Sunday, 31 July 2016

Decorated Panda Cookies

School cake sales.
They never seem to coincide with the end of a session of classes when I've got demo cookies looking for a home. They're always smack-bang in the middle of a busy-baking period.  
Of course, I could just make popcorn, or buy a dozen doughnuts (which are both great sellers...)
But I don't.

I was already in cookie-decorating mode (for the ballerina classes and Jack's party), so why not make a few dozen more...?!
The plan was to keep it simple, though: Minimal colours. Like black and white. Pandas! Great idea. Simple.
But then they needed blue eyes.
And pink paws.
And character.

So, these simple panda cookies took me a whole afternoon to decorate.           

And we sold them for R5 each at the cake sale. 

The economics of cake sale are um... amusing
We provide the treats to the school.
And then we give our kids the money to buy the treats that we've supplied to the school. 
So basically we're paying for everything twice.  Funny, huh?!

That's parenting in a nutshell... You pay for it! 


Happy decorating!


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Ballerina Cookies

I attended a ballet class once, when I was about 4.
We had to run around the stage pretending to scoop up flowers and place them in an imaginary basket. It was mid-term, so the other little girls had all been doing this for a few weeks already.
They knew where to run. But they hadn't learnt to be light-footed yet. And I got trampled in the stampede.

End of story.

But I love a ballet theme. Pink and pretty - it just makes me happy! (No stampede PTSD).
My daughter isn't interested in doing ballet, though (despite demanding the full kit a couple of years ago.) So we're unlikely to have a ballet-themed party for her.
I just had to schedule a ballerina cookie decorating class instead.

Those lovely twirling ballerinas are inspired by Sweetsugarbelle
(She has a number of suggestions of what to use for the faces; I used a ladybird fondant plunger-cutter set for these cookies.) 

You hardly see a set of ballet cookies without them these days. Such a clever idea! 

Now, mine is not nearly as clever, but here's how I turned a heart into a pair of ballet shoes: 

My  favourite out of this set, though, are these two sweet ballerinas - lost in their dance....


 I printed out a template image (Google search - "ballerina silhouette"); drew around it on the dried royal icing background, and then iced on the figures. 
The skirt ruffles are done using an Ateco 101 petal tip, and stiff royal icing. 

"Dancing is like dreaming with your feet"

Happy decorating!


Friday, 15 July 2016

Milk Tart (Easy!)

Now you're probably lucky enough to have been handed down Tannie or Ouma's favourite melktert recipe - as priceless as any family heirloom.
But not me. I only have vague memories of my Austrian grandmother (who did bake, but not milk tart), and none of my South African one (who probably didn't... with ten kids, I've gathered she was more of a hide-in-the-corner-with-a-bottle-of-gin kind of parent, anyway!).

So no local family recipes for me. That's ok. I have Magdaleen van Wyk's  Complete South African Cookbook, which covers everything from "Abalone (see Perlemoen)" to "Zucchini (See Marrows, baby)".
But its "Milk Tart (see Melktert)" recipe calls for folding stiffly beaten egg whites into the custard. And if I can avoid folding in egg whites, I do.

So this is the milk tart recipe that I use most... It's easy - you don't even have to bake the custard; tasty - which is kind of important! And it makes 2 tarts - one for your guests and one for you!

Milk Tart
Preheat the oven to 180'C
Grease 2 loose-based pie pans. (Will make 2 tarts.)

Pastry Ingredients
120 g sugar 
125g butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
320g cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla. Beat well. 
Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix to form a stiff dough. 

Roll out the dough and press into the two pie pans. 
Bake at 180'C until the pastry is light golden brown (about 15min). 

 Filling Ingredients 

1 125 ml full cream milk (4 1/2 cups)
1 cinnamon quill
peel of 1 naartjie
200g sugar
3 eggs
2 tbs cake flour
2 tbs corn flour
1 tbs custard powder
1 tsp vanilla extract*
pinch salt

Cinnamon for sprinkling

Place the naartjie peel and cinnamon quill in the milk, and bring to the boil in a saucepan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until light and creamy.
Add in the vanilla, flour, corn flour, custard powder and salt.
Pour the boiling milk into this mixture. Stir well.
Return to the saucepan and the stove. Stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens.
Remove the naartjie peel and cinnamon quill.

Pour into the baked pastry shells, and refrigerate until cool.
Sprinkle with ground cinnamon before serving.

* A melktert is traditionally flavoured with almond extract rather than vanilla. But I'm not a huge fan of the former; and I love a vanilla-flavoured custard.
I'm satisfied with the South African-ness of this dish - especially with the addition of the naartjie peel.
But you choose - feel free to add almond extract, instead!

Happy baking!


Monday, 11 July 2016

Feather Cookies

I found a reason to take that cookie dough out the freezer and get decorating! 
Our lovely au pair/ baby sitter, Shauna, celebrated her 21st birthday this weekend, and she asked me to do some cookies for the party. 
While I don't take on orders, I do entertain special requests. And this is a very special young lady, who is not only great with the kids (and the cats!), but has also chipped in to help us in reception at the practice now that my mother has become too ill to work there anymore.  
All off that, and a boho chic / shabby-chic theme: I couldn't possibly say no :o)  


Some of the party decorations were white feathers strung up on pink satin ribbon. So that was my starting point for these cookies. 
(I made a variety, but I'll share some of the others in another post). 

Here's how the feather cookies were done: 

I don't have a feather cutter, so I used a surf-board cutter and trimmed the ends freehand with a knife.  (Find my vanilla cookie recipe here.)

I outlined the top of the feather in pink and white below. (Outline with detail-consistency royal icing and an Ateco 00 tip or PME 1.5);  

then filled the top with pink flooding-consistency royal icing, 

and the area at the bottom with white flooding consistency royal icing. 

Using a scribe tool (a cocktail stick will work), I feathered the area where the two colours met, while the icing was still wet.

Here's a close up of the area  (you see the feathering, don't you?!)

Once the icing was dry, I used detail-consistency royal icing to add the central shaft to the feather. 

Fly free! 

Happy decorating!