My New Obsession: Decorated Cookies

Ok confession time: I have a new obsession with cookie decorating. It started with the cookies I made for my son’s moustache party. I decided I could’ve done a much better job and needed to up my game. When we decided to throw our good friend a surprise 30th birthday party, I took the opportunity to I try my hand at piping and flooding cookies.

I watched numerous (too many??) tutorials for this and in the process discovered quite a few great blogs, but my favourite by far is SweetAmbs – her work is UNBELIEVABLE. It is truly edible art. Even then, I don’t know that I could bring myself to eat them; they’re all just so pretty! I now know what I aspire to create – I’m going to need a LOT of practice!

The party theme was mason jars, but I couldn’t find a mason jar cookie cutter, so I decided to make small gift cookies using a square cutter. I made regular sugar cookies following the recipe from Canadian Living. The party colours were turquoise and light pink so I decided to flood the cookies in the aqua and add pink “ribbon” and bows.

While my cookies weren’t even close to perfect, I was pretty happy with the outcome considering it was my first time.

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Like I mentioned, the perfectionist in me wasn’t 100% satisfied with the final outcome, but it’s all about trial and error. A few things I learned from this first batch:

  • In hindsight, I should have flooded the cookies and put the ribbon detail on wet on wet, but I had run out of royal icing ingredients so ended up doing it in two stages – first flooding and then adding the ribbon and bow once it had dried (the next day).
  • Another mistake I made was storing the flooded cookies in a tupperware container overnight between the stages. I used wax paper between the layers, but the icing hadn’t 100% dried so some of them had weird discoloration. Luckily, the ribbon and bow covered most of that up.

I used #2 and #3 piping tips (#2 for piping, #3 for flooding). Another confession: I used pre-made royal icing mix that I bought from Bulk Barn.  I needed to play around with my icing consistency as this is really key to making successful cookies.

Last week, I found an 18 pack of awesome fall and Halloween cookie cutters (for only $10!!) so I was very excited to get decorating some Halloween cookies.

How awesome are these!

How awesome are these!

I used the same sugar cookie recipe as before but I added some pumpkin spice (ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves). I only used the pumpkin, spider web and ghost cutters for starters because I didn’t want to get too crazy with the different colours of icing I’d be using.

I decided to try making my own royal icing this time. I followed the recipe from Joy of Baking using meringue powder and it was SO easy. Getting the right consistency can be a bit tricky but I added my water one tablespoon at a time and if I overdid it with the water, just added a bit of powdered sugar to adjust. It was much easier than I expected. I also decided to add some vanilla extract. One thing I learned about adding flavouring to royal icing is to stick with extracts and stay away from oil as it’ll change the properties of the icing.

This time around, I also wanted to try a few techniques I’d seen on the many (many) video tutorials I watched including marbling and transfers.

I started off with the pumpkins – I only had 2 piping bags left and only have one #2 and one #3 piping tip so I actually just used Ziploc bags with the corners cut out to pipe and flood the pumpkin cookies. It worked surprisingly well! Not to mention it’s much more cost effective. My green icing was a little thicker than I would have wanted but I think they turned out ok in the end.

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I did the pumpkins in the afternoon while the baby napped (she was nice enough to give me a nice long one J) and when I was done the pumpkins, I piped out the spider body transfers using my purple icing. Unfortunately, the baby woke up just as I was starting so I had to rush to finish them and the designs on their backs aren’t as nice as I’d planned. I let them out to dry for the afternoon.

I made the spider bodies by piping a large dot and dragging the bottom a bit with a toothpick for the body and a smaller dot for the head.

I made the spider bodies by piping a large dot and dragging the bottom a bit with a toothpick for the body and a smaller dot for the head.

I finished the rest of the cookies later that night after the kids went to bed (so forgive the poor lighting in the pictures!) For the spider webs, I piped the outside in purple (I’m not a fan of black and wanted something more colourful), flooded with white.

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I then went back with the purple (on the wet icing) to create the cobwebs in a circular pattern.

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I just used a toothpick to marble the web pattern, starting in the center and lightly dragging out towards the corners.

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While the icing was still wet, I plopped the spider body onto the cookie. I waited for them to dry a bit then went back to pipe the legs directly onto the cookie.

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These were honestly so much fun to make and I wished I had baked more of them.IMG_3665

I saved the ghosts for last. They were very simple and I kind of regretted not going with a different shape so that I could have had more fun with them. My confidence had built from doing the spider webs and I wanted to try my hand at more intricate designs! I piped and flooded in white and added eyes and spooky mouths in purple.

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I refuse, REFUSE to throw out perfectly good cookie dough, so any leftovers or scraps that don’t fit my cookie moulds still get baked. I’d cut out some small square cookies from the spaces between the real ones to use as practice (and tasting!) pieces. I tried my hand at some plaid, chevron and herringbone, and of course one small tasting cookie for everyone in the family.

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I also bake scraps (yes, I’m THAT crazy about cookie dough waste). My husband pointed out that one of the scraps kind of looked like a mummy…so a mummy he became! To be honest, this might just be my favourite one hihi.

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So there they are, my second attempt at decorating cookies ready to go for Halloween! I still need a lot of practice but I’m pleasantly surprised at how fun these were to do so I’ll just keep making more!

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Now I’m hooked! All I can think of are excuses to bake cookies and decorate them! Luckily, Christmas is just around the corner and I’ve got friends getting married and having babies so I will have lots of opportunity to practice 🙂

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My new toy and some sweet treats!

My wonderful husband got me an amazing surprise gift for Mother’s Day this year: a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer! I’ve been saying that I want one for a while now, specifically the Ice Blue one – and he got just that.  Bonus points for him for listening! I’m excited to try out new recipes for all my loved ones – I’m trying to limit sweets but I will always have a taste of what I make.  Because you know, every good chef tastes what they make 😉

My new toy looks great on the kitchen counter!

My new toy!

So far I’ve only made two recipes but both were a huge hit so I wanted to share them.

CHIPOTLE CHOCOLATE FLOURLESS TORTE

I got this recipe from one of my favourite food blogs: Simply Recipes. This torte almost has the texture of a brownie.  It’s rich and decadent but the little touch of heat that it leaves behind is just enough to cut through the richness and leave you wanting more.  I made for a mexican themed birthday dinner for my mom and was the perfect end to our ribs, corn, slaw and sweet potato fries.

Here is the recipe as posted on Simply Recipes:

Ingredients

  • 10 oz. of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 7 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9 ½ inch springform pan with a circle of parchment paper. Grease the sides and the parchment with butter or non-stick cooking spray (I love Pam for Baking cooking spray, myself).

2 Melt the chocolate and butter together over a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring occasionally until smooth.

3 Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a large bowl, and then slowly, a bit at a time, whisk in the melted chocolate. Add the salt and spices and taste, adjusting the spices if needed.

4 Pour into the springform pan and bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

*A note from me on cooking time – the recipe calls for only 22-25 minutes of baking but I ended up having to leave it in nearly 15 minutes more than that. The toothpick kept coming out with mix on it.  I have a gas oven so I’m not sure if that played into things.

Chipotle Chocolate Flourless Torte - a little heat, a little sweet, very yum!

Chipotle Chocolate Flourless Torte – a little heat, a little sweet, very yum!

 

“PINK LEMONADE” MINI CUPCAKES

I made these lemon mini cupcakes with light lemon buttercream frosting for my daughter’s Baptism reception.  I call them pink lemonade but really the only thing that makes them “pink” is food colouring in the frosting 😛  Next time, I think I’d like to try making a raspberry frosting.

The cake batter recipe is from Laura in the Kitchen and the buttercream frosting is based on the vanilla buttercream recipe from  Canadian Living and modified to add lemon flavour.

Lemon Cupcake Recipe

*Note: this recipe is for 12 regular sized cupcakes, which makes approximately 36 mini cupcakes.

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups of All Purpose Flour
1 tsp of Baking Powder
¼ tsp of Salt
1 cup of Granulated Sugar
½ cup of Unsalted Butter at room temperature
2 Eggs
¼ cup of Whole Milk
¼ cup of Sour Cream
2 tsp of Freshly Grated Lemon Zest
1 Tbsp of Fresh Lemon Juice
½ tsp of Vanilla Extract

Method:

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, line a 12 piece cupcake tin with liners and set aside.
2) In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
3) In a large bowl, using a hand help whisk or you can do this in a big standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, add the eggs and incorporate well.
4) Add the sour cream, milk, lemon zest and lemon juice and mix until its all well incorporated.
5) Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix them in to combine but make sure you don’t over mix.
6) Using a large ice cream scoop, divide your batter evenly in lined muffin tin. Bake for about 20 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Frosting Recipe

*Portion size3-2/3 cups (900 mL)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250 mL) butter, softened
  • 5 cups (1.25 L) sifted icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (adjust to taste)
  • Red food colouring (1-3 drops)

Method

In large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Alternately beat in sugar and cream, making 2 additions of sugar. Beat in vanilla and lemon zest. Add food colouring one drop at a time until desired shade is attained. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 24 hours; let come to room temperature, about 1 hour. Beat slightly before using.)

My mother in law also got me a piping bag for Easter so I’ve been practicing my piping skills.  Still need a bit of work but I’m getting better!
Mini "pink lemonade" cupcakes are a refreshing treat!

Mini “pink lemonade” cupcakes are a refreshing treat!

The cupcake display - they didn't last long!

The cupcake display – they didn’t last long!

 

 

 

Lentil Cauliflower Crock-pot Curry

I’m in the process of creating a few fun tidbits but I can’t share them just yet…so in the meantime, I wanted to share this delicious recipe I made up!

My crock-pot has become one of my most favourite kitchen tools.  When I’m working, I love coming home to the smell of a yummy meal and not having to do a thing – other than grab a bowl and dig in.  Now that I’m on maternity leave with two under two, I love that it saves me from having to try to get dinner ready during peak meltdown time (also known at 4pm), or trying to explain to an almost 2 year old that dinner needs to cook for another 5, 10, 15 minutes.  It’s just ready to serve when hunger strikes!

I’ve also been trying to incorporate at least one meatless day a week into our meal planning, offering up healthy substitutes like tofu and legumes, which are much cheaper than meat and give us all a break from animal protein.  I whipped up this particular dish earlier this week on a whim using things I happened to have on hand – and I must say it turned out quite tasty. Even the toddler gobbled it up! I love exposing my kids to such bright flavours – no chicken fingers or mac & cheese in this kitchen! This one is definitely going to make its way into our regular rotation.

Lentil Cauliflower Crock-pot Curry

Ingredients

  • 2 cups red lentils (you could use any kind of lentil)
  • 1 cooking onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 can (28 fl oz) diced tomato + one can full of water
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Cayenne to taste (I didn’t include this for the little one but I’d start with about 1/4 tsp and then adjust according to your preference)
  • Cilantro for garnish

Directions

Put all ingredients in the crock-pot.  Fill the empty can of tomatoes with water and add to ingredients. Stir and set to low for 6-8 hours.  Around 15 minutes before serving, remove lid to evaporate any extra liquid.  Serve with naan bread or over rice.

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I didn’t have any cilantro on hand but next time I’d add it for garnish and an extra kick of flavour.

 

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The little man’s portion – he ate the whole thing plus extra naan!

Easy right?? I might try adding some light coconut milk next time as well to give it a bit of a twist.  The nice thing about this kind of dish is that you can adjust the seasoning and flavours to suit your palette.

Enjoy! 🙂

Quinoa Carrot Muffins

I could live on coffee these days, but I limit myself to 1 (ok maybe 1 1/2) cup a day.

I could live on coffee these days, but I limit myself to 1 (ok maybe 1 1/2) cup a day.

I haven’t had a whole lot of time or energy to get much of anything done lately, aside from the necessary day to day stuff like dishes, laundry and showering…and even then, it doesn’t all get done (I won’t tell you which).  Eating is another thing that’s been getting put on the back burner, replaced by nursing, burping, rocking, nursing some more, burping, rocking…you get the picture (I’m actually nursing as I type this with one hand hehe).  This is a problem because I am hungry all.the.time.  So I decided to help myself out a bit by making a healthy, easy to grab snack that I can eat with one hand.  I had some leftover quinoa so I Googled for muffin recipes to use it up and found this Quinoa Carrot Muffin recipe.

I am no baker by any stretch of the imagination.  I’ve got one or two go-to recipes that I’ve mastered and the rest usually result in disaster, so I wasn’t overly optimistic about this one, but figured I’d give a shot anyway.  It actually turned out really well.

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Fingers crossed!

I did make a few small changes:

1 ) I didn’t have any apple sauce, so I substituted with canola oil.  Obviously this takes away the low-fatness and made them a little more moist than they probably should be.

2) I used golden raisins.  I find them better for baking.

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Success!

So far the whole family’s approved them and I would make them again, however I think next time I’d play with the spices a bit, add some clove and nutmeg to give them a bit more of a flavour kick, and I’d use applesauce as stated in the recipe.

As a bonus, here’s a shot of my little baking sidekick – she got to stay nice and snug while I mixed and stirred 🙂

LOVE my Boba wrap (http://www.bobafamily.com/). I highly recommend it for any new mom :)

LOVE my Boba wrap (http://www.bobafamily.com/). I highly recommend it for any new mom 🙂