Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Taffy Apple Bars

So when my folks were here, we passed through Barnes and Noble, and my mom bought me a book, Cookie Dough Fun.

It's a cute book, and while it's not COMPLETELY jaw-dropping inspiring like my Confetti Cakes book... I find that it has some cute ideas and very simple recipes.

in fact.. most of the recipes listed in this book have the base of ready-made cookie-dough.

one of the recipes was called a "Taffy Apple Bar". It used a base of pre-made sugar and peanut butter cookie dough (one package of each, then mixed together). The original recipe was topped with apples, peanuts and then caramel sauce... but I took the liberty of using pecans and real caramel squares instead. Really... what you see below were all the ingredients I needed.

after the doughs were combined and pressed into a pan, I chopped my apples, nuts and caramel squares. Ever the fan of caramel, I decided to 'mix' my dough-toppers so I would have caramel all over the place, and not just the 'drizzle' on top like the recipe called for.

All set for the oven....

mmmm.. melted caramelly-apple goodness. I'm in LOVE!

cooled off and ready to be served

care for a piece?

I will gladly share the actual recipe through e-mail; just leave a comment letting me know if you want it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Garden Variety Cupcake

ok. so I FINALLY got the chance to play with gum paste.

we had a play-date today, so what better thing to bring than a batch of fresh cupcakes to our hostesses?

ok.. I could think of a FEW good things that I would love to have someone bring to my house.. but still. time and money being limited.. I opted for the cupcakes.

box mix people. nothing fancy in that. and I had leftover icing from the bake sale. canned icing. yup. used that too. But really.. it's not always WHAT you use... it's HOW you use it. right?

anyways, after the cupcakes were cooled/cooling, I got to playing with the gum paste. thankfully, I still had a box of rubber gloves leftover from the pierogies. they saved my hands from being dyed by the coloring gels.

I had some cute little cookie cutters that I used to cut the rolled gum paste. I used a knife to etch in a very simple line for the leaf.. then left to dry.

halfway through the leaf-making, I got to thinking about Daniel's upcoming birthday (in november) he'll be 2, and I'm doing a farmer/garden/veggie theme for him. Since seed packets will be part of the favors, I thought it might be cute to have a few cupcakes flanking the main cake with little garden items on them.

so I used some of the green gum paste and made some peas. then I made some pink gum paste and moved on to some flowers. I got pretty bored with the flowers quickly, so I threw in a strawberry for practice. (used a nail to create indents/seeds. not great. needs work.)

I got crazy and tried to make grapes. actually, it's cause I couldn't think of any other pink fruits, other than watermelon, and as I said I was tired of the flowers.... so I just added a little blue gel to the remaining pink gum paste. it had a very concord-grapey look to it.

when all was said and done, I had a few basic cupcakes to take to our playdate (plus a few gum paste ones)

a few flower ones left for home

and then of course, fruit/veggie ones. I used crushed cookies to make the 'dirt'. oh, and about the grapes... they're varying in color cause I used water and a paintbrush to make the balls "stick' to each other. they take a long time to dry. a LONG time. I wanted to get this post up before the weekend consumed me, so unfortunately you get the color variance.

Annnnnd.. what's on a tray in the kitchen as we speak. wanna come over for some coffee and cupcakes?

Lessons Learned: I REALLY liked working with the gum paste. I used the pre-fabbed wilton kind this time around.. being my first time and all. biggest thing to note for next time... MUST know my plan ahead of time. it dries quickly, and if you bend or try to shape it after some drying has occurred, you get a cracked or greying effect on the final color.

the gloves? priceless. my finger would be blue for a week if I didn't use them. wondering what happened to the little fondant tool I purchased a while ago. it's used for making funky cuts or 'stitches' in the fondant and gum paste.

I liked the look of the peas. I will for sure do those again... only better next time. but especially to practice for danny's birthday. that's gonna be a fun cake, I think.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Old Faithful

ok, when I typed the title of this post, I was thinking about how these two treats I made for the bake sale were just easy stand-bys.. but I like how the pun happens cause it was a CHURCH bake sale. or not.. maybe I just need sleep.

anyways.. more bake sale items!

Since I didn't use all the batter from the cone cakes, I made some standard cupcakes with the chocolate box mix.

but just cause I used a box mix and frosting doesn't mean they can't look pretty! ever the chance to practice my piping techniques, I filled up my bags and used my new wide tips.

the frosting was just so simple with the swirl, but I thought they looked polished. as in professional.. not as in from Poland.

and since I didn't get to make rhena her pancakes from my over-ripe bananas... I mashed them up and decided to make banana bread.

oh.. with pecans, that is.

There's something very promising about something being put into the oven. I really do get a little giddy whenever I put something in.

I only made the four loaves, but that's all I had in terms of bananas. I was pleased with their coloring. Though.. I have to say, if I was keeping them for me, I would have topped them bad boys with a streusel topping or something. I do love me some streusel.

not too many lessons learned here. this was pure churn 'em and (don't) burn 'em. on a separate note, though.. my mom oversaw a kid purchasing an oopsie-daisy after mass. she said he was VERY excited to get home and eat his treat.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Oopsie Daisies

This weekend is another bake sale for church. I had intended on making the bird nests for church, but ended up doing them with Rhena for her preschool classmates.

Sticking with things that are geared for kids.. I threw a big whup-whup for days gone by and decided on making cone cakes.

you know.... anyone over 30 has HAD to at least had a cupcake baked in a cake cone at some point during their school years. you know.. before the days of everyone being allergic to everything and no parent being allowed to home-make any treat for the class without a pre-approved nutritional label and ingredient list? NOT that there's anything wrong with that, cause if MY kids were allergic to something, I wouldn't want them digesting something that could.. you know.. cause death or seizing or something.

anyways.. I thought.. ice-cream cupcakes! how fun! how cute!

so with my folks arriving and the deadline for submitting donated goods looming, I opted to just use a box mix, and get to baking.

filled up the cones.

I only did a total of 12, though. halfway into pouring the batter, I thought about how in hell I planned on transporting the cones TO church... as well as how to wrap them/present them for sale. errrrg.

oh well. I pressed on.

after the cakes had cooled, I filled up a pastry bag with frosting and let it stiffen up a little by putting it in the fridge for a little bit. I swirled the frosting around the top, trying to get that 'soft-serve' look.

the first couple didn't turn out so hot. turns out it takes an INCREDIBLE amount of frosting to get the height required to look similar to a real ice cream cone. like.. a "no way would I let rhena eat one of these cause she'd be up for a week from the sugar" amount.

after I had about 6 frosted... something distracted me and I jostled the tray I had the cones on.

PLOP. 2 of my cones. on the floor.

and that's when it hit me. inspiration is funny like that.

I decided to frost the cones, garnish with sprinkles, then "plop" them up-side down in little pie tins.

I was able to easily wrap them in plastic wrap, and transport 9 of them to the sale without affecting the final look of each treat.

I call them the "Oopsie-Daisy"... an up-side down chocolate cone cake. *I* thought they looked cute. I guess I'll find out tomorrow after mass whether or not they're a hit.

lesson learned: top-heavy cupcakes are not very practical. maybe for an at-home party.. but definitely not a transport-friendly item. I might try this project again with a meringue top?
the final result wasn't what I had in mind when I started, but sometimes that just happens.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bye Bye Birdie

Saw THE most adorable idea at Lauren's site around Easter. With the monthly bake sale starting up again at church (they were on hold during Lent)... I was thinking the nests would be a good spring treat, as well as a project Rhena would be able to help with.

Then, by coincidence, Rhena's preschool topic for the week happens to be birds, nests and springtime. We decided to make the nests for her class instead of the bake sale. (I've got other stuff up my sleeve for this weekend, anyway)

I had bought some gum paste on tuesday morning, with the idea that I would attempt top attach some flowers to the nests.. you know.. pretty them up a bit. but since this turned to a child-helping project, I opted to pass on the gum paste.

Overall this was a simple project. I double-boiled the chocolate morsels, which I just prefer cause it allows me to make sure there are no burned spots.. but I had to switch to a bigger bowl once I added the chinese noodles.

at first I was stressed about 'breaking' the noodles, but now having made a full batch, I would definitely toss and coat more vigorously next time. or maybe use a bag and a half of morsels to one bag of noodles. cause you know.. chocolate isn't necessarily a BAD thing to have more of.

this picture makes me hungry and kinda grossed me out at the same time. but see the uncoated spots?? the final products looked and tasted fine with them.. but again.. next time I would say more chocolate.

After the noodles were 'coated', we dropped them on to parchment lined bake sheets.

Rhena helped by 'squooshing' down the nests. I originally thought the shot glass would help to make a bowl-like indentation, but we made the nests smaller (needed at least 15 for her classmates, and again... keeping in mind the recipients were 3 and 4 year olds... didn't want them humongous) so the shotglass really didn't do much shaping. but don't tell her that.

instead of using a pre-fabbed egg or jelly beans as most of the posted noodle nest recipes call for.. I jazzed it up a little and made some 'Robin's Eggs' with blue-dyed white chocolate-coated mini oreos. Rhena decided to jazz up my day by choosing her own clothes... just in case you were wondering.

Once the cookies were dipped and fully coated, I let them cool on parchment.

Once everything had a chance to cool and set; the eggs were "glued" into place with canned frosting. I was GOING to make a batch of stiff royal icing, but opted for ease and availability.

I should have dyed the icing, too.. cause you can see the white upon close inspection.

Plated up and complete.

lessons learned; I would for sure make the nests a little bigger, so I could have more of a bowl shape. Also I would use more chocolate. The varying shade of brown in the final product isn't BAD, but again... more chocolate can't be a bad thing.

Next time I do this, I will play with gum paste.. maybe add some flower decoration? and for sure I will use the royal icing to glue the eggs in. the frosting was just too soft and didn't hold the eggs very well.