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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fresh Pumpkin Pie ... a First for Me!

Several weeks ago we received a package from my husband's sister in Indiana.  In it was the jackpot... a 4 cup jar of freshly canned pumpkin puree!  I was so thrilled I could barely stand it.

Today, I began "the baking of the pie".  Fortunately, since I've never made a fresh pumpkin pie (only from packed canned pumpkin) my sister-in-law included a recipe.  I know my mother-in-law and she put up pumpkin together but I don't really know whose recipe this is.  I'll have to find that out!  Thank you to Ruth Hook Wiles and Kate Hook for sharing the fruits of your labor.  I pray I do it justice.

I do know, when I spoke to Kate last week, she said it was mandatory to use powdered milk in the recipe.  OK, I said, no problem - I keep that on hand in the event of hurricanes!  Here's the recipe that was included. 

Fresh Pumpkin Pie
Recipe from Ruth Hook Wiles and/or Kate Hook
(I'll update when I know the answer)

4 cups fresh pumpkin puree (you'll have to figure out that part yourself)
1 cup powdered milk
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon (I used Watkins Saigon Cinnamon - my fave!)

1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (my addition - I love nutmeg in pumpkin pie)

Mix all together. (How simple is that?)
Getting the sealed lid off the jar was the hardest part
of this recipe!

All ingredients poured in and mixer turned on...easy recipe!

I love "dump it in a bowl and mix" recipes!  This came together
just beautifully!!!

Make your own pie crust or buy the Pillsbury brand that you unroll.  Form the crust in the bottom of a DEEP dish pie pan (it's a lot of pumpkin).  Pour pumpkin mixture in the crust.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees for 50 minutes. 

I went the Pillsbury method...because I suck at pie crust.

I got some cute little Paula Deen pie crust cutters in preparation for the holidays...and I used the pumpkin cutter to make pieces from the extra roll of pie crust.  It made just enough to overlap and circle the pie. 

I filled the pie crust after getting all those pieces on, then gave it an egg wash.  After the first 15 minutes, it really needed a pie crust shield.  I made one out of aluminum foil.  Worked pretty good!  Unfortunately, the cut-out pumpkins didn't fare as well as last year's leaves did.  They hung over the edge too much.  You really can't even tell they are pumpkins once they are baked. Back to the leaves next year.  (I don't think Paula Deen really tried these out before she put her name on them...or maybe I missed some instructions somewhere)  Ever the optimist though, maybe I could still use them next year for the baked pumpkin cutouts as toppers for the whipped cream - those turned out okay! (baked on a baking sheet topped with silicone baking mat - egg wash, sprinkled with sanding sugar)
Little pie crust toppers for the whipped cream on the pie

I'm not a freak about raw eggs (I always sample my raw cookie dough before rolling and baking) so I sampled a bite of the filling.  Picture my eyes rolling back in my head.  I don't know how to identify what tastes specifically different...but it's sure better than any pumpkin pie I've ever made before!  Depth of flavor is the best way to describe it I guess.  In other words...fresh pumpkin matters! (Did you know Libby's canned pumpkin is actually a squash from the butternut family? A pumpkin is a squash, right?  I don't know why I brought it up.  Here's a link to a blog where it is explained in much better terms than I could provide.  I will say, I probably won't ever make my own fresh pumpkin pie again unless someone sends me their fresh whatever Libby's does, it works for me!

Okay - what do you do with your scraps of pie dough?  I did the cut-outs sprinkled with sugar, and then I had a little more left.  I noticed there was still some pie filling all over the sides of my mixing bowl because I didn't scrape... because I had filled my pan to where I felt comfortable (to avoid rising over the edge).  So, in the interest of waste-not-want-not,  I grabbed a mini muffin tin, pushed in enough dough to thinly line six muffin tin spaces...and I was able to scrape out enough filling to fill them to right below the edge of the dough...popped it in on the oven rack right under the pie for the final 15-20 minutes of baking...voila...tasty testers for me and the boys!

Hmmm...think I'll have one of those right now!  First there were six and now there are five!

I was going to save this post for Thanksgiving since I already posted one today...but what the heck.  Someone might NEED to read this post...or not.  By this time Thursday, I hope to have already had a big ol' slice of this pie topped with freshly whipped cream. The tester I had still warm from the oven was heavenly, so I have no doubt the big old pie is even better!  Happy Thanksgiving everyone...hope it's a wonderful day for you and your loved ones.

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

Update 11/28/2013 - post Thanksgiving dinner...
Quite possibly the best pumpkin pie I have ever eaten...absolutely delicious!


Lemon Ricotta Acorn Cakelets

I'm in love with Nordic Ware pans.  I've posted about my seashell teacake pan (which I prefer to call cakelet pans) but I haven't shared my newest acquisition...the Acorn pan!  I saw it on Amazon and searched every local retailer possible to no avail so I finally broke down and ordered it online.  When you live in the boonies and you want something specific, Amazon can be a real life saver.  I am still a firm believer in shopping in local independent shops whenever possible...but gotta go with the big box in the sky.  This was one of those times.

It's been on my wish list for over a year.  I kept hoping the price would go down.  It didn't.  I also opted to buy a second seashell cakelet pan.  It gets really old to try to make batches of these and wait for cooling in between.  Nigh impossible for my patience level!  So, now, I have 4 Nordic Ware "teacake pans".  One, the first, is not my favorite, but I use it anyway.  I'm sure I just need to find the correct density batter/dough to make that first one work well.  I usually end up with a lot of holes and that's not always pretty!

Anyway, here's a picture of my new pan.  So cute!
Nordic Ware Acorn Cakelet Pan

I had every intention of creating or finding a pumpkin recipe for the acorn cakelets...but I ended up having 6 expensive Meyer lemons that were staring at me from my counter, and I needed to use them before they became over-ripe on me.  I search for them so I really don't want THAT to happen!  Therefore, I grabbed my absolute favorite lemon cookie recipe (which is quite cakey) and decided we would have lemon acorns...and lemon seashells too, because, I do live at the coast!

I whipped them all up and having 3 pans made life so much easier.  The recipe made exactly 2 pans worth of each cakelet (4 pans total).  Since I started the acorn first, it was great to have it cool and easily washed for the 4th round.  I did up the glaze recipe a bit because I tend to run out when I use the original recipe instructions.  Here's the link to the original recipe from Giada De Laurentis.  I don't change anything in the dough. However, I do give a quick spritz of Pam or other cooking spray to the pan before filling.  I use a 1 Tbsp. scoop to fill (and actually liked the second batch of acorn cakelets where I used a heaping Tbsp scoop instead of it leveled off).  For a more ample amount of glaze, I make it thusly:

Lemon Drop Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
4 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 lemon finely zested (a Microplane is perfect for this task)

Combine ingredients with a small whisk.  Cover and let sit for 15 minutes or so to ensure any sugar lumps dissolve.  Re-stir before using.

Place the cakelets on a rack over a baking sheet.  Ensure they are completely cool.  Dip the cakelet upside down into the glaze, allow to drip a second or two over the bowl, then turn right side up and place back on rack for glaze to harden.
The glaze is hardened and the cakelets are now
easy to handle.  If you look close you can see
the zest in the glaze.  OMG - so good!

I call it Lemon Drop Glaze because my family says these cookies/cakelets taste like lemon drops.  They are deliciously sweet and tart and my eyes roll when I bite into one!

I have no idea how long these cookies or cakelets last.  They don't stay around in my house long enough to find out!  Keep covered and enjoy (I love a cup of coffee or hot tea with 2 or 3 of these babies).

See you on the other side of Thanksgiving my friends!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgiving Cookies 2013

I've been studiously working on cookies all week.  We are staying home this year because Mr. Flip Flop has to work Friday... so family Thanksgiving will be celebrated over the week-end (probably with Mexican Food because we'll all be stuffed with turkey already).

I wanted to get some cookies in the mail today for some of those family members we won't be able to see.  I hope they make it there intact and on time for them to enjoy...I've happily played with this first set...and will be working on more to take with us for our little celebration when it finally happens.  It's not the day you celebrate thankfulness and family that matters, it's the people you're with!

I used Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookie dough and you can find the link to a printable recipe here.  Scroll to the bottom of the recipe and it says "print page" below the comments box.  I roll all of my cookies 3/8" thick and this dough does a great job of not spreading when well-chilled. For best results, chill overnight in the fridge.  Give it a try!  I like to use Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean's the best I've ever tried.  If you can't find it locally, you can order it on Amazon in the U.S.  If you can't find paste or order can scrape whole vanilla bean pods of their seeds and add it to the dough instead.  I would suggest 2 or 3 really want to see the little specks in this cookie and have a fragrant vanilla aroma when it bakes.  The Lor-Ann's emulsion is also available on Amazon if you can't find it locally.  I have gotten it at Hobby Lobby and at Michael's down here in The Valley.  It makes a delicious difference to the taste.  Shake both the paste and emulsion before using for best results.

So - here's a sharing of photos...with some commentary.  I'm still struggling with the stencils, but I assume, as my husband says, "it's a cookie...they will eat it".    I guess that is the absolute truth, but I really like them to be the best that they can be!

Large Turkey and Mini Pumpkins
I wrote a Turkey Tutorial last year and I mentioned that I felt like it needed a wing.  I finished my big turkeys this year and thought the same thing, but I had not remembered my comment that I would address that issue in 2013.  So, I thought, "how about a royal icing transfer?"  I'd finished everything last night and had some brown and ivory royal icing left over so I grabbed a piece of flat parchment paper and piped a brown "shape" and two lines of ivory...ran a needle tool down them for feathering and left it to dry last night.  I glued them on with some more brown icing, used a dry paint brush to neaten up where some squished out after I applied the transfers, and voila!  It was just the trick! 

I see so many cookie artists' work that I worry I am using somebody's idea without giving credit.  I try to go back and see if I can find pictures where I got the idea.  These little pumpkins are one of those ideas I know I got "somewhere" and I can't remember where.  I know I got the idea for the ivory pumpkin from LilaLoa's blog.  What I don't remember, is who I saw use lustre dust in the crevices to accent the pumpkin curves.  It wasn't a white pumpkin, but an orange one.  If I find it, I'll be sure to add in credit.  I waited until the pumpkin sections were dried and then I dipped a dry paint brush in some bronze edible lustre dust, tapped off the excess and just ran it down the seams.  I really like the effect! (Update 11/28/2013 - I was looking at some YouTube tutorials today and saw Haniela had done orange pumpkins painted with lustre dust...I think that may have been where I got the idea.  Here's the link to her tutorial if you are interested.  She does great work!)

Two different leaf techniques.  I usually suck at leaves.
I love these front two!
Okay - I had to stop in the midst of my blog post writing and try like crazy to find my inspiration for the front two cookies.  I know it was a "chalkboard" style of cookie - dark background and light leaf veins.  Checked Cookie Connection clips, my Facebook feed, Google images...nada zip!  Again, I'll apologize in advance.  I think it was someone sharing someone else's cookies on Facebook.  Any whoo.... I am not really very good at Fall Leaves as a subject matter.  I think it is from living in Texas my entire life and we don't really get the colored leaves so I haven't any real-life experience to draw from.  I coated everything with a different orange that I mixed up with orange, brown, and some other color I can't looked "Fallish" to me and less like Halloween.  I based coated the leaves and let them dry.  I remembered seeing a YouTube video from Ali Bee's Bake Shop which demonstrated speckling leaves with lustre dust.  So, I watched it again and did that on the back cookie.  Then I watched a YouTube video from SweetAmbsCookies that inspired me to paint the piped veins with lustre I did that! I was down to the last two leaves last night (I put aside stuff I'm not good at) and decided I was going to use an edible food marker (brown) and just draw veins.  I was tired and I didn't really want to pipe anything any more.  I let them dry but didn't like the way they looked so I got a brush and dipped dry bronze lustre dust and started dry painting the entire cookie.  The lustre dust changed the brown to a kind of silvery bronze color and I perked right up.  I loved it!  Then, I used some of the wet to paint a border around the two leaves.  They ended up being one of my favorites in the bunch!  AND SO EASY!  I don't use my markers enough.

Turkey stencil from Designer Stencils.
I made 6 larger rounds in hopes of having an easier time stenciling.  Some luck...some not.  I waited too long into the decorating process and my hands were tired and shaky...and my icing wasn't "just right" and I got some "under flow" with the stencil...not crisp and clean.  Oh well - I'll keep trying.  The pumpkins, acorns, and turkeys were much easier this year due to practice!  The acorn was a larger cutter I found in a set at Michael's.  I find I really like my mid-sized acorn better - it isn't so "round" and the caps look better when they are a bit smaller.'s a cookie...they will eat it!

More efforts at stenciling....
The lower left cookie ... well, I moved it before I finished stenciling the words at the bottom...and once you do that - there's no going back.  So, I used a food marker to write the words.  Necessity is the mother of invention (not that invented anything, it just sounded like the thing to say).  I am posting this picture mostly to show the cookie on the lower right side.  The stencil skills were sucky on the leaves...but the words were crisp.  Good grief!  However, I liked the border I made.  I used a tiny little leaf tip from PME... #ST50... to go with a scallop and dot border.  I liked the way it looked, so I'm sharing.

Another product.
This cookie was another experiment with borders.  I like multiple borders and I had a tip I'd never used because I couldn't figure it out.  It is a "spiked leaf" from PME and is #54.  I had it in with my star tips and when I sorted tips the other day I found it and looked it up.  I thought it was squished or something and then realized it was a leaf tip.  Huh, who knew?  Obviously not me!  I tried it out on this cookie as a border and while it was bigger than I expected, it was kind of cool.

Tired of looking at cookie pictures yet?  Yeah, me too...I have other things I should be packing these up to go out in the mail TODAY!

Here's the last one...

A stencil job I'm happy with!
This stencil turned out just the way I imagined it in my mind.  A little bit of maroon, some yellow, brown, and green leaf.  It came out fairly well I thought and I liked the shell and dot borders too.  Whew! (#13 Wilton star tip for the border).  All of my dots are using a PME 1.5 tip and a looser consistency of RI than I used to use.  I find if I space correctly, pipe straight up and down, and follow the Julia Usher school of "you should never have to push down a point if you have the right consistency of icing" (that's not a direct quote, but the general idea)...I get nicely rounded dots.

So, I have more cookies to make and I'll share those likely next week.  I won't have time for more blogging as we are ramping up for the big Gobble Gobble day.  Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving if you don't hear from me before then!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fall Decorated Sugar Cookies

A friend of a friend was in need of cookies to be used as favors at her November luncheon.  She had tried my cookies at a beach birthday party and asked me if I would do a few for her party.  I don't really sell cookies so I was hesitant...but as we visited, I liked her and decided I would do it.

Of course, nothing ever comes together exactly as expected.  She had said it would be mid-November and I told her I needed at least two weeks advance notice.  She, unexpectedly, had to reschedule her luncheon to November 6th...a time frame that really wasn't optimal for me.  However, always trying to help where I can, I planned out my various work really fast and thought "I can probably do this"...and then I ended up having to take two trips to Austin (two 700-mile round trips - one planned, one not planned) within the span of the week I needed to start work on the cookies!  Yikes!!!

She had requested 30 minis and wanted Fall-themes...acorns, pumpkins, that sort of thing.  I knew I could whip those out fairly easily, quoted a reasonable price, and went on down the road thinking thirty mini cookies would be easy-peasy.  NOT! 

I could not find my mini acorn cookie cutter (which I was sure I had), but I did have a medium-sized acorn.  I did not have a smallish-medium-sized pumpkin...only largish-medium, large, and mini (and the mini looked too small next to the acorns)...but I had an appropriate-sized apple...which I could make look like a pumpkin with no one being the wiser. I also had one-step-up in size from a mini Turkey.  I finally settled on those three.  I think they turned out quite cute.  I gave her 31 cookies - the extra in case one broke or she needed a stress snack. (Who doesn't need a stress snack when putting on a luncheon for 25 or so folks???)

The party favors for the very popular South Padre Island KOA water aerobics class! 
I hear instructor, Mary L., is really awesome.  They have a heated pool too. 
I might have to go some time!

While I was making those, I went ahead and made one  of the slightly larger pumpkins and 3 round scallops because I wanted to try out some stencils before I started my personal Thanksgiving cookies.  Glad I did.  I'm always learning something!  The cookies were barely large enough, but there was an unseen slope at the edge of the base-coated rounds and the stencils did not lay flat on the rounds, causing some smearing at the lower edges.  I also didn't have adequate space for the border I wanted and had to improvise.  Again, one of those things most people might not notice...but we cookiers would see it!

So, I now know I will use a slightly larger cookie for the round Thanksgiving stencils I bought from Designer Stencils.  I also will try decorating the flat bottom of the cookie instead of the top.  I learned that trick from another cookier.  She said she always decorates that way so the surface is level.  I probably won't do it always...but when I need a flat stencil surface, that may be the answer! 

The leaves on the cookie above the this one were
much more forgiving of the rounded edge than the
Gobble Gobble lettering was.  It was very challenging
and I had to work steadily with my needle tool
to get the letters to look like the word Gobble!

I also tried a multi-colored Fall leaf (one of 4 in another stencil set, also Designer Stencil product).  I was really pleased with it!  I'll be making more of those, using all of the 4 leaf shapes and working on my multi-color stencil technique.  I don't have it down "pat" just yet.  I tried to make the turkey feathers above be reddish at the top and yellowish in the middle...but they got muddled with brown.  I was more careful with the leaf below and I really like the look I got with the leaf.

I used the Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookie recipe for all of the cookies in this batch, as requested by Mary, the friend of a friend...and added a bit of the Princess Cake/Cookie Emulsion I discussed in my last blog post.  Makes a really tasty cookie! I'd considered making a Meringue Powder Butter Cream icing (the mouth feel is so much nicer than royal icing) but remembering how long it took to dry last time I did that...I knew I'd have to stick to RI this time.  I was lucky to get everything done in the short amount of time I had...didn't want to stack the cards against myself!

The order was delivered Tuesday for the Wednesday party and Mary seemed happy.  Woo Hoo!  One of the reasons I don't sell cookies in general is the stress I feel over worrying if the customer would like my cookies or not.  I'm my worst critic!  However, she said they were beautiful, I felt a warm glow, and I know she got a good deal getting bigger-than-mini cookies for a mini price.  I really think her guests will be pleased. Still, I cleared enough financially to get myself a nice I consider it work well-done!

The cookie on the left is a pumpkin cutter and the cookie on the right
is an apple cutter.  I think it worked out well and was more in-tune with
the size of the other cookies in the set.
I will share more cookies as I progress through my Autumnal baking endeavors.  By the way - I found a cute little set of graduated leaves and acorns at Michael's I'm good to go on all-sized acorns!  LOL!

I'm already starting to think about Christmas baking...are you?  I was slightly irritated when shopping yesterday...I could barely find any Thanksgiving stuff because Target, Michael's, Wal-Mart, and Kohl's had shoved over anything to do with Thanksgiving and were busily stocking Christmas stuff.  Christmas music was blaring in the stores.  It made me sad (but I still bought some Christmas baking morsels and a few other Christmas baking items because they'll likely be sold out if I don't get them now).

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!