Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wicked cute!

So, as usual, let me begin my tale with the finished product (in the hopes that you'll be intrigued enough to read on)...

One of our favorite people, James, lives in Massachusetts and is turning 8 in a few days.  There will be a big Red Sox-themed birthday party taking place at a mini Fenway Park (how cool is that??), so I made a batch of cookies for the birthday boy, I hope he likes them! 

The story of these cookies involves a couple of fun surprises for yours truly.  You may notice the cookies that look like I DIDN'T hand decorate them?  Well, a couple of my friends got me an edible photo printer (well, the printer isn't edible...but everything it produces is) for my birthday a couple of weeks ago.  Look at this beauty!
It's a Canon printer, but of course you can never use it for anything other than edible projects...it takes edible ink cartridges:

They get inserted into the printer just like regular ink cartridges.  This particular set came from www.tastyfotoart.com .  It included the printer, the ink cartridges and 100 sheets of edible paper! 
What's edible paper, you may ask?  
I wondered that myself...luckily, there's an ingredient label on the package:
I have ZERO idea how they take those 3 items and squish them into something that looks and feels like smooth paper, but they did.  I guess that's why they make the big bucks.  In any event, I did a few test runs and printed out a few Red Sox emblems and Fenway Park signs to give them a try. :)  
This was ultimately what I ended up with in terms of application.  I cut the emblems with my kitchen scissors and tried applying them to the cookies in a couple of ways.  I tried laying them on wet royal icing (I forgot to take a picture, sorry) and it worked, but the "paper" started to curl and buckle.  Then I tried cutting out just the socks part and putting that on a slight more dry bit of royal icing, and THAT was a disaster too
It cracked everywhere (clearly) AND the image curled up on the wettish icing.
So, I tried one more way. I let the royal icing dry overnight, then made up a paste out of meringue powder. I didn't follow a recipe, just used meringue powder and added water until it was the consistency of slightly thinned Elmer's Glue
and that worked like a charm.  No buckling, no cracking, and it dried really quickly.

  
What did I do with the warped and buckled cookie, you ask? ;)


QUALITY CONTROL. :)  Seriously though, I was curious to see what the "paper" tasted like, and whether it would be difficult to bite through, etc.  But it tastes like absolutely nothing and there's virtually no difference biting into it.  If I noticed anything, it was a slight residual texture in my mouth afterward.  But I'm not even sure the average snacker would notice unless they were eating a REALLY big piece.  In any case, yummy.

I have jumped ahead a little in my tale.  I said there were multiple surprises for me involved with the making of these cookies.  For a couple of months now, my old, trusty KitchenAid mixer was starting to make the first sounds of death...weird periods of slowing down, a crusty whirring sound, all sorts of warning signs.  I guess I used it into the ground?  It has been around for over a decade (that's right James, my old mixer was older than you!), so my darling husband surprised me with THIS (I told you, a big couple of weeks for me!):
Note the somewhat heavenly glow...

A 6 Quart mixing bowl, AND a splash guard (so, so nice to have when baking, I was using a tea towel and holding it over the bowl and hoping for the best, and ending up with powdered whatever all over the counter)

I digress...back to the cookies.  So I used my new mixer, mixed up a batch of my sugar cookie dough (see various previous posts for recipe) and a couple of batches of royal icing and started with the baseballs.  The baseballs are nearly 5 inches across (they're the favors for the kids at the party), and I had an idea of how I wanted them to look and I needed to give them plenty of time to dry.  I always mix my white royal icing with bright white food coloring so it doesn't yellow.  With something like these baseballs, I thought it was even more important. 
Started off with an outline, then flooded it:
Let it dry overnight...then added some lines where the seams in the baseball would be:

Let that dry to the touch (a few hours at least) and come back to add the stitching with red royal icing (love the Americolor Super Red coloring...no bitter aftertaste, and nice and bright!)


I was working on several things at once, while my baseball seams were drying, I was flooding the bases for the Red Sox logo cookies so they could completely dry, and doing the same for the Fenway Park sign cookies:
Sorry for the flash...
And added some dots to the Red Sox logo cookies
And I started on my baseball hats


 Step 1, flood the main shape of the hat, let dry to the touch

 Step 2, flood the shape of the bill and add the button at the top (letting the dried area determine where the edges are, I like this technique), let dry to the touch

Step 3, add a little embellishment...


Finally, pipe on the logo, and you're done.  Sorry the color is so different on this last pic, I used my iPhone to take it instead of my camera.

And finally, the Red Sox jerseys:

Flood the little shirt cookies, let dry to the touch
Add the collar and some buttons, let dry a little...
And finish up with the red piping and some careful lettering.  Sorry, another iPhone pic...
So let me go back one minute to the boo-boo cookie, you remember?
I thought maybe there was a way to salvage this disaster, since I had all my icing colors out and ready to go (and had leftover red and blue) I made a little ring of blue over the severely damaged part
and made a mound of sanding sugar, and dipped it in there...
Then I added a ring of red because I didn't like how wobbly the inside of the blue circle looked where it was laying on top of the buckled "paper"
Not perfect, but a definite improvement.  Also kind of fun that it looks like I used blue and red sanding sugars instead of just white. :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAMES!  I hope the party is a success, we love you here in Maryland!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Some precious little cupcakes...

So, here's the back story.  Some VERY dear friends of ours have a VERY sweet kitty, named Precious.  Precious recently celebrated her 20th birthday. TWENTY YEARS OLD.  A noteworthy accomplishment for a kitty, and she's not twenty and cranky, she's twenty and perky and beautiful.  Here, see for yourself:

Anyway, it also happened to be Precious' Daddy's birthday...so we decided to celebrate with kitty treats and people treats.  I made some cupcakes, with Precious in mind (although not for Precious specifically....she got the treats on the side).
Can you see why they are Precious inspired?
That's right, Swedish Fish. Thematically appropriate, and far more tasty than a tuna fish cupcake. :)  
Sprinkled with a little edible glitter and topped with a fish, and voila!.  I hadn't counted on Precious wanting to actually taste her cupcakes, which she did seem interested in, but I think it was likely the amount of butter in my buttercream frosting (which I happen to know her Daddy also prefers) ;)  The particular recipe I used was mostly the Wilton buttercream recipe (below)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Makes:

About 3 cups of icing.

Instructions:


(Medium Consistency)

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. 

Then I added the secret frosting weapon.  Hard to find, I can only seem to locate it in one shop within 50 miles of my house, but you can order it from the manufacturer (shipping is pricey though, so if you can find it in your local bake shop you're probably better off getting it there).




I used the "Birthday Cake" flavor for my frosting (the photo above is of the almond flavor, because there's no picture on the website of the birthday cake flavor, but I wanted you to see the bottle design so you'll know you've found it if you come across it).  Here's the web link: http://www.superiorflavors.com
I also discovered something else, quite by accident, while frosting these cupcakes.  I used a piping bag (obviously), but didn't put a tip on it, just used the plastic adapter...more out of laziness curiosity than anything else ;)  You know what I'm talking about?  It's the part that you put the tip onto and then screw the ring around...except without the tip.  Here, like this, the one on the left:

You see the little notch in front, I was curious what that would do to the frosting, so I tried it.  And it's COOL, see?
The swirl ends up on one side (where the notch was cut out on the coupler) and the other side is just smooth.
I just thought it was a handy little discovery.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY PRECIOUS, and Kevin, of course!