Friday, February 26, 2010

Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies... don't they sound delicious? Kind of simple, but you get an occasional craving for one. Then you eat one and think, "hmm, that wasn't anything fantastic". But by the time you're done with the first one, you've already started to reach for a second, because hey, why eat just one cookie? And, they're actually quite good. As you are close to finishing off your second cookie, you realize it's actually your fourth and you absentmindedly kept reaching for another, unable to stop yourself from eating more, more, more!

They should rename these 'sugar crack'. The addiction sneaks up on you and then you're hooked until they are all gone.

Thank goodness these were for the Chef's Helper's birthday party and I had a worthy cause to champion my hand away from the cookies.

Here's one bundled up to take home. I forgot to snap a pre-bagging picture - it was a busy day!

Even without frosting, these are quite tasty. In the future, I'll even feel pretty good about feeding them to the Chef's Helper and his friends (occasionally). They have sugar of course, but they don't taste overly sweet... Until you get to the frosting - there's no way to get around that one. But how fun is it to decorate cookies with little kids?! You can't leave out the frosting. I can't wait.

If you're looking for a sugar cookie, this is definitely a quality recipe. Try them plain with sprinkles too!

Sugar Cookies
from Dine & Dish

¾ cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ¾ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Icing (recipe follows)

In a mixing bowl, cream butter & sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Chill for 1 hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375.

On a generously floured surface, roll a 1/3 of dough to ¼ inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutter. Place on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Laura's notes: Work quickly! Once the dough warms up, it's a mess trying to maintain your shape while you transfer to the cookie sheet. If you're only using one cookie sheet at a time, I also recommend you keep the remaining dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to work with it.

Repeat with remaining dough. Frost.

Yield: 2 dozen large cookies.

from Allrecipes

Because the icing associated with the above cookies needed to be refrigerated AND was soft (i.e. smoosh in the gift bags), I had to go with something a little sturdier. This icing was great with the coloring, dried FAST and glossy, and there was no sticky-smooshing to the bag. Perfect.

1 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
assorted food coloring

In a small bowl, mix together all wet ingredients. Add powdered sugar incrementally while stirring. Only add enough sugar to get the consistency you are looking for. It should be smooth and glossy.

Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity. Dip cookies, or paint them with a brush (I used one of my food basting brushes - I wasn't going for detail).

Guten appetit!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Millie's White Wedding Cake

I wish I knew Millie, and I wish I'd taken her baking class with Kristen (from Dine & Dish) where Kristen learned how to make Millie's White Wedding Cake because if this is any example of Millie's baking skills, the woman had a lot to teach! It was light, sweet but not too sweet, and moist. Just as a cake should be. It's a great go-to white cake.

Our cup-cakes, pre-frosting

I felt like the Chefs Helper's 1st birthday party was a big success, and this cake helped add even more sweetness to the day. It's hard to believe he's a year old. On one hand, he's grown and changed so much and it feels like the year has flown by. On the other, it seems like he's always been with us. He is such a sweet, happy baby. We couldn't have asked for a better son or legacy.

His 'cake' was a cupcake design mimicking Eric Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar book cover (not my idea! see below).

Our little man is a book lover, so it seemed like a fun and appropriate theme. Fingers crossed that his love for books continues. (He must get it from his daddy, since when his mama was younger, she refused to read books in lieu of watching TV - even when bribed with money! yikes)

The green color was MUCH darker than the photo looks

My final design couldn't hold a candle to the original, but no one but me knew that. I couldn't find the right candy for the eyes, and ran out of time, so our caterpillar had no eyes. He was meant to be eaten, not see the world, so I was OK with it.

I thought this was really fun to create AND easy! I simply spread the cupcake icing with a knife and sort of swirled it around using two different green tones - bonus points for super easy. Came together in a snap. Here was my attack plan:

Day before the party: Bake cupcakes, then pre-measure anything I could for the icing and put all non-perishable ingredients on the counter next to the measuring cups/spoons I would need.

Day-of the party, which was at 3pm: Make icing, ice cupcakes, assemble on cake board with extra pieces (feet, eyes, etc). Done!

This was probably the most prepared I have ever been for a party. Kudos to my awesome husband for cleaning, running out for the balloons, and all the other things he does (party days and everyday).

Happy birthday, sweet sweet boy. We hope you enjoyed your party, and cake!

* Here's where the cake design came from.

Millie’s White Wedding Cake
from Dine & Dish

2 (18 ounce) boxes white cake mix (Betty Crocker or Pillsbury)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 2/3 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons real vanilla
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups sour cream
8 large egg whites

Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, until fully incorporated.

Pour into greased and floured cake pans or cupcake liners, filling each slightly over half full.

Lightly tap cake pans on counter to bring air bubbles to top.

Bake in preheated 325° F oven until cake tests done.

Baking time varies according to the size and depth of pans being used.

For cupcakes, Kristen says she bakes them approximately 18 minutes. Mine took between 28-30 minutes. I waited until the cupcakes started to turn light brown on top. My cakes were done in less time and I knew to check them when the sides started to turn brown. Test with a toothpick to know when yours are done.

Guten appetit!

Friday, February 12, 2010

White Frosting and a Sneak Peak

Here's a sneak peak at the Chefs Helper's 1st birthday party cake:

We all had a great time celebrating a whole year of wonderful.

Unfortunately, I can not recommend this icing. Ick. I should have known though. Any icing that only uses crisco can't be good.

A couple years ago, I made a very tasty icing for a friends son's birthday party, and I will return to that icing next time. It was so good, we were eating the icing out of the mixer with graham crackers.

Why did I deviate? Hmmm, I like to try new things and... I don't know. My bad.

Stay tuned for the full cake picture and review (great cake) next Friday.

Guten appetit!