Thursday, May 31, 2012

Here Comes the Sun (flower)...

Sunflowers always make me smile.  I love that they are big and showy without being pretentious.  I love the contrast of dark and bright.  I love that they shout "SUMMER" but without making me think of putting on a bathing suit.

So, what better cookies to help ring in summer than sunflowers?!?  You might want to know where the cutter came from.  I don't know.  If I remember correctly, this is a cutter my neighbor gave me when we lived in Alabama. It was hers and she thought I might be able to put it to good use.
{She probably didn't think it would take 7 years.}
If you still have a few more days of school left, these make really sweet teacher least, I hope they do because it's what kiddo's teachers are getting. ;)

First things first, sometimes it's hard to pipe a good circle.  (Actually, it's always hard for me.)
So, before these cookies baked, I lightly pressed a circle cutter into the dough to help with outlining.

Oh, and a deep brown color is sometimes hard to achieve without vast amounts of coloring.  I added just as *smidge* of black coloring to my brown...but just a smidge, though.  It can go from brown to black very quickly. 

To make the sunflower cookies, you'll need:

Use a #2 tip to outline the center of the sunflowers with brown icing.

Use a #2 tip to outline the petals in yellow.  Don't worry about doing each on individually now, you'll pipe over them later.  Plus, small filled spaces can sometimes collapse and crack. (Reserve some of this piping consistency yellow icing.)

Thin the brown and yellow icings with water, a bit at a time, stirring with a silicone spatula, until it is the consistency of a thick syrup.  You'll want to drop a "ribbon" of icing back into the bowl and have it disappear in a count of "one thousand one, one thousand two." Four is too thick, one is too thin.  Count of 2-3 is good.  Cover with a damp dishcloth and let sit for several minutes.

Stir gently with a silicone spatula to pop and large air bubbles that have formed.  Pour into squeeze bottles as needed.

Flood the centers with brown icing.  Use a toothpick to guide to edges and pop large air bubbles.

Flood the rest with yellow icing.  Use a toothpick to guide to edges and pop large air bubbles.

Let the cookies dry for at least one hour.

Use a small star tip to pipe green detailing around the center of the cookie.  Use a pulsing motion going around the cookie to create the "ruffle."

Use a #2 tip to add details to the flower petals.

Let the cookies dry uncovered 6-8 hours or overnight.

The next day, mix together equal amounts meringue powder and water.  Brush on the center of the cookies and shake on the chocolate sprinkles.  Shake off the excess.

{My original thought was to use chocolate covered sunflower seeds for the centers.  Do you know how hard it is to find BROWN chocolate covered sunflower seeds?  Well, it's hard.  Therefore, Chocolate Vermicelli. I kind of love it, too.} 
{They're like thin, delicate jimmies...and they taste really good and chocolatey.}

I hope your summer is filled with sunflowers...the real AND the cookie versions!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This post isn't really a post...

This post is to tell you that, well, I have nothing to post.

You see, I made this beautiful popcorn...Perfecto Popcorn, to be exact...and blogged about how to make fool-proof stovetop popcorn over on Bake at 350 Goes Savory.
Then, I used popcorn in two different dessert recipes.  Both of which were "meh"...neither of which were blog-worthy.  {Blog-worthy: it's totally a word.}

So until next time, my friends...I leave you with plain popcorn.  And ya know, I think that's how I like it best anyway.

Did you bake anything over the weekend? 

Friday, May 25, 2012


Do you know Heather from SprinkleBakes?

I hope that you already do, but if you don't, you are in for a treat!  Heather writes the blog SprinkleBakes and not only does she make amazing desserts, she's an artist!  She makes some of *the* most beautiful confections around.  Here, take a peek:

Lucky for us, in addition to her blog, Heather has a gorgeous new book!  It's called:

SprinkleBakes is filled with cookies, cakes and candies that truly are masterpieces.  You'll see that Heather works in sugar, but also color, texture and sculpture to create her confections.  In the book, she shares all of the recipes and techniques for each project.

A few of my favorites...
...strawberry mousse with joconde cake.  Wow. lollipops.  How fun are those?!?

...spiral cookies.  Totally making these!

...hard caramel.  I'm in love with this.

Did I mention the decorated cookies?!? And OH (!) the heart cake!!!  Wait until you see it.  Awesome.

Would you like a copy of SprinkleBakes?  Yes?  Oh good!  I have a copy to give you!
To enter the giveaway, please use the widget below to sign in and answer the question.
{I know there was some confusion last time, and now I think I have it figured out.}
Your comment will NOT appear in the blog comment section, but rest assured, you are entered.
 a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you'd like to leave a comment, but don't want to enter the giveaway, leave a comment in the usual way.  Otherwise, use the widget.
Entries will be accepted through midnight EST, May 28th.  Winner will be notified via email.  Good luck!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Graduation Peanut Butter Cup Push-Pops

Please tell me you do things like this, too...
A friend, let's call her Cheryl, tells you about making desserts in push-pop containers.  You then see a blog post about them.  You decide that you MUST have these containers, and NOW.  So, you buy a case (yes, a case), of them....where they sit in your guest room closet for almost a year.

I guess I needed a little push, so to speak, to use my push-pop containers and that came by way of Courtney Dial Whitmore's book, Push-up Pops.  While this project isn't in Courtney's book, I used many of her push-pop tips...and seeing her creations gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get started.

{If you don't have time to order push-pop containers, these little graduation cap toppers can easily be added to cupcakes instead.}

First, bake your cake.  I used a chocolate cake mix here.  (Go ahead, judge if you must.)  You'll want to bake your cake in a jellyroll or half sheet pan.  Bake and let it cool.

I used a peanut butter buttercream for the pops and you'll need a little for "graduation cap glue," so go ahead and make that while the cake cools.  (Recipe below.)

While the cake is cooling, make the graduation caps.  These are inspired by the *always* inspiring Bakerella and her graduation cap pops.

You will need:
  • large "button" sprinkles
  • sour spaghetti

and also...

  • Ghiradelli square chocolates
  • mini Reese's peanut butter cups, not the super tiny ones 
  • frosting for "glue" 
  1. Add some frosting to the bottom of the peanut butter cup,
  2. press on an upside-down chocolate square,
  3. add a bit of frosting to the sprinkle and attach to the square,
  4. use a toothpick to "draw" a line of frosting from the sprinkle,
  5. press on a sour spaghetti strand (you may want to trim it),
  6. place these in the refrigerator to set up while you assemble the pops.
Assembling is easy.  Press the push-pop container down onto the cake to cut to size.  Slide the cake into the container (I used another push-pop "plunger," trimmed of its raised edges to press the cake down).  Use a paper towel to wipe away any crumbs before piping the frosting.

Pipe in some frosting.  Keep adding layers until you reach the top.  Add a graduation cap topper.

Cute, huh?  Now I just need to get inspired to use the other 88 containers in my guest room closet.

Peanut Butter Buttercream

1 & 1/2 sticks salted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup Crisco shortening
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 lb. box powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup milk

Beat together the butter, shortening, and peanut butter until combined, about 3 minutes.   On low speed, add in the sifted powdered sugar in three additions, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl as needed.  Once the sugar has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 1 minute.

Add in the vanilla and the milk; beat until smooth.

{{psst...if you don't want to buy a case of containers, they are now easily accessible in smaller amounts on Amazon.}}

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lavender & Lemon Scones

No judging, ok?  I've had this little tin of dried culinary lavender in my cabinet for over a year.
I know, I know....that's a big no-no.  You see, sweet Aimee from Simple Bites gave me a tin of culinary lavender at Blissdom (in 2011). ;)  I just couldn't find the *perfect* recipe to try with I kept it in my cabinet and would just open the tin and take a whiff occasionally.

No judging, remember?

When Bon Appetit arrived in my mailbox complete with recipe for Lavender Scones, I knew this was the moment.

I changed the recipe up a bit....based on what I had on hand.  I also grated in the butter....a trick I learned from Cook's Illustrated a few years ago.  More on that in a minute.
In one word, I would describe these scones as "lovely."  In more words, they are sweet, flaky, and a little fancy.  Planning a tea party, or a ladies' brunch?  Make them. 

Don't be fooled though, even though they sound girly & dainty, Mr. E and the kiddo LOVED them!

Lavender & Lemon Scones
{makes 16, adapted from Bon Appetit}

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
3/4 cup sugar
1 TBSP baking powder
1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup half & half, plus more for brushing
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract)
sanding sugar
lemon curd

Place the butter in the freezer.  Preheat oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, lavender, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. 

On the large holes of a grater, grate the frozen butter and add to the flour mixture.  Stir gently, then rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until it resembles a coarse meal.

Whisk together the buttermilk, half & half, lemon zest and vanilla bean paste.  Add to the flour/butter mixture and stir until a shaggy dough forms.

Dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead about 5 times, until the dough comes together.  Pat into a 10 x 6" rectangle.  Halve the dough into two 5 x 6" sections.  Cut each section into fourths, then cut each square diagonally.  (A bench scraper is the perfect tool for this.)

Place 8 of the scones on the prepared baking sheet.  Brush lightly with half & half and sprinkle with sanding sugar.  Bake for 13-15 minutes, until golden and done.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, place the remaining 8 scones on another baking sheet and freeze in a single layer.  Once frozen, place in a freezer bag.  Bake from freezer as directed above.  Add a few more minutes of cooking time as necessary.  If baking all at once, move oven racks to the lower and upper thirds and rotate sheets during cooking.

Once the scones are cooled, serve with a dollop (or three) of lemon curd.  I used store-bought, but if you are looking to make your own, check out Sweetapolita's post on Citrus Curd.  It's heavenly.

Now that I've been bitten by the lavender bug, I think there's no turning back.  I see lavender sugar cookies in my future.  And hey, I might even buy a fresh tin! ;)

Thank you, Aimee

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to: Dry Luster Dust Application...Works for Me Wednesday

I love using luster dust to add a metallic shine and shimmer to my cookies.  Did you know you can apply it wet OR dry?
It's a little hard to see the effect of a dry luster dust application in photos sometimes. Think of it this way....dry luster dust is like a shimmery body powder.  Wet luster dust application is like a gold lame skirt.

The wet application is perfect for when you want an opaque finish that really transforms your cookie into silver or gold.  These First Communion Chalice cookies are a great example...and the tutorial for applying is there for you as well. 

Instead of using the wet application for the keys, I kept the cookies in the same color palette by adding the luster dust dry.

Adding the luster dust dry lets you see the original cookie color, but adds a sheer, metallic shimmer. 

It really couldn't be easier.  Let your cookies dry overnight, then use a clean and dry paintbrush to brush on the luster.
Can you see the difference? It's a little hard to pick up in a photo.  The cookie in front has luster; the one in the back doesn't.

How about now?

The same luster dust color I used here can be found at Sweet! 

Happy lustering! 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Picket Fence & Sold Sign Cookie Tutorial, as promised

See, I didn't forget.  I promise.  Kinda.

I told you when I posted the New Home cookie collection that I'd be back with the tutorials for the rest of the cookies.  Well, it's been a week and a half, but I'm back.  Time really does fly, huh?

Let's just get down to business, shall we?  Here's what you're going to need:

  • picket-fence* & rectangle sugar cookies
  • royal icing, divided and tinted with AmeriColor Bright White, Egg Yellow, Turquoise, Deep Pink, Electric Pink, and Leaf Green
  • disposable icing bags
  • couplers and tips, #2, #3, #1
  • toothpicks
  • squeeze bottles

*First, you're going to need a template for the picket fence.  This shape was the very first cookie shape I ever made from a template.  I remember about 10 years ago, standing at Michael's, looking at their wooden cut-out and thinking, that would make a really cute cookie. 
I bought it and I wash it just like I wash my wooden spoons.  Just lay the clean shape on your dough, and cut around it with a paring knife.  This particular one takes about a zillion cuts.
{If you're feeling ambitious, you could cut out the openings in the center.  I am not ambitious.}

Alrighty, now that we have the picket fence cookies ready, let's decorate...

Use #2 tips to outline the fence in yellow and sold sign post and sign in white.  Use a toothpick to scrape the outlines where they meet on the post.  Reserve some of each of the yellow icings for piping details.

Use the yellow with a #2 tip to add dots connecting the sign and post.

Thin the white icing with water, a bit at a time, stirring with a silicone spatula, until it is the consistency of a thick syrup.  You'll want to drop a "ribbon" of icing back into the bowl and have it disappear in a count of "one thousand one, one thousand two." Four is too thick, one is too thin.  Count of 2-3 is good.  Cover with a damp dish towel and let sit for several minutes.

Stir gently with a silicone spatula to pop and large air bubbles that have formed.  Pour into a squeeze bottle.

Flood the cookies with the thinned icing.  Use a toothpick to guide to edges and pop large air bubbles.

Use a #1.5, 1 or 2 tip to pipe the fence posts and "nails" on the fence.  Use a #3 tip to fill in the sign with turquoise icing, using a back and forth motion. 

Let the cookies sit for 1 hour.

Use #1 tips to pipe the flower details, in pink and green icings. For the swirly flowers, use a #1 tip to make a larger dot in the lighter pink, then pipe a swirl on top in the darker pink with another #1 tip.
Use a #1 tip to pipe "SOLD" on the sign in yellow icing.

Have you ever made cookies from a template?