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Saturday, December 24, 2011

OMG - What Can You Bake Last Minute???

Well, it's Christmas Eve day.  Are you realizing things have settled down now but you didn't get to bake from scratch...and wish you had?  Do you have some rolls of store-bought cookie dough in the fridge staring at you...making you feel bad?

I can help you make them look like you spent a lot of time in the kitchen!  Follow along people!


Let's start with Sugar Cookie Spirals!  I saw the "scratch version" on Pinterest and pinned it to my Recipe Board...but I didn't have time to do the deed from scratch...and I wanted to use up a roll of sugar cookie dough I had bought at Thanksgiving and not used.  So, here's what I did.  You can do it too...it was not all that hard!

SUGAR COOKIE SPIRALS
Semi-Homemade My Way

Need:
Roll of refrigerated store-bought sugar cookie dough
Christmas sprinkles
Green paste food color
Latex (or similar) gloves - highly recommend
Gallon Ziploc bag
Board Flour
Rolling Pin
Waxed Paper

Method:
Take half of the roll of dough and put it into the Ziploc bag.  Reserve other half in the fridge.
Add green paste food color (adequate amount to get the brightness of green you desire - I think I used about 1/8 teaspoon).
Zip close and start squishing the dough and color to begin the incorporation process.  It won't be smooth, you just want to get it started.
Remove dough from Ziploc to a lightly floured surface (one that won't absorb and be stained by the green color - I worked on wax paper) and knead it briefly to incorporate the color fully.
Allow it to chill while you work with the other dough.
Discard anything that has been stained by the green dough before starting with the vanilla dough :-)

Roll out white sugar dough between two sheets of wax paper.  You want to end up with rectangular pieces of dough - both the white and green should be about the same size.  You are aiming for about the size of a piece of printer paper - 8x11 or so.

Repeat process with the green dough.

Place both of the doughs, separately in their own wax paper, on a baking sheet and pop it into the fridge for two hours, or the freezer until firm.  I was in a hurry and did the freezer deal.

Prepare a long skinny plate with lots of sprinkles.  Use jimmies or non pareils or sparkly sugar. It will need to be big enough to accommodate the length of your dough.  Set aside

After the dough has firmed up (not frozen, just firm), remove to counter and take the top sheet off of each piece of dough.  Place the vanilla down first and very lightly brush it with a bit of water...very lightly here - not wetting it, just want to adhere the other sheet of dough to it so it doesn't slip as you roll.

Lay the green dough face down on top of the white dough - keep as even as possible - but you are going to trim it a bit if needed so no need to be OCD about it being perfect.

So, now you have wax paper on the bottom, white dough, green dough, wax paper on the top.

Gently remove the top wax paper from the green dough.  Trim the dough as necessary to get a good fit.  You'll do some final trimming later - so, like I said, don't need to be perfect.

Now, it's time to roll.  Obviously, you are going to have the long side towards you.  Use the wax paper to help you roll, like you would a jelly roll.  I also used my bench scraper dipped in some flour to loosen it gently from the wax paper.  Roll it away from you (don't worry if you tear pieces...I did...just pat them into place...repair as you go - use bits that you cut off if needed).  Roll it to a cylinder shape, seal the final edges by pinching the dough and then smooth it.


Trim off any ends that look uneven. 


Now it's time to carefully transfer the dough to a platter that you have loaded with sprinkles. Roll your cylinder of dough carefully in the sprinkles, pressing them in as you go. It's warming up by now and likely starting to get limp...so don't delay, move it along now...it doesn't need to be perfect.

Return the now-sprinkled dough to the wax paper, help it get back into good cylindrical shape by gently pushing on both ends and smoothing things down and in, and roll up in the wax paper.  (I put it into a Ziploc bag and froze it...I did this a week in advance.) 

Return to fridge until ready to bake.  If you are ready to bake now, pop it into the freezer until firm enough to slice.  It will have gotten too soft to slice as you've worked with it.  The re-chilling is integral.

Now, you are ready to slice and bake!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or whatever your refrigerated dough indicates).  I used Pillsbury and it said 350.  I used a Silpat prepared baking sheet.  I transferred the dough to a cutting board and sharpened my best knife. 

I cut the dough in half and cut each half into 12 equal pieces (total 24 cookies in the batch).  Carefully place spirals on baking sheet (these do spread so don't crowd).  I baked for about 10 minutes, cooled in pan on a rack for 10 minutes and transferred to a rack for complete cooling.

They look marvelous and like I spent hours on the process...but really, it's slice and bake baby!

You can also make easy Peanut Butter Blossoms with refrigerated peanut butter dough.  Divide dough into 24 equal pieces (I used a small cookie scoop - you could slice them if you prefer), roll into ball, roll ball in sparkly sugar OR dip your fork into sparkly sugar if you don't want as much sugar on your PB cookie.  Make cross hatch marks with the fork (if you are using forked sugar, re-dip into sugar between cross hatches).  Bake at 350 for about 10-11 minutes.  Remove from oven and place (still on baking sheet) on cooling rack.  Place a peeled chocolate kiss in the middle of each baked cookie and allow to cool another 10 minutes on the pan.  Carefully remove to cooling rack until ready to plate.  Easy peasy.  My kids love them.  Matter of fact, the teen ate 5 of them while I ran to pick up his Dad from the airport.  I had to laugh.


You can do this...it's not that hard!

Merry Christmas to all - I'm finished with baking and I'm ready to rest today...and prepare to eat more tonight!  Our Christmas Eve tradition generally includes boiled peel-your-own shrimp, chili con queso, and tamales...assorted chips, dips, and all the sweet treats I've been making.  We drive to our Austin family Christmas morning and eat more all day long...oy vey!  Then another family deal on Monday.  I've got my Zumba music on the mp3 player.  I'm set to begin exercising off the calories in between events!!! Let's hope I overcome the need for falling into a food coma nap instead of exercising :-)

Bon Appetit, Yall!!!StumbleUpon

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Cakelets - Marbled Red Velvet Pound Cake

I've been buying, or receiving as gifts, the annual Christmas with Southern Living editions for more years than I care to count.  When we moved from large house in Austin to tiny condo at the coast I had to stop - and I gave away all that I had. Storage is a problem so you do what you gotta do.  Still, it was a sad day! 

I follow a blogger, Sabrina, who writes LouLou Sucre, Inspirations for House and Home and I was so happy to see that she had made a beautiful cake from the 2009 edition.  I pinned it to my Pinterest recipe board with thoughts of incorporating the cake into my holiday baking.  The list had gotten long and somewhat overwhelming...but I kept the cake on, even when I started whacking some of the items that I didn't think I could manage in the short time left.

Wednesday night I decided it was close enough to bake cake, considering it was a moist pound cake and they can handle a couple of days pre-prep.  I decided, of the three choices I had listed, I was going with the Red Velvet Pound Cake I'd seen on Sabrina's blog.  I knew I wanted to miniaturize everything...using my Christmas shaped mini-pans, my small bundts, my mini bundts, and my tea cake pan.  I generally use these to bake Amish Friendship Bread...but I wanted something different, something moist, something pretty, and this ticked all the boxes.  I didn't want a frosting - it would hide the details of the pretty pans (assuming everything came out okay) but I decided a vanilla bean glaze would probably work quite nicely over this cake.  So, I proceeded.

I'm going to ask that you link back to Sabrina's blog for the recipe.  It wasn't changed at all (other than the frosting substitution) and it's the courteous thing to do. (As blogging of recipes evolves, we are all learning some basic courtesies for using other folks recipes and inspirations...things like give it a week or more before you copy something, link back to their blog if you are inspired by someone...common courtesies of blogging life.

This batter is so incredibly decadent, I could have dipped a spoon in and eaten it...it fairly glistened it was so lovely. 

I liked that the red velvet component was minimized for this recipe (it's a pretty cake in general, but it's not usually the best chocolate cake in the world, in my opinion) and that it used melted milk chocolate instead of cocoa powder.  Lots of red food coloring - as usual.  It's dramatic, I'll give you that!


The problem arose when I needed to swirl the red velvet batter into the vanilla/almond batter...in a tiny tea cake mold or a mini bundt pan.  It really just didn't work very well.  Nonetheless, it tastes FABULOUS as one would expect any Southern Living cake to be!  I expected it to be more dense in the tea cake molds...I struggle every year to find something that will display the crisp lines of the little molds.  This year was no more successful than past years.  I read somewhere that you needed to use a dense gingerbread or brownie or banana bread type of dough to get crisp lines...cake batters don't do the trick.  I'll try that next...month, or year!  For now though, I know from previous attempts, that the lines would be more visible if I put a little color in my glaze and kept it thin enough to coat but not cover up. 

I also followed the Nordic Ware instructions to fill 3/4 of each little opening...but, again, they rose over the edge leaving an ugly rim around the cakelets.  The same thing happened with my Christmas molds.  I let them cool and removed them from the pans...and then I stood there and carefully ran a paring knife around each and every cakelet.  I did this between 11:00 and midnight...boy howdy was I tired! 


After that I covered everything and glazed them Thursday morning...they took four batches of vanilla bean paste glaze to get everything covered (except the bottoms).  Lots of work, but oh so worth it after I sampled the snowman whose head fell off...poor Frosty's loss was my gain :-)

Here's the ratios I used for each batch of glaze:

Colored Vanilla Bean Glaze

3/4 cup (150g) powdered sugar - sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
3  tablespoons water
3-4 drops of liquid food coloring (I used red)

Whisk together above ingredients until smooth.  Drizzle on with spoon or dip small tea cakes in to cover.  Allow to drip on a cooling rack into a baking sheet.


I can't wait to make this cake again, full size, with the cream cheese frosting.  Sometimes it's best not to mess with a good thing.  Mine turned out quite tasty, but at the expense of presentation!  A little lightly colored glaze and some edible glitter and disco dust seemed to pep things up though.  I'm sure no one but me...and you...will know what a trial it was to get to this point!

Here are the rest of the photos of the endeavor!

The small bundts (not mini) came out the best - cleanest and well marbled

The sole unglazed mini bundt in the left corner shows the difference
the glaze and sparklies make


A sprinkling of disco dust gives them
a little glimmer of Christmassy cheer

Viola, the finished products below...I can guarantee they taste incredibly moist and richly flavored with vanilla bean and a subtle background of almond.  I will be pleased to serve these at Christmas.  Thanks to Sabrina for bringing forth this wonderful inspiration recipe for my Christmas Cakelets!




BON APPETIT, Y'ALL...and Merry Christmas!


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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Gingerbread Cookies


Once long ago, in a kitchen far, far away, I made gingerbread cookies from scratch.  They sucked.

Ever since, I have purchased a roll of Pillsbury slice and bake gingerbread dough...when I could find it.  It's not easy to find...and this year I've been unsuccessful.

I follow a baker, Michelle, on FoodBuzz, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.  NO, I'm not a stalker.  She goes by the handle "BrownEyedBaker".  I really like her stuff and lo and behold she posted about a gingerbread cookie dough she had used and really liked.  Like me, she likes chewy cookies, not crispy...and she said these were tasty.

I printed it out and decided to make a batch and hope for the best.  I must say, the dough was the most difficult dough I've ever worked with - but the reward for my tenacity really paid off.  I have a tasty batch of gingerbread cookies, soft enough to make me happy, deliciously spicy, and firm enough to stand up to decorating with royal icing.  I'm a happy camper!

I'm not going to print the recipe - but here's the link to the Brown Eyed Baker web site.  Visit her site and you can easily print off the recipe.  I made two tiny changes.  I added 1/2 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste to the molasses before sending it down the food processor shoot with the milk. I also used light brown sugar instead of dark...because I didn't have any dark. One thing I observed...my cookies look a lot darker than hers.  Oh well, who cares - the sample cookie tasted excellent - the way a gingerbread cookie should taste! IMHO :-)

OK - now you  might be wondering why I thought this was challenging dough.  It was warm and humid down here when I baked and whenever I had the dough out of the freezer for more than a minute, it got gummy and completely unable to handle.  If I used virtually frozen dough, it handled BEAUTIFULLY.  When I do these next year, I've made a note to myself to divide the dough into thirds for easier handling, and work straight from the freezer, rotating the pans.  Re-rolling is no problem because you are rolling between parchment sheets and not adding flour over and over, which is problematic when re-rolling sugar cookies.  I used every last bit of dough!

I used large cookie cutters - both gingerbread man and Christmas shapes were used.  These were nice in that they didn't poof up and lose their shape...no eggs and minimal leavening I suspect...and my whole house smelled AWESOME as these baked!  I thought a tablespoon of ginger and cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of cloves was almost too much...but it was absolutely perfect.  I'm completely happy.  Thanks Michelle for the info and the inspiration!

Here are photos of the process and end result - I used the royal icing recipe I always use which may be found on my blog at this link!

Ingredients - Remember to go to
browneyedbaker.com for recipe!


I like that this dough is made in the food processor...very easy!
Butter chunks added to the dry goods

After the molasses is added - looks like gingerbread to me!
Rolling between sheets of parchment paper is integral!

Cut out just a couple at a time unless your house is chilly...mine was not!

The gingerbread people...they are quite dashing!
I love my little dude with a heart!
And, the little dude with the fancy bow tie :-)

Christmas lights - my new cookie cutter from Karen's Cookies

I wish I had made more big snowflakes.  Really liked them.
Also, loved the nice big tree.

I don't pipe the straightest lines, but I think the sugar pearls
with tiny sprinkles hanging from each one made for
a nice stocking.  The blue one didn't photograph very well
but it has sparkling white sugar coating the feathering...
and looks better "in person"!

All-in-all, I deem this cookie baking and decorating endeavor a grand success.  They taste great and look pretty good too.  I decorated these towards the end of the 7 1/2 hour decorating marathon I had on Tuesday.  I'm grateful they are decorated at all!  My arm and shoulders were so sore today I could barely lift them in Zumba.  Our leader, Peter, had me all loosened up at the end of the session though.  I live to decorate another day.  And now, I'm off to the kitchen to make cake.  (Let them eat cake, she yells in her head!)

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Sugar Cookies 2011 Version


I spent most of yesterday hunkered down over my kitchen table decorating sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies.  This post will mostly be pictures...with a couple of comments.  I've mentioned before that I love using squeeze bottles to decorate.  This year I purchased some bottles from Karen's Cookies that have a coupler top which allows you to use standard decorating tips...wow, that was wonderful!  I also bought a little "pixie dust sprinkler" - also gets a "wow"...must get more!  I've never successfully used pixie dust or disco dust because I wasn't able to successfully sprinkle evenly...this tiny inexpensive gadget is PERFECT!  Beyond that, toothpicks and good craft tweezers are a decorator's best friend!  I've been really happy with all of my purchases from Karen - so check out her web site!  She is quite the cookie decorator and has some great tutorials.  Her piping bag prep technique was recently featured on Martha Stewart!

I'm going to give you the link to last year's post on cookie making and decorating in case you want the cookie recipe (which is wonderful because it stays flat and holds shape beautifully) as well as the royal and glace icings I use.  The only difference I did was to use some clear vanilla in the royal icing to give it some flavor but not mess up the colors like standard pure vanilla does.  Since I live in the sub-tropics, and we were in the 70s and humid yesterday, I had to crank the a/c down to 70 (which is really cold to me) and pretended that it was winter.  This allowed the humidity to get sucked out of the air and the cookies dried beautifully!  Lesson learned from my dear friend, Ann Smith.  Whew, that is a relief!

I decorated a lot of gingerbread cookies too...but that is a different post - coming soon.

I'm, rather obviously, not an artist, but I sure do have fun doing this.  The cookies and icing taste good and the kids and grandkids will be happy imbibers of cookies! (So will the husband once he gets past the "oh, those look too pretty to eat" stage)  Note - this time I used only regular royal icing for outlining and flooding.  I used different tips to get different lines...but next time I want to make some stiffer royal icing for details...like the snowflakes above...the lines spread a bit, even on top of the dried colored icing...still pretty enough - but not the way I imagined them.  Now I know :-)

Here are the cookies!

I always get my workspace set up first.
Filled bottles of royal icing, tweezers, paper towels, toothpicks,
lots of sprinkles and sparkles, and other toppings are ready.
Oh yes, a little finger bowl of water is helpful to clean
fingertips and tools when they get icing all over them!
Just dry carefully before re-using.  Kitchen towels and
paper towels at the ready make for fast wiping of
hands and tools.
Mis en place is everything!
The first dozen took me about 45 minutes...then
I was limbered up and my hands were steady.  I was
ready to rock out the rest! Remember if you want
to layer a different color on top (and not have it sink in) you
will need to allow the bottom layer to dry completely.
The base for the red snowflake above
is shown completed below.

I love to feather and I love to detail with little sugar pearls,
jimmies and stars.  Disco dust is my new fave!

I tried the new Martha Stewart Pearlized decorating spray (the silvery tree
and the top candy cane) but since it changed the color of the icing
I had to stop and think about how to use that - it might
need to be a whole separate project.  I bought Pearl, Silver, and Gold
at Michael's on Saturday...the price is right compared to
some other brands I've seen and I can't wait to do a
project using it.  Maybe I was too close.

I liked the feathered candy cane - came out kind of cool.

I also like the heart candy canes and the two wreaths - some of my faves

The snowmen were laborious but very fun.  Need to
find something else besides tiny jimmies for making
their little arms.  That was a bit tough to do!  Got
out my Halloween sprinkles and found orange jimmies
to use for their noses and one even has a heart :-)

I hope your holiday baking is going well...I had to scale back my original overwhelming plans...so now I'm "back on schedule".  I'll do up the post on the gingerbread cookies that I did soon.  They turned out awesome!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!

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