Cake Decorating, Melting Pot

Randomosity

I’ve actually got two days off in a row this week. Hoping to catch up on the house cleaning with today but my hand/wrist is throwing fits a bit more than usual. I’ll accomplish what I can. I’ve got a ceiling fan being delivered later that I’ll have to put up in my bedroom. Well, I’ll try anyway. Again, hand throwing fits; I may not be able to get it installed.

Princess seems to be feeling better, for which I am grateful. She must have had a bug or something. I worry about my girls. I learned the other day that one of my coworkers used to do pet portrait paintings and she is thinking of doing so again. I will have to find out how much she would charge for that. I might like her to do paintings of both girls, as well as one of Jenna.

I was able to make a cake recently to practice stacked cakes. I realized too late that: boxed mix cakes have changed since the last time I used them – they’re MUCH too soft if you’re going to be doing anything besides a basic layer cake; I only had one icing bag left so decorating the way I originally planned was not going to happen; and I also accidentally added a bit too much cream to my icing so it was too soft for much of anything decoration-wise anyway. So I finished the cake, decorated it with sprinkles, then once I was sure I could say as far as the actual stacking/assembly I had done a suitable job I cut it into individual servings, packed it into a disposable container I wouldn’t need back, and took it to J so he could leave it in the break room at work. That way I didn’t have to worry about all those (yummy) calories winding up on my waist line. All things considered it was not a stellar cake, but it served the intended purpose.

Since I am on the subject of cake already, I thought I would share some of my cakes from work. Some (most) were for orders, while others were for the self service sales floor freezer.

Kitty cupcakes

I left the name off this one because we were not sure it was spelled correctly on the order form. The name was added later when it was picked up and the name was verified.

My coworker left this one for me to fill specifically because she knows my history/enjoyment of photography

Amusing gender reveal cake
A bit blurred thanks to a smudge of icing on my phone that I didn’t notice at the time, but I quite liked my little birdy

Truth be told, I could have done better on this one but it was called in at the last minute and I was very near the end of my shift and still had to take my mandatory 30 minute lunch break so I had to rush. They requested balloons and an inscription and threw the teddy bear request in at the last minute. So I made the teddy bear holding balloons. Thought that was a cute way to fill both those requests for the cake. Not bad for something thrown together in 10 minutes with zero advance planning, but I do wish I’d had more time to devote to it to make the teddy bear better.

This one is by far my favorite cake EVER! The customer didn’t know at all what she wanted when she came in to order for a baby shower. As we talked and I thought it over I knew what I wanted to do but it was busy and I never got a chance to draw what I had in mind for whoever filled the order, the form simply had my written and not too terribly specific notes. (“Use pink white and purple, roses with greenery, baby booties in each corner”) Luckily it worked out to where I got to fill the order, so I was able to do exactly what I had envisioned with it. My manager was there when it was picked up (I was not) and she later told me that the customer had been SO happy with it and the customer was pleased with how I had done my job both for taking and filling the order and had made sure to let my manager know I had done a great job all around. 😊 Y’all know me, I’m super hard on myself about things and so very rarely actually look at something I have done and am truly happy with it. This one though, I truly, absolutely love!

My hand tells me I’ve blogged more than enough for today so I’m off.

Until next time. xoxo

Advertisements
Cake Decorating, In The Kitchen

How to Practice Cake Decorating Without Cake

Often when we enjoy cake decorating, we feel like the only way to practice is to bake tons of cakes… but then there is the problem of having to eat those cakes or find people to give them to so you don’t personally have to consume all those calories.

You don’t have to actually bake cakes in order to practice your decorating!

There are cake practice boards available – basically easles with a plastic sheet that can be wiped clean, and they often also include printed practice sheets you place under the plastic so you can practice various piped designs by tracing the practice sheets. The problem with these is they aren’t shaped or sized like an actual cake – if you want to practice doing designs on the sides of a cake these boards aren’t going to help you get the experience of actually doing that. You’ll be able to nail the movements, and top borders/designs will be easier, but sometimes the translation from that to the actual bottom edge or sides of a cake requires further practice.

Or maybe you want to be able to practice base icing a cake as well as decorating. Then what?

There are cake dummies available from many places online. (Some arts and crafts stores offer a few options as well.) These are made of foam and, when properly cleaned and cared for, can last a great many years. Fun fact: did you know that many of the display cakes in bakery windows are just these cake dummies rather than real cake? Also, many brides and grooms choose to have the bulk of their wedding cake made with cake dummies, only having the layer they cut for photos made of real cake (and the top tier for saving for their first anniversary if they like that tradition) and the cake that is actually served to guests is then a basic sheet cake. This makes the wedding cake more affordable, while still being beautiful and completely customized to the couple’s desires.

Cake dummies can be pricey. But if you can’t afford them, or just don’t want to invest in them, you still have another option.

Simply flip a cake pan upside down!

If you’re into baking at all, you already have plenty of cake pans in various shapes and sizes to choose from. Just place some shelf liner on your turn table to help keep the pan in place, then ice and/or decorate as desired. When you’re done, or if you want to try something else, just scrape the icing from the pan and start over.

Do NOT use actual buttercream when you practice like this. I mean you could if you really wanted to, but it does have a fairly short shelf life. And you might not want to use it for actual cake after using it this way to practice, definitely not if you’ve practiced on a cake dummy. The solution here is using a mock buttercream.

Mock buttercream is simple to make. It’s merely vegetable shortening that you whip with powdered sugar till it is thick and fluffy, then if needed you add small amounts of water or corn syrup to reach the desired consistency. It has a very similar consistency to real buttercream, but has a far longer shelf life (stored in the fridge it basically lasts forever, but even at room temperature it’s going to last a long time. When’s the last time you had a tub of shortening go bad? It does happen sure but it takes a LONG time!) and it’s not something you’ll be tempted to eat. It can be used over and over again with no problems.

All you need to practice cake decorating is a turntable, an upside down cake pan, mock buttercream, an icing bag, decorating tips, a spatula and a bowl

I just keep my mock buttercream in a piping bag on the counter, out of direct sunlight, so it’s always ready to go when I want to practice. When I practice I get whatever tips I need for what I plan to do, a spatula to scrape the icing from the pan, and a bowl to put the scraped icing in till I’m ready to refill the piping bag. You can tint the mock buttercream if you want to, but I just leave it white to keep things simple.

I tend to just practice writing and flowers and such rather than base icing. I do a lot of base icing at work and can do that without problems. It’s the writing and decorating I feel like I need to practice, and I am always trying to come up with new simple designs I can use at work when I have the (rare) opportunity to decorate sheet cakes (rather than the prep work I usually do for the other decorators – usually the cakes I do decorate are ones that must be done by the book).

When you’re done or want to try again/something else, simply use a spatula to wipe the icing away from the pan
Just a couple quick flowers and balloons to demonstrate that you can easily practice multiple things in one go, this way
A new flower I’ve been practicing. I still don’t quite have it mastered, but it’s getting there
Random design I came up with while practicing recently

Did you ever think of practicing cake decorating this way?

I hope this post was helpful for those of you who like cake decorating. 😊

Until next time. xoxo

Baking, In The Kitchen, Sunday Somethings

Sunday Somethings

I have made several attempts to post in the past week but simply haven’t had a chance. I worked all week – 3 days were scheduled off but I got called in all 3 days, mostly to help with things other than what I normally do. Yesterday was meant to be sample duty again but instead I found myself helping out in another department entirely. Which I hope to not have to do again. It wasn’t completely awful but I definitely didn’t like it, and wanted to be either handing out samples or back in the bakery. 

Today I finally have a day off that seems to be remaining a day off. As much as I want to sit and do nothing but relax I have had things waiting to be done (that I planned to get done over those three days off that didn’t happen) so I’ve been tackling household chores. 

It’s a nice day, weather-wise so early this morning before too many neighbors were up and about I took the opportunity to go outside with a rag and a bucket and cleaned my car. It still needs a proper cleaning via a carwash but till I feel up to going to the one I would like to use, a quick “wash” with some vinegar water and a small bit of dish soap works well enough. I use this mixture to clean my windows and it works fabulously and my aunt mentioned it works to clear away that bizarre film that shows up on the inside of the car windows so I tried it for that and she was right. All that in mind I figured it would probably be a good solution for a quick wash of the entire car. 

I was also able to finally tackle the Christmas baking I had been wanting to do. I made a recipe that has been passed down in my family that we always (or, almost always) make for Thanksgiving or Christmas, often both holidays. It’s one of those special recipes that you never want to actually share with anyone. Even when you know with the internet the exact same recipe is probably out there somewhere for whoever wants it. I don’t know why folks can be possessive of certain recipes like that. It’s silly, truly. Yet I myself am that way with a handful of recipes and these nut rolls are one of such recipes.

 If I remember correctly my grandma got the recipe from a cousin, or maybe it was someone at church. Not sure. All I know is she got the recipe when she was young and it’s been passed down through the family ever since. Her original recipe card where she wrote it out was a glorious thing that nobody outside the family would be able to follow as she didn’t bother with specifics like oven temperature or anything like that. It was made often enough she just knew – and as it was passed down the specifics were simply verbally passed on with the ingredient list and basic instructions written just as is on her recipe card. It’s been modified slightly in more recent years; the original recipe called for a cake of yeast. That is no longer a commonly found ingredient, so now we make it with active dry yeast instead. (Which, is it just me or is this now becoming a bit more scarce as well?) Also, this year for the first time ever I used my electric mixer to make the dough. It’s always been hand mixed before. But my wrists have gotten so bad even though it is a very light, soft, easy to mix dough… I just couldn’t do it by hand this year. I’ve written the recipe down in my own recipe box with the full instructions for whoever I pass my own recipes down to, likely one of my nieces though I am not sure either of them will ever put a single one of them to use. Younger folks just don’t cook or bake anymore.

I don’t know what ever happened to my grandma’s recipe box. I think my sister has it though she will swear up and down she doesn’t. I know it is not in my possession and hasn’t been for many years, and my mom no longer has it. The last I can clearly remember any of us using it was at my sister’s. I am sure it is still there, but it’s been lost among all my sister’s family’s things. Hopefully it can be found some day soon. We would all like to have it around. Mostly me, I think. Those recipes were really all I had of my Grandma – she passed away before I existed so I only know her through stories and those recipe cards. I still have and use some of her old bakeware but the last few times I have used them I’ve realized I really ought to invest in new pans. My grandma’s have certainly provided MANY years of use and it sure shows. Part of me loves the idea of shopping for all new things. But part of me dreads it. I’m a very sentimental creature. I don’t want to throw out my grandma’s things. 

Well Princess is pitching a fit about something so I best investigate, and I do have cleaning up to do after my baking session. 

Merry Christmas Eve, y’all . xoxo

In The Kitchen, Recipes

Sunday Sweets

While they say you learn something new every day, I am not sure I believe it is EVERY day. Often, to be sure. But I feel like, once school is behind you anyway, the literally every day thing may not necessarily continue to apply. 

Today happened to be a learn something new day for me. I learned that you can make homemade “corn syrup”. I wanted something sweet, but not chocolate. I decided on hard caramels. I had all but one ingredient: light corn syrup. I didn’t want to go to the store for that one little thing. So I consulted the internet to find out just how necessary the corn syrup is. In the past I have made hard caramel with just sugar and water, so I know it works. But I wanted to make the creamier version of the candy this time and was not sure if simply omitting the corn syrup would still work or not. 

I found no definitive answer on that front (though I am inclined to say the corn syrup is not totally necessary, I could be wrong), but I did find that you can make a homemade substitute called invert syrup, and while it requires some time and patience, it couldn’t be easier to do! I even managed it – and the subsequent caramels – without a candy thermometer by using the drop test method but the less fearless out there may want to invest in the candy thermometer. (I will be getting one from J at some point that he has no use for, cause some things I won’t chance it, but hard candy is usually simple enough to just do the drop test to check if it is done or not.) 

The invert syrup requires only three ingredients: 

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup water

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

All you have to do is combine all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and place it over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly until it comes to a boil, then wash down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals that may be present. I know the science behind this, I just forget the specific terminology but the gist of it is when making candy, undissolved sugar getting into this sort of sugar syrup mixture at this point will make for less than desirable results. I speak from experience. So, just trust me when I say to not skip this step, tempting though it may be to do so. Place the candy thermometer in and let it boil without stirring until it reaches 230°F. Remove the pan from the heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature. It is now ready to use. Store any leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the fridge. 

I saw no mention of the shelf life on this but I’d imagine it ought to last a good while. I love knowing this recipe now, as corn syrup is not something I tend to keep on hand. I do however keep sugar and cream of tartar on hand. This is going to be so handy, being able to just make my own “corn syrup” when I spontaneously decide to make something that requires it! It looks and tastes just like the Karo light corn syrup, and of course, functions like it in recipes. 

Once the syrup had cooled, I moved on to making my caramels. Pardon my lazy photography, at this point I’ve had a very long day, and I’ve been dealing with insomina the past week or so, and am exhausted. Taking time to do anything more than this for pictures for this post simply is not happening. 

I had planned to make the recipe a second time just to get a good feel for it, then share. Unfortunately I had only bookmarked the recipe on my phone’s browser. I was having some problems with my phone that required a factory reset to fix. Silly me, I thought using the stock browser whilst logged in to my Samsung account would, oh, I dunno… save my bookmarks so I would not lose them in the event of a factory reset or a new device. Apparently being logged into the browser with Samsung means NOTHING because my bookmarks are all gone. If there is a way to get them back it’s buried in some obscure location in the settings that I cannot find. I tried just searching the internet for the recipe again  (as well as a butterscotch recipe I was really excited to try out) but while of course I can find plenty of others, I can’t find the same ones again. Figures. 

 I forgot to grease my wax paper so they all stuck. Whoops. I would normally use parchment paper but don’t have any. Popping these into the freezer for a while helps loosen them though so all is not lost. Just, next time I really need to remember to grease the wax paper if I am still without parchment paper. Actually what I really want to do is get some candy molds. But we’ll see. My beloved craft store back in Pittsburgh has an awesome selection of candy making supplies. Maybe I’ll ask my dad to take a look for some molds the next time he is in the vicinity of the store. 

I stuck lollipop sticks into some of them, just for fun. I’ve been wanting lollipops lately for some reason. I need some good round lollipop molds, too. Ok, don’t need them. Just want them. Same difference right? 😅

Until next time. xoxo

In The Kitchen, Recipes

Homemade Waffle Cones

As much as I adore krumkake and certain krumkake recipes do yield a cookie sturdy enough to be used as an ice cream cone, my favorite recipe is one that is much too delicate for that purpose and honestly the ones I have tried that can be used as ice cream cones I have not cared for too much and I find them to still be a bit too delicate. With that thought in mind, I decided to look for an actual waffle cone recipe.

The first page of google search results yielded a handful of recipes with low ratings and not great reviews… except for one. I decided to give that one a try. 

I did make a little change to the ingredients. The recipe calls for whole (dairy) milk, which I do not keep on hand. I buy it if I know I will be needing it for something where my preference of unsweetened almond milk won’t work for one reason or another but generally speaking it isn’t something you will find in my fridge. I had measured out two tablespoons of the almond milk into the bowl when I remembered I have heavy cream. I decided to use that for the third tablespoon, figuring that it would perhaps even things out a bit and make it a touch more as if I had used the whole milk called for.

I used my krumkake iron to bake them off as well, when the recipe instructs making them on a griddle or in a skillet. I figured the krumkake iron would be much easier – the batter gets pressed to an even thickness when the lid is shut so no worrying about trying to spread the batter evenly, and because both sides of the iron heat up, the cook time per cone was much shorter. With the heat setting at 3, I let them go a while longer after the “ready” light came on before checking them to see if they were cooked enough. (I find it is best to leave the heat lower and just let cookies bake longer in the iron to reach the desired doneness than to turn the heat up higher and keep a shorter cook time – too easy to get burnt cookies that way!) The average cook time on them till they were done was about two and a half minutes, but I let some go to three minutes or slightly beyond to get a little darker and more crisp for the sake of experimenting a bit. The two and a half minute mark seemed ideal for my preferences, though.

They did sometimes want to cling to the iron a bit but were easy to wiggle loose with a spatula, then I rolled them around my krumkake form to shape them into cones. 

The final result is some very pretty and quite tasty homemade waffle cones. 

Now if I actually had some ice cream to put into them… 😅 But they are good enough to eat on their own as “cookies”. 

I have been wanting to make some homemade ice cream, it has been a long time since I have done that; probably going on two years or so now. Maybe I can squeeze the ingredients into my budget when I get groceries this week, and then I can have some yummy homemade ice cream in homemade waffle cones! 

If you’d like to try the waffle cone recipe I found, it is available on Gemma’s Bigger Bolder Baking: just click here to see her post with the recipe. 

Totally unrelated side note: My mom’s dog is named Gemma. 😜 

Until next time. xoxo

In The Kitchen

Candy Making

I recently stopped in my favorite craft store “to look at the glassware and get a bag of candy melts”. That turned into a $25 purchase, which with all things considered (I usually end up spending more than that) was not bad. While I was in the candy making aisle to grab a bag of white chocolate candy melts for the previously posted Bunny Crack, however, I found a really cute candy pop mold (for chocolate lollipops but not suitable for liquid-sugar lollipops as the sugar is too hot and would melt the molds) on clearance and of course that meant needing more candy melts and some lolipop sticks and such, so that I could put the mold to use. 

The brand of supplies I got is Make ‘n Mold. In addition to the candy melts I got a two-pack of bottles specially made for melting the candy melts in the microwave. Being made by the same brand, one would assume the bottles are made specifically to fit the candy melts, right? Well, one would be wrong in assuming that. 

The opening of the bottles is just a bit too small to be able to pop the candy melts in – you have to really push them in and the sides get shaved off in the process. Alternately, you have to lay the candy melts out and cut them in half so they go into the bottles easily.

They are easy to use though, but I did also notice the instructions on the outer packaging do not match the instructions on the bottles themselves. In using them I have found that a combination of the two sets of instructions seems best: fill the bottle about 3/4 of the way with candy melts and place inside a microwave safe bowl with the cap off. On 50% power, heat for one minute (my microwave is 900 watts, so time may vary), then squeeze the bottle thoroughly. Then on 50% power continue heating in 30 second bursts, squeezing the bottle well after each to mix the melting candy till it is smooth. Just like when you are melting chocolate you have to be careful to not overheat it or it will curdle and get thick and clumpy so just take your time and do not rush the process. 

These particular bottles do not hold much product and are meant for smaller jobs. I found you can get them to hold more melted candy by adding a few more pieces after the first couple bursts in the microwave. I would like to have a couple more to be able to work with more than two colors at a time, though you will need a bowl of hot water to set them in to help keep the candy melted while working, unless you don’t mind frequently popping them back in the microwave for another 20-30 seconds as needed but depending on what exactly you are doing this may not be the best choice. If using a bowl of water to keep the candy warm and melted just remember to be careful to not get water in the bottles, as it will cause the candy to sieze. 

Once you’re ready you just squeeze the bottles to fill your candy molds. If there are smaller details you want done in different colors, carefully fill those in first then allow that candy/chocolate to harden before filling the rest of the way with the other color (s). Add the lollipop sticks part way through the process so they get fully covered with the candy so they are secure. Tap the mold lightly on the table a couple times to release any air bubbles, assure the mold is evenly filled, and to smooth out the top surface. Since the candy starts setting quickly, if you are doing more than one solid color – or you just are not able to fill the molds quickly  – I find it is best to do this after filling each of the mold cavities – if you wait till they are all filled the first ones filled will be partially set and won’t smooth out. I put toothpicks in the lids between batches to prevent the candy from hardening and clogging up the tip. 

Pop the filled mold into the fridge for 15-20 minutes (or the freezer for 5-10) to let the candy fully set. The candies should release immediately upon inverting the mold, or with a very light tap to the back of the mold. If the candies do not release easily, put the mold back in the fridge/freezer for another 5 minutes or so. 

Your candies are now ready for any finishing touches, packaging, and/or eating. 

I used some of the melted candy melts as “glue” to put some mini m&m’s on this one.

I have blue, purple, milk chocolate, and white chocolate candy melts as well but since I only have the two bottles to melt/dispense them, I have just been working with two colors at a time. Today that means pink and yellow. 

I previously also made chocolate covered strawberries. 

Until next time. xoxo

In The Kitchen, Recipes

Bunny Crack: Recipe (Sorta)

I had seen this online a while back, and made note because I wanted to make some myself. Some folks call it Bunny Bait, others Easter Crack. So I just threw the two together: Bunny Crack. Call it what you want, it is a quick, easy to make spring-time snack, whether you celebrate Easter or not. You can easily tweak it for other holiday/times of year as well.

I say this is “sorta” a recipe because you really needn’t measure a single thing. The instructions I had specified using small pretzel sticks, and mixing everything together on a cookie sheet. I used the little square, waffle-like pretzels. I like those ones, and it seemed like a better choice to me, keeping things close to the same shape and size. I did do the sheet pan mixing thing, because I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to dirty a bowl for this. But it was NOT easy mixing this up on a cookie sheet. I say go for a bowl or better yet, a large zip top bag to shake the ingredients together! 

Anyway, the ingredients for this are as follows:

Salted popcorn (I used butter flavored cause hey, that is what I had)

Peanuts (salted, unsalted? The instructions I had did not say. I used salted. Whatever floats your boat here, I guess!)

Chex cereal (I totally forgot this so mine does not have it)

Pretzels

M&M candies (I thought I was getting the spring colored ones. The packaging lied to me. But M&M’s are M&M’s and I had a buy one get one free coupon to use, so it’s all good! You could even use peanut M&M’s if you want. Be wild!)

Sprinkles (I used jimmies, but again, whatever you like is going to work)

White chocolate candy melts

Amounts? Be bold. Be daring. Be crazy. Just eyeball it on everything. I double dog dare you. Seriously though just wing it, it’s going to taste good regardless. Ok, ok… I will at least say you will likely need 12-16 oz candy melts, assuming your mixure uses one bag of microwave popcorn. I used about 9 or 10 oz for mine, but I did not quite use a whole bag of popcorn and I was saving some of the candy melts for something else. 

You want to start by gathering all your ingredients – once melted the candy melts start to re-harden fairly quickly so you don’t want to have to stop to re-melt them. Once everything is gathered, you want to mix together everything but the candy melts of course. Melt those suckers till they are nice and smooth (depending on how powerful your microeave is, 1-2 minutes total, in 15-20 second bursts and stirring very well after each burst). Some recipes have you mix the popcorn, pretzels, and cereal woth half the candy melts and then add the remaining ingredients but I say it is going to be easier to just mix it all together in one go. Again I bet a big zip top bag and shaking the ingredients to coat it all with the melted chocolate would be a fantastic way to go about this. Regardless, once everything is mixed up, spread the mixture out on a wax paper lined cookie sheet, and let it sit till the chocolate sets. You can pop it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes, if you like. Then break it up in pieces, and enjoy! 

Baking, In The Kitchen, Melting Pot, Recipes

Swedish Coconut Cookies

wp-1485311473992.jpg
My oh so impressive photo, taken while the cookies were cooling on the counter. Yes, this is the only picture I took of them. *shrug* What can I say? I’m no food stylist.

On the hunt for a little something that could be made with some ingredients we have on hand that need to be used up, I found this recipe for Swedish Coconut Cookies. Both J and I are fans of coconut, so I figured I’d give the recipe a try.

It’s sort of like a cross between shortbread cookies and sugar cookies, leaning further toward shortbread cookies, but with the added bonus of some yummy coconut.

The dough comes together quickly and easily, and you only need one mixing bowl and a couple measuring cups and spoons. Low mess baking is a rarity, and one of my favorite things since usually when I bake it involves turning the entire kitchen into a disaster area I hate having to clean up once all the fun stuff is over. lol

You start off by mixing together all the ingredients except for the coconut – initially it’ll look dry and crumbly like when you make pie crust, but just be patient and give it a couple minutes and it will come together. Then stir in the coconut, shape the dough into 1-2 logs (depending on how big a batch you’ll be making/what size cookies you ultimately want) and wrap in wax paper then chill in the fridge for about 2 hours till the dough is firmed up. Slice it up and bake, and leave the cookies to cool on the pan for about 2-3 minutes before removing them to cool completely. And did I mention they only require seven ingredients total?

I told you. EASY.

I only made a half batch, and got about 2.5 dozen cookies from it. 29 cookies total, to be precise. Granted I totally ignored the size suggestion in the recipe when shaping the log of dough – I just went for what looked like an ideal cookie size to me, and sliced them into half inch thick slices when ready to be sliced and baked off. (If you have multiple logs of dough to work with, leave the ones you’re not slicing and baking in the fridge till you’re ready for them, otherwise the dough will soften up and become difficult to slice and the cookies will spread out WAY too much while baking.) I was able to place eight rounds of dough onto each cookie sheet perfectly, with none of them running together as they baked. They do spread a good bit so do NOT ignore that “2 inches apart” instruction. I’d even scoot them a wee bit further apart than that, if you’ve got the room on the sheet to do so. Also worth noting I baked mine on parchment lined sheets. I bake pretty much everything on parchment lined pans, because parchment paper is just amazing. If you’ve never used it to line your cake pans or cookie sheets before, I highly recommend you pick some up on your next trip to the grocery store to give it a try. Just know it can be finicky to tear a piece off, and it rolls right back up on itself, so it’s a little bit of a PITA to work with. But it is SO worth it!

Anyway. J’s not had a chance to try any of the cookies yet (work) but I’ve had a couple and I have to say they’re quite tasty. They are a bit more crisp than I’d prefer – almost lace cookie-like in a way. Even the ones I pulled from the oven a couple minutes sooner in an attempt to get them softer while still baked through were just a bit more crisp than I’d really like them to be. I could probably drop the bake time by a couple more minutes to get them to my liking. Next time. Not a fault of the recipe by any means – just a personal preference that requires some testing to find what bake time works to get there. While I do not find them to be particularly amazing, they are quite good, and I’m likely to make them again in the future. I can’t help but wonder if they’d benefit from using coconut extract in place of (or in addition to) the vanilla extract. And throwing in a bit more of the flaked coconut wouldn’t be a bad idea either. 😉

Get the recipe by clicking here.

Until next time. xoxo

Baking, In The Kitchen, Recipes

Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve been having a bad weekend. What better cure for a crummy string of days than some cookies? Well, actually I can think of several things right away but I’m working with what I’ve got, folks. That means baking cookies.

20161016_134804_wm

I had been wanting to bake these particular cookies for a while but somehow the chocolates for the “stuffed” aspect kept vanishing before I ever got around to baking cookies. Mystery… *innocent look*

20161016_134730_wm

Anyway. Everybody likes their cookies a certain way so let me tell you first and foremost what kind of cookies this recipe is going to give you: soft, chewy, THICK cookies. If you like your cookies thin and/or crispy, keep walkin’ cause this is not that kind of recipe. I’m not convinced that those kinds of cookies will work for “stuffed” cookies but since I do not make them I really can’t say but if you want to give it a go then by all means don’t let me stop you. My only advice to you would be to only stuff and bake one cookie first just to see what happens. If it works out well then you can keep on going; if not you can bake off the rest of your dough as plain ol’ chocolate chip cookies as if that was the plan all along and you’ll have only sacrificed a single cookie to the Cookie Gods.

If, however, you agree with me that cookies are best when they’re thick and soft and chewy with only the slightest hint of crispness at the very outer edges then read on as there’s an excellent chance you’ll love this recipe. I’m not going to promise you will definitely love it because hey, you never know. But you just may agree with me that it’s the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. I came up with it myself (via altering other recipes to suit my preferences) though I have a sneaking suspicion it exists as it is for others out there too. I mean, chocolate chip cookies are kind of popular afterall.

Of course, you can make this recipe minus the “stuffing” and you’ll have fabulous plain chocolate chip cookies. I actually did half plain half stuffed today. But I’ll leave that up to you. Have I mentioned that this recipe is also ridiculously easy? I made these (unstuffed) a while back rather spontaneously one day and J commented on the short amount of time it took for me to go from “I want cookies” to sitting down eating cookies while the dishwasher did it’s thing cause I was totally done baking.

What you’ll need:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

11.5 oz milk chocolate chips

1 bag Dove Caramel & Milk Chocolate chocolates

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Unwrap the Dove Caramel & Milk Chocolate chocolates and place unwrapped chocolates in a bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla till well mixed.

On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple times if needed. Once all the flour mixture has been incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips.


20161016_132713_wm 20161016_132723_wm20161016_133153_wm

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out 1 Tablespoon of dough; shape into a ball and gently flatten it a bit. Place one of the Dove chocolates on the dough, then take another 1 Tablespoon scoop of dough and place it on top of the chocolate. Gently press the dough closed around the chocolate to form a ball; place on the parchment lined cookie sheet and press lightly to flatten it slightly. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing cookies about 2 inches apart on the sheets.

Bake for 10-14 minutes until edges are golden brown and tops look mostly dry. Ovens vary and some run a little higher or lower in temperature, so check the cookies after 10 minutes and add on a minute or two at a time as needed till the cookies are done. Allow the cookies to cool for 4-5 minutes on the sheets before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

20161016_134547_wm 20161016_134554_wm

20161016_134559_wm 20161016_134601_wm

I even (finally) learned how to make a printable recipe for y’all. Probably not the easiest way to do it but what the heck it works. Or, it SHOULD. Someone will have to verify it and let me know. If it doesn’t work… I have no idea what I’m doing so I can’t fix it, sorry. No, I have no shame… not about my complete lack of technical prowess anyway. Click the print button below to print this recipe. Hopefully. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you…

print-button-001-scaled-to-100
(Yes, I even took time to design my own print button. Because existing ones I found were ugly. Mine is pretty.)

20161016_134642_wm

Until next time. xoxo

Baking, Cake Decorating, In The Kitchen, No Filter Friday

No Filter Friday (Halloween Cupcakes)

A little something different for No Filter Friday this week!

Last year I had posted about some Halloween cupcakes I’d made, to try glow in the dark icing for the first time. Click here if you want to see that post. If you’re not that curious, here’s a condensed version: glow in the dark icing was NOT to my liking any nobody else that ate them cared for it either so IMO while glow in the dark icing sure sounds cool, skip it and stick with something that tastes good. As for the decorative aspects of those cupcakes, I had specific things in the pantry I wanted to use but the results were… well. Also not to my liking.

I realized the other day I never did get around to updating on those cupcakes or the fact that I made them a second time, for a family friend’s daughter to take to school for her class Halloween party. I changed things up with the second batch; I just made my usual American buttercream icing, and used different decorative items for a FAR better finished look!

I am particularly proud of these cupcakes. Especially the witches – they were 100% my own creation and NOT something spotted on pinterest or in a magazine etc. Sure, it’s entirely possible with how many bakers there are in the world that someone else thought them up too, and surely someone has a version that is even better. But that does not take away from the fact that I thought them up on my own, without having seen them anywhere else first. The ghost cupcakes were easy to think of but they’re also kind of a Halloween standard for bakers. I mean, blob of white icing plus something for the eyes – no brainer right? The monsters, I honestly can’t be sure. I want to say I thought those up myself too but there’s a nagging thought in my head that I’d seen them in some magazine years ago and filed the idea away for future use.

Anyway. I feel like a dope for not having updated last year with the second batch pictures as they are far superior to the first batch that got posted. But I am posting now, and maybe if you’re on the hunt for something cute to make for Halloween this year this will be your solution!

12191028_909222335809918_6947460590501813717_n_wm

I also did black, orange, and purple swirls on some but for some reason I can’t find the picture of those ones.

Anyway. Obviously you can use any cupcake recipe you like, and while I prefer my homemade American buttercream icing any decorator icing you like will work as long as it’s good for piping (not too thin, so that it can hold its shape).

The ghosts again are a total no brainer – use a large round tip (1A or 2A preferably) to pipe a big swirl of white icing. Pop a couple small black sugar pearls on for eyes and voila!

The monsters are the next “least involved” – tint the icing with whatever color(s) you like (really wish I could find the picture of the second box of cupcakes; I made some monsters with multi-colored “hair”!) then use a multi-opening tip (233 or 234) to pipe strands of “hair” all over the cupcakes. Place some candy eyes around in the icing, and your little monster cupcakes are done!

The witches are more involved, but still simple. You can use whatever colors you like, of course, but I’ll explain the process with the colors I used as examples. You’ll want to start by making the hats. To do this, use a small amount of melted chocolate to adhere Hershey’s Kisses to the tops of Oreo Fudge Cremes cookies. Pop them into the fridge or freezer for several minutes so the melted chocolate can set and hold them together. Meanwhile, with green icing and a large round tip (again, 1A or 2A) pipe a large dollop of icing on just half of each cupcake to create the witch’s “face”. Use an icing spatula to smooth the surface if desired. Then with a multi- opening tip (233 or 234 again) and purple icing, fill in the other half of the cupcakes by piping “hair” for your witches. Place one hat on top of each cupcake. Then use the green candies from a box of Mike & Ike candy to make the witch noses. Finish off your witches with small black sugar pearls for the eyes.

Sprinkling some or all of the cupcakes with some iridescent edible glitter is optional. I don’t think you can tell in the picture, but I opted for doing so. Glitter makes everything better. 😉

I hope you enjoyed this little venture away from the normal No Filter Friday, and if you make any of these Halloween cupcakes yourself I’d love to see how they turned out!

Until next time. xoxo