Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Recipe Cards...Works for Me Wednesday

Don't you love how easy it is to find a recipe these days?  Hop on a blog, check out a website, email a friend and, boom, seconds later, the recipe you were searching for...or maybe the recipe you didn't even know you needed...is printing out and in your hot little hands.

But you know what I miss?  Recipe cards.

Sweet recipe cards.  Recipe cards written out in actual handwriting.  Recipe cards that evoke memories as soon as your see them...not just of the recipe, but of the person who wrote them.

When I was in my 20's, I asked my mom to write down some of her recipes for me....she gave me a whole recipe box of them.
Now, the "recipe cards" are actually index cards, but I wouldn't trade seeing her handwriting on them for the world. 

Invitation Consultants emailed me about their recipe cards and I did a little happy dance.  I mean...how CUTE are these?!?
They have many different designs...and they are customizable!  Recipe cards make a perfect gift for a bridal shower, housewarming, birthday, or well, for yourself.

So, not one, not two, but FOUR of you are going to get your very own set of 20 custom, adorable recipe cards!!!
{...with your very own name, not mine!} ;)
To enter, pop on over to the Invitation Consultants website and leave a comment here (on this post) telling me which design you might pick.
(Don't worry, you can change your mind if you win.)

{Open to residents of US and Canada. Enter through Monday, February 6th, 8pm CST. Winners will be contacted via email.}

Giveaway now closed. Congrats to Alisha, LaVonne, Shelly & Molly. Enjoy your cards! :) 

Bringing recipe cards back....works for me.


Friday, January 27, 2012

True Love

Ah, romance. 
These cookies were inspired by some of the most famous romances in history.

Lucy & Ricky....obviously.

Danny & Sandy...as a young girl, I was fairly certain I would don a leather outfit and high heels & sing "You're the One that I Want" at a carnival with my true love.
{It hasn't happened. YET.}

Homer & Marge...unconditional love if I've ever seen it.

Ken & Barbie...have you SEEN Toy Story 3?

Jim & Pam...I've only seen a few seasons of The Office on cable, but Jim & Pam are SO DARN SWEET!  Oh, I just love them.

Carrie & Big...don't tell me if they break up in the movies.  I prefer my Carrie/Big memories right where they ended for me, with the last TV show.

Gomez & Morticia...they just might be my all-time favorite TV romance.  Go back and watch The Addams Family again.  They make me smile EVERY time! ♥

I asked Mr. E if he could name some famous couples.  His first response? "Charles and Diana."  My (yelled) reply, "CHARLES AND DIANA?!?"  He looked at me like I was the crazy one.  After he explained himself for a minute, it occurred to me.  "Do you mean William and Kate?!?"  Him: "Yes."  Men.

No true love list would be complete without Rhett & Scarlett.  Every time I read Gone with the Wind, I hope they'll run across the yard at Tara and into each other's arms.  It never happens.  Darn it.

I had a few more on my list (Elvis & Priscilla, Fred & Wilma, Han & Leia, PW & MM, Roy & Dale) but as is always the case with "writing" on cookies, I had several mistakes.  Even on the "good ones,"  my handwriting is not as cute as it was in my head. :)

These are as simple as an outline and fill with royal icing...
  • I used AmeriColor Super Black for the outline and writing,
  • #3 tip for the outline, #1 tip for the writing,
  • hearts: soft pink, deep pink mixed with electric pink, and super red (all AmeriColor)
  • to avoid bleeding, I let the flooded hearts sit for a few hours before adding the names
Easy, peasy.

Actually, I liked the way they looked plain, too.  Simple black outline.  Love it every time.

What names would you put on YOUR true love cookies?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's not you; it's your oven...Works for me Wednesday

A few years ago, we lived in a rent house...the rent house-that-must-not-be-named.
{It was not my favorite.}

Anyway, sometimes when I was baking, the kitchen would get REALLY WARM and my cookies would come out over baked.   So, one day, I invested in an oven thermometer. 
{They're really inexpensive.  This one is from Target and was about $7.}

What do you know, that oven would sometimes cycle all the way up to 500 (!!!) before cooling back down to 350.  It wasn't my fault!  It was my oven!!!

It's easy enough to check, just hang the thermometer inside your oven, let your oven heat up for about 15 minutes. You'll want it to come to the preheated temperature and stay there for 10 minutes or so, then check it.
My current oven showed exactly 350 (when set at 350)...but it took several minutes of standing with the oven door open to get my camera to focus on it.

Once you know if your oven is running cool or hot, you'll be able to adjust your oven temp when setting it.

One more tip....check to see if your oven has any hot spots.
Place pieces of white bread on a large cookie sheet and bake at 450 for about 10 minutes or so...until browned.

Now, take a look at the bread.  Are some pieces more browned than others?  It looks like I have a "cool spot" in the front left of my oven.  If you do notice a big difference in how the bread browned, be sure to rotate your pans during baking.

Blaming baking problems on my oven?  Works for me! ;) 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hazelnut Cappuccino Cupcakes (aka Where I Fall in Love with 7-Minute Frosting)

I have a slight obsession with the hazelnut cappuccino.  At this point, I'm pretty sure my blood type is O-Hazelnut.

I love them so much that I was fantasizing about how yummy a hazelnut cappuccino cupcake would be.  The next day at the grocery store, I found two bottles of this in the clearance section:
{That's a sign, people.  And, yes, I check the clearance section of the grocery store.  I only wish the tags were prettier.}

Anyhoo...if you LOVE hazelnut like I do, I hope you'll love these cupcakes.  The cakes themselves are a light, coffee-flavored cupcake, topped with a hazelnut syrup.
For the frosting, I wanted something that was like the foamy milk on a cappuccino, not buttery, not tangy, just fluffy.  I decided to use 7-minute frosting (my first time ever).  The frosting is glorious, fluffy, shiny, and beautiful....infused with hazelnut syrup and a little drizzle on top.
{Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes.}

IF you DON'T like hazelnut syrup...I'm looking at you, Mr. E...make the recipe, omitting the syrup, and call them Cafe au Lait Cupcakes, or Latte Cupcakes, or plain ol' cappuccino cupcakes.

Hazelnut Cappuccino Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

1 cup plus 2 TBSP milk
1 & 1/2 tsp espresso powder
2 tsp vanilla
1 and 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
5 large egg whites
3 and 1/4 cup sifted cake flour (sift first, then measure)
1 and 1/2 TBSP baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 and 3/4 cups sugar
1 TBSP hazelnut syrup


Combine the milk with the espresso powder and vanilla. (Look for instant espresso powder near the Sanka.)  Leave on the counter to come to room temperature.  Set out the butter and egg whites to come to room temperature as well.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350.  Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.  Set aside.

Lightly whisk the sifted cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Once the butter has come to room temperature, beat until smooth.  Gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy.

On low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture, ending with the flour.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions.

In a different bowl, use the whisk attachment to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold in a bit of the beaten egg whites into the mixture until incorporated, then add the remainder, gently folding until combined.

Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Place on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes.  Lightly brush with 1 tablespoon hazelnut syrup.

After 10 minutes, remove the cupcakes from the pans and cool completely on the racks.

7-Minute {Hazelnut} Frosting

1 and 1/2 cups, plus 2 TBSP, sugar (divided)
2/3 cup water
2 TBSP light corn syrup
6 egg whites, room temperature
1 TBSP hazelnut syrup, plus more for drizzling

Place 1 and 1/2 cups sugar, water and corn syrup in a medium saucepan.  Clip on a candy thermometer so that it is not touching the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.  Once the mixture reaches a boil, stop stirring and cook until it reaches 230 degrees.

Meanwhile, once the syrup starts boiling, place the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on medium-high, using the whisk attachment, until soft peaks form.  Add the remaining 2 TBSP sugar, beat to combine.

Once the syrup reaches 230 degrees, immediately remove from heat.  While the mixer is running on medium low, slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl into the beaten egg whites.  Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form and the frosting is cool.  This should take about 7 minutes. :)
Stir in the tablespoon of hazelnut syrup.
{Have you seen Despicable Me?  I just wanted to yell, "It's so FLUFFY!!!" 

Transfer to a large piping bag fitted with a large tip.  (I used a closed star tip.)  Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes.  Drizzle on a bit more of the hazelnut syrup on top of the piped frosting.

 See? What did I tell you?  Fluffy, shiny, GLORIOUS!!!
I'm officially in love with 7-minute frosting. 
If you were here, I would share. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Starting a Cookie Cutter Collection...Works for Me Wednesday

So, you want to start baking and decorating cookies?  Well, there's no reason why you need to fill your guest room closet with over 300 cookie cutters.  {Ahem.}

Here are a few to get you started on your collection...

Circle, Square and Rectangle.  These babies are obvious multi-taskers.  Squares can be a little tricky to find.  I asked for them at my local bakery supply, and the man there told me to get a ruler and hand-cut them.  After I stopped laughing, I left the store, hopped online and found one. 

Scallops.  Oh, how I love a scalloped edge.  Scallops = instant cute, instant pretty.  You don't need every shape with a scalloped edge, but I'd at least get one.

Hearts.  This is about a third of my heart cookie cutter collection.  I love hearts....how can you not?  Hearts are always appropriate.

Daisy and Candy Corn.  Daisies are such cute and easy cookies.  They're adorable in their own, but I love to throw them in with another shape to make an assortment. (And don't think the shape is just limited to flowers.) Candy Corn...I know, that sounds weird, but the shape is perfect for making things other than candy corns.  How about a box of popcorn, or a face?

Present, Ornament and Tiered Cake.  All three of these are multi-taskers.  Presents: birthdays, Christmas...you name it.  Ornaments:  every Christmas seems to bring some new design for the good ol' ornament cutter.  Like this or this or this.  Tiered Cake?  Weddings, bridal showers, birthdays...this is one of my favorite cutters of all.

Now, where to GET cookie cutters?  Honestly, some of these have been in my collection for YEARS, and I've long forgotten where I picked them up.  Thank goodness for Google!  Try searching for the specific cookie cutter shape...even put it in quotes, such as "scalloped circle cookie cutter."

Here are a few websites I would check as well:
Do you have a favorite cookie cutter? 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Do YOU Have Valentine's Day on the Brain?

Are you thinking Valentine's Day already?  It's kind of hard not to considering Valentine cards and candy have been out in stores since December 26th.
(Or earlier...I'm looking at you, Hobby Lobby.)

So, if you want to get a jump on those Valentine cookies...and as far as I'm concerned, lovey-dovey cookies are appropriate ANY time of year....here are some ideas for you.

Scrabble for Sweeties...some of my favorite cookies ever.  Made for some of my favorite people ever.

Olive You Martini Cookies....get it?  Olive you?

Keep it simple...sparkly red cookies with va-va-vanilla.

OK...wanna go fancy?  How about some lacy, black, red and white cookies?

Roses.  More tasty (and cheaper) than ordering a dozen roses.

Carve your name in a tree, er, cookie.  

So, are YOU ready for {{heart}} day?!? 

PS...if you haven't been over to the savory side lately, here's what you're missing:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ladies (and Gents), start your ovens...

I am not kidding you when I say that these are some of the best cookies I have EVER EATEN.
{You guys....I eat a LOT of cookies.}

Sure...they look all innocent.

And then...
These are Nutella and Sea Salt Stuffed Sugar Cookies from my friend Dara over at Cookin' Canuck.  I had the pleasure of meeting Dara in December...which was really cool considering I've bookmarked pretty much every.single.one of her recipes.

She's sweet as can be, totally adorable, and well, obviously a genius.  I mean, Nutella & sea salt stuffed IN a buttery, sugar cookie?!?  Only a genius can come up with that.

I'm going to send you over to Dara's for the recipe...because it's perfect...but I'll walk you through it.

First, you'll need a helper.  Preferably one who has just rolled out of bed, hasn't brushed his hair, but hopefully has brushed his teeth. (But, you never know with a 12-year-old boy.)

You'll need some Nutella.  You'll measure out little bits of it and plop it in the freezer.

In the meantime, you'll make the cookie dough.
{I love seeing my boy using the scoop & sweep flour measuring method.}

We used this flaky sea salt for our cookies.
The flakes were REALLY big, so we cut down just a bit on the sea salt flakes called for in the recipe. Otherwise, we just followed Dara's perfect recipe.

So, you'll scoop them out, fill with Nutella and sea salt, roll back up and then, roll in SUGAR!  {sigh}

I found it easier to scoop a bunch at a time with my cookie scoop, then split them, while my helper added the Nutella and salt.

Even so, your hands may wind up looking like this...

You'll want to cool them on a wire rack, but do me a favor...
...eat one warm?  Please?  For me?

Now, like I said, these are some of the most delectable cookies I've ever eaten.  The true test in our house is kiddo's nostril flare.  If the nostrils flare, you have reached deliciousness.  Let's check...


Title this shot, "Mom, can we stop with the pictures now?" ;)

Want the recipe? Let me answer that for you. You do.
Click here to get it! 
Thank you, Dara, for your evil genius cookie skills!!!