.

This coffee cake is absolutely fantastic and super easy to make.  I have never make a coffee cake with meringue on the inside.  The pastry is light and fluffy and the filling rich and nutty.  It goes great with a hot bitter cup of coffee.  I had to make a few changes in the recipe based on my pantry ingredients.  I swapped instant yeast for the active dried yeast and 2 percent milk for whole.

For the yeast coffee cake dough:
4 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons yeast
¾ cup 2 percent milk
¼ cup water
½ cup unsalted butter
2 large eggs at room temperature

Heat the water, milk, and butter together over medium heat.  Remove from heat when the butter is melted.  Mix together 1 cup flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Pour warm mixture over the flour/sugar mixture.  Stir together.  Add eggs in one at a time and stir together.  Gradually add in the remaining flour until the dough is tacky but not sticky.  Knead until fully developed.  I kneaded in my KA mixer for about 5-6 minutes.  Allow to raise for 45-60 minutes or until the dough is about doubled.

For the meringue:
3 large egg whites at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar

Beat the egg whites until frothy.  Add sugar slowly, one tablespoon at a time.  Beat until stiff peaks form.  Add the vanilla and beat to combine.

For the filling:
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

After the dough is done with its first raise, divide in half and roll each half into a rectangle (I did this on the baking sheet that I was going to use to bake the coffee cake)  Spread the meringue filling onto the dough.  Sprinkle the nut and chocolate filling mixture onto the meringue.  Roll up like a jelly roll and turn dough into a circle.  Pinch together the ends of the dough.  Take a sharp knife and cut small slashes every 6 inches or so into the sides of the ring.  Cover with a clean towel and allow to raise another 45-60 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Take your egg yolks left over from the meringue and beat until foamy.  Brush egg yolks over the top of the coffee cake ring.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mint Kiss Brownie Bites

I had never seen these babies before I received them as a birthday gift.  They are Creme de Menthe Hershey's Kisses.  They are delicious, but isn't chocolate mint always delicious?  I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them until my mom flipped the bag over and saw the recipe for brownie bites with mint kisses on top.  Perfect! 

I used my favorite from scratch brownie recipe and poured the batter into my mini muffin pan.  I used paper liners to ease removal from the pan, but they are not necessary if you grease your pan well.  Bake the brownie bites for about 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.  Once the brownies are out of the oven and removed from the pan, stick an unwrapped Creme de Menthe kiss on the top.  If you wait a few minutes for the brownie to cool a bit, the kiss will keep its shape.  If you put the kiss on right away, it will melt on the top of the brownie.  It just depends what look you are going for, both taste amazing.

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