Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Oak Leaf Cookies

Fall is truly finished, as we wake up to another dusting of snow on the ground.  These oak leaf cookies will remind us of a recent time when the leaves were a blaze of colour.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Yo Gabba Gabba Inspired Cookies and Cake

My dear friend Tobi owns a cake shop in Bond Head and we have collaborated on a few projects (and I don't mean when I buy her stuff and eat it, although that happens quite a bit too!!)  This is the first time we have been able to get photographs of our cake and cookies together.

This project was for twins who love Yo Gabba Gabba and while neither one of us wanted to blatantly copy the characters, we were both comfortable drawing inspiration from them.  We love how it came together and so did the client!  Another birthday made happy!

If you have not yet had the opportunity to visit Tobi's shop, make sure to drop in Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays for macarons, cupcakes, salted caramels and meringues.  Her custom order cakes are spectacular!  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesday Tip - Press 'n Seal

I use plastic wrap to cover small bowls of icing in between filling bags, but for longer storage (even a few days) and for better protection against crusting, I love Press 'n Seal!

So my Tuesday Tip this week is to invest in a roll of Glad Press 'n Seal and use it to cover your bowl of icing.  It has a great sealing quality and you will also find yourself using it all over the kitchen for all of your storage needs.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Splash Cookies for Swimmers

Those of you who follow my life might know that I only learned to swim about two years ago.  I am part of a triathlon training program and we meet twice a week at 6 am for swim workouts (and two more times a week at 6 am for spinning and running).  A few weeks ago our swim instructor decided to mix things up and instead of getting into the pool at the shallow end, where we tend to hang out and chat in between lengths, she decided we would now start in the deep end - she is a slave-driver!!  When I walked onto the pool deck that morning and saw what our instructor had up her sleeve I almost had a panic attack.  I had no idea how I would get into the deep end without looking like a fool!  I watched as my fellow team members dived or jumped in and I just waited until everyone started swimming and then I slowly lowered myself in along the wall.  What a wimp I was!  I told myself I would have to learn how to jump in and one morning I announced out loud that I would be doing it that day.

So I stood at the side of the pool and fought the panic as it threatened to send me into a full blown panic attack.  All my optimistic team-mates left to get on with their day and I was still standing there.  The swim instructor left and I was still standing there.  Twenty-five minutes later it was just me and one encouraging lifeguard left on the pool deck.  I looked at the time and realized I had 5 minutes left before I would be kicked out and I thought it was now or never.  So with a few more encouraging words from lifeguard Jaclyn, I went for it.  It wasn't horrible, in fact, it was fun.  I got out and did it again.  And again and again!  I hugged Jaclyn and went home and announced my success to my teammates on facebook!  I was so proud of myself.  So about a week later I decided to try diving and did it too!!

Today I thanked my teammates for all of their encouragement with cookies - splash cookies!!  There is something so special about our group, so many happy and encouraging friends to meet with multiple times a week.  Our instructor got the role of "cookie pimp", handing out the cookies to each team member as they were leaving and she was as good at that as she is at kicking our butts in the pool!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Christening Cookies for a Sweet Boy

These cookies are to celebrate the Christening of Mary-Lynn's grandson, Ryken.  God bless you, Ryken!  

P.S.  This is my 400th blog post!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tuesday Tip - Making Royal Icing + Recipe

I recently answered a survey about how I make royal icing.  The questions were multiple choice and when the question of how long I mix my icing came up, two of the options talked about mixing at high speed for 25-30 minutes.  I almost fell off my chair!  I literally mix for less than 2 minutes at the lowest or second lowest speed.  I might have a lot to do with not being able to tolerate the sound of the mixer for any longer.  I also have no interest in adding air bubbles to my icing that I am going to have to deal with later.  I really am trying to just combine the ingredients.  I make about 4 or 5 double batches each week and I have never had any problems with my icing - it dries with a lovely sheen, it is stable, it tastes delicious.  So I admit to being insanely curious how long you fellow cookiers mix your icing, please leave me a comment or send me a message!

I also make my icing thick, adding just enough water to make it combine - look for more information about that in next week's post.

So if I had to sum things up, I would say:

"Don't whip, make it thick."

After dissolving my meringue powder, I add my Redpath sugar and the remainder of the water.

I add it all at once, all the sugar and all the water.  Then I start my mixer on the lowest setting.

After just starting the mixer.
15 seconds of mixing.
30 seconds of mixing
45 seconds of mixing.
After about 60 seconds of mixing at the lowest setting, I stop the mixer and lift the whisk attachment out of the mix.

At this point the whisk attachment is clogged with dry sugar that I still have to mix in.  I think there are a variety of ways to deal with this, like mix at high speed or add more water, but I reach for a spatula.

I use the spatula to remove most of the dry sugar and to wipe the side of the bowl.

There - that looks better!  Another 30 seconds or so of mixing, this time at the second lowest setting.

And this is what I am left with:

At first glance it is not completely smooth, there are still lumps and bumps.  And it is thick.  Your first instinct might be to add water or mix it longer - but don't!  (More on that next week.)  I find that the lumps and bumps work themselves out as the icing sits.  For me this is the perfect base - I can now adjust the consistency and the colour and make a perfect icing for my cookies. 

Sweet Handmade Cookies' Royal Icing

10 tablespoons meringue powder
7 tablespoons of water
1 kilo icing (confectioners') sugar
5 tablespoons water

  1. Place the meringue powder in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Pour the first amount of water over the powder and using a whisk, combine the meringue powder and water, no vigorous action required, just combining the ingredients.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Stir the meringue powder one more time and then place the icing sugar on top.  Pour the second quantity of water onto the sugar and attach the bowl to your mixer.
  3. Using the whisk attachment on the lowest setting, combine the ingredients for about 60 seconds.  Stop the mixer and clear the still dry sugar from the whisk attachment and wipe the side of the bowl.
  4. Reattach the bowl to the mixer and mix for another 30-45 seconds.  Use the spatula to give the mixture another really good stir, make sure there are no dry pockets.
The icing will have lumps, but as long as there are no dry pockets, you are good to go!

In the next couple of weeks I will teach you about getting the perfect consistency!  I will be offering workshops in the new year, stay tuned to learn more!

Monday, November 3, 2014

80th Birthday Trombone Toronto Maple Leaf Cookies

Birthdays are not always easy - finding the perfect gift is so often a challenge, especially in this world where there is no shortage of "things".  Kim saw a facebook post of hockey jersey cookies and suddenly she had the perfect gift idea for her husband's uncle.  A tribute to his love of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and an acknowledgement to his musical ability on the trombone were included in this delicious set!