Friday, February 14, 2014

Cutter Sugar Cookies



I bought myself an early Valentine's Day present: a few beautiful Pomegranate placemats on sale! Check out this lovely Lexington, KY brand http://pomegranateinc.com/. And for the sweeties in my life, I made valentine sugar cookies! 



Yes, these cookies do taste as good as they look! They are crunchy, buttery, sweet-- but not too sweet-- and oh-so-irresistible! They are rolled out, take just minutes to make the dough, and can be cut into any shape! 

Cutter Sugar Cookies*

2 sticks of salted butter
1 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 teaspoons of baking powder
3 cups of flour
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the baking powder and flour (and a dash of salt if you are using unsalted butter). In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs and vanilla and add the flour mixture in gradually. When well mixed, form dough into a ball and place on a floured surface. Roll dough out to be about a quarter-inch thick and cut cookies into desired shape. Sprinkle your favorite colored granulated sugar on top and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Enjoy! 

*Adapted over the years from Wilton's Rolled Sugar Cookies

Happy Valentine's Day! 





Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Gourmet Chocolate Chunk Cookies



I've been experimenting with chocolate chip cookies lately, attempting to perfect the pastry. Of course, when you throw real butter, sugar, and chocolate chips in a bowl, you're never going to end up with a bad product, but I wanted to explore the different forms of the chocolate chip cookie: chunky, crunchy, soft, chewy, large, and small. 

After a few test batches utilizing others' recipes, I crafted my own variation. I wanted a gourmet version of the traditional chocolate chip cookie. A cookie that could be eaten right off the pan and wrapped up to be sold in the bakery down the street. 


Gourmet Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 sticks of unsalted butter
3/4 cup of white sugar
3/4 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 medium-sized eggs
2 cups (12 oz.) of premium dark chocolate chunks

Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt butter and set it aside. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a large bowl, beat the melted butter with the brown and white sugars. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until combined. Slowly mix in the flour mixture, then stir in the chocolate chunks. 


Use a cookie scoop to transfer the cookie dough to a cookie sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes until slightly golden brown. 


The lower temperature and longer cooking time allows these cookies to grow: they are large and chewy right out of the oven. As it cools, the cookie's texture hardens and it becomes more crunchy. The touch of cinnamon and the premium dark chocolate play well off one another, especially when they are balanced by the savory butter, the brown and white sugars, and the teaspoon of salt. In combination, these ingredients create a cookie that is delectably gourmet-- worthy to be wrapped up individually and bakery sold.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Blackberry Cake


Nothing says it's summer in Kentucky like a good ol' pile of blackberries! 

This week I set out to make the perfect blackberry cake. In the past, I have tried baking the blackberries into the batter or mixing them with buttercream, but neither did much for me. The blackberry seeds got annoying, and the berries are way too juicy to simply be mixed. This time around, I decided it was best to let the blackberries sing on their own as a filling.

Yellow cake, vanilla buttercream, and a tart blackberry filling! YUM!


I used the America's Test Kitchen's recipe for the yellow cake and my go-to buttercream for the frosting-- which you can find here: http://bluegrassbaking.blogspot.com/2013/03/i-attempt-wedding-cake.html. 

Tart Blackberry Filling


2 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen blackberries
1/4 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of cinnamon
1/2 packet of unflavored gelatin

Mix the blackberries, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and cinnamon together in a medium-sized saucepan, and put over medium heat. Stir the mixture occasionally until boiling. Let mixture boil for 1-2 minutes, then take the saucepan off the heat and strain the mixture-- so you don't have to deal with those unfavorable seeds. Once strained, stir in the gelatin until completely dissolved (5 or so minutes). Let the filling sit until it is cool enough to be popped in the fridge, then do so until it is very thick (4+ hours). I let it sit in the fridge overnight. 

When assembling your cake, be sure to roughly pipe a circle of icing around the outer edge of your first layer, so the blackberry filling doesn't ooze out. Essentially, you want to make a bowl to hold in your filling. 







Notice the extra icing on the side of the cake? That is part of the icing bowl I made to hold in the filling-- it is a great trick to keep your cake clean & professional-looking. 

Rosie wanted a taste! 


The components of this cake work so very well together! The butter-based cake is rich, lightly sweet, and stacks beautifully! The blackberry filling provides a burst of flavor: tart and delicious! And the buttercream frosting adds the right amount of sweetness to round out the flavors. 




Sunday, June 2, 2013

Wedding Cake Success!

Lily and Nolan are married! Yippee!

Here is the cake I made for them: two tiers are yellow and vanilla buttercream, and two tiers are chocolate with mocha cream. Nolan cut the tree trunk cake stand himself, the flowers are fresh, and Lily purchased the cake topper to keep on their mantle forever and always.







The Weddles (Oh my gosh!!) had such a beautiful wedding, and it was an honor to be a part of it as cake maker and bridesmaid. They are both such lovely people, and I wish them both a happy and blessed marriage.








Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I Attempt Wedding Cake

My first tiered cake for Palm Sunday/ Easter Egg Hunting at church.
Photo courtesy of Nick Zolman

As I have developed my love for baking and for food, I have become painfully picky about what I eat and what I serve to people. 

For my wedding day, I am not going to serve Sam's Club hors d'oeuvres to all the people I love and cherish. They deserve better! 

And I can't trust just anyone to make my cake, can I? 

No! 

Hey?.. But.. I like to bake... I can bake cake... Sometimes I can even bake pretty cakes. 

Evidence: Marshmallow Mum Cake
But marshmallow mums aren't going to cut it for a wedding cake.

So, like any good student, I took a class. Now I can make (Crisco-tasting) buttercream roses!  
My final project for my Wilton Cake Decorating Class

I have confidence. I can make a cake that looks pretty & professional-- it's good enough for my wedding cake and it will taste good because I will make it taste good. 

Unfortunately, my wedding isn't for another 15 months... But I can offer my services to my roommate who will be wed this June.

"What kind of cake would you like, Lily?"

"Rustic with whipped cream icing." 

....

Okay!
First rustic cake attempt with fake flowers and tasteless buttercream. 

I tried five different recipes for whipped icing / decorating buttercream.... and I hated them all. Even America's Test Kitchen's recipe failed me for the first time since I have been a consumer of their products!

I became furious. I threw piles of cake on the floor (almost-- German chocolate cake filling makes tall cakes pretty unstable). 

Then I reverted back to what I know tastes good: my own buttercream, but added a secret ingredient to hopefully make it act better when decorating: Wilton's Meringue Powder. 

My fist tiered cake with MY buttercream and fresh daffodils! 
Et Voila! It is perfect! Beautiful! Tasty! A JOY to work with! 

The bottom and top tiers were chocolate with chocolate buttercream filling and the middle two tiers were yellow with lemon curd filling. I used America's Test Kitchen recipes for the yellow and chocolate cakes and the lemon curd filling (they were tasty, as is the norm). The chocolate buttercream filling can be found in this previous post:

http://bluegrassbaking.blogspot.com/2012/08/cakes-million.html

Now I will share the star of this cake endeavor: my winning buttercream frosting!

Basic Buttercream Frosting for Decorating

2 sticks of salted butter softened (or 2 sticks of unsalted butter + a pinch of salt)
2-6 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream OR half-and-half (the amount depends on humidity and how thick/thin you want your icing.
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Stacking the tiers
1 tablespoon of Wilton Meringue Powder (this helps the frosting crust so that it is easier to decorate, smooth, and transport-- can be found in the Walmart baking aisle and most craft stores)
4-5 cups of powdered sugar

The KitchenAid Mixer is the best tool for this job, although it can be done with a handheld mixer (if you are brave, a little bit crazy, and have super-human upper-body strength, you can maybe do it by hand, but I wouldn't recommend it).

Beat the softened butter by itself for at least two minutes on high, until it is whipped and looks almost white. Add the half-and-half/ whipping cream and beat for another two minutes, starting on low, maybe stirring a bit, but eventually working up to high again. Add vanilla, salt (if applicable), and meringue powder. Mix on low until well-incorporated, then blast it on high again for another two minutes (you really don't have to worry about over-whipping in this recipe). Add the powdered sugar a cup at a time in the same way: on low until incorporated, maybe scraping the sides of the bowl, then on high for a minute or two. Color if desired with food coloring (use less half-and-half and more sugar if you are planning on coloring frosting with liquid food coloring). And frost cake. I usually do a quick crumb coat first, let the crumb coat dry, and then go back to add the final coat of frosting.


Happy baking and decorating!








Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"I Prefer" to Eat Ginger Nuts


"Also, they sent Ginger Nut very frequently for that peculiar cake-- small, flat, round, and very spicy-- after which he had been named by them" (Melville, "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street").

I was the first of my Herman Melville seminar class to lead an hour long presentation. I was assigned two short works: "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street" and "The Lightning-Rod Man." 

Both were equally weird and funny-- but also very rich. I would recommend them. 

My main focus was the story of Bartleby, a copyist who shows up like a phantom in the narrator's office and persists to haunt the narrator with his quirky idiosyncrasies, one of them being his habitual phrase, "I prefer not to," and another, his sole ginger-nut diet. 

There is also a character named Ginger Nut (as referenced above).

Thus, I had to bring ginger nuts to class. 

Although the ginger nut was a staple to the characters in Bartleby's story, they have fallen from favor for Americans. The only recipes I could find were British or Australian. 

So, here is an Americanized version of Taste.com.au's Gingernut Biscuits Recipe:


American Ginger Nut Cakes

Ingredients:
2 sticks of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of molasses
3 teaspoons of ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of boiling water
3 cups of all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare cookie sheets with non-stick spray. Combine butter, brown sugar, molasses, ginger and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until well combined and keep stirring occasionally over medium-high heat until mixture is almost boiling. Take off heat and pour into a large bowl. Sit bowl aside to cool. In a small bowl, mix the baking soda with the hot water. Stir baking soda mixture into the butter mixture. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well-combined. Plop about a teaspoon of mixture for each cookie unto the baking sheets, giving them plenty of room to spread-- they will become very flat. Bake for 10 minutes. 


My seminar mainly consists of males, so these ginger nuts disappeared quickly. 

"He lives, then, on ginger-nuts, thought I" (Melville, "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street").


Friday, February 1, 2013

January

My lack of blog posts does not indicate my lack of baking for the month of January. I have actually been baking too much, I feel-- or maybe I am just bummed by the idea of mandatory baking.

Every Wednesday for the past four Wednesdays I have been lugging (homemade) baked goods up to Michael's in Lexington and participating in a Wilton Cake Decorating Class. Then every subsequent Thursday I have been spending two-three hours washing all my piping bags, tips, and other dishes by hand...

Despite the treacherous cleaning time, I have enjoyed my time in class with a host of jovial, middle aged women. I have learned a great deal, but I am glad to get back to baking for fun! The following is a gallery of my progress through the course.

The first day we decorated flat sugar cookies with our star tips. These are my initials.

I practiced making a cake at Centre with homemade butter cream icing..

First cake for class

Learning how to decorate cupcakes with various floral designs.

The Shaggy Mum!

Blue Rosette

As an unrelated side note: this January I  had the chance to visit Andalusia Farm, Flannery O' Connor's home in Milledgeville, Georgia, with one of my English classes. This is my favorite shot from the trip. 


Andalusia Farm
 For Centreterm break, I visited my lovely cousins in Nashville. I left these Not Your Walmart's Frosted Sugar Cookies as a thank you.

Not Your Walmart's Frosted Sugar Cookies

To find the recipe for these cookies, check out http://bluegrassbaking.blogspot.com/2012/08/not-your-walmarts-frosted-sugar-cookies.html


My final product: a light blue cake with white roses for my returning roommate.


I have had a great time this January, but now it is time to get back to business: classes for Spring 2013 began yesterday.