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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Decorated Sugar Cookies

Whoo! I finally taught myself how to make beautifully decorated cookies. Thanks to Bakerella's recommendation to buy the book Cookie Craft, I learned everything that I need to know about preparation, baking and decorating cookies. However, I must warn all of you...this was no simple process and it was very time consuming! Nonetheless, I really enjoyed trying this for the first time. Read below to acquire many tips and tricks of the trade on how to prepare to make and bake your perfect cookie!

Step 1-Making and Baking Sugar Cookies

Any recipe works. Choose the one that you love best!

In order for all cookies to be the same thickness, Peterson and Fryer, (author's of Cookie Craft), use wooden slats as pictured below. (I think this is brilliant!) You bet that the guys working at Home Depot got a kick out of my request for slats! When they asked me what I would be using slats 1/4 inch thick, 2 feet long and 2 inches wide for, and replied, "for baking cookies," they whaled with laughter! Nonetheless, they cut what I needed to assist me in creating the perfect thickness for my cookies.

I placed the dough in between 2 pieces of parchment paper and placed the slats on top. I used my rolling pin to roll out the dough and chilled it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Choose any type of cutters you like and cut away! I used the cutters I had at home...a daisy, a star, some hearts and mini hearts. Once you have removed all of the excess dough, roll it into a ball and repeat the rolling steps.

Place all cut out cookies on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. (In retrospect, I would have spaced out each cookie a little farther apart. They were in very close quarters!)
Here is the result. Beautifully browned sugar cookies. While you may enjoy eating these plain, just imagine how much better they would be, decorated in royal icing after they are fully cooled! Mmmm....
Who wants to clean all of the dirty dishes??? Thanks Rich!
(F.Y.I. He's better than my cleaning lady!)
Step 2-Decorating the cookies with Royal Icing...A.K.A. Piping and Flooding

Choose a royal icing recipe that works best for you. Cookie Craft has 3 different recipes. The royal icing for piping, is the icing with a thicker consistency. It will act as the border around any cookie you will design. The consistency of the icing used for flooding is not quite as thick and fills in the remainder of the cookie.
Beautiful colours are created when food colouring is added to icing. Since I used such a small amount of icing for each colour I decided not to use a piping bag. I finally figured out that if I used a small Ziploc bag and filled one corner of it with icing and tied the top with a tie, I could cut a very small hole off of the end with scissors and it would be perfect to decorate my cookies!
The flooded colour is the yellow over top of the entire cookies that say "Riley" and "Mom." I had to let that dry for about 6 hours before I could write on top of it. All of the other writing is done using the icing for piping.
This technique looks nice. Take a look at the green and blue star. First, I piped and flooded the green background. Then, I horizontally flooded straight blue lines on top of the wet green flood. Finally, I drew a toothpick vertically from the bottom of the star to the top and repeated this about 6 times to create this design.
Hearts anyone?
I love the way these daisies sparkle with coloured sugar. There are two ways of doing this. For the yellow and orange daisy, I used corn syrup as "glue" to adhere the sugar to the cookie. As for the remaining daisies, I piped and flooded icing onto each cookie, dipped the wet icing into the corresponding coloured sugar and set them to dry.
Who wants a personalized cookie?
What a great a great gift idea!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Molasses Cookies

If you like Starbucks Molasses cookies..this is the recipe for you! Rich's Aunt makes these for Christmas dinner every year and the first time I had them I was in heaven. However, hers follow the original "Gusty's" Molasses Cookie Recipe from the London Cooking School. I have modified and changed it a bit! These my friends...are delicious!

Mel’s Molasses Cookies
1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Grandma's molasses
1 egg
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. clove
2 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add the remaining wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, sift all dry ingredients. Add to wet ingredients. Mix well. Form dough into a log and wrap in saran. Chill dough in the freezer for 15 minutes. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Form 1 " balls of dough. Roll in sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes.

Cream butter and sugar.

Form dough in the shape of a log, and let sit in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Also, if you make a double recipe, this is a great way to store the prepared cookie dough in the freezer.

Next time you have guests over and want the house to smell nice and have dessert ready in 7 is your solution!

I used a mini ice cream scooper to make all of the cookies the same size. Since I wanted them a little smaller for the cookies shown in the pictures below, I halved each ball of dough.

Roll the balls in sugar and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Flatten with finger tips.

The crackly but soft and chewy results!

I wonder how long these will last?

Hmmm...who stole the cookie from the cookie jar???

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cupcakes with Campers

I just love making cupcakes...probably because they are one of the most satisfying "sweet treats." Not too big and not too small...just the right amount of sweetness!

Have you any idea what a craze cupcakes are in NYC? Last week, my girlfriend Jen told me that there are cupcake tours in NYC. And just yesterday, Rich's Aunt clipped out an article from the Globe and Mail called Mean sweets about cupcakes! The article sums it all up. Check it out to read about the cupcake-crazy tourists and locals.

Onto my cupcake experience from last week...

I had so much fun on Thursday morning when I baked with a group of grade 6, 7, and 8 students attending "Summer Institute" in York Region.

They loved all of the colorful candy used to decorate...

In order for this workshop to run smoothly, the teacher in me shined through! I posted the recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes and the Roles on chart paper.

I chose five students to model the process with me in front of the rest of the group. These students would eventually become the experts in their home groups.

Once the volunteers finished pouring the batter into the liners, the sample batch baked in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, the students worked in their home groups to whisk, sift, and mix the ingredients together to make their own cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcakes
YIELD: About 12 cupcakes

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream, room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
3. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
4. Cream butter and sugar.
5. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each is incorporated.
6. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream and mix until just incorporated.
7. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each tin about ¾ full.
8. Bake for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
9. Let cool for 15 minutes and decorate!

Vanilla CupcakesYIELD: About 14 cupcakes

3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups cake flour, sifted
½ tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon cinnamon
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar (a little less)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons milk

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
3. Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
4. Cream butter and sugar.
5. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each is incorporated.
6. Beat in vanilla.
7. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk and mix
until just incorporated.
8. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each tin about ¾ full.
9. Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out
10. Let cool for 15 minutes and decorate!

The sample batch was ready! Once it cooled, I taught those interested how to decorate the cupcakes using an icing filled pastry bag with different tips.

The results were quite impressive!

Chocolate-vanilla swirl!

Butterflies and gumballs!


Colorful and creative cupcakes by campers!

Later, I played around and made what I like to call, roasted marshmallow iced, chocolate cupcakes.


Thanks for having me Summer Institute....I had a great time and I hope the kids did too!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Banana Bread

Nothing like taking advantage of those bananas that you meant to eat but had already turned brown before you got to them! I like to put mine in the freezer and store them for when I am ready to bake banana bread! Most of the ingredients you will need to bake are pictured below. Add an egg and some salt, and there you have it!

I like to use my stand mixer to combine all of the ingredients. Be careful not to over mix!

This recipe makes two 7 x 3 inch loafs, but I divided what could have been the second loaf into into 4 mini fluted tube pans to make 4 mini cakes. On the loaf, I added a handful of chocolate chips to the top and sprinkled sugar and cinnamon to give it a sweet coating on top!

Banana Sour Cream Bread
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups white sugar
1-1/2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed (I like to add 1 extra!)
1/2 (16 ounce) container sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
2. Grease two 7x3 inch loaf pans.
3. In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons white sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.
4. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture.
5. In a large bowl, cream butter and 1-1/2 cups sugar.
6. Mix in eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon.
7. Mix in salt, baking soda and flour.
8. Stir in chocolate chips.
9. Divide into prepared pans.
10. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Yield: Two 7 x 3 inch loaves (16 servings, 8 per loaf)
Just enough for a perfect snack...

...with a tall glass of milk.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mini Zucchini Cakes

Have you ever in your life seen a zucchini of this girth??? Believe it or not, this massive vegetable grew in my very own garden! Let's call her "Momma zuc." "Baby zuc" was bought at the grocery store!

I love the fluorescent green colour of the shredded zucchini. And even more than that, I love my food processor! It makes shredding so much easier and faster. I will bake for anyone who would like to come over and clean up after me! Any takers???

I was very excited to use my mini muffin tin for the first time. I also used a mini cake pan set to make mini cakes!

To garnish, add a dash of icing sugar!

And to make them taste even better...I cut the mini zucchini cakes in half (using dental floss), spread cream cheese icing in the middle, assembled them back together, and dabbed the tops with a piping bag filled with more icing for that extra bit of goodness!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cheesecake Pops

Soon after I began my blog, my cousin Naomi challenged me to make Cheesecake Pops! I knew that my grandmother's 96th birthday would be the perfect occasion to attempt this challenge! Although these delicious mouthfuls were quite time consuming to make, they were certainly worth it! A definite crowd pleaser! (Thanks again Bakerella!)

I used a basic cheesecake recipe to make a cheesecake (minus the crust) and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Using a mini ice cream scooper that I bought at Target last week, I scooped the cheesecake into even sized balls.

I was able to scoop out just over 30 balls in total and lined them up on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

I filled a bowl with Oreo Cookie crumbs. I rolled about 5 balls in the crumbs at a time to cover the surface of each one. This helped shape some of the balls into rounder balls, and also added the "crust like" part of the cheesecake to the cheesecake pop! I could have used graham crumbs instead, but this is what I had handy!

Finally, I arranged them onto the cookie sheet and placed them in the freezer for about 20 minutes as I prepared all of the remaining ingredients.

I bought milk chocolate wafers from Bulk Barn. They are round chocolate disks about the size of a quarter that melt very easily. I melted them in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until the consistency was perfect! I then dipped and coated one ball at a time into the ooey gooey melted chocolate! I put a stick into each one, and they were ready to be decorated!

I didn't have any sprinkles to decorate on hand. Therefore, as finely as I could, I chopped up a box of Smarties and a Hershey's Cookies and Cream chocolate bar. I either sprinkled some of the candy onto the pop, or dipped the pop into the mixture to add some extras to it! I really liked the color that the smarties added!


They really are a bite of heaven! Just enough for a perfect sized dessert!