Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Edible Pens!!

...okay, not TOTALLY edible!!!  I stumbled upon these pens at Michael's and couldn't be more EXCITED!!!  I LOVE pens... and NOW, food writers!!  I'm SO excited to use these!!!


Check back soon!!  

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Short Bread Cookies



I was trying to advantage of the occasion and made some yummy Short Bread cookies!  I forgot to take photos of the process because it was a last minute baking impulse!

I used the recipe I found on www.joyofbaking.com -one of my favorite websites!

Shortbread Cookies:

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
1 cup (2 sticks) (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract

You can also make a non-traditional cookie by adding:
1/2 cup of chocolate chips = choco chip short bread
1 tablespoon of instant espresso powder = coffee short bread
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon = cinnamon short bread
1 tablespoon of finely chopped orange or lemon zest = citrus short bread

You can also replace 1/2 cup of all purpose flour with cornstarch for a more delicate texture.

Instructions:

In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap and chill the dough for at least an hour.  
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to 1/4 inch (.5 cm) thick. Cut into rounds or whatever shapes you wish using lightly floured cookie cutter. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly brown. Cool on rack.

Shortbread with keep in an airtight container for about a week or frozen for several months. 
Makes about 20 shortbread cookies

I stuck to the original recipe and it made about 24 various sized cookies.  I've never used parchment paper when baking cookies and WHOA, it made things so much easier!!



I tried to mimic the Conversational Heart Candies ~kinda cheesy, but Eric 'says' he likes it!  It's the thought that counts, right?!

Here's my quick recipe for cookie frosting- because I was too lazy to make Royal Icing (I'll blog that recipe another time!).  ...I didn't measure it, so these are approximate!!

Quick Cookie Frosting:

White frosting:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon milk or water -whichever you prefer - less is better so add slowly!!  You can always add more!!
--the goal is to make sure it's NOT runny, and thick enough to be spreadable!  If it's too runny, add more sugar.  If it's too thick, drop by drop, add more liquid.

If you're making any other color with LIQUID food coloring, add the coloring to the sugar FIRST, then add milk.  --this is the general rule when using food coloring or coloring gel.  

This recipe has a very mild taste in comparison to other short bread cookies that have a strong butter taste- but I liked it!!  "Seems" healthier that it doesn't taste like butter- that's what I tell myself anyway!  I'm glad I didn't use the cornstarch because these cookies are already delicate as it is!    

Happy Baking!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine's Day Heart Lolli-Cakes



 I FINALLY got a chance to take photos of my step-by-step Lolli-Cakes, just in time for Valentine's Day!  Everyone at the office LOVED them- and said they were moist and yummy!  I was so exhausted at the end of it all, I didn't get to taste it- probably better anyway; my muffin top is big enough!!  


Bake your cake as directed on the box.  Let it cool completely.  I crumbled half of the cake and added half a block of Philadelphia Cream Cheese (other brands just don't work right).  Later I did the remaining cake and cream cheese.


You can use utensils, I prefer my hands!!  ...Don't worry I'm a germ-a-phobe and I washed my hands very, very well with HOT water!


Your mixture shouldn't be crumb-y.  It should have the texture of cookie dough.  What you're looking for is a smooth, non-lumpy, semi-sticky mixture.  I'll tell you why in a bit...


I'm mad I forgot to take a photo of the packaging, but this is a Wilton brand cookie cutter from Michael's (my favorite craft store that emails me 40% coupons 1x/week).  There are 3 different sized heart cutters in the package, this is the 2nd to the smallest.  I'm glad I had a manicure and my nails look good! Haha.

With a fist full of cake, I flattened it out just about the height of my cutter.

Here's the MOST important step!!  Press down on the cake (inside the cookie cutter) to pack the cake and make it dense.  If the cake level isn't as high as the cookie cutter, break off excess from the side and press it in!  It's important to pack it because it'll crumble apart later in the process and all your hard work, will end up in crumbs!  It's also important to make sure that both sides of the cake is smooth because the candy melts make a thin coat and are senstive to lumps, cracks and holes.    

Carefully push the cake out.  


Put your completed hearts in your freezer for a minimum of 15 minutes.  This helps keep your cake firm for the next step.  **note** You can also make them a day in advance, wrap them well (so they don't dry out) and freeze them over night.  **note** you can easily make 50 hearts with 1 cake mix.  While you finish making all of your hearts and waiting for them to freeze....

...you can prepare your candy melts.  I bought pink and white Candy Melts from Michael's- they have a ton of colors!  **note** I realized white candy melts warrant preferably white cake mix- it's fairly thin and the color shows through.

Read the instructions on the best way to melt your candy melts.  I use the "defrost" mode in 30 second intervals.  If you over heat these, they will form clumps- and we don't want clumps!!  **note* try not to stir the melted candy TOO much, this will create air bubbles and ultimately, holes in your creation!  I used a small glass so I wouldn't have to melt a ton of candy all at once.  Be sure to have enough melted candy, so it will cover the entire heart in one dip.

Remove a batch of cake from the freezer and place your lollipop stick half way into your heart cake mix.  


ARGH! Sorry about the bad quality photo, I turned the flash off, thinking it would be better...and I didn't retake the photo!  Anyway... In one swift dip, cover the entire lollicake. 


In a 45 degree angle, I tap the stick on the cup, trying to get the excess coating to drip off.  About every 3-4 taps, I rotate the heart.  You'll notice all the clumping to one side and you want it to be a nice even, thin layer.  You'll also  find that the coating will start to harden in about 15 seconds.  So work swiftly and tap gently (or the heart may break -and we don't want that!).  **note** re-heat your cup of candy melts after each 3 or 4 lollicakes you make.

I put the finished ones in another cup, however a Styrofoam block would probably be ideal.  Either way, anything to keep them upright while they completely harden and dry.  

I used drippings of the opposite color to make some abstract designs and used sprinkles on some.  There are endless designs you can make!!  I then covered them with lollipop bags.

Here's the finished product!!  It was a fun project and I'm excited to start my next one....Mini wedding cakes for my cousin's wedding shower, that I'm Fed Ex-ing to Seattle!! Stay tuned for more!!!