Thursday, 29 November 2012

Pre-Christmas Pink Pig Cookie

I know, I know; and I still fully intend to share my dark-chocolate-and-ginger cookie recipe with is coming!
But, the next few weeks are going to be unavoidably red, green and white...
Christmas is coming... in case you hadn't noticed ; )

So, before we enter December, here's a little pink interlude...

Isn't he sweet?!

Cookie ready



Wet-on-wet details

The collective noun for pigs is "a drift".  Huh! 

Wet-on-dry details

...and friends.

The cookie recipe I used was this one.

And for a bit more about outlining and flooding cookies see this post on  Royal Icing, and this one on cookie decorating basics.  

Next time - really! - dark chocolate ginger cookie recipe : 0 )


Friday, 23 November 2012

Gingerbread Cookies

Tis the season to be jolly...but it's also the season that brings out all the creepy crawlies....
Trying to make gingerbread biscuits, I found the syrup had been invaded by ants.
What a suicidal mission, that is. You can just picture them, before they leave the nest: "Right, ants! Only half of you will return, but those that do will bring riches beyond imagining!"
And the other half are in my syrup.

Then, when I started again (with new syrup)...I got the next round of kamikaze insects: flying ants,  shedding wings everywhere. Sigh!'s the gingerbread recipe that I'm using (ant bits optional!)

Gingerbread Cookies

180g butter, at room temp.
160g dark brown sugar
1 egg
180ml golden syrup
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp mixed spice
600g flour
1/4 tsp salt

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg, mix well.
Slowly pour in the syrup with the mixer on low speed.
Add the spices. Sift in the flour and salt. Mix until just combined.
Knead into a ball by hand. Wrap in cling film, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Roll out, and cut out as normal. (See here for a few tips).

  Bake at 180'C for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your cookies. The longer they're in the oven, the harder they'll become. (In this humidity, I err on the side of hard rather than soft.)

Decorate when cool, or enjoy as is....before the ants do : )

Coming soon...dark chocolate ginger cookies!


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Mini Lemon Meringue Pies

As the mist descends again, it would seem rather risky to make meringue. But, hey - live on the edge, a little ; )

I spoke about these mini-lemon meringue pies a little while ago, but didn't give you the whole recipe. Actually if you've browsed through my recipes before, you'll have all the pieces of the puzzle, but let me put it together for you...

For the meringue, you use the first few steps of the Swiss Meringue Buttercream  recipe...just leaving out the butter.
For the filling of the pie, this lemon curd recipe.
And for the pie crust, half of this cookie dough recipe.

Yes, there are quicker ways to make lemon meringue - tennis biscuit crumbs for the crust, and a tin of condensed milk being key ingredients.
But there is something very rewarding about making a sweet pie from scratch, and the flavor is far richer than the "instant" kind.

You are going to need to set up a double boiler. And put aside some dedicated time to whisk ...whisk ....and whisk the eggs ( yolks and whites separately!)

To make it easier, though you can prepare everything except the meringue in advance:
The cookie dough can be refrigerated for a couple of days - or frozen for weeks!
Once baked, the cookie-dough bases can be frozen, too.
And the lemon curd will keep refrigerated for a week.


Lemon curd:
5egg yolks
Zest of 3 lemons
75ml fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
115g butter - in small cubes, at room temperature.

Whisk together the yolks and sugar, add the lemon zest and juice. Whisk constantly over a double boiler until the mixture is thick and pale - about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat. Pour the mixture through a sieve to remove the zest. Then add the butter, one cube at a time, stirring between additions. Store in a container with a layer of cling film directly on the surface of the lemon curd.

Cookie crust:
200g butter
150g caster sugar
400g flour
1tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Zest of 1 lemon

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the zest.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Stop the mixer when the dough starts to clump. Knead it into a ball by hand. Wrap in cling film, and refrigerate 3-4 hours, or overnight.

After refrigeration, roll out thinly. Cut out rounds with a fluted cookie cutter and place into mini-tart pans. I used silicone baking cases, but you can use aluminium mini pie cases.
Refrigerate again, or freeze if not using soon.

Bake at 180'C for 15 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden. (The baked pie crusts can be frozen, too, as I mentioned previously.)

Leave to cool then fill with a spoonful of curd.

5 egg whites
1 cup white sugar

Once again use the double boiler - but with the bowl of your mixer placed over the simmering water. Whisk the egg whites until they ate hot to the touch, and the sugar is dissolved. Then remove from heat, and beat with the whisk attachment of your mixer until stiff peaks firm.
Spoon into an icing bag fitted with a large pastry nozzle, and pipe a swirl of meringue onto the curd-filled pie cases.

Place into a medium warm oven - 140'C - and bake until meringue just gets a tinge of gold.

Refrigerate until serving.

1, 2 bites and it's gone....



Monday, 19 November 2012

Mexican Cookies: Creative Cutters

I hope you know that if I've been scarce lately it's because I've been baking up a storm, and that I'll be sharing it all with you over the next few weeks...
: )

Where to start, though?

Well, just a quick one for today - before I pack up the Mexican Cookies and send them on their way.

I normally don't accept orders, but occasionally give in to a request - especially if it's a cookie project that I've been wanting an excuse to do anyway!

So, in the middle of all the Xmas class preparations I got a call for 2 dozen Mexican themed cookies. I couldn't say no to that! I immediately knew what colours I'd use - and when I have a great selection of colours in mind, I just can't wait to get going.

Then to decide on the shapes: I usually go on-line for ideas. One of my favourite cookie decorators is Callye, Sweet Sugar Belle . She does the most awesome Western and Tex /Mex style cookies. But she also did a Mexican style round-up, that you can view here and I drew all my inspiration from there.  I'm so grateful for all the awesome decorators out there who so generously share their ideas! And I'm also very grateful for the fellow cookie enthusiasts right here: after deciding that I just had to include cacti and sombrero cookies in the batch, I then had to scramble to get hold of the cutters! So, once again: thank you, Kelsey! You're a sweetheart! 

As for the other cookies, I just used what I already have with a bit if tweaking: 

For the chilli - a carrot cutter from an Easter set, with some minor amputations....

And for the Sun - a star  cutter with the spokes pinched into shape. 

The colours for this project were:
Egg yolk yellow
Leaf green and avocado blend
Red red and super red blend
Teal and electric blue blend 
(All gel colours).

Their brightness certainly cheered me up! 

All wrapped up.

See you soon. 


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Cookie Decorating Basics

Oh, my goodness! How fast is this year accelerating towards Christmas?! But it's okay- I'm organized: I've bought all the wrapping paper, now I just need to get the gifts!
But I actually do need to get cracking - I like to have all my gift-shopping done before schools break up. Crowded malls just don't get me into the Christmas spirit!

Ok, so I like to be organized - it makes it easier to enjoy the whole process.
And when you are decorating cookies, if you go to a bit of trouble to set up right, then you can just relax and enjoy the decorating part without distractions and interruptions.

You need time and space. Creating well decorated cookies is a process that takes days, patience and a bit of work to set up.

This is typically the way I do things:

Day 1: Make the cookie dough - most recipes call for the dough to be refrigerated for at least 3-4 hours or overnight.

Day2: Bake cookies and prepare royal icing.

Day 3: finally we can decorate!


Icing- have enough prepared in the selected colours and consistencies. (See the royal icing link above for an explanation on how to prepare the icing.)

Colours - I usually work with 3-5 different colours for a project.

Glasses - to hold each bag. Some damp paper towel in the bottom of the glass to keep the tips from drying out, and also stem any leaking from the tips.

Bags, adaptors, nozzles - I use disposable bags, with an adaptor / coupler. I like couplers because they stop the royal icing leaking out between the bag and nozzle, and also because I can switch to a different sized nozzle without having to change the bag. I swop between size 1 and 2 Ateco nozzles. (And most recently size 00's for finer details - love them!)

Clips or rubber bands- to seal the top of the bags.

Dry paper towel - to clean the nozzles and the toothpick.

Toothpick - to correct mistakes, pop air bubbles and for marbling effects.

Trays - placing the freshly iced cookies onto a baking tray just decreases the chance of accidentally digging your finger into a semi-dried surface later, when you are moving them.

Space to dry - away from where your decorating arm or elbow can smudge the newly iced surface.

Outline and flood cookies

Leave them to dry and then ....wait.

I struggle with this part - I want to do it all at once, but I don't do a great job of decorating when it's late, or I'm tired and rushing to finish.

Some details just need the previous layer to dry for a about half an hour,

 sometimes it is better to wait a few hours ....

(If you're going to wait for the next day - decant your coloured icing back into their containers, and clean your bags and nozzles. If you leave coloured icing overnight in the bags the colours separate and need to be stirred up again. ) ....I did warn you, it is a bit of work!)
If you are battling to get your royal icing to dry in this weather, check out this post

Day 4: come back to do your second and third layer details.

Day 5: package completely dried cookies.

Day X: Enjoy the appreciation on the faces of the lucky people with whom you're sharing your cookie art!

Adios! Hasta pronto!


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Whole Egg frosting

It can be a frenetic - life with two young children. So occasionally it's quite pleasant to have an excuse to not be able to do anything else for 10 minutes, except stand at the stove and whisk eggs. If that's your   idea of slow torture, then don't read any further - go for a run or a bike ride instead!

I tried this out because I was getting tired of the basic buttercream icing, and although I love Swiss Meringue Buttercream, I usually run with a surplus of egg yolks (from using up the whites making tylose paste, macarons and SMB, to name just a few ). So to find something that tastes as silky smooth as SMB but uses whole eggs, was a recipe worth a try. 
It takes a bit of time to make - and it is a little tricker than just mixing butter and icing sugar together, but the extra effort is definitely worth it.

As promised in my post about Sour Cream Vanilla Cupcakes, here's the recipe for the icing:

"Whole Egg Frosting"

4 large eggs
1 cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract (I use Vanilla Girl vanilla drops)
350g - 500g butter, at room temp. - cut into small cubes

Use a mixing boil that you can place over a pot of simmering water. 
(the bowl must not be in contact with the water itself).

In  the mixing bowl, beat together eggs, sugar and vanilla. 
Place the bowl onto the pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly for about 10 min. (If you have a candy thermometer, you are aiming for a temp of 70'C). 
Remove from heat, and beat the mixture with your electric mixer until it cools down to room temperature.
Add the butter slowly, one piece at a time. Continue beating and adding butter until the icing is smooth (don't worry it may curdle - just keep beating) and stiff enough to pipe. It won't be stiff to the touch the way buttercream icing is, but it will maintain its shape when you lift up your mixing paddle. I found it reached this stage after 350g of butter, but the original recipe called for 500g butter, so you may need more. 
Other flavours and colours may be added to it as with traditional buttercream icing and SMB. 

This icing can be refrigerated for a week, or frozen for 6 months. Simply thaw and soften to room temperature then rewhip until it is silky smooth again. 



Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Sour Cream Vanilla Cupcakes

I have fridge issues. When I was at varsity, I must have gone through 3, maybe even 4 (they died from old age, fatigue, and the occasional lethal wound to a gas's true, you really shouldn't try to defrost those little ice-box freezers by chipping away the ice with a knife...).
So, it was nice to be "grown-up" and be able to afford a brand new fridge. But we bought one pre-children, when busy careers and business demands had us spending more time out than in (the house, not the fridge!). And fridge space wasn't an issue.
Now, we need a fridge on its own just for the variety of Pooh, Spiderman and Hello Kitty yoghurts we have to buy. So things frequently get buried in the back of the shelves (behind aforementioned yoghurts)  not to be seen for a couple of weeks, until I'm desperate for space and start chucking yoghurts out. Some... um... "interesting" things can be found lurking in the bowels of our fridge.
Thankfully fresh cream becomes sour cream and stays that way for a while before it becomes mould.
And that's why this recipe calls for sour cream! I'm sure you could use buttermilk, (or yoghurt!!) but sour cream is what I needed to use, here goes:

Sour Cream Vanilla Cupcakes.
Pre-heat oven to 180'C
Line a Muffin tray with cupcake liners (recipe makes 12-15 large cupcakes, or 18-20 small ones)

2 cups flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
100g butter
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sour cream
Vanilla extract 1-2 tsp ( I use Vanilla Girl vanilla - so just a few drops)

Cream together the butter and sugar
Add the eggs, one at a time - scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl in between additions. Then add the vanilla. 

In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together, and mix them with a whisk.

Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, alternating with the sour cream. Begin and end with the dry ingredients.
Mix until incorporated.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared cupcake cases, and bake for 18- 20 minutes, until
a skewer inserted comes out clean.

These cupcakes are better suited to swirls of icing rather than a flat fondant covering - the surface is domed, and slightly uneven, but they have a lovely crumb and are full of flavor.
(If you want a flat, smooth surfaced cupcake, try this Basic Vanilla Cupcake Recipe).

The icing that I used for these is a delicious egg-based American style frosting. Very yummy!
So, I will share that with you next time...
...Sorry to end on a cliffhanger! But I'll be back soon ; )


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Vintage Lace Effect on Cupcakes

Do you ever wonder what makes a "look" fashionable.
Not just clothing, but food, decor, the names we choose for our children - everything that is popular taste. Why do we like hairstyles the way they are now? Car designs - I mean, did we really think those boxy, angular things we drove 20 years ago were beautiful? That word seems ludicrous when I think of the triangular Mazda that was my first car! And the even more sharp-nosed VW Golf that replaced it!
And then the interesting thing is that a look becomes fashionable again. (Will 80's fashion make a re-appearance in 10 years time? Shudderific thought!!)

Now, here we are in 2012 and "Vintage" is in. And we are going to much trouble to make current things look classically aged. I love it!
To me, "Vintage" is layers and lace; ruffles and roses; contrasting textures and subtle tones.

So, here's a little tutorial on how to create a "Vintage Lace" look on your cupcake.

You'll need

  •  a small piece of clean netting
  • a design to emboss - you can use standard fondant impression mats or rollers. I use the plates that are used to emboss paper (look for them in scrap-booking shops)
  • a cake smoother
  • a small fondant roller
  • fondant in white or ivory
  • round cutter - appropriate for the size of your cupcake surface
  • corn-flour
  • cupcakes, with their surfaces prepared with buttercream.
Dust your work surface with corn flour, then
Roll out the fondant
Place the net over the fondant


Place embosser over the net

Press down with the cake smoother

 Then cut out your round of fondant and place on top of the prepared cupcake.

And then finish it off with a vintage topper. This particular topper was made with this cabbage rose plunger cutter, but textured first with the net.

Happy creating!