Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Treats

Here it is, my holiday treat list.

Or this is a work in progress list of the treats I'd LIKE to make.  If I ever find make the time to do it.  With less than a week to go, I'd better get my butt in gear!

Definitely Makin' These:
Oreo Bon Bons
7 Layer bars (even though I think there's only really 6 layers)
Molasses Sparkle Cookies
Peanut Butter Balls (also known as Buckeyes to some folks)
Mary's Sugar Cutouts

7 Layer Bars
From:  Mom (not sure where she got it.  May also go by the name of Magic Cookie Bars)

Preheat oven to 350 Deg F.
Melt 1/4 cup butter in small bowl.
Add 1 cup graham cracker crumbs to butter, mix to combine.
Press crumbs into the bottom of a greased 9x9 baking dish.  (I usually line the pan with foil.)
Layer in this order on top of the graham cracker crumb crust.
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
12 oz chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts
1 can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
Bake for 35-40 minutes.
Cool.  Lift foil out of pan and peal back to cut into bars.

Molasses Sparkle Cookies
From: Origin unknown

Preheat oven to 350 Deg F.
3/4 cup Shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cup flour
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream together the shortening, sugar molasses and egg.
Combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, soda and salt.
Mix molasses mixture into the dry ingredients until a dough forms.
Refrigerate dough for an hour or so, until it's easier to handle.
Divide dough into equal portions and roll each into a ball.
Roll the balls in granulated sugar and place on baking sheet.
Bake for 12-15 minutes in preheated oven.
Yields approximately 3 dozen.

Peanut Balls
From: Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook

1/2 cup Peanut butter
3 T. Butter
1 Cup sifted powdered sugar
8 oz. chocolate chips or chocolate-flavored candy coating.

In a mixing bowl stir together the peanut butter and butter.
Gradually add powdered sugar, stirring till combined.
Shape into 1 inch balls; place on  a waxed paper.
Let stand till dry (about 20 minutes)
Melt the chocolate, either in a double boiler or in the microwave; cool slightly.
Dip balls, one at a time, into the chocolate, letting the excess coating drip off peanut butter balls.
Place on waxed paper; let stand till coating is firm.  Store tightly covered in refrigerator.
Makes about 30 pieces.

It's off to the grocery store to buy supplies.  Wish me luck to get all this done before Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Parrot cake

The internet is an awesome resource.  A HUGE timer waster, but I seriously don't know how I lived without it before.

Anything I want to know or learn or see...just google it.  That is so powerful.

I've never owned a bird as a pet.  In fact, no one I know well has ever owned a pet bird.  So when a friend asked if I could make her a 3D green parakeet birthday cake, it's off to the internet I go.  This will be the second bird cake in a row for me.

Leire found a photo of a cake she liked and wanted something similar.  I guess her mom loves orchids and the bird likes to eat them...So that's how I personalized it.

THe bird is made of vanilla cake with swiss meringue buttercream, best.buttercream.ever!  The head, from the shoulders up and wings is made from cereal treats.  Beak, flowers, pot and tag are fondant, the bow is real ribbon.  I even made the bow.

Can you tell that I'm really proud?  Maybe not, I'm fairly subtle.

My first attempt at making the orchids didn't quite work out.  Pretty much they broke every time I tried to put them together.  So after some design modifications and assembly process adjustments, I had something that would work.  (Oops, I guess that's the engineer in me talking.)

See how the stem goes through the beak of the bird?  I originally pushed it through the cereal treats and while I was taping the flowers onto the stem, at 11:30PM, the beak FELL OFF!  It turned out for the best, but it freaked me out just a little.

I'm really happy how it turned out, so brace yourself for a LOT more photos.

I really liked how the base of the orchid turned out.  I have an orchid, that I can't get to re-bloom, which has moss as the potting medium.  So I toasted up some coconut and put that in the top of the orchid pot.  I also just happen to break one of my flowers as I was taping them to the stem, which was perfect as a half eaten flower.

Here's a view of the back side and tail feathers.

The tag, which reads "Happy Birthday Mami!", is meant to look as though the orchid was a birthday gift  but the bird got to it first.

Leire picked it up this morning and really liked it.  And that's what's most important.

I just hope it makes the hour long trip to Syracuse today in one piece!

Leave me a comment and tell me what you think?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Have you ever noticed that Corn Syrup has made its way into nearly EVERY food we eat?

Even Chocolate Syrup!!!  Since when did chocolate syrup require corn syrup?  Isn't sugar and chocolate sweet enough?

And it turns out that chocolate syrup is easy to make at home...Without corn syrup.

Chocolate Syrup
From:  Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (1966 edition)

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I blend special dark and regular cocoa powders together)
dash of salt
1/2 cup water

Combine and mix all ingredients together in a small saucepan. 
Cook for 5-7 minutes until sugar is dissolved.  
Remover from heat and add 1 tsp. vanilla.
Cool and store in the refrigerator.*

*I clean out a store bought chocolate syrup bottle and reuse that.  Hurrah for recycling!

A few notes:

  • Corn Syrup changes the constistency of chocolate syrup making it thicker.  Since this recipe doesn't call for corn syrup, this chocolate syrup will be a bit thinner than what you may be used to.
  • Make sure you cook it for the full time, otherwise it might be a bit gritty.
  • SHAKE WELL before each use.  Some of the chocolate falls out of solution as it cools and you'll lose some of the potency and end up with sludge at the bottom of the bottle.

Chocolate milk.  An American childhood staple.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Oatmeal Bread failures

How many times do you attempt a bread recipe and have it fail before it's OK to give up?

Twice?  Is two times enough failed bread to call it quits?

BEcause I've tried twice now to make this sandwich bread and TWICE I have failed.  Is now a good time to throw in the towel?

And what does one do with two failed loaves of bread?

At first glance you think...That doesn't look so bad.  Why do you say it failed?

Then I put this photo up and you realize, that huge pan is an ordinary loaf pan.  It's the bread that's so SMALL!  That's a tiny sandwich.  And let me tell you,

Chips.  Seemed the answer to one of those questions.  See the bread tastes good.  Has good flavor, but I'm having a rising problem.  The first time I think I must have killed most of the yeast.  It rose slightly (domed) but was not nearly the size it should be for sandwiches (as evidenced by the 3rd photo.  Nor the correct texture inside.

It's dense.  Really, REALLY dense.  Did I mention that already?  My husband cut a thin slice and it created this idea that maybe I could toast it and make crackers!!!  I looked up "Homemade pita chips" and thought this would be the ticket.  serve it up with some roasted red pepper hummus.

But it wasn't.  They are hard and yet chewy...It's really quite strange.  Not pleasant to eat.  I ended up throwing the "chips" away.  As for the bread?  Well, we tried to eat it, one tiny slice at a time...But the mold got to it first.  I had to throw the rest out this afternoon.  Maybe I should stick to cake.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Four Grain Waffles with Blueberry freezer jam

I love to make pancakes or waffles for breakfast.  I think I've mentioned this before.

This time, I had homemade vanilla ice-cream and blueberry freezer jam ready as toppings.  And it didn't take much convincing to get my hubby and girls to go along with it.

I guess we all have sweet teeth.

Four Grain Pancakes or Waffles
Adapted from Pillsbury Complete Cookbook

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 salt
1 2/3 cup buttermilk (1.75 T. lemon juice + milk to make 1 2/3 cup)
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 T. sugar
2 eggs, beaten

  • In large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
  • In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and eggs
  • Add to dry ingredients with the melted butter and stir to combine.
  • For Pancakes; pour about a 1/4 cup of batter on a hot griddle or skillet.  Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the edges look cooked and the surface is covered by breaking bubbles.  Turn and cook the other side an additional 2 minutes.
  • For Waffles;  cook according to manufacturer's instructions.

Top with your favorite toppings.  Maple syrup, apple sauce, ice-cream or freezer jam.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Favorite Buttercream is Swiss Meringue

OK, so the second time was a success.

This is what Meringue SHOULD look like.

Look at that perfect point.  A nice stiff consistency.  Get your mind out of the gutter, I'm talkin' buttercream here!

My first attempt failed miserably, as you may have seen.  If not, let's just do a quick recap. 

First Attempt...


This is a gooey mess, that I'm still trying to figure out what to do with.
Second Attempt...


Yippee!  You really have no way of truly knowing how excited I was to see this --->

I did a happy dance when no one was looking.

And then took a LOT of terrible photos, which I am now making you suffer through.

You are still reading, right?  Hello?!   That's alright, it wouldn't be the first time I've been caught talking to myself.

You see all that butter up there?  That's waiting to go in next.  To transform a meringue into a velvety smooth, buttery buttercream frosting.

Did I mention that I LOVE this buttercream.  It's buttery (have I mentioned that yet?), but not so rich that you want to scrape it all off and then drink a gallon of water.  It's smooth and spreadable, yet has structure and holds it shape.

I'm sold.  A true believer.  Why did I wait so long to try this?

Oh yeah.  See second photo above.  Fear of failure.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
From Confetti Cakes for Kids ( I LOVE her books/recipes)

2 ¾ cups plus 3T. (20oz) granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups (10oz) egg whites, or pasteurized egg whites** in liquid form 
2 ½ cups (20 oz; 5 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and softened
 ¼ cup plus 2 T. (2 ½ oz) pure vanilla extract

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, thoroughly whisk together the sugar and egg whites.
  2. Set the bowl over a pot of boiling water.  Whisking constantly, heat the mixture until all the sugar crystals have dissolved and the mixture is hot.  Get it as hot as you can but be careful not to cook the egg whites.
  3. Put the bowl back in the mixer fitted with the whip attachment.  Beat on high speed until the mixture forms a stiff meringue and the bottom comes to room temperature, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stop the mixer and replace the whip with the paddle attachment.
  5. Set the mixer to low speed and add the butter, a few cubes at a time.  When all the butter is incorporated, turn the mixer to medium speed and mix until fluffy.
  6. Set the mixer to low speed and add the vanilla. Once the vanilla is incorporated, scrape the bowl and continue to mix on medium speed until you have a smooth, creamy texture.  If the buttercream is too liquid, refrigerate until completely cool and stiff, then rewhip.
  7. You can use the buttercream immediately, store it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

**This is what I used in my first FAILING attempt at this recipe.  Skip the torment and use REAL, fresh egg whites and just heat them to around 140 deg F.

Now excuse me while I tear the house apart looking for left over frosting.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Angry Birds Cake

I'm a little out of touch.  Behind the times.  Out of fashion.

Until just recently I didn't know anything about Angry Birds.  OK, I knew it was a smartphone game, but I'm not into that sort of thing.  So I had never seen it.  Then the cake request came.

Thank GOD for the internet.  I was on it constantly searching images for "angry birds".

I wanted the birds (and pigs) to be really tasty, so instead of making them out of fondant, I made Oreo Bon Bons!  Oreo cookies crushed and mixed with cream cheese.  Man I love those things!

I covered them with melted candy wafers, so they are not as perfectly smooth as I would have liked.  But I ate the extras and they were fabulous.  And as always, what really matters, is that the birthday girl was happy with the cake.

I think she was pleased.  What do you think?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Oreo Bon Bons

Prepare yourself for a lot of drizzly type photos.

Drizzly?  Is that even a word?

Spell check didn't underline it with red dots, so it MUST be word!

Because spell check is never wrong.

How much do you want to lick your screen right now?  Be honest.

Cause I'm tempted to run downstairs and devour every one of these

These little treats go by various names.  Oreo Bon Bons, Oreo Balls, Oreo snowballs, etc.

But the recipe is simple.

One standard container of regular Oreo cookies
One 8 oz brick cream cheese, softened.
One 12 oz bag of candy melts or chocolate wafers (you might not use all of them)

  • Place the cookies into your food processor and reduce to fine crumbs.
  • Place the cream cheese in a bowl of your mixer (if you're lazy like I am and don't feel like doing this by hand, which you could) and pour the crumbs in on top.  Then mix everything together until completely combined.
  • Using a spoon or mini baller, make small balls. Placing formed bon bons on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
  • Place cookie sheet in freezer to chill thoroughly.
  • Meanwhile, melt candy or chocolate wafers, following manufacturer's instructions for microwave or double boiler.
  • Once your candy / chocolate is melted, retrieve the bon bons from freezer and dip in melted candy coating.
  • Place back on cookie sheet to harden.  (If you have extra chocolate or candy coating, pour it out onto the parchment paper and spread it out to a thickness of about 1/4 inch.  Allow to harden.  Once it's hard store in an air tight container for future use.  Don't you DARE throw out the left-over chocolate!  That would be wrong.)

Once your bon bons have hardened...      EAT SOME they're FANTASTIC!!!!!

If you have any left over (good luck with that) keep them in the refrigerator.

I like to cover mine with a light coating of vanilla candy coating.  But I have a friend who uses milk chocolate.

He also refers to these little gems as "Reindeer Poop", since he only makes them at Christmas time...

And yes, he's quite strange.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Failed Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Look at all this butter...

This was supposed to be the start of something really good.  Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting.


It never whipped to the "stiff meringue" consistency.  Boo!

I am following a recipe from Confetti Cakes Cookbook, which I love and has not failed me, until now.  And I was hesitant to make this frosting.  In fact, I've been putting it off for a while now.  I finally got my courage up, combined 20oz (that's over a pound of sugar folks), 10oz of pasteurized egg whites (this was mostly like my problem) in a bowl over boiling water and mixed until the sugar was dissolved.

Then into the mixing bowl on high for 10 minutes, and maybe 5 minutes more...Maybe it's not cool enough.  "I'll put in the refrigerator for a few minutes and then whip it some more."

Well, after all that, I admitted defeat.  Thankfully, I didn't try adding my 5 sticks of cubed and softened butter.  But now, what to do with all that failed meringue?  It tastes a bit like marshmallow fluff.

Oh well, if I figure out what to do with it I'll post an update.  Until then I guess we chalk it up to kitchen lessons.  And if the box says "not recommended for meringues", I'll believe the box instead of the cookbook.