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Merry Christmas from 2 Chicks!

24 Dec

Both Fondant and Frosting Chick would like to wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We’ve both had some challenges this past year, as we’re sure you all have had.  Here’s hoping that everything in all of our lives get back on track, and we can get back to the business of posting stories and pictures of our cake creations.

For me, my challenges this year had to do with my health.  I once considered myself to the healthiest fat smoker I know.  That all came to a screeching halt in October when I had to have a heart stent put in and was diagnosed Type 2 diabetic.  I’m now a former smoker, 30 lbs lighter, and still have a way to go.  For any of our readers out there facing health issues, do everything you can to get healthy.  We all have someone who loves and needs us, and that is worth sticking around and getting healthy for.

Happy Holidays,

Frosting Chick

Merry Christmas cakers!

24 Dec

Like many of you, fondant chick and I have been up to our elbows with Christmas preparations.  While we are remiss that lately our posts have been less than regular, we know you understand how life can sometimes get in the way of our love of caking, and sometimes we must concede to those other things.  We appreciate each and every one of you coming by to check out our latest cake creations, or to pick up a recipe, leave a comment and check out some pics.

While we are lucky enough to be bathed in the glow of our loved ones this holiday season, please take a moment to remember those who have less (and in some cases, much less) than we do.  Think of those who can’t be home with their families this season, or those who are lonely or forgotten.  The wrapping and bows are nice, but they are just fancy dressing for more stuff in the house that will need to be repeatedly picked up, fixed, or have batteries replaced much too soon.  The important thing is that you and yours are happy, safe and together.

I’d like to thank my DH, for always stepping in when I’m up to my eyeballs in butter cream  and piping bags, my friends for ordering cakes and challenging me design-wise, and the fondant chick for never giving up on trying to bring me over the to fondant side, and always surprising me with new/different caking tools.  I never know what the mail lady is going to bring!

The Chicks wish you and your family a safe and joyous Christmas, filled with love.  We’ll see you soon with more cakes, idea’s, recipes and witty banter.  Now, get out of here and go put something together, the clock is ticking!

Merry Christmas!

26 Dec

2 Chicks Cakes and Catering hopes all your Christmas goodies turned out as good as this:

That your living room started out looking like this:

and an hour later looked like this:

and that the Bobcats win tomorrow making sacrificing time with the chicklet today all the more worth making over 60 of these:

We’ll be taking a few weeks off from the blog to spend time with our cake eaters/taste testers/honesty panels, to clean up from merry making, and to refill our sugar filled idea barrels. ‘Tis not Farewell but Lemme Catch Up so we shall returneth in 2010 refreshed, renewed, and fully New Year’s resoluted. Until then: Whatever holiday you are celebrating this month, we wish you the very best one ever and we look forward to playing  with cake with you in the next year!

One Smart Cookie

22 Dec

Day two. Yes, the Stained Glass candy, fudges, and Spritz were all made in one day. Better yet- one afternoon. It’s that quick to make them. However, now we slow down to a project that lasted three days. We didn’t do anything on the second day, but it still took 3 days to get it completely done. What could possibly take that long? Fruit cake? Ew, no. Sugar cookies. It’s not making the cookies that take so long, it the procrastinating and decorating that gets in the way. Fiddly stuff, cookie decorating. In years past, we would slather the icing on with knives and let the drips fall where they may. Santa never looked like his Jolly Old Self, the stars had craters of frosting like we were going for the moon, and the candy cane stripes were less than tidy. Even that haphazard method took forever and I usually pawned off the job on someone else. Being newly unemployed with the kiddos and hubby home, I knew I had to pitch in and at least help this year. Ugh. What’s a cake decorator to do?

Avoiding the issue and considering the options took a full 24 hours. I’m going to save you one whole day with this tutorial. I’ve cut out The Day of Consideration and Procrastination because I found the solution. One that people have been doing for eons, but in my stubbornness, I’ve never tried. I thought it would be even more time consuming, more messy, and too full of tiny details that drive me mad. Mad, I tell you. Mad, mad, mad! Cookie icing, sprinkle throwing, candy ball placing mad! Bwahahahaha!

Ahem, let’s get on with it, shall we? The recipe I used was the same one I used for my daughter’s wedding reception. You, too, can have your very own copy of this recipe by clicking here:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/The-Best-Rolled-Sugar-Cookies/Detail.aspx

Jill is one smart cookie and one smart baker. I even used her confectioner’s sugar and icing mixture to ice them- until this year.

One thing to note: the dough has to be refrigerated so plan accordingly. I hate when I’m in the middle of a recipe and run smack into “wait one hour.” Ruins the whole flow and throws off the schedule. I’m warning you now. If you want to complete the baking portion start in the morning (or afternoon if you’re a night owl). If you start at night and expect to get it done before bed, it ain’t gonna happen.

Per the usual crazy methodology of mine, gather your ingredients and tools. Wanna know why I do this first? Have you ever gotten into a recipe only to find out you don’t have something you need? Stinks, doesn’t it? That’s why I gather first. It’s not foolproof (and I am nothing but a fool- a sugar fool.) but most of the time it works for me.

Can you believe those are but a small portion of the cutters I own?  I just bought a set of letters and numbers to add to the collection. Hubby thinks my cake pan collection is bad, heaven forbid he ever realizes how many cookie cutters I possess. If you spill the beans, you’ll be on kitchen clean-up for the next year. K? Now, let’s get started.

Make sure the butter is soft, and cream it with the sugar.

 

I know, I know: why so many pictures? I always try to assume if you read this blog, you’re a newb. It couldn’t be our witty repartee now, could it? As a newb, you may not know what I mean when I say, “cream.” Hopefully, the pictures show what creaming looks like and the stages from whole ingredients to completely creamed. Some will tell you that the sugar should be dissolved and the goo won’t feel grainy. That doesn’t happen for me, at least not with this recipe. It needs to be completely incorporated, but don’t worry about graininess just yet.

Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

 

I’m a daredevil. Look at the bravery-adding ingredients while the mixer is running. Don’t try this unless you’re willing to clean up mess ‘cause sometimes it throws stuff like a baby with oatmeal at 6 a.m. after allowing you a whopping two hours of sleep.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, let it whirr for a bit to finish mixing, and then add the dry ingredients: baking powder, salt, and flour. I add them in that order because I fear the baking powder and salt won’t be spread out evenly in the batter. You have your quirks, I have mine.

 

See the tossing? Yeppers. Fortunately, the mess wasn’t too bad. Today, anyway. Don’t try this on the high setting, folks; or you will curse my name for years to come. Low only.

Mix until it’s all combined, stopping to scrape the bowl as needed.

 

 Aaannnd now we wait.  Scrape into a ball-like shape and cover the dough.

 

 Stick said dough in refridge for at least an hour.

 

 As you can see, it’s leftovers for dinner tonight. I gotta ditch the ghetto tupperware before the relatives arrive.

In the meantime, we really should clean up the mess we made so far.

 

 (Mixer can be found here:  http://www.kitchenaid.com/flash.cmd?/#/page/home or you can wait 5 years for your hubby to realize you seriously want one, would not have put one on your Christmas list if you didn’t, and really will use it all the time to make stuff that will give him to the roundest Buddha belly in town.)

Feel free to chill out while the dough chills out. Pour a cup of nog, put your reindeer slippers on the furniture and watch Rudolph unplugged. Isn’t it sad how much they chop up movies when they put them on the tube? Go wild and buy the originals on DVD this year. Support your local elf.

Okay, that’s enough. Don’t want to get too relaxed or we’ll never get this done and the neighbors will know what a slacker at heart you really are.

Prep your cookie sheets.

 

I like 2- one in the oven and one to put more on while the first one bakes.

Plop some flour on the counter, flour your rolling pin, and plop a smaller pile of flour nearby to dip your cutters.

 Yeah, don’t forget that second pile. As you can see, I did; and I had to start all over again. Bah humbug.

For some reason known only to Herbie, I always have to add more flour to this recipe or all it does to stick to everything. If you have the same problem, feel free to add more- but not so much the dough is dry and don’t knead it so much that the cookies are tough. You’ll have to learn by feel for this. It should stick a little to the counter or hands, but not at all to the rolling pin.

Turn on the oven before you start rolling the dough. It’s the little details like that which will delay progress. 🙂

 

Okey doke, roll it out, dip your cutters in flour, and press away.

 

 Seethe little spreader? I used this instead of a butter knife for the first time this year. It worked much better. Less tearing, less distortion, less hair pulling.

Cut them out, get them on the sheet, and slip the sheet into the oven.

 Like the Spritz cookies, you want the edges to just start to brown before you take them out of the oven. Any longer and you’ve made hard tack. You know- the bread the pioneers used to take cross-country that lasted forever. I bet more than one person met their end because they were so desperate to eat those hard things that they took a chance on the local water.

 

 Keep cutting, baking, and cooling ad-infinauseum or until your dining room looks like this:

 Once cooled, cover them up, clean up the kitchen, and go to bed. Even Santa sleeps some times.

 

 A fresh new morning awaits! Get up so we can finish these before the big day. I won’t bore you with a bunch of details, as this explanation is already quite lengthy. As I told you way at the roof top of this post, I usually make a thick concoction of confectioner’s sugar and water to ice cookies. I have used good ol’ buttercream, too. However, the results were less than impressive. They looked like a 5 year old decorated them. Slop on some frosting, load it up with sprinkles, and move on with life, right?

Being nearly in the cake biz this year, I felt it best to work on the execution this time around. I loaded up with colored royal icing and sprinkles and set to work, hoping my creative vibe had returned after being squashed in a corporate pod for months.

 Important things to know about royal icing:

Grease-free everything. Don’t just guess. I keep separate tips, spatulas, and metal bowls just for royal.

It dries quickly, so keep everything covered every moment it’s not in use- the bowl, the tips, the spreaders, everything.

Once it dries/crusts, it’s useless for anything other than throwing at your kitchen mate.

Raw eggs are bad. Don’t spend the holidays on the potty, use meringue powder instead.

Primary colors can be difficult to achieve. I didn’t have too many problems with this, but “they” say it’s hard to do.

 Generally, you make royal thick, outline the area you want to ice, thin the royal, and flood the interior of the outline. Too many steps for me today, so I stuck with medium consistency to do both. It worked okay- not perfect by any means, but the kiddos who will eat these will think they are and that’s all that counts, right?

Generally, I like the smaller grained colored sugar better than the larger. The exception was the white sparkly colored sugar. If you want snowy sparkle, that’s the stuff to use. The larger grained sugar tended to lay on top and looked exactly like what it is: sugar sprinkled on a cookie. The smaller grain looked more like part of the décor. Make sense?

The chicklet was in charge of our very first 3D tree this year. Basically, you take 2 each of 5 or so different sized star cookies, stacked them so the points are off-set, and frost away. Being the smart chicklet that she is, she frosted first.

The candy ornaments and snow drips were added after stacking. Pretty nifty, isn’t it?

Okay, enough explanation. The big day is but a few hoof beats away.  Get in there and do it. Soon your dining room can look like this, too:

 

Puttin’ on the Spritz

21 Dec

Dang. The kitchen’s a mess again.

Someone’s going to have to clean before we move on. I volunteer you. You’re welcome.

Thanks. Appreciate it. You’re a real pal. As a token of my appreciation, I’ll show you how I make Spritz. What? Never heard of them? Sheesh. We are a poor society indeed. Spritz are cookies made with butter and shaped with a cookie press. My recipe is from a book older than me. I know, it doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. It’s from yet another cookbook that somehow made its way to my first apartment from my mother’s kitchen. It’s not like she ever used it or anything. She later told me I could have it so I’m in the clear, anyway. Thanks, mamma! Ol’ Betty taught me a lot.

This recipe is so good, it has hardly changed since that cookbook. Wanna see? Betty’s still “with it” after all these years, and has her very own website:

http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes.aspx/the-ultimate-spritz/aa68df04-bd64-4f1b-8421-0df82064bca4

Let’s line up the ingredients first.

Place ingredients in a bowl.

Mix ‘til it looks like…like…well, like cookie dough.

That’s the fast part.

Split the dough into separate containers. One for each color, if you please. Add color to the bowls.

You can find a similar cookie press here:

 http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=3E31881B-475A-BAC0-5BF4C1F280CA1C18&killnav=1

I found mine at a thrift store so my model isn’t available new anymore. The site also has a video about making Spritz cookies if you need more info than my words can provide. It’s actually a very informative video. However, it’s grainy if you expand it to full screen.

Alrighty, the color has been added and now it’s time to spend a lot of time incorporating the color. A…lot…of…time. I don’t know why I’m not faster at this, but I’m not.

Red, green, and yellow are the colors we’ve always used, but feel free to branch out into fuschia, lilac, or whatever tickles you.

Grab a hunk of dough and shape it into a roll.

Shove it into the cookie press.

Make sure it’s packed in there. Air pockets will tick you off. Cram it in there good and tight.

Put your disk in the cap, screw on the cap, and press away, my friend, press away!

Huh. Looks like the chicklet got my man hands. So sorry, dearie. Grow your nails long; it will help.

Greasing the sheet is up to you. I do, but that’s because this one time, I didn’t, and they stuck. A lot. I made cookies crumbs, not cookies, that day. However, if you have trouble getting the raw dough to stick to the sheet so the cookie properly presses, wipe off the grease on the sheet (with a piece of wax paper so there’s still a little grease on it) and try again.

Bake at an unbelievable temp for a short time.

Repeat until all the dough is used.

Spritz burn easily and, because the dough is colored, it can be difficult to know when to remove them from the oven. The edges should just start to brown. That’s how you know they’re done.

Yeah, the picture isn’t that clear. It’s the best I can manage. I can never remember how to work the macro setting thingy on my camera.

They only need to cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before they are ready to be put on a cooling rack.

See the hand shaped candy cane one? That’s what happens if you don’t watch them closely.

Some people do all kinds of fancy decorating with these. Not me. They are perfect just like this. Buttery, light, and crisp. Not messy. Classic.

These freeze well, too. I’m frequently mentioning freezing because I usually start baking right after Thanksgiving and pop everything in the freezer to await the big day. Much better than having to do all this in one week. Do it when you get a couple of hours here and there. December is way too busy so make things as easy as you can for yourself. You deserve it. That, and a cup of hot chocolate with a candy cane draping the side of the cup. With Spritz cookies on the side, of course.

Oh, Fudge!

20 Dec

The kitchen is clean so of course we must mess it up again right away. Why wait for the kids when you can do something yourself, right?

This recipe is from a book I stole from my mother when I left the nest. I could soft coat that, but it’s Christmas and Santa knows all anyway. It’s from an old HER Realty cookbook. It requires no candy thermometer, no marshmallow cream, and no fancy ingredients. It doesn’t even require a stove. This recipe was created using the new fangled machine of the time: the microwave. Man, I used to sit in front of ours convinced the radiation would kill me like Spock in that one movie. Ah, those were the days!

The ingredients are simple:

Peanut Butter Fudge

1 lb. Confectioner’s sugar (have extra on hand)

2/3 c. Chunky peanut butter

½ c. Unsalted butter or margarine

¼ c. Milk

 1 ½ t. Vanilla

 

Chocolate Fudge

1 lb. Confectioner’s sugar (have extra on hand)

½ c. Butter or margarine

1/2 c. Cocoa powder

¼ c. Milk

 1 t. Vanilla

¼ c. Nuts, broken (optional)

That’s it. For both fudges. Nothing fancy, nothing that takes hours, but something that will win over the boss and get your Christmas bonus after all. Hey, we can dream of more than just sugarplums, right?

First up: Peanut Butter Fudge

Soften a stick of butter and sift the confectioner’s sugar. Even if you think it doesn’t need it, sift it. You don’t want lumps or you’ll be in the kitchen all night and Santa won’t come ‘cause a creature is stirring. And stirring, and stirring.

Except for the vanilla, put all the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl. I use a casserole dish with its handy dandy lid for the task.

 

Nuke it for 2 minutes.

While it’s radiating itself, prepare your pan. Spray the pan or a piece of foil with nonstick spray. For the first time ever, I used wax paper. Don’t do that. It will be nearly impossible to get the fudge out of the pan. Always livin’ and learnin’ over here.

When the ding dongs it will look something like this:

Stir it for a bit so it looks something like this:

and then nuke for another 2 minutes. Stir again until it looks like this:

It will be hot, so don’t burn yourself like I usually do. Take it out and stir it until it’s smooth. Add the vanilla, and stir again.

It should look like this:

It will be thickish, but how do you know it’s thick enough? Experience. Don’t have any? I’ll lend you mine. Rarely is 1 lb. of confectioner’s sugar enough. Sure, you could give it a whirl. If it doesn’t set up, use it as a topping for ice cream or something.

If it’s not sheeting, it’s not thick enough. Add more sugar and stir it in. By not sheeting, I mean it shouldn’t run off the spoon:

Like a certain someone drooling over Clooney, huh?

If yours look like mine, add more sugar and stir it in.

Awesome one handed action shot, huh? I have the greasiest camera in town, hands down. One hand, anyway.

That’s better. It should cling to the spoon- kind of like stiff buttercream.

 

Plop the goop onto the foil.

(Pretend that’s foil. Sheer foil. My newest invention.  I’ll make scads of moolah, doncha think?)

Pick up all four corners and put the package in the dish.

Spread it around as needed.

Stick in the big cold box for at least 20 minutes. It’s done. You can freeze this, so feel free to make it at the beginning of December and pull it out Christmas Day. Because you have enough to do as the month flies by, that’s why. Do what you can, when you have time to do it.

Onto the fudge version. The process is a little different, so pay attention.

Put the butter into the microwave safe dish, and nuke it until it bubbles- about a minute or so.

Clean up tip: use the same lid you did for the peanut butter fudge. Odds are it’s still clean and it will be one less thing to wash if you use it again. Not stylish, but practical.

Working fast at this point (so the butter stays hot and it doesn’t get too stiff to work with), sift the cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar into the bowl.

Add the milk.

Now add the vanilla.

Stir it until it’s smooth and perty.

Stir in the nuts, if using.

Add more confectioner’s sugar if it doesn’t look like this:

Like before, scrape it out of the bowl and onto the foil. Pick up the corners, and place the package in the dish.

Spread it around as needed, fridge that puppy until it’s firm. If you want something with more zing!, crush candy canes and press them into the top before it sets. You could also substitute chopped candy canes for the nuts or even sub mint flavoring for the vanilla. I’m more of a purist. I like chocolate and mint, but it’s hard to eat a whole pan of it. A couple of pieces, yes. A whole pan, no. What’s the point of cooking if you don’t want to shovel down the whole batch? That would be, I dunno, normal or something. *Shudder*

Done. One hour, two fudges. No fussing with equipment. Simple. Yummy. Freezable. Why not? Santa eats it whether it takes 2 hours or 2 minutes. It’s sugar. Eat it.

Christmas Cheer but first: Harried Merry Christmas

17 Dec

In the spirit of “gotta get stuff done,” the next few posts will occur over the next few days. That oughta be enough to get you through to the New Year and show you how to make those goodies everyone thinks you have oodles of time, talent, and resources to create. Your emergency plan: show everyone these posts, tell them it’s your blog, and explain how the dog/cat/kids/horrific dropping or freezer accident destroyed them all. I gotcher back on this one.

 Goody #1: Stained Glass Candy AKA Hard Candy.

Ingredients and Tools:

 Yes, that is a hammer.

Ready? Lettts go!

Begin with putting the candy thermometer in the pan. It should be near, but not touch, the bottom of the pan.  Yeah, I know, those clips are handy as all get out, ain’t they?

 Measure and pour the sugar, corn syrup, and water into the pan.

 

Give it a stir. Do NOT whack the thermometer. Turn the burner on medium and stir until the sugar dissolves. After that, don’t touch it. DO NOT TOUCH IT. Don’t do it. The instructions say so. Do too. Right here:

 https://www.lorannoils.com/p-8752-stove-top-hard-candy.aspx

While you’re waiting, begin the “clean as you go” method. We’ve got a lot to make today and we’ll be reusing our utensils because we don’t have a big commercial kitchen with unlimited utensils and such.

Other things to do while waiting and NOT TOUCHING IT:

Go through the stack of mail that’s been piling up for 2 weeks.

Wash the other stuff that’s been waiting during the contest-of-wills-to-see-who-will-clean-it-first. Sure, in effect, you lose the contest, but your candy will be all the better because you won’t be touching it.

Time to check on the creation without touching it.

Kinda yeller looking. I hope it’s not burning.

It reaches 200 fairly fast but then slows down like time on Christmas Eve when the kids are waiting for the morn. However, it does have a tendency to suddenly rise at the end.

If you are making 2 batches at the same time, start your second batch about 10 minutes after the first. At the end, you will not have enough hands or enough time to do what needs to be done right away. Plan on soaking the thermometer, pan, and spoon for a long time to dissolve the candy. In other words, don’t plan on mashed potatoes for dinner because your pan will not be ready in time.

It looks like we still have some time, so let’s get stuff ready for the next step. Take your hammer (yes, hammer; for Hammer Time, of course), put the top of it into the baggie, and wrap a rubber band around the baggie thusly:

Necessity is the mother of invention and all that.

Spray your cookie sheet with non-stick spray.

Aaannd that’s it. You’re ready. But the candy is not.

Lordy, that’s looking orange. Please don’t burn, please don’t burn, please don’t burn.

*Siiiggghh*  Back to whiling away the time while not touching it.

I guess we should keep cleaning. Shoot, the only thing left is the dreaded pearl dusting brush. I love the dust, hate the clean up.

Is it done yet?

Is it done yet?

Is it done yet?

Yes! It’s almost to 300 so take it off the burner and let it sit until it stops boiling. Do not stir it yet.

While that’s happening, take the caps off the flavoring and the coloring because you’re going to move quickly here. Also remember to put a hot pad under the cookie sheet before pouring this time, k? You’ve been lucky before, but don’t count on it this time.

Four hands is better than two in a moment, so either grow more hands or call someone in to help. It can be done with 2 hands, but it’s tricky.

We’re going to move faster than a naked toddler in the yard in front of the neighbors, so take a breath before we start. They won’t be time to breathe during.

Pour in the flavoring and coloring. It will spit, sizzle, and steam (wink, wink) so stand back as far as you can and plan on clean up time.

Stir it all together but don’t bump the thermometer. If your memory is better than mine, you will have removed it before this step. If not, just don’t bump it.

Since the heir to the throne eats most of the candy, it’s his choice of flavors. This year: coffee and strawberry. Yeah, I know. If offered whipped cream on top to make his cuppa complete, but he declined.

Once it’s combined, suit up your spare hands with mitts, and have s/he start pouring it onto the pan while you scrape the remainders.

That’s haute couture. Small town on Christmas break from college Haute Couture.

Tilt the pan as needed to spread it around a bit and then let it cool and harden. While you’re waiting for that, soak the first pan, spoon, and thermometer.

Second batch is ready, so repeat.

Looks much more appetizing, doesn’t it?

After half an hour, it should be ready to crack. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the top, and grab the hammer ‘cause it’s Hammer Time. Woo hoo!

Gently but firmly whack the bejeebers out of it until the pieces are the size you desire.

The pieces will be sharp, which is why I prefer the name Stained Glass Candy. Glass is right in there so you know it may be sharp.

Gently toss the pieces to coat them with the sugar.

Package as you like.

Yeeeaaaah, I’m not touching the coffee ones. Go ahead. You enjoy. I’ll stick with Strawberry.

Let’s clean up the mess and move on to the next project: Fudge!

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