Saturday, December 31, 2011

Snowflake Cut-Out Cookies

From my home to yours I'd like to wish you all a HAPPIEST NEW YEAR!!  May 2012 be your best yet!!!

Unfortunately for me, this holiday season I've been plagued by a cold/flu that won't seem to go away.  This meant I did not make nearly as many treats as I'd have liked.  I did the best I could, though, and had a great time with these snowflakes.  I really do love making cut-out cookies!  I find the icing of cookies very relaxing and great opportunity to be creative.  Snowflakes are the perfect shape to experiment with new designs and have some fun decorating.

I made both small and large cookies.  For the background of the cookie I chose a light blue so the white flake design would stand out more  I used the standard outline and flood method.  To decorate the small flakes, I used a #1 tip with a very thick icing mixture of water and sifted confectioners sugar poured into a pastry bag.  The icing was thick enough that my hand began to cramp up from squeezing.  I made the icing so thick because I did not want it to spread and not keep its' shape.  Despite the discomfort, I love the way they turned out!

I need much more work on my hand control to make the lines even.  I free-formed the designs and want to try different patterns.  I'm actually excited to make more!

For the large snowflake cookies, I used a #2 tip with what I THOUGHT was a thick enough icing, but it wasn't.  So, the lines spread out more than I'd hoped.  Since they were large it wasn't that big of a deal, so I finished them with the icing mixture I had prepared.  They were pretty, but I still think they would look lovelier with a thinner flake line.  When I make them again I'll post an update!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Frog and Lamb Cupcakes

Just before leaving for our trip to India, my family celebrated my twin nieces 5th birthday.  Since they were very small, Abigail has loved frogs and Madeline loves her lambs.  So, I wanted to create fun birthday treats for them.  While browsing on Pinterest (if you haven't signed up for Pinterest yet, you should!  It's a virtual pinboard filled with ideas and inspiration for just about anything you can think of!)

Many times on Pinterest you can find how-to's or recipes but in this instance, I had to work off the photos alone.  These did not appear to be too complicated so I gave them a go!

To begin, I made Funfetti cupcakes for the girls.  I baked them as directed.

While they were cooling, I started to make the froggy eyes and lamb heads.  The original picture of the frog eyes looked to be sliced marshmallows and chocolate chips.  I wanted a deeper black eye dot and cleaner circles, so I went with white chocolate wafers and black cake gel.    I used the flat part of the chocolate wafer to add the black dot, as you can see in the photo below.  While the gel was setting I started working with pre-made black fondant, which I purchased at Michaels craft store.  This was my first time working with fondant, and I didn't see a need to try making homemade since no one eats it anyway.  At least no one I know does.  So, bought it and was surprised at how it had a liquidy film around it and how and messy it was!  At first I assumed it was a bad batch, or too old, or something wrong.  However, as I worked it all together with my hands it became firmer and drier.  Once this was done I made nice round ball shapes and flattened them out  to add the eyes, as in the photo below:

Once I was done I referenced the lamb cupcake picture I was working from and saw that a flattened ball was completely the wrong shape!  I needed to make a much smaller OVAL shape and add tiny ears, as in the photo below:

I never follow the first rule in baking....ALWAYS read the entire recipe first (or in this case, double check the photo you are following).  Save yourself the trouble and wasted time!  I share this mistake of mine with you as a cautionary tale!

Once the lamb heads were done, I melted some white chocolate in a squeeze bottle.  I wanted to add small white dots to make eyes on the fondant shapes.  Be warned that if you try to do this immediately after melting the chocolate it will be extremely runny and you will not have control over how much comes out.  A mess will ensue.  Again, a firsthand cautionary tale.

To finish the eyes, I used the same black gel I used for the frog eyes to dot the white chocolate.  Then, I took the top of the chocolate squeeze bottle (after removing it from the bottle and rinsing the chocolate off) to make two indents for a nose shape.

I mixed up two batches of buttercream icing.  From the first batch I put aside a few spoonfuls to dye red for the frog mouth.  I dyed the remaining icing a deep green.  Just green alone wasn't achieving the shade I wanted, so I added a small bit of blue and then red to the green.  I don't know the exact number of drops I used, I just played around with it until I was happy.  It's important to add one drop at a time, though, so you don't overdo it and ruin the icing color.

Next, I iced the frog cupcakes, trying to make them as smooth as possible.  I took the spoonfuls of icing I set aside and added red gel.  After placing the eyes on the cupcakes, I used a ziploc bag with a corner snipped off to pipe the smile on. They looked adorable!

As for the lamb cupcakes, I filled a piping bag with buttercream icing and used a #4 piping tip, lifting up and down repeatedly on the top of the cupcake to create a "fluffy" effect.  I added the pre-made fondant heads to the iced cupcakes, placing them at a small angle, finishing off by piping a bit more fluff on the top of the head.

The girls and party guests loved them!  Yes, they were cute, but they were also DELICIOUS!

Happy Birthday to two of my favorite girls!!

A Little NoshI have shared this recipe with A Little Nosh for Tastetastic Thursday, a linky party.
It's a great site, head over there to check it out for some great ideas and inspiration!

To India and Back

My husband and I returned from India this past week.  It was a truly amazing experience that is not easy to describe.  Along with the well known issues of polluted air, poverty, and general uncleanliness we discovered India's beautiful and friendly people, wonderful scents of spices everywhere, incredible wildlife, ever changing landscapes, and VIBRANT color.  And this all just in Delhi and Rajasthan!  One day, we plan on going back to explore other states of India because, honestly, I am hooked!  This week it's back to baking, in time for the holidays.  It's been a bit rough adjusting back to this time zone and I've caught a cold, but I'm ready to spring back into action.  For now, I'll leave you for now with a few images of our visit to what is now my favorite country!