Saturday, May 31, 2014

hot air balloon shaped cookies

A few weeks ago I was asked by a client to create cookie favors for her son's 5th birthday. The party was going to be in Central Park's Victorian Gardens and she wanted the cookies to look like one of the amusement rides. I suggested the Samba Balloon ride because out of all of the rides, this one would translate best in cookie form and my client loved the idea. So in lieu of cupcakes, her son passed out one of these cookie favors to each one of his party guests…..

I have A LOT of different shapes of cookies cutters. And sometimes when I don't have the exact shape, I have to use a few cutters to create it. Like a circle and a handbag cutter like I used here. A lollipop stick and a little royal icing held the cookies together.

I outlined each color of the balloon and then flooded it with royal icing.

After the base of royal icing dried, I added a few details.

Each cookie was bagged, heat sealed, and tied with bakers string.

I couldn't figure out how to incorporate the birthday boy's name and age onto the cookie, so I made little construction paper flags and busted out my stamp pad and alphabet stamps.

You're 5 !!!
Happy Birthday Alex!!!

Monday, May 26, 2014

soft pretzels & a happy memorial day!!!

Before the weather heats up and it's too darn hot to bake anything, I'm baking recipes that I've had on my radar. This Memorial Day weekend's challenge is soft pretzels. This is another recipe that has intimidated me for years mainly because the use of food grade lye for it's water bath before baking. I decided to go for it and NOT use lye, but the other alternative, a baking soda water bath and an egg wash. Success!!! (I think.)

I was inspired to make this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, smitten kitchen. Deb's writing is fun and personal and it's easy to follow. Plus there are ALWAYS some great photographs to help you along the way. Check out smitten kitchen's blog for this recipe and for other amazingly delicious sides/mains/sweets.

Soft Pretzels
slightly adapted from smitten kitchen
makes 8
2 day process

Day 1
For the DOUGH:
2 teaspoons barley malt syrup or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter - softened or melted & cooled
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1-1/2 cups bread flour
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
2-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

Day 2
1/2 cup baking soda
2 quarts of water

1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon water
course sea salt or pretzel salt

***I made my pretzels by hand but can use your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook if you want to but totally not needed.***

In a bowl (or bowl of your stand mixer), stir together barley malt syrup or dark brown sugar, unsalted butter, yeast, water, and half the flour. This will look quite sticky. Add kosher salt and remaining flour and stir until the mixture resembles a shaggy mass. Turn out onto your counter and knead for 8 - 10 minutes or with your stand mixer using a dough hook on #2 speed. Knead until it's smooth like a baby's bottom. Cut the dough into 8 pieces and let it rest for 5 minutes before shaping.

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Roll each piece of dough into a long 20" inch snake with tapered ends. Make a long "U" shape on your counter. Take both ends and slightly twist together and press end on the bottom part of the "U". ***Do your best at shaping the pretzels since I really don't know how to explain it without visuals. It's totally OK if they don't look perfect. They're homemade.*** 

Carefully transfer your pretzels onto your prepared sheet. ***I was able to fit all 8 onto my sheet. Don't worry, they do not expand much during proofing.*** Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then lightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large pot with high sides, bring to boil 2 quarts of water. Once the water is boiling, carefully add your baking soda and stir until it is dissolved. WARNING -  step back, the baking soda will bubble up like crazy once it's added to the boiling water. That is why a pot with high sides is needed. 

Turn down the heat so that it is at a simmer and carefully lower 2 - 3 pretzels into the baking soda bath. Poach for 1 minute on each side. Use a slotted spoon or mesh spatula to remove them from the bath and dab onto paper towels to remove some of the excess water. Place onto prepared baking sheet and continue with the rest of the pretzels.

To make the EGG WASH:
Whisk together the large egg, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of water. Brush the egg wash all over the pretzels. Go back and brush another layer of egg wash over the pretzels then sprinkle with pretzel salt or course sea salt. ***I also heavily sprinkled raw sesame seeds over half of mine today.*** If you want a "sweet" pretzel skip salt and just egg wash and bake.

Bake for 15 minutes rotating halfway through baking. If you have a convection setting on your oven, turn it ON at the halfway bake mark. This will help in browning. Transfer to a wire rack. Best eaten warm.

For SWEET pretzels:
After baking, brush with 2 - 4 tablespoons melted butter and toss in 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

These pretzels are really meant to be eaten warm. Within the same day that they are baked, they can be reheated slightly by putting them into your toaster. The exterior salt will weep if pretzels are stored in an airtight container. :( Therefor you must eat all of them while drinking beer…..

Happy Memorial Day!!!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

kouign-amann….a weekend challenge

Last weekend I thought I'd challenge myself and brush-up on my laminating dough skills. Introducing the kouign-amann ("queen-a-MAHN"). I have come across recipes for these beauties many times, but I have always been intimidated to make them. Bon apéttit featured kouign-amann in their April issue with a beautiful tutorial spread, that I had to try it for myself. You can even check out their video too.

Kouign-amann take time. Lots of time. There's a series of folding and rolling and letting your dough proof. All of the techniques needed to make a laminated dough. Watch bon apéttit's video. It will either scare or challenge you.


This recipe makes 12 kouign-amann.

The recipe didn't call for vanilla sugar, but I gilded the lily generously…..

Can you see the flecks of the vanilla bean???

Kouign-amann are really best eaten the day of. But if you happen to have a few leftover the next day, reheat in a 300°F oven for 5 - 7 minutes.

Friday, May 16, 2014

dia de los muertos cookies

I was so excited when I was asked to make cookie favors for a Dia de Los Muertos themed birthday party. It was unusually humid a couple of weeks ago and I was afraid my royal icing wouldn't dry overnight. Instead of piping out 60 cookies with royal icing, I used my black ink edible pen.

No two cookies were alike….. 

60 little works of art…..

All of my sugar cookies are individually bagged, heat sealed, and tied with some sort of ribbon.

It's not a birthday without a little birthday cake…..

I reserved a few cookies for the perimeter and the top of cake and added some simple red fondant roses.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I "heart" NY cookies

Sometimes I do & sometimes I don't…..

Square shaped vanilla sugar cookies decorated with royal icing and a fondant heart.

Each cookie gets special treatment - individually bagged, heat sealed to ensure freshness, and tied with ribbon.

Do you "love" your state??? Order some cookies from me today!!!