THE NEVER AGAIN FOLDER

Some adventures in the kitchen can be catastrophic. My lowest of the low was a certain Vegan Soufflee made in 2019 that was by far the worst thing I’ve ever made and maybe the worst I’ve ever tasted. Then there are things that ended up quite tasty but the process was so convoluted that… all I could think was “never, never again.” I share two examples today. You can actually use your own recipes to come up with them, they are both very simple. A brownie cake and sugar cookie dough, in two colors.

LADY BUG BROWNIE BITES

This one took me by surprise, after all I like to think I’m quite comfortable around Royal icing. And after baking the brownie bites in your favorite silicone half-dome mold, you are half way there. But, not so fast, my dear… not so fast. Getting the red icing to smoothly coat the surface, all the way down, is VERY messy and requires colorful language. Then you need to add the details in black while the red is still wet. Finally the white eyes are added later, when the base is set and any Zen you had is far gone.

They did look awfully cute, but I tell you, NEVER AGAIN!

Moving on…

JIGSAW BLACK AND WHITE COOKIES

For these cute looking cookies, all you need is the right cutter, and I recommend this one. I actually saw someone on IG making a pastry shell using this technique and immediately adapted it for cookies. It seemed so straightforward.

Roll out both doughs less than 1/4 inch thick (I was going to do sandwich cookies because I like to maximize suffering, so I wanted them thin). Cut with the mold, separate the pieces and assemble them together. Cut them in square shapes to bake.

I know they look pretty nice and appealing, but it was time-consuming, a lot of work to come up with just a few cookies. Also, you are left with some trimmings that to use you must mash together for a marble effect, no way to re-roll and get more jigsaw patterns going.

To be honest, I really like the Jigsaw Cookies and might do them again, maybe a Red Velvet and White when Valentine’s comes up. But I need some time to forget the hassle and tell myself “I don’t remember it being that bad.”

ONE YEAR AGO: Chai-Butterfly Macarons

TWO YEARS AGO: Roasted Cauliflower Salad over Hummus

THREE YEARS AGO: Sous-vide Egg Bites

FOUR YEARS AGO: Paul Hollywood, The Weekend Baker

FIVE YEARS AGO: Texas Sheet Cake

SIX YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, September 2015

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sour Cherry Sorbet: A Labor of Love

EIGHT YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen – September 2013

NINE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Sorbet at Summer’s End

TEN YEARS AGO: When three is better than two  (four years with Buck!)

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Grating Tomatoes (and loving it!)

TWELVE YEARS AGO: A Peachy Salad for a Sunny Day

COOKIE THERAPY, ANYONE?

Four top-notch cookie decorators. Two from the US, one from Canada, one from Spain. Marlyn and Amy get together virtually on Tuesdays for Cookie Therapy (I am undergoing treatment). On Fridays, Marlyn, Haniela and Amber join efforts in their Cookie Lunch Break (videos available here). Both virtual events showcase cookie decorating techniques live, as they chat, share tips, and answer eventual questions from those watching. It starts at noon where I live, so it is now a nice routine for me, I have my lunch and cookie therapy at the same time. Today I share two examples of goodies that were recently showcased by Marlyn and Amy in their Tuesday series. They have in common the use of wafer paper flowers. Needless to say, I fell in love with the technique…

HONEY SUGAR COOKIES WITH WAFER PAPER FLOWERS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, decoration following Amy’s tutorial)

1 cup butter (226g), cut in pieces, cold
200g sugar 
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 eggs
1 tsp honey extract (Olive Nation)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
420 g all-purpose flour
60 g cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

Mix the flour, cornstarch, salt and baking powder and reserve. 

Cream sugar, butter and lemon zest in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid for a couple of minutes until the sugar is incorporated well and does not feel gritty. Add the eggs, honey emulsion and vanilla extratc slowly and mix until incorporated, but don’t over-mix. 

Add the flour mixture slowly, mixing in low-speed. If needed, add a little more flour, up to 1/4 cup. Once the dough comes together, stop, and form three discs. You should have three discs with about 330g each. Dough can be rolled out immediately or placed in the fridge to roll out later. It also freezes extremely well. 

Cut in shapes, freeze the cut-outs for 10 minutes, then bake in a 350F oven for about 13 minutes. Ice and decorate as desired. 

For my favorite Royal Icing recipe, visit Tanya’s blog with a click here.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The hexagonal cookie tutorial with detailed explanation on making the flowers, starts at 41 min this video. Wafer paper sheets are available from the seller of all things, amazon.com. To make the flowers and leaves, you’ll need mini puncher cutters, (several other kinds available like this) or a considerable amount of patience to cut the shapes by hand. The wafer paper is white, so you have two options to color it: before or after cutting the shapes. I strongly advise that you spray paint or brush color on the sheet, let it dry and then cut the shapes, because they are very delicate and harder to paint after cutting. When you cut them, they will be flat. To give a tri-dimensional look, you can gently wrap them around the tip of a small plastic bottle (eye-drop bottles will work great), or what Amy suggests, using the tip of an air-brush dye bottle like these. Both methods work like a charm, just be gentle. Even if the center rips a little bit, when you add the centers it will hide the boo-boo. As to the centers, they can be dry Royal icing transfers, or you can just pipe a little blob of icing when you glue the flowers on the cookie’s surface. The great thing about these decorations, is that they last a long time, so you can make a little treasure chest with flowers, leaves, and save them for a cookie (or cupcake) emergency.

CHOCOLATE TWIG COOKIES

I find these cookies absolutely adorable! I cannot share the exact recipe I used, as it is available exclusively for Marlyn’s supporters through her Patreon site. You can certainly use your favorite chocolate cookie recipe, as long as it does not have leavening agent. It is also a good idea to pick a recipe that calls for some brown sugar, so that the dough will be more flexible and smooth.

Detailed method for shaping and decorating can be found here starting at 32 min and 30 seconds. Her flowers are logs above mine, with added details that I felt were beyond my skill level. She performs magic with the air-brush! They end up looking exactly like cherry blossoms, but I am still pretty thrilled with my little babies.

The secret to get the bark look, is brushing the cookies with Americolor Ash right before baking. This step is optional but I believe it adds a lot of charm.

As you might notice, I re-use parchment paper. The twigs were baked right after the hexagonal cookies from Amy’s tutorial, as well as some stick cookies, you can still see their ghost images in there…

After baking, you’ll need green Royal icing in stiff consistency to pipe leaves and glue the flowers over the surface.

Another way to use the wafer paper is sticking them on the surface of a freshly baked cookie, the residual heat will make the decoration stick and lay flat on it.

Now, I should also mention that the decorations look very nice, but not everyone will enjoy the mouthfeel of the wafer paper. So tell your guests or whoever will be enjoying the cookies that they can just peel off the decorations if they prefer. You can also minimize the amount of wafer paper by coupling the flower with Royal icing leaves.

I hope you’ll consider joining Cookie Therapy on Tuesdays, or Friday Cookie Lunch Break, at 1PM EST. They are always coming up with interesting things that will open your horizons to cookie making and decorating. I promise you will love it!

Watch it at 13:00hs EST (or anytime later) via youtube here..

ONE YEAR AGO: The Quasi-Vegan Quiche

TWO YEARS AGO: Not Quite Moqueca

THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Butternut Squash with Cashew Nuts

FOUR YEARS AGO: Mississippi Roast and the Open Mind

FIVE YEARS AGO: Walnut-Raisin Bran Muffins

SIX YEARS AGO: A Star is Born!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Chestnut Flour Sourdough Bread

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Kinpira Gobo and Japanese Home Cooking

NINE YEARS AGO: Walnut Sourdough

TEN YEARS AGO: Thai Chicken Curry

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Zen and the art of risotto

WOOD PLANK COOKIES, LEARNING FROM THE BEST

My cookie-baking adventures go on and on. So many different techniques to try, sometimes I am not sure which one to go for next. But the moment I saw my tent-baking friend Tanya sharing her method to make wood plank cookies, I dropped all other projects that were waiting, and jumped on it, like a Jack Russell on a snake. Or Oscar on an ankle (missed the story? click here). She shared a blog post and three tutorials to come up with a showstopper production, involving a bunny rabbit and gorgeous tulips. I confess that the skill to pipe the rabbit on the cookie is beyond my reach, so I opted to let the bunny go and bring butterflies, made as Royal icing transfers. A lot less stressful. I’m quite pleased with the way they turned out…

CHERRY-ALMOND SUGAR COOKIES
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup (227g) unsalted butter,cubed, cold
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
zest of half an orange
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups (420g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60g) cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cherry extract (Olive Nation)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (Olive Nation)

to decorate:
your favorite recipe of Royal Icing (I use Tanya’s)
royal icing transfers (butterflies and flowers)
food-safe pen

Heat the oven to 350 F and line baking sheets with parchment. Sift the flour, cornstarch and salt, and set aside. Mix the sugar with the zest rubbing it well to release the oils. Cream the butter with the flavored sugar, just until smooth and combined.

Mix in the eggs and flavoring extracts until incorporated. Add the flour mixture on low-speed, in three portions. The mixture will seem very dry and sandy at first, but after a couple of minutes the mixer it will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Remove the dough from the bowl, cut in two pieces and wrap one in plastic. Roll the second piece of dough out between 2 sheets of parchment paper, to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut into rounds, press a detail flower using another type of cutter, and freeze for 10 minutes. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie. I like to have a slight golden tone at the edges.

Cool on a rack and decorate as desired. For the bee decoration you’ll need thick consistency Royal icing in cream color for the background, and leaf green for details. A brown food pen with reasonably fine tip, food gel dye in caramel or brown color, vodka, and royal icing transfers of the decorations you feel like adding to the plank.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: To see Tanya’s gorgeous cookies visit her site with a click here. Those who have been following my blog for a while know that I’ve never been into cookie decorating, and Royal icing scared every cell of my body. My approach for a decade had been “thanks, but no thanks.” Being part of the Great American Baking Show forced me to deal with the issue. Although I never got as far as making decorated cookies in the tent, I admit that what I had planned for that particular episode was not that great. Once the show was over, I set as a goal for myself to improve, and ended up following the footsteps of Tanya in her online tutorials. She literally turned me into a cookie addict. Cookie making, that is. So, if you suffer from the same problem I used to, check her blog. Consider also supporting her through Patreon (or offering a subscription to someone you love).

There are several ways to generate a wood appearance on cookies, but I like Tanya’s method because it minimizes the amount of icing you’ll need. She lays a background color with a spatula, gives it a little texture, draws the veins of the wood with a pen and goes over it all with diluted food dye. It is all very carefully detailed in her tutorial, step by step. For my decorations, I made small butterflies with Royal Icing. I drew templates by hand with a very loose butterfly format, and piped white icing. For transfers, you want icing that flows smoothly from the tip of your bag (I use tipless bags for that), or from the icing tip. But, it needs to be thick enough to hold it’s shape. I’d say about 20 seconds is what you want. For the base and the leaves and stems, you’ll need thicker than that. Once the butterflies dried completely (overnight is best), I painted them with luster gold and drew a pattern with a fine tip black food pen.

The daffodils were made according to a tutorial from Haniela which you can find here.

The plank is a very nice background to add to several shapes of cookies, and compatible with many different additions: birds, flowers, animals, butterflies, or even a simple monogram. And the plaque shape is also quite interesting to play with, even if you decide to go with a simple, solid color background.

ONE YEAR AGO: OMG Spinach Pies

TWO YEARS AGO: Avgolemono Soup, My Way

THREE YEARS AGO: Sourdough Chocolate Twist Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Dan Lepard Times Three

FIVE YEARS AGO: Turkey Portobello Burger

SIX YEARS AGO: Raspberry Ricotta Cake

SEVEN YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2014

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Pasta with Lemony Tomatoes and Spinach

NINE YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Duck: A work in progress

TEN YEARS AGO: Grilled Mahi-mahi with citrus marinade

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Memories of Pastéis\

HAPPY EASTER!

For those who celebrate…

Vanilla Cupcakes with Mini-Chocolate Eggs

Meyer Lemon Sugar Cookies
(Flower Bunny design by Haniela)

Egg Nests Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Icing

Egg-Shaped Sugar and Chipotle-Chocolate Cookies

(Here Comes the Sun, design by @sugarbaked; Bunny with Mushrooms design by @montrealconfections)