And They’re Off

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I got my boxes all assembled yesterday and took them to the post office today.  There was a line.  This must be the high volume day for shipping in time for Valentine’s Day.

I know the kids will be excited when they see their boxes full of Valentine fun.  I have three stores I visit usually to pick up various things for their boxes, besides the grocery store.  I usually hit Target, World Market (which is another store under the Target corporation) and Hobby Lobby.  This year they are getting Play Doh with their boxes which will make me almost as popular with their moms as the glow in the dark putty I sent for Halloween.  Target usually has a several items in their Dollar Bins that I can use.  And if all else fails, glow sticks.  Glow sticks are always a hit.

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As soon as I can get myself going again I have to finish the curtains.  I’m almost done.  And I’ve figured out the easiest way to make lined curtains.  Then it will be on to the baby shower later this month.  Next month is Easter.  I’ve got to start thinking about that.  I may stick to making some digital Easter designs that I’ll just post to my friends and you.

 

Tattooed Cookies

If you’ve been following my blog you know I have been working on very special cookies for my Valentine boxes this year.  I went with a tattoo theme mostly because I have three little grandsons.  There are two granddaughters, one of mine and one of my husband’s.  Mine is the only one old enough to be concerned about the cookies though.  The boys won out this year.  I did tone down my design somewhat to not be quite as gory as I’m sure they would have liked.  I have to say, if you really want to do something spectacular this may be it.  I am very pleased with the whole thing.

I ordered my design printed on sugar rounds from Sweet Doodle Bytes.  They arrived very quickly and the people there are really great with customer care.  They let me know that they had tried to get in touch with me to answer my concerns, but the email address failed.  Now, that’s customer service!  Their directions are concise and easy to follow.  I chose to put my little designs in the freezer for 30 seconds and mount them on the cookies with corn syrup.  It was beyond easy.  The freezer makes the little rounds stiff and they pop right off the backing paper.  Then you just spread a little syrup on the cookie and press the design down and there you have it.

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I did taste the little arrow that shows you which way is up just to see what they tasted like.  It was kind of like the message candy hearts that we give at this time of year.  And it dissolves in your mouth.  I only ordered enough to make for the kids, so I won’t be eating any of them myself.  I’m sure they will taste delicious though.

This time around I used my special roller bands to get a nice flat and exactly right thickness for my cookies.  What a difference that makes.  They still spread in cooking, but they held their shape for the most part.  That is if I could get them on the cookie sheet without distorting them.  For my purposes I believe they are very good though.

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I did make some cookies for the girls and the boys can just tough it out.  I reserved some of my white frosting and tinted the rest a deep pink.  After I got the cookie iced I took my white frosting and made a circle in the center of the cookie.  I then drew a toothpick through the circle and made a heart.  That was kind of fun and I can’t wait to try different designs with more colors.  I’m going to use that idea on the Christmas cookie mittens I always make.

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Now I can move on to creating my secret message in a bottle and assemble my boxes.  I’ll have them in the mail on Monday and into their eagerly waiting little hands before Valentine’s Day.

Bon appetit!

Nag, nag, nag…

I just love the way that rolls of material or pieces of paper or sugar sheets of printed designs can sit and silently nag at  you.  Just as I had hoped my sugar designs arrived last week.  They have been sitting ever since on the counter top silently sending out their recriminations.

My simulated tattoo art for my Valentine cookies.

My simulated tattoo art for my Valentine cookies.

I am going to have to get this done this week in order to ship them in time.  I’ll confess that every time I start off into the unknown, and I do that a lot, I have a certain level of angst.  But the nice people at Sweet Doodle Bytes have sent very clear instructions on how to apply my design to my cookies.

Along with my design I have been receiving my material.  I’m going to be making curtains for the living and dining room.  I’m waiting on the curtain material, but the lining has arrived.  This I have to have done by the 23rd of this month as that is when the baby shower is.  No stress!

Cookies for Valentine’s Day

I am going to combine two projects in one and see how it comes out.  For quite some time I’ve wanted to try edible art.  Not fondant, but the printed sugar sheets you can put on cakes or cookies.  So, for my traditional Valentine cookies I send to my grandchildren this year I’m going to make cookies and apply some edible art with artwork I created.

The concept was that of tattoo art.  I wanted to make a design that looked like a tattoo, get it printed and make my cookies with it.  I’ve spent the better part of this afternoon creating my design.  And here it is:

I have chosen a vendor I’m going to use from the numerous vendors on the web.  If I like the results I’ll let you know who it is.  If you want this design and you can get it to save to your computer, feel free.  Some of it is my own work, but most of it is free clip art. 
Having a background in screen printing, I am hoping that the lines will print thick enough to transfer well.  That may just be a screen printing problem though.  The process used to make edible art is basically an inkjet printer and edible ink.  At any rate, I’m excited to do something that is totally mine for the people I love.
I used Corel Draw to create my design.  Unfortunately, that is what I’m familiar with and most people do not own it, therefore I’m not going to go into all the nuances of making this design.

Challenge #1 – Stencil Cookies

I chose the theme of winter for this little batch of cookies.  Because I roam around Hobby Lobby and Joann’s looking at everything for ideas, I already had a snowflake stencil I found in the scrapbooking aisles.  I colored my icing with pastel blue from the Wilton Icing Colors (gel) reserving a small bit of basic white icing to use for the snowflakes..

My recipe for royal icing is very simple:  4 cups of powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons of powdered meringue (found at Hobby Lobby or Joann’s or some other baking supply) and 6 tablespoons of warm water.  This is from a recipe I found online.  This makes a very stiff royal icing.  So, you carefully add more water, a little at a time until  you get the consistency you want.  I used the undiluted icing for the piping around the cookie and then flooded the inside of that with a slightly thinned icing using what is known as 10 count royal icing (because it takes 10 seconds for it to flow back together).  Keep in mind, I’m an amateur at this and I’m not making these cookies to sell, so they aren’t perfect.

The smaller cookies are the one I made from scratch and re-cut and the larger one is from the packaged ingredients.  On the smaller cookies I piped an edge and flooded the center.  Then I worked with the icing with a toothpick until it was spread as evenly as possible across the cookie.  Shaking the cookie until it was smooth.  On the larger cookies I took a knife and spread the icing on there.  Again, shaking it until the icing was smooth.  The piped edge allows for thicker icing.

After the icing had completely hardened, I took my stencil and placed it on the cookie.  Holding it down I took my reserved white icing and with a spatula spread it across the stencil.  This takes some practice to get the stencil even.  And a thicker plastic might make a better impression.  My stencil was a bit thin and left a thin snowflake.  One more reason why I need to save up for a Silhouette.

After I had the stencil down I sprinkled the snowflake with white sanding sugar to give it a little sparkle.  And now my husband can quit sneaking cookies and just eat one if he so desires.

Final analysis:  The cookies from scratch are prettier as they are lighter in color after baking.  Because I’m slightly obsessive/compulsive I like re-cutting the cookies and having a nice, sharp shape despite the edge that’s not rounded by baking.  And practice makes perfect.  It takes time to master decorated cookies, but at least you get to eat your mistakes!

Even Dough Bands

I was thinking through the various problems I had with the cookie dough and came upon this idea.  I remember when I was playing with fondant I bought a little roller that had bands on it that would allow me to roll out my dough a certain thickness.  The thought occurred to me that surely someone had come up with the same thing for rolling pins.  And they have!

There are three sources that I know of Williams and SonomaBed, Bath and Beyond and Crate and Barrel. The only one I have easy access to is Bed, Bath and Beyond, but I found the rolling pin spacers on sale at Crate and Barrel this morning and ordered them.  They have since sold out, evidently, as they are no longer offering them on-line.  Perhaps they will restock.  I hope so because they are sold alone and very reasonable.

I can’t wait to receive mine and try them out.  A solution to what has been a tedious problem for me since I am not a professional cookie maker or baker.  I want good results, but I can’t spend hours practicing the art of rolling dough out evenly.

In my order from Crate and Barrel I also bought a new spatula for my mixer that will automatically scrape the edges of the mixing bowl.  I can’t wait to try that out too because that is another troublesome thing using the Kitchen Aid and always has been.  When you stop and drop the bowl to scrap the edges you still can’t get it completely because the blade circles around the bowl and ends up near the edge at some point every time you stop it.

Stay tuned because I will definitely be reviewing what I think of these two helpful little additions to my kitchen.

Challenge #1 – Baking the cookie

I halved the recipe.  That seemed the easiest since I have no idea how to get half an egg.  Here are my notes on making this recipe:  I have included the recipe under its own page entitled Sugar Cookie Recipe. Previously I thought the cost would be less, but actually with only halving the recipe, the cost is comparable to the pre-packaged cookie mix.

The dough is a lot stiffer than the packaged dough.  I was afraid that I would also have a cookie that had that noticeable “flour” taste to it.  The cookie isn’t as sweet as the packaged cookie, but it is good just the same.  The taste of vanilla is there.  I use a high quality liquid vanilla for cookies and baked goods.  And I beat my egg before adding it.  I don’t know if that was a good thing or not, but I did.

I learned while making the cookie that the actual mixing was easy.  I have a stand alone Kitchen Aid mixer and it can handle almost anything.  I don’t know how it would be if you just had one of those little hand-held mixers.  I think you would have to resort to kneeding the dough at some point and that might not be good.  So, I would not try this recipe if you don’t have access to a good standing mixer.

I have always used the flour the surface and flour the dough method of rolling out cookie dough.  Because I feared I already had enough flour to taste it, I used her method of rolling it out between parchment paper.  I am quite the novice at this, but I found that only when the dough is adequately chilled can you roll it out between the paper and then it is a very tough thing to do — I now have biceps like Popeye.  Just kidding, but it was hard to do.  If I use her recipe again I may try my method with the flour.

That said, if you use this recipe when you get to the step where you are going to roll it out between the parchment paper to chill the dough for the first time, roll it into a sheet as close as possible to the thickness you will want for your cookie because believe me you’re not going to be able to roll it evenly after you chill it if you can roll it at all.

Once you have it chilled and you cut out your cookies then you will have to repeat the procedure of rolling out the dough between the parchment paper and chilling it again.  If you don’t and just proceed to trying to cut out another batch of cookies you may find, as I did, that your dough sticks very nicely to the paper.  And has become so pliable that you can’t get a decent shaped cookie up off the paper to put on the cookie sheet.

The first batch I did was way too thick and spread mercilessly.

Undaunted by my amateur efforts I decided to take my cookie cutter and cut the cookie again.

This left a little trim which also allows you to see how much the cookie had spread largely due to being too thick in the first place.  And afterwards I once again had the perfect cookie.  I’ve wanted to try this since at Christmas I make mitten cookies and they never look as pretty after I cook them as when I cut them out.

Now I have a nice round cookie to ice.  The edge is not as pretty as the edge would be had I not re-cut the cookie.  And I wonder if there might be some problem with icing and serving, but that will have to wait for the next installment