Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Perfecto Graham Cracker Crust . . . Works for Me Wednesday

works for me wednesday at we are that family

Here is my recently discovered trick for making perfect graham cracker crusts....use a measuring cup to press the crust mixture into the pie pan!

Using a measuring cup helps keep the crust even, makes the sides pretty and keeps your fingers from getting buttery.  (Not that buttery fingers were ever a BAD thing.)

{If you're so inclined, you can even lick the bottom of the measuring cup when you're finished. I'm not saying I did that.}

This is a great recipe for graham cracker crust...I used it again this week for Mr. E's birthday pie.  More on that later....

Graham Cracker Crust
{source: Betty Crocker Cookbook (Bridal Edition) }

1 and 1/2 cup finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
1/3 c. butter, melted (I used salted)
3 TBSP sugar

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine all of the ingredients.  Press into the bottom and sides of a 9" pie pan. 
Bake 10 minutes.  Let cool completely before filling.

So simple and utterly yummy!  Graham Cracker Crust works for me!  What's working for YOU this week?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year . . .

...or it will be in 3 days.  Are you ready?  Are you ready for PUMPKIN season?

My sister has a laugh at my expense every year because once September 1st rolls around, it is all-pumpkin-all-the-time around here.  It becomes a slight obsession.

{PS....Starbucks, I'll be at your door Wednesday morning....hoping those Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins are in the bakery case.  And if they're not, be prepared for some tears.}

I want you to be prepared, so here is a little pumpkin bread recipe for you. 

Pumpkin Bread
{Just slightly modified from my girl, Paula Deen 's The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook}

3 and 1/3 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 and 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
3 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
2/3 c. water
1/4 c. pumpkin seed kernels

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set aside.

{If you're wondering about what whole nutmeg looks like, this is it.  There are fancy nutmeg graters, but I just use my small handheld grater with the tiny holes.}

Beat the sugar and oil together until combined.  Beat in the eggs and mix, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Add pumpkin and blend.  Add the water and blend completely.

Slowly add the flour mixture and beat on low until combined.  Pour into loaf pans.

Roughly chop the pumpkin seed kernels, I like to leave some whole, and sprinkle on top of batter. (I got these in the bulk section of my grocery store.)

Bake for 1 hour, or more, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool in the pans on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.  Remove from pans and let cool completely.

Want more pumpkin?  Here are some goodies from last year...

1. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars
2. Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
3. Pumpkin Cream Cheese

Happy Pumpkin Season, Everyone!!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cookies for Baby's Baptism

When a fellow volunteer at the food pantry asked me to make cookies for her sweet baby's baptism, I was so honored!

Kara is one of those really organized people.  She even provided me the cookie cutter, just like she did when I made cookies for her sister's 40th birthday party Come to think of it, Kara, would you like to be my personal cookie cutter shopper? 

Anyhoo, back to the cookies...the napkins for the party were a pretty yellow with a dark brown cross, so we added a branch for the dove to carry to incorporate those colors.

{This idea came from a magazine that I saw YEARS ago. It was a Christmas dove carrying a holly branch.  So, keep this in mind; Christmas is only 122 days away, people!}

To make the cookies, you'll need:
  • royal icing in white, brown and yellow (Americolor Bright White, Chocolate Brown and Egg & Lemon Yellow)
  • tips: #2 and #1
  • disposable icing bags
  • squeeze bottle
Using a  #2 tip, outline the cookie in white royal icing. 

Thin the white icing (reserve a bit for later) with water, a little at a time, until it is the consistency of thick syrup.  Cover with a damp dishtowel and let sit several minutes.

Stir gently with a rubber spatula to pop any large air bubbles that have formed. Transfer to a squeeze bottle.

Fill in the outlined cookie with the flood icing.  Use a toothpick to spread into sides and corners.

Let sit 1 hour.

With the reserved white icing and #2 tip, add detail on wings, tail and add an eye.

Using another #2 tip, pipe the branch in dark brown.

With a #1 tip, pipe yellow flowers/berries on the branches.

Let dry overnight before packaging.

Thank you, Kara, for letting me be part of your baby's big day!

If you haven't already, be sure to enter the giveaway going on right now!  You could turn YOUR blog into a book!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Turn *Your* Blog into a BOOK! (a giveaway)

Have you ever wanted to turn your blog into a book?  Not the kind where you write a proposal and send it off to an agent for rejection. {Ahem.} But, an actual copy of YOUR words, YOUR pictures...YOUR BLOG.
I love this giveaway from Blog2Print!

Blog2Print will print your blog in book form.  They have lots of different options.....hard cover or paperback, comments included or not, etc.

For my book, I chose a paperback version without comments.  (Although, I'm thinking of making an entire book of my friend Teresa's comments because, honestly, they are book-worthy!)

Blog2Print also gives the option of placing the pictures exactly as they are on your blog, or condensing your pictures to better fit on the page.  I did the condensed version, otherwise my blog might have been one single post.  You know how I like the pictures!

You also select the date range for printing.  I was able to get my posts about my dad and my Uncle Mike in my book and that makes me very happy!

With the $40 credit Blog2Print generously provided me for a book, mine turned out to be about 90 pages!
I love that someday, I'll be able to give this to kiddo and say, "remember when you were 11 and I was either in the kitchen or on the computer 24/7?  Here's what I was up to."

{I can also show this to my mother-in-law who doesn't have a computer and is wondering just what the heck a "blog" really is. ;)}

To win a $40 credit to Blog2Print of your very own,
just tell me.....what blog would you print? Is it about food, your babies, your travels...?

For an extra entry, tweet:
" Turn YOUR blog into a book...a @blog2print giveaway from @bakeat350tweets! http://ow.ly/2t9u6 "
...and leave a separate comment to let me know you did.

Random drawing to be held Sunday, August 29th at 8pm CST.   Giveaway now closed. Good Luck!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Homemade (chocolate-filled) Nutter Butters

After making Frosted Animal Cookies, I guess I had store-bought cookies on the brain.  I had Nutter Butter Brain.  There was no stopping it.

But these are BETTER than Nutter Butters.  These are thick, soft, homemade Nutter Butters topped with peanut butter royal icing (!) and filled with chocolate ganache.  Oh yeah, babe.

First, you'll need the peanut butter cookies.  These are peanut butter roll-out cookies slightly modified from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. Roll them out a bit thinner than you would a regular sugar cookies for decorating since you'll be putting 2 together.

I used my bikini top cutter for the peanut. :)
Next, you'll need peanut butter royal icing.  I had heard royal icing goes wonky if mixed with fat, but I threw caution to the wind and added 4 TBSP of peanut butter to my finished royal icing.  (I also added some brown AmeriColor food coloring.)  The icing *did* deflate and would not form a stiff peak again, but it was thick enough for piping.  It even dried smooth and shiny.

Would I cover an entire cookie with it?  No.  It did crack in places, like here:

Next up, my old friend, chocolate ganache.  Make it, let it set up a bit and pipe or spread it between two cookies.
{Or just eat it by the spoonful, I won't tell.}

Peanut Butter Roll-Out Cookies
{modified from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion}

1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural)
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1/4 c. sour cream
3 TBSP cornstarch
3 c. flour

In a large bowl, beat the butter through vanilla until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat until combined.

Add half the sour cream, all of the cornstarch and half of the flour; beat well.  Add the remaining sour cream and flour, mixing just until combined.

Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and flatten into a disc.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin and cut with a cookie cutter dipped in flour. (got flour? :))  Place the cut cookies on prepared sheets and pop in the freezer for 5 minutes before baking.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until set.  Remove from baking sheet and let cool completely on a cooling rack.

Now, pipe the cookies with peanut butter royal icing, using a #2 tip.

Chocolate Ganache

1/2 c. heavy cream
6 oz. bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate, chopped
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until hot and steamy.  Tiny bubbles will appear around the edges.  Pour over the chocolate and let sit 5 minutes.

Stir the mixture until combined, but do not over stir, or the mixture will look "bubbly." (But still perfectly edible...trust me.)  Gently stir in the vanilla.  Let the ganache sit until it has cooled and thickened.
Homemade Nutter Butters, Frosted Animal Cookies ...anyone care to guess what is coming next?!?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Taking Food Pictures at Night . . . Works for Me Wednesday

works for me wednesday at we are that family

My favorite food pictures are ones taken outside or near a window with good light.  But a lot of times, I make cookies at night.  I wanted to take pictures for tutorials, but didn't like posting pictures with terrible nighttime lighting on the blog.

Then I read a post over at Steamy Kitchen about the Lowel Ego Digital Imaging Light.  I bought one...and it works for me.  Let me show you the difference.

This picture was taken at night WITHOUT the light:

This picture was taken at night WITH the light:
Both pictures were edited...brightness and contrast adjusted...but can you see the difference?

What didn't work for me?  The price. $88!  I don't know about you, but if I have an extra $88, I'm getting a cheap pedicure, a cute new pair of shoes, a Starbucks and a cupcake. (Not necessarily in that order.)

I got this for FREE!  Yes, FREE!  Have you heard of Swagbucks?  I heard bloggers talking about it for months before I signed up.  All you do is use Swagbucks as your search engine. (The easiest thing to do is to download the toolbar.) Every so often when you search, you get "bucks."  These bucks can be redeemed for prizes like gift cards from Amazon, Starbucks, Sephora, etc.

THAT'S how I got my light...with "bucks" redeemed for an Amazon gift card. Rumor has it, several bloggers paid for all their Christmas gifts using Swagbucks last year!!!

Now, if someone refers you, that person gets some "bucks."  Please don't feel like you have to sign up referred by me.  If you'd like to, you can here.  OR, just go the home page and sign up on your own.

Here's what I'm saving up for now:
Nikon D3000 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens

I'd love to hear your photography hints or what camera YOU use!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! COOKIES!

It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I even learned what a Wubbzy was (I'm old). My cousin's little girl, Violet (don't you LOVE that name?), was turning 3. Her party was Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! themed and she needed Wubbzy  cookies.

To tell you the truth, I was a little crushed that kids weren't watching Blue's Clues anymore. You see, Steve and I had a relationship. Some days, he was the only adult contact I had until my husband got home...and he and I became *thisclose*.  (Then he left and they brought Joe on board, who might have been cuter, but didn't have Steve's charm. But I digress.)

Back to Wubbzy....character cookies make me nervous. Just look at Batman. So, I took the chicken's way out and used my icing printer.

But, I think the key to these cookies is the sprinkles.

I really like edible image cookies with a decorative edge. That's probably because I never get them on exactly centered.  Here's an example of edible image cookies with a piped edge.

If you don't have an icing printer, you can usually have them printed for you at a bakery supply shop...call ahead, you'll probably need to format the image for them. I've even heard you can get them from the grocery store!

Just cut the images and peel away from the backing and place on wet royal icing.  Allow 2 days of drying time. For the sprinkles, mix equal parts meringue powder and water. Brush on the edges and sprinkle. Voila!

Happy birthday, Violet!

Now, I'm going to check hulu for my old friend Steve.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tips for Using Cookie Cutters . . . Works for Me Wednesday

works for me wednesday at we are that family
I've been getting a lot of questions about cookie cutters lately.

So, today we're talkin' cookie cutters...

There are 6 "tricks" I use and they are really simple.

1. Flour the cookie cutter.  I keep a little salad plate of flour right by my rolling area and dip my cookie cutter in it between cuts.  This keeps the cutter from sticking to the dough and stretching or tearing the shape. 
    2. Flour the rolling surface, and the rolling pin, and the dough.  As you can see from the picture, I flour everything!  I think cooking shows have scared us away from flour when rolling cookies.  Here's what I do....I sprinkle a liberal amount of flour on the rolling surface and spread it out with my hands.  Then, I run my rolling pin over it to coat the pin. Finally, I take a chunk of dough in a ball shape and roll it across the surface.  I knead this in to get rid of the super "stickiness" of the fresh dough.  This is the recipe I use and it works just fine with a generous dusting of flour.

      3. I love using my marble cutting board, but if you don't have one, roll the dough on a sheet of wax or parchment paper.  Whether using marble or wax paper, I keep it dusted with flour...even if I have to re-coat it every so often.  I find the cut shapes come off the wax paper easier than my counter top.  

      4. Once all of the shapes are cut from one rolled piece, gently lift off the excess and put it back in the bowl.  Now, the cut shapes will lift easily to the cookie sheet and the excess dough can be re-rolled. 
      5. To re-roll dough, knead it into the fresh dough to make it all cohesive. Then, just re-roll as normal. 

      6. To help the cut-outs from spreading, place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before baking.
        If you don't have a cutter in the shape you need, make a template to hand-cut the cookie dough.

        And I've gotten a LOT of emails about this week asking where I get my cookie cutters.  The truth is, I get them anywhere I see them....the bakery supply store, craft store, grocery store, foodie shops. Here's a short list of places to find great cutters online:
        {Portions of this post first appeared on as a guest post on Muthering Heights.}

          Thursday, August 5, 2010

          Cookies for a 2nd Birthday

          Aren't second birthdays sweet? They can hold up 2 fingers when you ask how old they are and say, "this many."  They really haven't gotten into the terrible twos yet...and they still NAP!

          (Mine is 11, so that's how I'm choosing to remember it. When he's 30, I'll be waxing nostalgic about his teenage years.)
          These cookies incorporate two of my favorite cookie decorating tricks...dots and a #16 tip.

          Here's what you need to make them:
          • tiered cake cookies
          • royal icing tinted with Americolor Gel Pastefood coloring in turquoise, egg yellow, super red and regal purple
          • #3 plain tip
          • #2 plain tip
          • #16 star tip
          • disposable icing bags fitted with couplers
          • squeeze bottles
          • toothpicks
          Once the cookies are cooled, pipe a border in turquoise royal icing using a #3 tip.  Let dry 15-30 minutes.

          Reserve some piping consistency icing in turquoise and red.  Thin the remaining icings with water, a bit at a time, stirring with a rubber spatula until it is the consistency of thick syrup.  Cover with a damp dishtowel and let sit several minutes.

          Stir the icings gently to pop and air bubbles that have risen to the surface.  Transfer thinned icing to squeeze bottles.

          Working 6-8 cookies at a time, flood the cookies withe the yellow icing.  Use a toothpick to guide along edges and to pop large air bubbles.

          Starting with the first cookie flooded, drop dots in the other colors onto the wet yellow icing.

          {This is what happens when you get distracted.}

          Let dry for at least one hour.

          Using a #2 tip and reserved red icing, pipe a number 2 on the top of each cake.

          Change the tip on the bag of turquoise icing to a #16. Using a pulsing motion, pipe the detail on the cookies.

          Let dry overnight.

          I'll be linking this post to my friend Cheryl's I'm Lovin' It linky party!