Friday, August 29, 2008

Let's go to the Judges!

Well.. I want to thank all of you who participated in my very first contest here on Crumbles!

Unlike my other blog in which I tend to blather on and curse a lot... this is a place where I share a part of me that I am truly passionate about... my baking creations. For a girl who went to college for Aircraft Engineering, and spent 8 years working and designing and managing projects in varying engineering disciplines.... BAKING and decorating is a pretty far cry from what I was trained to do.

But alas... here we are, and here I go down that road. A road that I hope will some day lead to culinary school when my children are a little older. A road that may some day lead to a business in which I can make money from my edible creations.

So again... your participation in this contest is not only validating to me, but encouraging. Having more than just my close family and friends see what I do is thrilling and nerve-wracking! but to have such a great response and surge of creativity shared all in the name of naming a Jane? Again, I say it is encouraging. Maybe this really IS the right road for me to be on!

So without further ado... I will take the submitted names and pass them on to my judges!

Each name will be anonymously given to my panel of judges for a vote. I am asking my judges to vote for their TOP FIVE names. OF those top five names... each will be assigned a point value ranging from one (1) to five (5) points. Five points given to their favorite name, 4 points to their second choice, and so on down to one point for the #5 spot.

I have personally bribed my judges for their input with their own coconut and dark chocolate combo Janes. I figure it's only fair that they can match the taste with the name.

I have five judges in mind, and will scan their scoring sheets for all to see on Monday.

again.. thank you ALL so much for participating... and stay tuned for Monday when our "Name That Jane" Contest WINNER will be announced!!!


Friday, August 22, 2008

Name That Jane--- a CONTEST!!

Well... I did it. I created yet ANOTHER type of Happy Jane.

Let me tell you something. It's GOOD. like "I may hide the rest of these from everyone and eat them by myself in the laundry room GOOD".

But alas... I have a problem.

My lil Happy Janes are without a name.

First.... let me introduce you.

This Happy Jane hails from a vanilla cookie descent. She is topped with a rich, hand-made coconut buttercream (laced with shredded coconut, of course), then dipped in an extra dark Belgian dark chocolate, then topped with just a teeeeny sprinkle of more shredded coconut for garnish.

She really is a beauty, if I say so myself. wait. I just did.


So there you have it. Now is where YOU come in.

I need a name for this Jane... and I'm willing to offer up a free batch of Janes to whomever can give her the best name.

To play... leave a comment here BEFORE 5pm EST, August 29th with a name suggestion.

All entries will be given to a panel of judges for voting. The name with the most votes will not only win the honor of having their entry attached to an official Happy Jane, but he or she will ALSO receive a shipment of ONE DOZEN HAPPY JANES in a flavor of their choice. (Mint Treasures, Mocha Crunch, Strawberry Shorties, or the TBN (To Be Named) )

Additional rules: no more than TWO suggestions per person, please. I realize that a week is a long time to think on something, and you may get a new idea after you submit your first suggestion. THEREFORE... I will allow TWO (and ONLY TWO) suggestions per participant during the submission period.

Side note... on the chance that two individuals submit the same name choice.. credit will be given to the entry with the earliest timestamp. (so if you DO have a good name.. don't sit on it too long...)

so what are you waiting for? NAME THAT JANE!!!

*** due to my personal standards of quality and the types of ingredients I use (read "chocolate MELTS in the summer heat"), I can only select a winner with a valid US mailing address that can receive overnight mailings.

New Addition - Strawberry Shorties

I'm proud to say that we now have two new additions to the Happy Jane Family!!! This post will only discuss one of the two I made, as I will be hosting a little CONTEST involving the other happy jane. (stay tuned for later today about the contest info and unveiling of the other Jane!)

I decided to shake things up and make some Happy Janes with a vanilla cookie base.

After looking around in the fridge and our daily lives for inspiration, I decided to try to make something of a vanilla-strawberry variety.

After whipping up a buttercream filling, I piped little 'cones' on the cookie rounds. After the 'cones' were in place, I piped in some strawberry preserves. AT this point I wanted to call it quits and eat the whole lot, as strawberry and vanilla are two of my favorite flavors. alas, my senses over-ruled and I put them in the freezer while I prepared the white chocolate dip. Or should I say "pink" chocolate dip.

Each round was coated in a pink-dyed white chocolate, then allowed to set overnight.

Don't be deterred by their loud pink color. These Janes are soft blend of vanilla, shortbread, and just a right hint of strawberry. I present to you...

Strawberry Shorties!

Lessons Learned? once again, I foolishly tried to 'enhance' the white chocolate with an imitation strawberry extract. (there's the clue.. imitation = BAD!) the chocolate got lumpy and grainy, and I had to scrap the batch. oh well. the second batch came out nice, and believe it or not. I think it's better without the 'extra' strawberry flavor. now they just stand with that hint of strawberry. very nice for adults who don't like that over-the-top sweetness.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Truckloads of Cookies

So this week I took on a project for a little man that's very near and dear to my heart. My very good friend's little boy (and quite possibly my future son in law) is having his 4th birthday party this weekend.

The theme?

Monster Trucks.

Short on time and even shorter on 'monster truck' cookie cutters... I opted for a plain circle in which I could pipe monster trucks on.
little did I know what I was getting in to.

Undeterred, I did some research, printed out a few clip art images, did a few practice sketches in pencil, then dove in.

Some of the first ones weren't exactly the best, but eventually I caught my groove and came up with an acceptable design.

Final count was two dozen, and the birthday boy should receive them tomorrow.... with plenty of time to spare for his party on Saturday.

Final pictures.... here's to a "monster" good party....

Lessons learned? I still need to figure out my shrink-wrap methods. the backs of the cookies looked lump and bumpy, which is PROBABLY because I used too much shrink wrap.

also? if I ever get to a point where I'm charging people for cookies, I have to be mindful of the design and amount of effort each takes. This particular project was done out of love, so it could have been 100x more intricate and I wouldn't give it a second thought... but in terms of something that could be a paying job... I'll need to consider the amount of skill and time certain designs require. I'd be curious to compare my 'speed' to get cookies such as these done now, and let's say.. in another year from now.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

When it's Too Hot

So here in the south.. it's hot out. like all day long.

like still 88 degrees after 9pm hot.

of COURSE, a SMART mom would find nice cold treats to give her kids... ones that do not require turning an oven on, perhaps. BUT... cookies are what I do best... and it really is something that my kids can help out with.

The other day we made a small batch of chocolate cookies, and my daughter rhena insisted on making some ice cream cookies.

We had a good time decorating them with sprinkles and the such. The ones the kids did didn't quite turn out as 'real' looking.... but they sure were colorful. here's one that I was allowed to do without 'help'.

the best part? they're pretty portable after the icing dries, and no matter what side of the cookie my daughter eats first.. no dripping!!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Plum Pear Apple

some days, I've got it. other times?? not so much.

Last week, I really wanted to send out some packages that had been kicking around for a while. random love, thank you gifts, belated birthday presents, congrats presents, baby gifts.. you name an occasion, and I pretty much was needing to send something for it.

of all the packages I sent last week, one happened to be a congratulationary gift. Is that a word? if not... you heard it here first!

Anyho... a fellow blogger I enjoy reading recently launched her own company selling super-hero capes for children. Have you seen it yet? It's Pear Plum Apple Designs... and she really does make the most adorable hand-made capes.

As a little way to congratulate her company's inauguration, I decided to send her a little of what *I* like to do.. kind of like a long distance hi-five. I whipped up a batch of sugar cookies, and created one with her logo on it.

and since I had the icing and cookies made already, I made a few extra... one with her name on it, and a few little ones for her little boy, Mason.

LESSONS LEARNED: Although this was a fun 'gift' to make... I made a VERY big mistake. Erin's logo background is white. when doing a white background.. it it EXTREMELY imperative to let the icing dry completely before piping dark colors on top. Thankfully, I took pictures of the cookie the night I did it, because after sitting overnight, the plum, pear and apple dyes bled into the white background. ... as seen by the picture below.

another thing to be noted with white backgrounds... it is better to use a THICKER layer of the icing. Due to the size of the cookie, I baked a little longer to ensure it was cooked thoroughly. This caused some browning on the top of the cookie, which can easily bee seen through the icing because 1 - it's white, and 2 - I did not apply a thick enough coating.

one last (obvious) reminder... the thicker the icing.. the longer the dry time!!! so be patient!