Tag Archives: cookies

Ship Shape

2 Mar

It’s been coming up lately: How do I ship cookies? While I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, I have done this and according to my amigos, they are arriving mostly intact.

Supplies Needed:

Money- this is not cheap. At least to me, it’s not. Maybe you have more moolah. It’s not as much as a Benz, but it’s more than mailing that long overdue thank you note to Uncle Willie. It will cost you more to prepare them for shipping and to ship them than it will to buy the stuff the make the cookies.

Bubble wrap- Hobby Lobby sells it. They also often have nifty 40% off coupons. The cost of the bubble wrap will break your nasty habit of popping bubbles and save it for shipping instead.

NEW cardboard box- Yes, new. No one wants to get cookies in an old beer box. Well, most people, anyway. Let’s not examine our friends too closely, hmmm? Walmart sells them in the office supply or craft aisle, depending on the location. You want one bigger than your cake box. I mention this because when I’m in Walmart my mind tends to stop working properly and I come out $200 poorer and haven’t purchased everything I need and a lot of stuff I don’t or the place is packed and I grab “whatever” to get out of there before I see one of those “People of Walmart.” Head down, straight to the box, and out, k?

Cake box- the usual, nothing fancy.

Cake board- to give strength to the cake box.

Newspaper- a lil something extra for the recipient if you include the Sunday funnies.

Packing tape

Cellophane tape- I almost said Scotch tape, but that’s a brand.

Black marker or shipping labels

Cookies- don’t try to ship anything delicate for your first foray. You don’t have to stick with plain rounds but anything delicate or with thin pieces will likely arrive broken. Free calories!

Cookie bags and ties or a nifty sealing machine (I got mine at a thrift store. You can’t buy it new anymore but it still works and didn’t cost so much that my electric bill was late.)

First up: package your cookies in the cookie bags and seal/tie the bags. I recommend sealing over tying to keep out as much air as possible. Air=stale.

Box assembly: make your husband do it. I don’t like taping boxes ‘cause I suck at it. The tape doesn’t stick, the box won’t hold still, the tape wrinkles, the box collapses, etc…. Generally, the box wins.

Tape the bottom opening shut with the packing tape and do it again on either side of the opening. Now tape across the other direction so that it crosses the other pieces at a roughly 90 degree angle, if that makes sense. Hold up a sec- we’re not done with the bottom yet. Tape the two sides, too- where the flaps are. You want to keep out air and critters. No hitchhikers on this trip.

Bottom of box with flaps shut (the colored part represents where the flaps meet):

Yeah, it’s a lot of tape and boxes are wiggly. Good luck with that. Try not to tape yourself to the table or something equally embarrassing.

Flip it right side up, grab some newspaper, scrunch up the newspaper, and layer the bottom of the box with said newspaper. Toss in a business card or a piece of paper with an address on it, in case something happens to the outside of the box.

Put this box somewhere away from the kiddos before the lil pirates commandeer it for a boat and then assemble the cake box. Put this aside, too, as these have been known to attract teenagers in search of crap keepers. Actually, just hide everything and put a comment on here telling where you put it so you can find it again.

Clear off the dining room table. I’ll wait; I understand this may take some time. We don’t use our tables much for family eating anymore, do we? Oh well, better to have a use as a dumping ground than no use at all, I guess.

Ready?

Okey dokey. Get the bubble wrap, scissors, cookies, and cellophane tape. If you’re lucky, your cookies are all the same size. Unroll the bubble wrap the length of the table, making sure to put something behind it to keep it from rolling off the table. God only knows what’s on the floor, right? Set a cookie on the loose end, measure the bubble wrap, and cut off a piece (of bubble wrap, not cookie).

If your cookies are all the same size, you can use this first piece as a template. HOWEVER, test if for size first. I refuse to admit that I have ever forgotten this step and ended up with a bunch of pieces that were either too small or way too big.

Wrap the bubble wrap around the cookie and tape it where the ends meet. If you’re really nice, you’ll turn the end of the tape under first so it’s easier to remove. Continue this way until they’re all wrapped in their bubble blankies.

Retrieve the cake box. Not my fault if you can’t find it, I told you to post on here where you put it. Go get another one and back up a few steps. You’ll just have to catch up with the rest of the class on your own time.

Toss a biz card in the box in case the cake box gets separated from the other box. Cut a piece of bubble wrap and put it in the bottom of the box. You did put a cake board in there first, right? *Sigh* Geez, I ASSUMED you knew that. Let’s not fight, k? We’ve got to get these shipped ASAP.

Place the bubble wrapped cookies in the box, preferably standing up, if possible. I have no solid proof, but I’ve read they’re sturdier this way. However, the ones I shipped laying flat arrived okay, too, so it’s your choice, your risk. Pack them in snugly but not so tight you’re jamming them in there breaking cookies.

 

Cut another piece of bubble wrap, place it on top of the cookies, shut the box, and tape the box shut.

Optional step:

If you have any concerns about moisture or the newspaper ink dirtying the box, wrap the cake box in bubble wrap and have a tape orgy with it.

Whew! Still with me? Nope! We’re not done yet. Retrieve the other box and place the cake box in the center of it.

Firmly, but gently, pack scrunched up newspaper around the cake box. Test it for wiggle- you don’t want these moving at all while in transit. Once you’re fairly confident, run out of newspaper, run out of time, or just plain ol’ give up, place a final layer of scrunched up newspaper on top of the cake box.

Shut the flaps and tape it closed the same way you did the bottom of the box. HOWEVER, leave room for the shipping and return address somewhere. After the addresses are in place, I use the packing tape one last time and put it over the addresses so it doesn’t get smeared if water or something drips on it. Give the box a final shake; flip it upside down, too. Does it sound good? Good meaning: silent. Nothing rattling around? Cool. Get thee to the Post Office. They should ask, but if they don’t, tell them three things:

It’s perishable

It’s cookies

There are no liquids in the box

I thought I took a picture of the boxes ready for shipping but I dunno where they are now. Camera gnomes at work, I suppose. Before you ask:  No, shipping cakes or cupcakes is not the same. I haven’t tried to ship those, but I have read it’s extremely tricky/difficult without using a door-to-door service and I surely do not have the spare cash for that and neither do any of my friends; or if they do, they’re not telling me. J

Cookies I have shipped:

(Practicing cornelli. As I suspected, I don’t have the thought patterns to do this naturally.)

(On this one, I learned you need thicker icing than outline consistency to make hearts that keep their shape.)

(I got the inspiration for these from pood on here: http://cakecentral.com/gallery/1917990 . I created mine a little differently and have a few uplifting tips I’ll share later.)

I did ship a small music note, too; but I don’t have a picture of it. I included it as a test of shipping something small and something with a fragile piece (the neck of the note). It did not arrive intact.

One last tip about timing: I bake cookies and freeze them until I’m ready to decorate if I’m not doing it that day so they stay as fresh as possible. I decorate them all in one day, give them a full day to dry, and ship the third day. The way my post mistress ships them takes 2-3 business days. I have shipped them on a Thursday and they have arrived two states away the following Tuesday still okay to eat, according to the recipients. You really have to plan the timing carefully as unlike local deliveries, you have to account for 2-3 days shipping time. Unlike the cookies you purchase at the grocery store, there are no preservatives in these cookies and this must be taken into account. After all, this face is counting on you:

Photo courtesy of Peanut Butter Monster in the greater Philly area:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150105571126543&set=a.86028146542.80434.516821542#!/pages/Peanut-Butta-Monster/124311800939154

 

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Need a Quickie?

18 Aug

Every once in awhile, life gets in the way. Oh heck, let’s just say it. Most of the time life gets in the way. We work cake in around car repairs, packing the kids off to various places, weather so hot you wilt before you get out of bed, and that elusive thing we now have to call a career instead of a job.  We’re shoving aside dinner dishes and bills trying to eke out a mere foot of space to get the crumb coat on the cake for tomorrow’s church supper. It doesn’t help that the materials and ingredients you gathered so carefully hide beneath rolling mats and cutters or you’re so addled you don’t remember you bought the perfect tool for the job months ago and end up hunting for something in the cabinets that will almost work for what you need.

 On the rare occasion that you had time to clean the kitchen that day, the last thing you want to do is mess it up again. The fam will take care of that for you, anyway. Enter “the event.” Bake sale, class snack, or office potluck is on the calendar, but who’s had time to look at that? This is when we all need a quickie. You need something decent, cheap, and quick. A small cake? Uh, no. One hour to bake, two hours to settle, hour upon hour to decorate- that’s more time than you’ll have in the next three months. Royal iced cookies? Even a simple design with two colors takes too long. Cake truffles? No room in the freezer and the chocolate magically disappeared during last week’s PMS/car broke down/kid is on your last nerve episode. Rice Krispie treats? Too simple? Eh, they can be. However, they require few ingredients, they are inexpensive to make, they cook up fast, and they require minimal counter space. It’s the simplicity that gets to you, isn’t it? Everyone loves to eat them, but no one is impressed that you made them. Anyone can turn on the stove, melt, stir, and press, right? What if we add a little something to the process? Give them a little wow factor, kick it up a notch, or whatever the latest cooking lingo is. Make the kid who forgot to tell you he needs a snack for 30 tomorrow dig out the cookie cutters and let’s get to work.

For those who have never made them… is there anyone who’s never made them? I think my kids made their first batch around 10 years old so I can’t imagine there’s a soul on this earth who hasn’t stuck a spoon in gloopy marshmallows just once. Anyway, just in case, here’s the recipe:

3 T. butter or margarine

10 oz. regular marshmallows or 4 c. mini marshmallows

6 c. Rice Krispies

That’s the official version from here: http://ricekrispies.com/recipes/the-original-treats.aspx#/recipes/the-original-treats

 

For this particular foray into the sweet world of no time, you will also need:

Cooking spray (not the olive oil stuff) or additional butter or margarine

Sprinkles- whatever you have on hand will do. If you have none on hand, don’t worry about it. Lord knows the last thing I want to make you do is make a trip to the store right now.

Get out a decent sized pot, a spoon (I prefer wood), cookie sheets, cookie cutters, waxed paper, and a plastic baggie.

A word about cutters: look at them before you start. Will you be able to see what the shape is easily? Are they tiny, fussy things? Are there parts that are too small making the treats fragile? If so, toss them back in the cabinet and choose different ones. This is supposed to easy and a little impressive. Don’t make it harder than it is. 🙂

Spray the cookie sheets with cooking spray. Put the butter in the pan, turn the burn on low, and start melting the butter. Add the marshmallows and stir until it’s all melted. Stir in the cereal and once that’s mixed decently, stir in the sprinkles.

Pour the mixture out onto the cookie sheets. Slip the baggie on your hand and press it out until it’s reasonably flat and even. Lightly spray the cookie cutters with the cooking spray and press them into the treats like you are cutting out cookies.

Once the treats are cut, remove the shapes from the pan and place them on the waxed paper to cool completely. Depending on the cutter, your time availability, your persnicketyness, etc… you may need to shape them a little or smooth them a bit more using your hands. You can reshape the leftovers and cut out more until the mixture is too hard to shape anymore. At that point, whatever happens to what’s left are wages for all you put up with in this life.

Stand back and admire your resourcefulness for a moment. Put away the guilt. No man is an island and no woman should make a Charm City equivalent creation when she has a task list that looks like your 5 year old’s Santa wish list. Trust me, it’s enough. I gave these to college students in my accounting class. The age range was barely shaving to gave up finding time to shave 10 years ago. They were impressed simply because they’re a different twist on the usual. Shoot, I’m not working right now and I only found time to write this because I can’t sleep. Therefore, if it sucks, blame typing at 3 a.m. and not the author, k?

This Just In

2 Aug

This week is gonna be bussssyyy. Groceries, periodontist, the Chicklet’s birthday, last week of class, and possibly Primitive Boy moving out of the manse. Y’all are lucky I’m here at all. LOL I’d like to find the highly degreed person who decides students should have one less day to complete the work plus an extra assignment that includes a long paper for the last week of class and have a “chat” with that person. Do they really think we worked on that paper all quarter as suggested? Yeah, right. Also, I would like that person to know that some of us notice things like the abstract is due before the final paper and the link you gave the students that explains an abstract says clearly that the abstract is written last. Cart before the horse or forcing students to turn in work before it’s officially due so the professor can knock off work a couple of days early? You decide. I’ll keep my opinion to myself until they slap that degree in my hand while I’m shaking hands with someone Important that I’ve never met while trying to smile and face a photographer who apparently is getting a shot up my gown from the looks of his position below. But I digress. Once again. I’m good at that, at least.

I blew off some things I didn’t want to do anyway and updated our PowerPoint portfolio. (Yes, it really is spelled that way.) We would LOVE it if you’d look at it and leave comments with your opinions. How is the layout? Colors? Organization? The fonts? (I kept them all in the Lucida family because Primitive Boy’s explanation about fonts and foots and all that stuff made my eyes cross. Never ask the opinion of someone who wears a t-shirt that says, “All I care about is ink, fonts, and crap like that.” Just shut up and kern for me, k?) I took out the character cakes and such even though they were all made as gifts. No sense in angering the mouse, eh? I think we’re far enough along in this adventure and therefore have enough cakes in the portfolio without them, anyway. We want to know it all- the good, the bad, the ugly, the few, the proud, the chosen…oops! Wrong blog for that.

Let us know what you think while I’m off pretending to be a grown up. Or working on my tan at the beach. Whichever.

 2Chicks Cake PowerPoint

Practice Makes Perfect or Perfect Practice Makes Perfect?

6 Apr

Spring has sprung (at least on some days). Feets and arms and knees and such are about to come out of hibernation.  Combined with changing fashions, I have to face the truth: pleated shirts cannot carry my stomach through another warm season. Getting my capris and shorts out of storage didn’t help, either. Dang it!

Something Must Be Done. Drastic Measures Must Be Taken.

But what?

I have to stop making so much cake and buttercream “just for practice.” Still, I do need the practice. My piping skills have gone from so-so, just need to perfect the rose and writing, to “are you sure you’ve done this before?”  I, my friends, have over-fondanted. I like fondant. It’s fun, it’s crisp, it doesn’t involve quite the amount of small motor skills as piping. Plus, I don’t eat much fondant as I practice. I wish I could say the same for buttercream. Fat and sugar, sugar and fat. Yum! I started playing with buttercream again to sharpen my skills. After all, some day fondant will be passé and clients will go searching for the caker who cakes “the old-fashioned way.” I must be prepared, right?

With my sugar addiction in full swing once more, and my summer clothes laughing when I tried to squeeze them beyond my Shar Pei thighs, I’m gradually changing things up in the kitchen. Mr. Handy is cool with salad for dinner once a week (after many eons of trying to slip it in) and leftovers are still breeding like rabbits since the kiddos decided to engage in some strange ritual called “college and job” so it’s easier for me to take those leftovers and make a meal for one that’s not packed full of the carb fest of rice and noodles that my Sugar Daddy, ooops! husband, adores. I’m drinking more (the non-alcoholic, non-calorie version of that word. No need to replace one addiction with another, I suppose). Still, that leaves the cake/buttercream issue. How can I practice without sugar laden goodies?  Everyone I know says they want free cakes, but no one is willing to come pick them up. That leaves a lot of cake in my kitchen.

I never wanted to do this. It seems like such a waste. Waste is bad. Save the earth, save the chocolate, save the buttercream! Alas, the return of my mother’s stomach in the mirror leaves me no choice. I must practice, gulp!, without cake. But, wait! you say; because you are smart like that. What about the buttercream? Does this mean that now I get to eat buttercream by the mixing spoonful since I cut out the cake calories? Alas, no, it does not. With the exception of the occasional, “what the crap is going on with the frosting? cake, my crumb and final coat are not a problem. I can smooth out nearly every crater you throw at me. Piping practice is what I need and that, my dear friends in cake, does not take much buttercream at all. In comparison, anyway. A quart sized baggie instead of the mondo gallon sized ones. Add in that you stick a tip in a bag, and not much buttercream flies anywhere anymore, much less near the pie hole. *Sigh* I’m in mourning. Is that natural? Don’t answer that. I don’t really want to know right now. Maybe later.

Lest you think this blog has become a confessional of purging caking demons, I do have a tutorial in mind. Waaaaiiit for it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was out of buttercream. My recipe takes 4 lbs. of powdered sugar so just imagine for a moment how much buttercream that makes. A Lot. A lot of buttercream, a lot of calories, a lot of inches on the waist. We all know that no matter what we say to ourselves before it happens, there will be buttercream calories on the scale the next day. I like to think it’s magic. Too bad that magic doesn’t transfer to my once cute as heck shorts, huh?

I was firm with myself for once and made an alternate choice.

No, not that kind.

 I’ve heard you can do this with toothpaste, but toothpaste is a lot more expensive than buttercream. I think. I haven’t actually run the numbers, but it seems to my sugar addicted mind that it is. So, no buttercream and no toothpaste. What’s left?

Chocolate

Stay with me here. I haven’t gone off the deep end yet. Probably not, anyway.

Yes, chocolate is still a lot of sugar. No denying my way around that. I also love the taste of chocolate. So much that I will eat sugar-free chocolate despite a case of the toots the rest of the day.  I had been piddling around with the idea of trying chocolate transfers again. You see, I fail at buttercream transfers. I’m missing the gene for it or something. But chocolate, maybe chocolate is the answer. Plus, the chocolate discs can be used in small amounts and are fast to melt and be ready for use when I have an hour to spare to play around. The other handy property of chocolate is: it’s hard to eat much when it’s flowing like Wllly Wonka’s river through the piping bag. You’re too busy trying to keep it corralled to eat much of it. It’s also messy as heck so you spend a fair amount of time with a washcloth in one hand and a piping bag in the other.

So, chocolate it is. Now, I’m not saying I’m a whizz here. No chocolate transfer miracles occurred. These things take time and practice. But one day, maybe; one day I might practice enough and the seas will part and the chocolate will stay put and not lump and I will create awesomeness. Just maybe not today.

It helped that I just read the Whimsical Bakehouse book.

Full of chocolate plaque visions, I tried a beaver first.

Heh. He’s a bit rabid, doncha think?

It’s tough to keep the chocolate at the right temperature: melted enough to flow smoothly but not so thin that it’s running like it’s had too much fiber, if you know what I mean (These kinds of thoughts keep me from considering consuming it in vast amounts while I’m practicing). I did a little better when I free handed a cloud looking object.

Okay, maybe I need more practice. Still, it looks better than my last wrestling match with buttercream transfer, so there’s hope in there somewhere.

What I really liked was writing with it. No messing about with the elusive perfect consistency ‘cause chocolate is what it is. I got brave enough at the end to even try a little freehand action.

Yup. Still can’t freehand. However, notice that there are no breaks in the chocolate. It’s actually even fairly straight. The bottom is even, but the top needs work. Also, spacing is still a problem. I think I need to figure out how to either get a template on the cake and pipe over it or figure out how to remove the chocolate from the wax paper without breaking it so I can place the words on the cake.

Yes, I know about using piping gel and rubbing it onto the cake, but these ol’ eyes aren’t getting any sharper so I have my doubts it would be obvious enough to be useful for me. Plus, I’m pretty good at smearing things when I shouldn’t.

There’s info everywhere about how to do this, so I’ll make this short. You need:

Waxed paper

Image/template

Chocolate discs

Disposable piping bag

Microwave

Tape

You can get the template by printing the picture of your choice from your computer. I suggest one without a lot of details to start. Also, look out for impossibly teeny spaces you won’t be able to get chocolate into.  Like girl child beaver wrists.

For the writing, I used Word and typed with different fonts, and then printed it.

Place your template on your workspace and tape it down to keep it from moving. Place the waxed paper over the template, and tape that down, too. Don’t use tons of tape or you won’t be able to remove the waxed paper easily.

Place a dozen or so chocolate discs in the piping bag and microwave the bag in 20 to 30 second increments. Take it out, smoosh it around to mix, repeat as needed. Stop nuking it when it’s almost completely melted. The remaining heat and smooshing will finish the job without burning the chocolate.

Snip a tiny hole in the end of the bag. You’ll have to experiment a little to figure out the right size. If that’s too frustrating, grab another disposable bag and rig it up with a coupler and a small round tip. Not to state the obvious, but don’t put your couplers or tips in the microwave. It will be pretty, but no good shall come of it. Once you have the second bag ready, snip off the end of the first bag (the one without the coupler and tip) and insert it inside the first bag.

Now, you’re ready to practice. If you messed around with royal icing and cookies, you know what to do. If not, here’s how:

For images: outline the image, including any parts you want separated from the rest like the arms. You are building the image from the front to the back. This means you create the facial features, let the chocolate set, and then fill in the other parts like the belly and feet. If you want toe/finger nails, pipe those and let it set before you make the actual foot/hand. I hope that makes sense. Look at your image for a couple of minutes and think about how you need to build it. You may even want to write it down for reference and to make sure you’re not overlooking something.

The important things to remember are:

Let each layer harden before adding the next

Chocolate spreads

For writing: just have at it. Remember to move your arm rather than your hand and to let the line fall into place rather than trying to etch it onto the surface like you do with a pencil.

What I don’t know yet: how to make the chocolate smooth.

I know I have to keep it melted, but the stuff is hardening in the bag and I’m trying to hurry before I run out of time and it’s a rock again so I just hope it all levels out.

It doesn’t.

It seems to me that it also needs to be cool enough that it doesn’t melt the features I’ve already added (like eyes) and it also can’t push down on those features to make them spread and thus make the image look messy/creepy. Eh, it’s a work in progress.

Leftovers: like dinner, I always have leftover chocolate and I believe, with all my heart, that every time you throw chocolate in the trash, a butterfly loses a wing (just kidding, kids. Calm down). Therefore, I put the leftover chocolate into a mold and, after it sets, bag it for use another day.

Now, put down that frosting and give me 2 miles on the treadmill! The dreaded bathing suit is just around the corner!

Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

 

A Tale of Three Cookie Sheets

21 Mar

Recently, hubby and I trekked to the big city for a cheapo dinner (his favorite kind) and he surprised me by purchasing a chocolate chip cookie for me whilst I was making the obligatory potty stop before the trek back to the wilderness. (So much for sugar detox, right?) I could have looked past the milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet, but Lord, I’ll never forgive the preservatives in those “fresh baked” dailies. It must be bad if I can taste it because unnatural, preserved beyond eternity doesn’t usually bother me at all. I’m just in it for the sugar buzz.

However, had it not been for the laughably bad commercially sold cookie that is marketed as “fresh baked daily,” I never would have been in the mood for a real chocolate chip cookie. Thanks or blame? You decide.

Having nothing better to do, okay- that I wanted to do, I cooked up a scientific experiment.

For my little foray into the scientific world, I used the exact same recipe but 3 different sheet pans/cookie sheets. One is the run of the mill jelly roll pan, one an airbake (which may or may not be a copyrighted term) type, and the last one a non-stick airbake pan. No, I don’t know why I have 3 different cookie sheets in my kitchen. It’s a recent development. I decided to not ask why, but just accept them for who/what they are.

This recipe is for a chewy cookie and experience with it has taught me that if you bake them until they look like all other cookies (that is, nice and brown), they will be as hard as your husband’s head when he thinks mixing your pink shirt with his tighty whities is a stellar way to save time and energy. Each batch of cookies was baked for the exact same time.

First up: the regular airbake pan.

These had to cool longer than usual in order to get them off the sheet in one piece. I assume this is because the pan retains heat longer? Good to know.

Next: the non-stick air bake pan:

As you can see, they are puffier than the other batch. However, they soon deflated to look like all the rest.

Lastly, the jelly roll pan:

I baked them for the same amount of time as the other pans even though (when I’m not experimenting so as to eat cookies without guilt) I normally bake them a minute or two longer. These look under-done. In fact, they looked under-cooked for a full 24 hours. They even tasted a bit like it. Not enough to keep away the chow hounds, but still.

For the last trip through the oven, I used the regular airbake pan again but this time I left them in the oven until they looked like cookies are supposed to look when they are done. They weren’t nearly as soft, yet they never reached the rock solid stage they do when I’ve cooked them for the full time with the jelly roll pan. Still edible, but not as yummy.  At least, not as yummy for those of us who like our cookies chewy.

Side by side comparison in the same order as baked:

Left to right: regular airbake, non-stick airbake, jelly roll pan

Again, left to right: regular airbake, non-stick airbake, jelly roll pan

Once more for the folks with short-term memory loss, left to right: regular airbake, non-stick airbake, jelly roll pan

Below is the last batch that I baked until brown. “How dry I am! How dry I am!”

What, you might ask, did I learn from this experiment? Nada dang thing. Except my cookie recipe is soooo much better than the ones for 2 bucks at that one restaurant. You know, the one with the subs. They should stick to bread and meat. 

Clean up volunteers get a free cookie!

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:

 

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