December 19, 2012

Christmas Cookies!

All summer and throughout the fall, my husband and I have been going to a weekly/biweekly dinner group. And, all summer and fall they've been seeing pictures of my cookies, but they hadn't actually seen or tasted one in person. shame, right? I signed up to bring dessert quite a few times, there was always just something else I wanted to make (This was a really great opportunity to actually get to try out those million desserts I have pinned on pinterest). Well, we had a Christmas Dinner group last week and even though I signed up for an appetizer, I figured it was about time they got some of these cookies themselves! So made some fun Christmas trees and ornaments and gave them each a little package of two.

You'll be able to tell I was having a little editing fun with some of these pictures.

December 7, 2012

Descpicable Me!

Have you seen Despicable Me? If not, you really should. It's a fun movie no matter how old you are. It's about a super villain who adopts 3 little girls in order to one-up a fellow villain. His workers are his minions. One of my husbands co-workers had sent him a picture of some cupcakes that were the minions from despicable me wondering if I could make them. It took a while for me to actually have a chance to do them, but just last week I finally was able to take a day and make them. And yes, they are made with Twinkies and I bought those Twinkies before hostess went under.

December 6, 2012

Go Bo!

Truth time. These cookies are at least partially responsible for the blog (and cookie making) hiatus. I know, I know, I'm blaming cookies, but really-it's their fault. They drove me crazy.

I should tell you first though, that the reason I made them was awesome. A fellow cookie baker, Jill FCS, put out a call for cookies a few months ago in honor of a young man named Bo. Bo was 12 years old and passed away from Leukemia on Sept. 28, 2012. Jill called out to her fellow cookie bakers asking people to donate cookies that would be sold at a fall festival in Bo's town to raise money for cancer research. You can read more about Bo and his life's message here. I recommend heading on over there, because I know anything I write won't say it nearly as well as the facebook page does.

When I saw this call for cookies come across my facebook newsfeed, I knew I wanted to be a part of it, There was no question in my mind...until I started actually making the cookies. First, I had to decide what to make. The parameters were to be fall themed and to use orange. First, I had to figure out what was fall themed-leaves, pumpkins, fall colors...hmm what else? I couldn't really come up with anything else. I tried to get more creative, and I struggled. I mean, really, struggled. I finally just got some leaf cookie cutters and decided to go with leaves and pumpkins-that would be easy, right? Leaves? easy? thats what I thought till I actually tried to make them. Let's be honest, they turned out ok, but we all know I can do better.

Then....I got started and tried to make my icing colors. Oh. My. Goodness. I could NOT get  my colors to look right. I had fall colors in my mind, I had pictures to emulate on my computer. For the life of me though, I couldn't get it to actually work out in the icing. So, I went to work on my cookies and just did the best I could, frowning at them most the time cause they just weren't coming out how I wanted them too.

I spent forever trying to figure out why these were so hard for me. And then, it happened. I commented to my sister-in-law one day that her outfit looked very fallish and cute while also realizing I didn't really have or know what a fallish looking wardrobe consisted of-I just knew she had it figured out.


Then, she made a comment that I was probably more used to flip flops and summer then fall. LIGHTBULB! THAT was my problem! Despite the fact that I've lived in Colorado for 4 years-I spent my life in FLORIDA-the land of summer. Give me summer colors and a beach theme and I'm golden. This fall thing though? I'm still figuring that out. We didn't get fall in Florida. No wonder I didn't know what to do with fall. I know Spring, I know Summer, I think I've learned winter. Now I'm resolved to figure out fall. So maybe next year If I need to make fall cookies, I'll feel better about it.

December 5, 2012

Birthday Cupcakes!

I've mentioned before that I have a baking friend, L,  who I have collaborated with on a number of baking projects in the past. Well, her birthday was last month and her husband asked me to make cupcakes for her! How fun, right? I pretty much had free reign as long as I stayed away from anything super girly, like pink (which, I totally already knew to do cause, we're friends, ya know? ). Her favorite color is green, so I wanted to use that and I thought this would be a fun opportunity to try the whole 2 icing colors together thing. Its actually super easy and it was fun to see how the colors came out of the icing bag since I wasn't exactly sure how it would end up looking. I also made the letters of her name out of chocolate and put them in the tops of the cupcakes.


December 4, 2012

Engagement Cookies!

Wow! I've been a bit MIA, haven't I? If you've been patiently (or not so patiently?) wondering if I was ever going to write some more posts, I apologize. I'm here now! I My last set of cookies drove me a bit crazy and put me in a bit of a cookie making funk, so I haven't really been making any recently. I still have a couple sets to show you though and will hopefully get back to my cookie making ways soon!

These next cookies were a set of engagement cookies! I've been married myself for almost 2 years and I've been blessed with fantastic in-laws.  Well, my husband's younger brother has been dating an awesome young lady for a while now and in October, he asked her to marry him! On the day he was going to ask her, he planned an engagement party that evening with all their family and friends. I thought it would be fun to make some cookies to give them in honor of the occasion.  Since they aren't actual wedding cookies and I had no colors or anything to go off of, I thought it would be fun to just do simple white, black, and gray colors. I loved how they turned out, simple, but elegant.

 I almost forgot to take pictures of all of these cookies! When I remembered, I had already packaged these ones up. Unfortunatly, I had a couple pieces break off. This was a new dress cookie cutter, that I love, though I've found it to be a bit fragile.

I found the idea for these cookies here. I loved the design since the first time I saw them. This was my first time trying any sort of face on a cookie, and even as simple as it is, it wasn't super easy. I laugh at the man in the top right cookie, I feel like his mouth says he is unsure of what his sweetheart's response will be!

September 25, 2012

A word about dry weather and high altitude

I briefly mentioned in my last post that I switched from using gumpaste to using fondant when making the large flower on top of the cake. I did it because of the dry weather. I live in the dry state of Colorado at 5,280ft above sea level. A far cry from the practically sea level, high humidity state of Florida that I grew up in. Baking here is a bit different than Florida. Thanks to a friend, I have a great chocolate chip cookie recipe that works here, but I have yet to recreate the one I grew up with and have it tun out well. Have you ever seen those directions on the bottom of a cake mix for high altitude? yeah, us Coloradoans actually have to use those.

I have many people ask me if my sugar cookie recipe is a an old family favorite or something. To answer that question, it is not. I've never even tried the recipe I grew up with out here because I know it wouldn't work without figuring out the altitude adjustments that would need to be made. Instead, I found one from a high altitude baking blog. Even with that recipe, I made a slight change based on other's comments and the fact that the blogger bakes at about 9,000 ft altitude-almost twice as high as my mile high city.

Why am I talking about this now? When I made the flower for my last cake, the creator who made the flower originally (and kindly put video tutorials online to show others how to make it too) recommended using gumpaste. In fact, many bakers seems to recommend using gumpaste (instead of fondant) for flowers, figurines and basically anything that needs to dry or hold a certain shape. Gumpaste supposedly dries faster and harder than fondant an thus, is the better option. Even though I've been solely using fondant, I decided to try out gum paste for this flower cause I really wanted it to come out right. Well...try I did. and what I ended up with was gumpaste that dried WAAAAY too quickly! the petals were drying out before I could even finish doing basic ruffling to the edges. I tried adding shortening and it didn't help at all. I finished the flower only to hate it.
So...I switched back to my trusty fondant and it worked beautifully. Not only did it come out great, but the flower still dried completely hard within 36 hrs (others talk about fondant taking full weeks to dry fully).

I'm sure professional bakers and maybe others who grew up here who have figured out how to use gumpaste effectively in this dry weather. However, if you live in a dry climate and are an amateur like me, know that fondant is easier to work with.

September 22, 2012

One Year Later...

About a year ago I entered into the world of making yummy things look pretty. I got the idea in my head that I wanted to make a layered, decorated cake. Looking at it now, its a pretty sad little cake with only the basic of decorating. However, for my first try, I was pretty proud of what I accomplished. Even better than the cake though, is the path that cake set me on. I began to explore the world of the Michael's baking aisle and listened as the icing tips, bags, and gel food colors called out to me.

At this point, I make cakes occasionally, but cookies have become my primary decorating method. The cake learning curve is much steeper than the cookie learning curve. I bring all this up because once again, I recently had another birthday. And once again, I chose to make my own cake. A year later, I've learned a lot, I've grown, yet I still found myself driven slightly crazy in making this cake! I loved how it turned out, but i forget sometimes how many ways a cake can go wrong. That's all I'm going to say about that.

This cake is a modified version of a cake picture I saw several months ago. What excited me most about this cake was the big flower on top. I really wanted to see if I could make. Thankfully, the creator of it had some awesome youtube tutorials that were really easy to follow. Once I switched from gumpaste to fondant, making that flower was practically the easiest part of the cake!

August 30, 2012

Thank You Cookies

My husband is involved in pretty cool ministry called Young Life. I'm not actually involved myself, but I'm friends with a lot of the other leaders and hang out with them frequently. I tell you this, because it was these people (specifically those on my husband's team) that were the instigators for my next cookies. By instigators, I mean they asked me to make some thank you cookies for some people who had been really great to them. Really, any instigating that took place was self-inspired. Now, I've used the word instigating enough that I'm questioning its meaning and if I'm using it correctly (I just looked it up, I think I'm good on the first two, not so sure about that last one). What can I say, English was never my preferred subject. I mean, if we're playing cranium or catchphrase and I need to describe or act out words, I'm golden. Actual writing-not my strong suit.

Now that I've gotten way off topic, maybe its time to talk about cookies again. Writing on cookies never goes how I envision, so I thought it would be much safer to  use alphabet cutters and decorate each letter. Other than the fact that these needed to convey thanks, I had free reign. After a quick glance through my inspiration boards (aka, my pinterest cookie board), I chose paisleys, some brushed embroidery and a color scheme. Normally I really like bright colors, but I took these basic colors and softened them all a bit by adding ivory. I really liked how they turned out, though I wished I had softened the green a bit more.

August 29, 2012

More Cookies!

I promised you all the rest of the cookies I made alongside my contest cookies and I'm here to show them to you. These were to bring to my family while we were spending a week on the beach, so they are just a bunch of fun cookies.

August 17, 2012

Cookie Olympics!

In my last post, I mentioned I was entering a cookie contest. I have been waiting to find out the results before telling you more about it and showing you my cookie entries. The results showed up on facebook earlier today, so I'm ready to share the details and my cookies with you! I don't want to keep you in too much suspense, so I'll tell you I did win some awards! Keep reading and you'll find out what.
 bought some pretty cute cookie cutters from them myself a few months ago.

The Contest was called the cookie Olympics (and coincided with the Olympic games) and was put on by The Cookie Cutter Company (can you guess what they sell?). For the cookie Olympics, you could enter at the professional or amateur level, based on what you consider yourself. I consider myself an amateur, so that's what I entered as. Within each level there were awards best use of Olympic theme, best technique, and most creative. Each person could submit up to 3 cookie pictures (you just submitted pictures of your cookies, not the actual cookies).

I'm about to show you my cookies and tell you how they did, but if you want to see them on the facebook page where they announce the winners, here's the link.

My Olympic Stadium fireworkds cookies took home the Gold in Best use of the Olympic Theme, Silver in most creative, and Gold in best technique!

My Florida beach scene cookies took home Gold in most creative and Bronze in Best technique! (I know it's Florida because that's where I grew up and because of the cute little alligator)

These cookies didn't win any prizes, but that's alright. I knew they wouldn't win any awards, but I couldn't just not submit a 3rd entry and I didn't have any time or energy left to bust out another cool cookie collection! I still think they are pretty cute though :)

So there you have it, I may not be able to do crazy flips off a 4 inch wide beam like little Gabby Douglas (Don't you love her?) or swim faster than the speed of light like Phelps, but I can medal in cookie decorating!

Next Post I will show you the other cookies I brought to Florida with me when I visited family last week.

August 6, 2012

Chocolate covered sweets!

I've been so focused on my most recent cookie project that I completely forgot I had other yummy sweets to post! I just finished some cookies over the weekend that I'm really excited about! I'm actually entering some of them in a contest :) I'm not posting them yet, but be on the look out for them!

For today's post, I was asked to make some chocolate covered strawberries and pretzels for a friend's bridal shower and it was fun to do something a little different! I started dipping the pretzels in the normal fashion and then remembered after about 3 pretzels how old (aka tiring) that process gets. So I came up with a different way. I spread a layer of pretzels onto wax paper, put my chocolate into an icing bag and covered the entire layer back and forth. I put it in the freezer to help it harden, pulled it out, flipped the layer over and did the other side. Then I broke them apart. It came out looking different, but kind of neat. I really wish I had taken a picture before I broke the pretzels apart. The sheet of iced pretzels looked really cool.

July 25, 2012

More Bridal Shower Cookies!

Not too long ago, I was asked to make some cookies for another bridal shower. I was really looking forward to making some more wedding type cookies. I also had a new cookie cutter and some new ideas to try out! The wedding colors were gray, yellow, and orange. I really wish my gray had come out lighter, but I did not realize just how dark it would end up being.
Working with royal icing is a bit tricky for few reasons. You can make the icing thinner or thicker depending on how you will be using it and it can be a little tricky to know if you have it at the right thickness until you actual start decorating a cookie. Getting the right color is also tricky. This icing deepens in color for about 24 hrs after you make it. I'm still learning just how much a color will deepen and how to leave it lighter than I actually want it so when it darkens I still like it. Alas, it makes it hard to get the exact color you want and sometimes I end up with something darker than I hoped for :( Of course, the obvious solution is to make my icing ahead of time, however that involved planning farther ahead.Then you run into the icing needing to be well covered so it doesn't dry.
Despite color issues, I really liked how these ones came out. The longer gown cookies might be my favorite. I think that cookie cutter is my current favorite, though I have an alligator cookie cutter I have yet to use that I'm looking forward to!

July 16, 2012

Other desserts I've made

I'm good about taking pictures of my cakes and cookies, but I never think to take them of anything else I make. In the past month, I've made a few desserts from pinterest and they have all turned out well.
I figured I'd go through and mention them and give you the links. I recommend taking a look, because they taste as good as they look!

Oreo layer dessert
This is not my picture, it comes from House344's blog. You can find the link below.

You can find it here at House344.
This was pretty easy to make, no oven required and was AMAZING. Everyone who tried it loved it. It was definitely rich (how can it not be when you look at it!), but not so rich that you couldn't eat it.

Oreo Ice Cream Cake
You can find it here at Kraft foods.
OREO Ice Cream Cake recipe
This is not my picture, it comes from the Kraft foods website.

Ive done ice cream pies before (my mom would make them for me), but hadn't done a "cake" version. It was so good, I loved the multiple oreo crumb layers. You could easily switch out the chocolate and vanilla layers for other flavors. Honestly though, I loved the simplicity of those and I don't think I would change a thing!

Caramel Swirled Pretzel M&M blondies (whew..that's a mouthful!)
THis isn't my picture, it comes from Cookies and Cups. Link is below.
You can find it here at Cookies and Cups.
These turned out delicious. A lot of caramel oozed to the edges and make the edges a bit hard, but those eating it said it was still great and totally edible and yummy. I did 1 1/2x this recipe because of the number of people I was making it for and not knowing how much people would want. I made it in a 9x13 pan and an 8x8 instead of just a 9x13. I wished I had had a bit more of the batter. I'm not sure if that was a result of the recipe or the fact that I multiplied it. I'm also torn about the pretzel m&ms in there. I loved them, they are yummy, but I felt they were a bit big in size for the recipe. I think next time I will try using just crushed pretzel pieces and see how it compares (and maybe then add mini m&ms or a few extra chocolate chips).

These were all delicious, I recommend making and enjoying yourself!