JOY COOKIE CLUB: WOODLAND CREATURES

This is my second blog post in the Joy Cookie Club series. For the basic recipes, I used either Neat Edges Sugar Cookies or Gingerbread. For Royal Icing, my favorite recipe is Tanya’s. You can it in her blog here. In this post, all cookies celebrate the woodlands and their beautiful creatures, starting with a majestic bird, one of my favorites. We do have families of owls living in the woods around our home, and often one will fly silently, sit on a branch high on a tree and stare at us for a while. It is magical.

OWLS

For this technique, you’ll need three colors of icing, brown, white and orange. Flood with brown, allow it to crust for 30 minutes. Pipe the white and add black pearls to the eyes. Adding them slightly off center is a good idea, it changes a bit the expression, making them look more natural. Let that crust for 10 minutes and add the orange detail. Feathers were painted with a food pen and gold pearl dust one day later, when the icing is fully set.

CARDINALS

Another beautiful creature we have around, particularly nice to see when it is all snowy outside…

For this design, you’ll need red, orange and black royal icing. I followed the steps of Marlyn, from Montreal Confections. She uploaded to her Instagram page a short video, but as is the case for Instagram, it goes pretty fast. I paused the video and took screenshots to help me figure it all out. But the basic steps are shown in the composite picture below.

I consider this a work in progress. The wings should have been piped with a slightly thicker consistency, so that they would puff up nicely. I ended up trying to gild the lily too much to compensate for the flattish look of the wings, and I don’t like the result very much. I will be re-visiting these cookies soon.

DEERS

I used two different cookie cutters for the deers, but with the same basic decoration approach. Some were dark brown, some were made with a lighter body. Piping was all at the same time, wet-on-wet, except for the nose that was added after 10 minutes, so it would get a little lift. After one day drying, a fine food pen joined the party for the eyes and mouth.

It is easier to make the design if you draw with a pen the basic separation of the two colors. Then, slowly pipe them so they join together nicely. It is really a lot easier than it seems, as long as the consistency of the icing is not too loose.

LLAMAS

Two different styles of llamas, with the same cookie cutter. The main difference is that in one case I made the nose after the rest of the body was crusted, so it got that puffy structure. I liked them both, but the first one is obviously easier. The nose, the ears, the details around the saddle and the collar were all added 30 minutes after crusting.

Royal icing roses for additional flair on that lady… Her name is Mercedes, by the way.

ELEPHANTS

I debated whether to make a separate Joy Cookie Club post just for elephants because I love them so much, and they go well with many different designs for decoration. But I did not want them to feel neglected, so here they are.

First technique is like a tie-dye. A lot of fun to do, although I messed up on my first attempt (sorry, no pictures!). What you do is gather all the colors you want to use, place them in individual spots, add vodka or everclear to dilute them well. They will form a gunk in the center, just continue swirling with a brush and then remove the gunk, all you need is a very diluted liquid. After that, working quickly, use a brush to add alcohol to the spot you want to color, and immediately touch it with another brush containing the diluted dye. Move it around quickly, do another spot some place else. When you are done with color #1, move to color #2, until you cover the whole surface. Add details with royal icing.

A different cookie cutter, with a modern “feel” is also fun to decorate. Many of these cookies were made the weeks before Valentine’s Day, so I had hearts in my mind…

For this design, the body is flooded, allowed to crust for 30 minutes, then the piped dots are added. Eyes and mouth need to wait 24 hours to be made.

It is also nice to use a marbling technique. Very similar to tie-dye, instead of adding spots of diluted dye, just go with a fine brush and paint lines over the white flooded body. Immediately pass a sponge on the surface, to soften the lines. A make-up small sponge is perfect for that. Once the dye dries, you can add designs on top with royal icing. Later I brushed luster gold, but that is optional.

DINOSAURS

Yes, that is pushing the envelope as far as woodland creatures go. But I find them so adorable and like elephants, you can really go crazy with the colors. Extinct animals cannot get mad at you… Poor things.

Another very easy design. Flood the body, use a second color to add details right away. Add the black pearls for the eyes, and after 24 hours draw the eyes and mouth. DONE.

I hope you liked this small collection of decorated cookies. Stay tuned for the next series, that will focus on a Spring and Easter motif.

ONE YEAR AGO: Incredibly Simple… Crunchy Asparagus

TWO YEARS AGO: A Sourdough Quartet

THREE YEARS AGO: When bad things happen to good people

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sweet Potato “Hummus”

FIVE YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

SIX YEARS AGO: Silky Rutabaga Puree

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Bon Bon Chicken: Light and Spectacular

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Red Wine Sourdough Bread with Cranberries

NINE YEARS AGO: Award-Winning Sourdough Baguettes

TEN YEARS AGO: Country Rye (Tartine)

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Penne a la Vechia Bettola

May you always be excited by your own individual inspiration and vision.

BUFFALO CHICKPEAS

This could be served cold as a salad or right after mixing the cooked chickpeas with the other ingredients. It is delicius on its own for a light lunch. Chickpeas have that earthy flavor I find addictive, and when paired with the heat of Sriracha – another passion of mine – it gets even better… And let’s not even mention the tahini, so I don’t lose my composure.

BUFFALO CHICKPEAS
(adapted from Skinnytaste)

15- oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 large carrots, shredded on a food processor
2 stalks celery, diced small
1 Tbsp Sriracha (or to taste)
3 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp tahini
mixed baby greens to serve alongside (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the carrots with the celery, squirt a little lemon juice, season lightly with salt and mix gently. Reserve.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Once it begins to shimmer, add the chickpeas, spreading them in a single layer, and let cook undisturbed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they brown a bit. Stir, season with salt and cook for a minute more. Transfer the chickpeas to the bowl with the veggies.

Make the dressing by mixing the yogurt, lemon juice, Sriracha and tahini. Add to the bowl of chickpeas and veggies, and fold gently. Serve with baby spinach/lettuce right away, or refrigerate and enjoy later as a salad, but in that case do not add the greens.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Depending on the thickness of your yogurt, you might have to add a little water to thin the dressing a bit. Mix it as described, then adjust if needed. As I mentioned, this dish could stand on its own for a vegetarian meal, but we enjoyed it with grilled pork tenderloin for a nice and easy weeknight dinner. Leftovers were my meat-free lunch two days later, barely passed by the microwave just to break the cold from the fridge. The carrots mellow quite a bit after a couple of days in the fridge, so if you like a bit more texture, grate additional raw carrots on top. Crumbled blue cheese would be quite appropriate also…

ONE YEAR AGO: Bi-Color Croissant and Pain au Chocolat

TWO YEARS AGO: Lemon-Blueberry Entremet Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: Walk Strong3: Jessica Smith’s latest workout program

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pork Medallions with Black Berry Compote

FIVE YEARS AGO: Indian-Spiced Chicken with Chickpeas and Spinach

SIX YEARS AGO: Curry Cardamon Cookies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, March 2014

EIGHT YEARS AGOBoeuf Bourguignon for a Snowy Evening

NINE YEARS AGO: Chickpea Salad

TEN YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Roasted Onion and Asiago Cheese Miche

FLORAL CHOCOLATE STICK COOKIES

I am not sure if stick cookies are a fad or here to stay, but I find them quite adorable. Easy to handle, not too big, and fun to decorate. These are intensely flavored, pretty much like an Oreo without the filling. No need for special skills with the Royal icing, it goes on the cookie as a humble flooding layer. Let that fully set overnight (really important), then use a very fine food pen to draw the design you like. Food pens and luster powder close the deal. For a demonstration on how to paint with luster powder, you can visit this post. The process is the same. Cookie cutter from Sugarbelle.

CHOCOLATE CUTOUT COOKIES
(from Baking a Moment)

113g cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes (1 stick)
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
135g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
30g cornstarch (1/4 cup)
50g unsweetened cocoa powder (1/2 cup)
180g all-purpose flour (1 + 1/2 cups, you may need a little more)

Cream the butter, oil, sugar, vanilla and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, just until the mixture is smooth. Add the egg and mix just until incorporated. Mix in the cornstarch, cocoa powder and the flour. The dough should start to clear the sides of the bowl as you mix it in low-speed. If needed, add a bit more flour.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roll the dough and cut into sticks or any shape you like. Freeze the cut shapes for 10 minutes, then bake for 9 to 12 minutes. They are done when they feel firm around the edges. Cool completely, then decorate as you desire.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: To make the drawing you can transfer the design from a printed picture using tissue paper, or use a mini-projector, which makes the process quite straightforward. I am the lucky recipient of an AKASO mini-projector, early Birthday-anniversary gift from my beloved. As I mentioned recently, he is taken, so you can stop your shenanigans.

I am very fond of simple designs with an Oriental flair. There are countless images available around (like these from Cake Central). Stained-glass compositions are also a wonderful source of inspiration. I’ve been collecting images to play with in cookie-format. Once you decide on the image, it is just a matter of playing with colors. The food pen goes on smoothly and the luster powder brings a very subtle texture. I like to join both in the same design, which I did in the cookie with red flowers.

The red flowers were painted with food pen (Americolor Gourmet Writer), the leaves are luster powder Khaki, and the centers Super Blue, both from OhSweetArt.

I am still trying to find my way through the path of mini-projector and cookie painting. The gray cats were painted with luster powder, the black with food pen. The flowers were also a mixture, food pen for the orange and green, luster powder in gold for the center.

ONE YEAR AGO: Sally’s Spicy Mango and Coconut Macarons

TWO YEARS AGO: Bouillabaise for a Chilly Evening

THREE YEARS AGO: Bergamot-Cherry Macarons

FOUR YEARS AGO: Roasted Veggies with Queso Cotija Dressing

FIVE YEARS AGO: Creamy Broccoli and Mushroom Casserole

SIX YEARS AGO: Maple Walnut Biscotti

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

NINE YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

TEN YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini

CHARCOAL PEANUT SOURDOUGH

I’ve been struggling with bread stencils lately. My designs end up not as sharp as I hoped them to be, lack of contrast after baking, all sorts of annoying little disappointments. I finally figured out what I was doing wrong, after watching videos from bread guru Morgi. I will share a couple of tips today, in case you’d like to use this method to decorate your bread.

CHARCOAL PEANUT SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

470g bread flour
20g spelt flour
10g peanut flour
7g charcoal powder
10g salt
370g water
100g sourdough starter at 100% hydration

Make the levain mixture about 6 hours before you plan to mix the dough. It should be very bubbly and active.

When you are ready to make the final dough, place the water in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and dissolve the starter in it, mixing with a spatula briefly, then add the three types of flour, charcoal and salt. Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 4 minutes at low-speed all the time. You will notice the dough will gain quite a bit of structure even with just 4 minutes in the mixer. If the dough seems too soft, add a bit more bread flour. Remove from the machine, and transfer to a container lightly coated with oil, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 4 hours, folding every 45 minutes or so. Because the dough is already a bit developed from the initial time in the mixer, you should get very good structure after 3 and a half hours, or even sooner than that.

After four hours bulk fermentation, shape the dough as a ball, and place, seam side up, in a lightly floured banetton. Leave at room temperature one hour, and then place in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F. Invert the dough over parchment paper, if the surface seems moist you can place the stencil right away on top of it. If it seems dry, spray lightly with water and position the stencil. Shower some white rice flour on the stencil and rub gently with the fingers of your right hand as you steady the stencil with your left hand (do the opposite if you are left-handed). The idea is to rub the flour on the surface through the openings of the stencil, so that you get a good pattern formed. Carefully lift the stencil and slash the bread around it, so that the bread will not open and compromise the image.

Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam. Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you use a banneton for the final rise of your shaped loaf and it glues to it when you try to invert it to bake, you know that can be VERY frustrating. Sometimes it even distorts the beautiful shape achieved slowly overnight in the fridge. I normally add quite a bit of flour to the banneton before the dough goes in, but when I want to do the stencil decoration, I prefer not to have too much flour on the surface to start with. My tip is simple: place a plastic wrap (like Saran-wrap or other brands) inside the banneton and THEN add your bread – it does not prevent the ridges from making that cute impression on the surface (although it will be slightly less evident) and you will have NO issues inverting the dough to bake.

For the image to be sharp and evident, the trick is to have a little moisture on the dough, and rub the flour, gently but firmly. Hold the stencil in place with one hand, and rub the flour with the other. Lift the stencil as delicately as humanly possible. Finally, whatever design you choose, slash the bread in ways that coach the opening away from the design. You can cut four deep slashes in a square shape with the design in the center, or do what I did, a circular series of small, deep cuts all around.

Peanut flour has no fat, but transfers the taste of peanuts quite well to the bread. It has a softer crumb than a straight sourdough with just bread and whole-wheat flours. And the charcoal contributes no taste. When we freeze slices after a couple of days, we like to cut one or two into croutons, because they look pretty amazing in that shocking black color.

ONE YEAR AGO: Chocolate Cake with Coconut Buttercream

TWO YEARS AGO: Berry Rebellion Tarts 

THREE YEARS AGO: Bergamot-Cherry Macarons

FOUR YEAR AGO: Roasted Veggies with Queso Cotija Dressing

FIVE YEARS AGO: Creamy Broccoli and Mushroom Casserole

SIX YEARS AGO: Maple Walnut Biscotti

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

NINE YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

TEN YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini

MONET’S GLAZED CARROTS

Surprised by the title of this post? Monet was not only a great painter, but also a lover of good food. When we visited his home/museum in Giverny a few years ago, Phil bought the book “Monet’s Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet”, full of wonderful pictures of his garden and home, including the amazing kitchen. The book even shares a recipe for his favorite cake that he requested every year for his Birthday. That very cake was a technical challenge in the Great British Bake Off a few years ago. Browsing the recipes, the first thing I noticed is how cooking changed over the decades. We now rely so much on ingredients, spices and produce from all over the world. Miso, pomegranate molasses, harissa, dried limes… In Monet’s time it was all quite different. One of the components that was present in many recipes – even the most basic veggie concoctions – was rich beef or chicken broth. For the most part, that was how they intensified flavors. This is a recipe for glazed carrots that intrigued me because it is so different from the way I “understand” glazed carrots. I made it, we loved it, therefore I share…

MONET’S GLAZED CARROTS
(adapted from Monet’s Table)

3 cups of carrots, cut in slices, not too thin, not to thick
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
4 sprigs parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup beef broth (I used canned from Rachael Ray)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (yes, you read that correctly)
additional parsley to serve (optional)

Cook the carrots in 3 cups salted boiling water for 5 minutes, drain, reserving 1/4 cup liquid.

In a saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. Add the parsley, salt, pepper, reserved carrot cooking liquid, and the beef broth. Stir well, then add the lemon juice, powdered sugar and carrots. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to as low as it will go, and leave the lid slightly open so that the liquid will reduce. Cook for one hour, or until the carrots are cooked and glazed.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Several things intrigued me about this recipe. I never imagined starting with a roux, using beef broth, and adding a touch of powdered sugar. It also seemed like an awfully long time to cook the carrots. The whole time I kept telling myself – this won’t have a happy ending. But I was proved wrong, way wrong. It ended up less sweet than some of the glazed carrots I’ve made in the past, and with more complex flavor, which I am sure comes from the beef broth.

This was a Polar Vortex dinner that we cooked together. I made the carrots, and Phil prepared a pot roast, simple but I must say it turned out outstanding (sorry ladies, he is taken). To deglaze the pan to make the gravy, he used some of the water I cooked the carrots and that was a winning move. A real back to basics meal. Which sometimes is all we need.

ONE YEAR AGO: Brownies, Three Ways

TWO YEARS AGO: Berry Rebellion Tarts  (one of my favorite blog posts)

THREE YEAR AGO: Emilie Raffa’s High Hydration Sourdough

FOUR YEARS AGO: Short-Ribs with Chickpeas and Chard

FIVE YEARS AGO: Asian-Style Short Ribs 

SIX YEARS AGO: Herbed Goat Cheese Souffles

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

EIGTH YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

NINE YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

TEN YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo