"if you wish to be glamorous, become a cake baker" -The Joy of Cooking

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Cookies: Gingerbread Madness!!

Every Christmas season the sheer longing to bake gingerbread and construct fun festive things like a jolly house is so overwhelming I find myself day dreaming about making one all day.  Details like how the door will look or what candies I should buy to adorn it, how and where I should display it in our home takes over my brain until I get into the kitchen and start.

I purchased this book Here a couple Christmases ago and LOVE looking through it to get inspired, learn royal icing techniques and it has great house templates in it as well.  I definitely took the house on the front cover as a guide for the house I made this year, although it isn't nearly as perfect, I really love how it turned out.  

I also made a gingerbread tree and some good ol' gingerbread men.  The tree and house are purely for decoration, the men I baked to actually eat.   I must admit as much as I love baking and making gingerbread this didn't get done all in one day, it actually took days to make, 2 batches of royal icing and sprinkles everywhere that by the time I finished, it really does take me a whole year to recover and get the urge to make another! 

I used 2 batches of this recipe HERE from Wilton.  For the men I substituted butter instead of shortening.

My templates placed on the rolled dough.  I printed this cute gingerbread house template from an amazing blog I follow sweetopia.net all about mastering beautifully decorated cookies.  Click  Here if you would like the template

House pieces ready to bake.  I put the cookie pieces in the freezer for about 15mins before baking

This year I decided instead of using candy I would decorate my house with royal icing and some sprinkles.  Here i'm using a fan to help speed up the drying time.  

Decorate your walls and let them dry flat completely before assembling the house.  I'm very new at piping royal icing and need to work on perfecting the perfect consistency for piping decorations

I LOVE the way the front door came out.  I covered it with sugar pearls and the pink door knob is just perfect.  It makes me smile every time I look at it

Back of house

Side windows

I absolutely love it :)

Here is the recipe I used for royal icing also from sweetopia.net 
It is a super thick consistency which is perfect for putting house pieces together.  You will need to thin out the icing with water in order to do any detailed piping.  This is where I definitely struggled.  My icing was probably a bit too thin but I just went with it and like the way it came out

Gingerbread men! I got the gingerbread man cutter form Williams-Sonoma.  I think next time I will use a smaller icing tip for the face that I used for the outlining 

 And last but not least the tree!! I used this  cutter set from Wilton.  I just cut and baked 1 of each graduated size star. Once cooled and I stacked the stars using royal icing and then sprinkled over gold and silver dragees and snowflakes. 

I hope I inspired you to get in the spirit of baking gingerbread!! Although it was very time consuming it was really fun and by the time next christmas rolls around i'll be ready to go again!  


                                                  PEACE ~ LOVE ~ JOY ~ BAKE


Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Cookies: Brown Butter Brown Sugar Cookies ......soooooo good!!!

I think the title says all you need to know about this A-Maz-ING cookie.  They are soooooo good! Please make them!! You will be happy you did.  I got the recipe from one of my favourite food bloggers / author / pastry chef Gesine Bullock Prado

Click here for a direct link to the recipe and her awesome blog gbakes.com 

I was very intrigued by this recipe because it calls for brown butter which adds another depth of deliciousness to the cookie 

Once the butter starts to brown and smells delicious and nutty pour the hot brown butter into a bowl and let it cool down and chill until firm

Heres my brown butter chilled and ready to go

mixing up the dough

Ready to roll.  I LOVE this tree cutter!

Let the cookies cool completely before icing.  As you can see here my brown sugar was a little lumpy thats why it looks like there are tiny chocolate chips in them


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Cookies: Anise Twist Cookies


    This is my most treasured and special cookie recipe.  These twist cookies growing up were simply known as Zia's cookies because they were my dearly departed aunt's specialty.  She would come over to my mother's house by request and spend an afternoon cranking dozens and dozens of them out so that my mom could have a decent stash in the freezer for when company came around (but really we  probably ate them all before any company actually came around).  They were THAT good and she was the only one who could make them.  Not only did they taste great, they were mixed, rolled and twisted to perfection, whereas you can see in my photo some of my cookies have little cracks or craters, hers were completely smooth and gorgeous.

Unfortunately, I was never able to learn straight from the master how to make them.  I assumed I had lots of time to get to it, life had other plans...  She passed away before I had the chance.  I had her recipe and was determined to keep her memory alive through them.   It took a lot of trial and error! A lot of tears and frustration and tons of wasted flour & eggs but I finally got them down.  I won't lie and say these are a snap or "doddle" (as Nigella would say) to make but they are so worth the effort!

My heart hurts a lot that she's no longer with us.  I wish she could come over to my new home and share a baking marathon afternoon with me.  I miss her so much.  I find myself thinking about her a lot this time of year and always when I make these cookies.  Her memory and her sweetness live on in this recipe.

I buy my anise extract at Bulk Barn.  You will need it for the cookie dough and the icing / glaze
Cookies just out of the oven.  They don't have the icing on them yet.  The glaze is a just another opportunity to get more anise flavour into the cookie, but if you wish you can leave them plain like this,  my mother actually prefers them plain.

Anise Twist Cookies

1/2 Cup Vegetable oil
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
  • Add the above ingredients into a medium size mixing bowl and whisk by hand until well combined with a fork
  • Then to the this egg mixture add:
2 cups Flour
2 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Anise Extract
1/2 tsp Salt

  • mix well with a fork until mixture forms a soft dough.  This is where it can get a little tricky.  Sometimes 2 cups of flour is perfect, sometimes the dough is just too sticky to roll and I find I need to sprinkle in a little more flour.  You want to make sure not to add too much flour or else the cookies will be too dry and rolling them won't work. You want to stop adding flour (if the dough is too sticky initially) just until you have a soft dough thats manageable and easy to roll
  • On a clean wood board pinch off walnut size amounts of dough and roll into a ball
  • Roll the ball onto the board into a dowel and then twist the 2 ends together
  • You could just bake off the cookies from rolled balls but the best part about the cookies are  twisted look.  So pretty!
  • Bake in a 350 oven 10-13 mins or until the bottoms are a light gold brown and the tops are just browning slightly  
  • cool on wire rack until easy to handle

2 Cups Icing Sugar
2 tsp Anise Extract
-just enough hot water (from a recently boiled kettle) 

  • Add the icing sugar to a large mixing bowl and add the extract
  • Add enough hot water until you have a very runny thin consistency  
  • Dip each cookie one by one into the icing just so the cookie is submerged on top ( not dipping entire cookie)
  • pull cookie out of icing and with your index finger wipe off excess icing and repeat until all cookies are done
  • leave cookies on wire rack until the icing is completely dried



Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas Cookies: Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Christmas Biscuits

One of my favourite cookbooks to look through to get inspriation this time of year is Nigella's Christmas .  While flipping through this lovely book the other day I came across this cookie recipe that not only sounded really yummy but looked super festive.  I'm a sucker for sprinkles.
You can click Here for the recipe over at nigella.com and if you like you can also watch her in baking action by clicking Here

Santa approves

I love these christmas red & green sprinkles! 

As Nigella states these really are a "doddle" to make and fun too!

Have a Very Cookie Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Christmas Cookies: Chewy Ginger Snaps

Chewy, Spicy and everything nicey.  If you love the heat of a good ginger cookie this is for you!

I used this recipe HERE from the brand The Ginger People, who have "been promoting the virtue of ginger for 30 years" so these cookies are seriously good, just go make them...now!

slow as molasses 

Rolled in sugar and ready for the oven!

They smell like heaven, taste like it too :) 

erry Baking !

Friday, December 2, 2016

Christmas Cookies : Vanilla Bean Shortbread Cookies

Yay!! It's December!! In my house the tree is trimmed, the Halls are decked and i've gotten started on my christmas cookie baking.

Here is one of my oldest & most festive cookie recipe to make this time of year.  I have sweet childhood memories of my mom making these at christmas time.  She always packed them away in a pretty 12 Days of Christmas tin.

The dough is a snap to make and can be doubled without a problem, it rolls out nicely on a lightly floured surface.  I decorate them with all kinds of fun christmassy sprinkles before baking, which takes about 8mins in a 350 oven.

Basic Shortbread 

1 Cup Unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup Icing Sugar
1 tsp Salt
2 Cups Flour

Cream the butter in a stand mixer just until smooth.  Add in the icing sugar a little at a time.  Stop and scrape down the bowl as necessary until all the sugar is incorporated.  With the mixer on the slowest speed stir in the flour a little at time until soft dough forms.  I like to add vanilla bean paste to these cookies but you could flavour this dough anyway you like.  You could add regular vanilla extract so you don't see the bean specks and if you really want your cookies to stay light in colour you could add in clear vanilla extract.

 This basic dough can be flavoured so many different ways which is great.  You could add lemon zest and poppy seeds or a little lavender instead.  Orange zest would be nice too. 

Merry Cookies !

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Easy Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

 I love watching YouTube videos of 2 things: makeup tutorials (obsessed!) and cooking/baking/cake decorating videos.  It's so incredible how much you can learn just by watching YouTube.  Everyday Food is one really great channel that I subscribe to and really enjoy watching.

One day I happened upon this video here about an easy banana muffin recipe. It was perfect since I had bananas too ripe to eat but perfect for baking and a husband who loves banana baked goods.

  You can also click here for the recipe over at www.marthastewart.com .  

As soon as I finished watching I went straight to the kitchen and made them.

This recipe makes 12 muffins

Brown sugar Love & mashed bananas

This is a typical muffin recipe where you want to mix all the wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately, then once they are both mixed well you add the dry to wet

And mix very gently until just combined 

Lastly, I added the chocolate chips...maybe a few more than called for and gently mixed them in. They bake in a 350 oven for 20mins

I totally forgot to take a pic of the finished product :(    
When I remembered that I hadn't they were all gone! My husband really likes banana recipes.  He can't resist having 1 or 3.  I must admit i'm exactly the same :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Kitchen Stuff That Makes me Happy :) - Measuring Bowls

These are so fun and pretty and seeing them on my kitchen counter makes me so happy!
They are measuring bowls from The Pioneer Woman collection at Walmart.  Her line of kitchenware is so beautiful, functional and fun and I want it all!
In my opinion you really can't have too many measuring cups and i've been reaching for these a lot.
They are great to have as prep bowls too.

You can check out more of The Pioneer Woman Line  here  and here

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Birthday Peanut Butter Pie

My Husband truly is one of the sweetest people I know,  although that could just be a result of the copious amounts of honey he consumes.  He loves his honey more than Pooh Bear, it's just his nature.

He's also extremely thoughtful, kind hearted and just an all around good guy.  I thank my lucky stars every night that I get to be married to him.

Along with his love for honey, i've never seen anyone appreciate peanut butter more than he does.  So in honour of him and his love for sticky stuff I started a tradition, going on for a few years now, and make a peanut butter pie for his birthday.  

This pie is ridiculously rich and delicious and could not be easier to make, no baking involved at all and it's the best thing to make for the peanut butter lover in your life.

Peanut Butter Pie

For the Crust

1 1/4 Cups Oreo Cookie Crumbs

1/4 Cup Butter, Melted & Cooled to room temp

- Combine the Oreo cookie crumbs and melted butter into a medium size bowl and mix until the crumbs are all coated with the butter

- Dump the buttery Oreo Crumbs into a 9in pie dish and press evenly to coat bottom and sides of the pan

- Set aside

For the Filling

1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream

1/4 Cup Sugar

8 oz Cream Cheese, Softened

1 Cup Smooth or Crunchy Peanut Butter (I used Smooth)

1 Cup Icing Sugar

- Whip the cream & 1/4 of sugar until stiff - Set aside
- Add the cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until smooth and creamy
- Add the peanut butter to the cream cheese and mix until well incorporated
- Slowly add all the icing sugar to the peanut butter and cream cheese and mix until smooth
-Add in a quarter of the whip cream to the peanut butter mix and beat until smooth and the mixture is lightened, then fold in the rest of the whip cream by hand
-Pour the fluffy peanut filling into the pie shell and refrigerate for a couple hours

For the Topping

-Whip 1 Cup of heavy cream with 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract until just stiff peaks form
- Spread the cream over the top of the chilled and set pie filling and top with peanut halves or chopped peanuts

Then finally serve and eat!!!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Cupcake Game Strong

I must admit not only do I really enjoy baking cupcakes, I'm pretty good at it to.

A baker can produce delicious results by using the best of the best ingredient wise. I feel my cupcakes taste best when I use unsalted butter, real Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla and high quality cocoa powder.

I also swear by Five Roses Flour.  It's the only flour I find bakes the best.  I'm not sure if it's because my mother always used it or if there really is a difference but every time I stray away from it to try out another brand, i'm never as happy with the result.

Then there are the tools that I LOVE and make my baking life so much easier. I would be sad to bake without these:

An Ice-Cream Scoop! 

Makes really quick, neat & tidy work of scooping out batter & getting all the cupcakes uniform size so that they bake up evenly

I absolutely love using Wilton brand muffin tins - in my opinion they are perfect,light weight, bake nicely, are affordable!! And easy to store

In case you're curious Piazza is the brand of ice-cream scoop I prefer to use. Really sturdy, light weight and has a perfect release mechanism that easily dispenses the batter in the cups

Also these make a great cookie scoop.  This brand is available at Williams-Sonoma They have a Large, Medium & Small Size. I use the large for cupcakes and the medium size for cookies

Of course cooling racks are a must - I have no brand preference but I do like the racks to be fairly large so that I don't have to pull out a million small ones whenever I bake a large quantity

A cupcake is not a cupcake without a buttercream swirl. The Wilton 1M tip is my favourite for this

I like to use a fairly large piping bag (no coupler) that way I'm not constantly refilling as I ice the cakes.  I like this reusable one from Ateco

I do have a brand preference for icing sugar when making my buttercream, which might sound totally nuts but i'm dead serious. For some reason I find Redpath icing sugar is never clumpy, while other brands I've tried always have large, dry, hard clumps of sugar.  Instead of passing it through a sieve I dump my sugar into a big bowl like this and whisk it just to ensure that there are no lumps whatsoever! 

Ready to pipe! As I mentioned already I don't usually use a coupler for this.  I like to just place my 1M tip directly into the bag and start swirling

This is how I usually do my cupcake swirl: I'll first start by piping a rosette onto the cupcake 

Then i'll go over that first rosette again with a smaller one right on top

I like the end result of the doing the double rosettes a lot. It gives the cupcake swirl a lot of height and looks really pretty, plus more buttercream is always a bonus!

A cupcake has to have sprinkles!! Any will do, I usually get mine from Bulk Barn. I really love these confetti sprinkles for birthday cupcakes

Not sure if you can see the vanilla seed specks in this photo. When making vanilla cupcakes I like to use both vanilla bean paste & extract to not only get maximum vanilla flavour but the visual effect of vanilla bean throughout both the cake & buttercream in my opinion takes them to another level

When I bake cupcakes they tend to be for a special occasion and need to be delivered to a party location.  This Cupcake Courier   keeps them fresh, safe and easily transports up to 36 cupcakes

So that is just a few of the tools I NEED in my life that for me, make all the difference and makes baking smoother, quicker, neater and yummy!

Also Click HERE for this YouTube clip of one of my FAVOURITE bakers ever,  Gesine Bullock Prado's recipe for vanilla cake.  I bake this one ALL the time and everyone seems love it.

Happy baking & cupcaking ;) xo