S’mores for a Shower

Homemade S'mores

I really think the idea for virtual blog parties is so great. I sort of wish food bloggers could have real life parties/potlucks/etc., because it would be some SERIOUS good eats! I was so flattered when I was asked by Amy of Sing For Your Supper to participate in this virtual bridal shower for Kelsey of Apple A Day, but of course, the dilemma was what to bring?

I wanted it to be a simple finger food, but also something that is pretty familiar to most people. That’s when the idea of homemade s’mores somehow popped in my head. I’ve made marshmallows before, so I knew that wouldn’t be a problem and homemade graham crackers? How hard could that be?

Of course, my assumptions were wrong. While cooking my first batch of marshmallows, my candy thermometer somehow SHATTERED in the pot. And before you ask the obvious, no, the thermometer was not sitting at the bottom of the pot. Things like this only happen to me, heh. Because of this, I ran out of one of the ingredients while measuring out my second batch, so the marshmallow flavor was completely an accident. Mixed berry. Not a bad accident, though. I promise. :-)

To make the s’mores a little different, instead of using Hershey bars, I spread on a dollop of Nutella! Yummy…majorly…just sayin’.

If you’d like to check out the amazing food that other bloggers are making for Kelsey’s shower, check out Sing For Your Supper and Apple a Day!

Graham Crackers
Source: Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
  • 1/3 cup  mild-flavored honey, such as clover
  • 5 tablespoons milk, full-fat is best
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
  3. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and dust it lightly with flour, then turn the dough out onto it and pat it into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Wrap it, then chill it until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.
  4. Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  5. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Use a cutter to get the shape desired or cut into squares.
  6. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge or 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer. Repeat with the second batch of dough. Finally, gather any scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll.
  7. Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough (again, this is for the traditional cracker shape). Using a toothpick or skewer (I like to use the blunt end of a wooden skewer for more dramatic dots), prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.
  8. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.


Mixed Berry Marshmallows
Source: mildly adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable oil or cooking spray, for pan
  • 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup seedless strawberry jam or jelly
  • 1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam or jelly
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • Dash of salt
  • Red food coloring
  • Cornstarch, for dusting

Directions:

  1. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with vegetable oil. Line dish with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides; oil parchment. Set dish aside.
  2. Pour 2/3 cup cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle with gelatin; let stand until softened, 5 minutes.
  3. Stir together granulated sugar, jam, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Continue to boil until syrup registers 238 degrees on a candy thermometer (soft-ball stage).
  4. Add syrup to gelatin. Beat on low speed until slightly cooled. Gradually raise speed to high, beating until mixture is cool and peaks form, 10 to 15 minutes. Mix in red food coloring, one drop at a time, to achieve desired shade of pink.
  5. Pour mixture into prepared pan; smooth surface. Let stand, uncovered, until firm, about 3 hours or overnight.
  6. Dust a cutting board with confectioners’ sugar. Run a knife around edges of marshmallow to loosen; un-mold onto cutting board. Peel off parchment. Lightly coat a large sharp knife with oil; cut marshmallow into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces, coating knife with more oil as necessary. Dust with cornstarch; toss to coat completely. Marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Eggnog Macarons

Macarons

The macaron. These are probably one of the most intimidating cookies out there. I’ve made them before, but it was in the summer, and humidity was raging. I guess the extra moisture in the air attributed to my macarons ending up with no feet. They tasted wonderful, but they were pitiful flat little cookies. :(

I sort of forgot about these little treats until my sisters and I visited Sucre in New Orleans. It was love at first bite. Pistachio was my absolute favorite out of all the flavors we tried.

IMG_3156
That evening, I was asked to bring all desserts for Christmas. I knew that I had to give these macarons another attempt. I mean, dew point was in the 30s and that’s SUPER rare in Louisiana. So, bye bye to the humidity for this attempt!

That first picture….yep, those were the macarons that I made! I was yelling in excitement to the hubs as I stared into the oven, watching those little feet happen. I totally had my first macaron success!! Best of all? My family thought they tasted just like the ones from Sucre! Win! :)

This was also my first time making some form of a meringue buttercream. Seriously y’all, I thought this was a massive fail, but I remember reading on blogs that it does take a while to come together. After several minutes, just like that, it went from a separated mixture to a gorgeous frosting! I’m in shock that a frosting with so little sugar tastes so much better, too! Definitely making a meringue-type frosting again soon! I ended up filling a few with plain buttercream to see how it would taste (as you can see in the bottom row), but after tasting both, I felt that the spiced eggnog frosting was the way to go here.

Eggnog Macarons
Source: Tartelette

For the macarons:

Ingredients:

  • 90 gr egg whites (use eggs whites that have been preferably left 3-5 days in the fridge)
  • 25 gr granulated sugar
  • 200 gr powdered sugar
  • 110 gr almonds (slivered, blanched, sliced, whatever you like)

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.
  2. Place the powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground.
  3. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
  4. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 280F.
  5. When ready, bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don’t let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy.
  6. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.

For the eggnog filling:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 sticks (180gr)(6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Put the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like marshmallow cream.
  2. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat the meringue on medium speed until it cools and forms a thick shiny meringue, about 5 minutes.
  3. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
  4. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg to the buttercream.. Fill he shells with the buttercream and enjoy!

Chewy Sugar Cookies

Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies

I’m so excited that I can pull out the Christmas tree, blast my Christmas Pandora station and start the holiday baking (without getting judgey stares from others)! It’s officially CHRISTMAS SEASON!

I pretty much sang Christmas carols the whole time while making these. My sous chef, aka my four legged friend who just lays on the cold kitchen floor as I work, probably was not very pleased. I will say that the sous chef really couldn’t care less about the Christmas tree so far…whew! :-)

Back to the cookies. The hubs LOVES a good chewy sugar cookie, so when I saw this recipe on Christen’s blog, I couldn’t wait to make these happen! The ingredients sound a little weird at first (cream cheese in sugar cookies?!), but trust me, it works. The hubs said these were probably the best cookies I’ve ever made! SCORE!

Chewy Sugar Cookies
Source: mildly adapted from Cooks Illustrated (Nov/Dec 2010 issue), as seen on Cooking with Christen

Ingredients:

  •  2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups sugar, plus extra for rolling the cookies in
  • 3 oz cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted and warm
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Line a baking sheet with silicone mat.  Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, place the 1.5 cups sugar and the cream cheese, then pour the warm butter over it and whisk to combine.  It will be slightly lumpy.  Whisk in oil, mix well then add the egg, milk and vanilla and whisk until smooth.  Add flour mixture and mix with a scraper spatula until dough forms.
  4. Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop cookies onto a baking pan, leaving adequate space for baking. Using the bottom of a drinking glass, gently flatten each cookie to make them uniform in size. Sprinkle additional sugar on top of each cookie (and sprinkles, if you’d like).  Bake 11-13 minutes, until edges are just set. (This step is much different from Cooks Illustrated, because I found the resulting dough to be too sticky to work with.) This made about 30 cookies.
  5. Cool on wire rack.

Beachy Cookies

cookies

::offers plate of beachy cookies::

Hi everyone! Remember me? Well, I used to be Skinny Food by Amy, but it turns out that I bake too much, and it would make me a liar to post such buttery foods on a site that promises skinny food. So, I decided to make the move.

It’s a big move, but no worries, my posts won’t be changing. I just wanted a title that felt like a better fit.

I hope you like the new layout. I find it kind of, well, nifty. :)

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and heck, add me to your readers while you are at it. :)

Oh and if you have any feedback on the new look, I’d surely appreciate it!

Cookie Cutters Aren’t Everything..

Crawfish cookies don’t seem to be as popular as Christmas tree cookies or Teddy bear shaped ones, so finding a cookie cutter for these just did not happen. I was sad, but I had my paring knife on me and went to town.

I found a print out of a decent crawfish and generalized it for cutting purposes. I was going to pipe the details instead. :)

This took me about an hour to cut out 16 crawfish shaped cookies, but the overall shape looked good to me, so I baked them up.

Hilariously, these cookies are the two WORST colors to make on icing. Red and black are hard colors to get, and you have to use almost 1/3 of the bottle to attain the color. (Note: If you need to make red icing, buy no taste red or you’ll end up with bitter icing.) Just remember, let the icing sit a little after dying it. Lighter colors get richer when they sit!

At this point of piping and filling, the hubs pointed out that they look like ants. Great…

However, after the details were put in, they looked pretty much like cutesy crawfish! :) So, if you can’t find the cutter you are looking for, definitely consider getting a template and cutting from there!

In case you are wondering how to decorate cookies and what recipes I use, click here.

Christmas Sugar Cookies

I might be a week late with these, but here’s proof that I did make Christmas cookies! :)

I excitedly drew up plans (which I did deviate from a bit) on my lunch break one day, and went to work the week before Christmas on these bad boys!

I was so excited to use pearl dust for the tree trunks. I mixed a little bit with some vodka, and just painted it on after the flood icing dried. It leaves a really pretty shimmery finish!

If you’re curious about the recipes and techniques that I use to make these happen, check out my tutorial here.

Rolled Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread is one of those cookies that is just a standard to have during the holidays. They are spicy, chewy and can be cut in cute holiday shapes! My siblings and I used to get the Little Debbie gingerbreads and fight over them at the house. :)

I decided to include these in my coworker’s baked goodies tins because they looked easy and it was something new to bake. Being that I’ve never worked with molasses, I have to admit, I thought it was going to smell like brown sugar or something similar. No way folks…this has a very different smell than imagined. In fact, I thought I had a batch of bad molasses, but I kept going with the recipe and it turns out that molasses do indeed smell unpleasant normally.

This recipe is easy to work with and yields a delicious gingerbread cookie. You will not be disappointed at all.

Rolled Gingerbread Cookies
Source: Cookie Craft

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda (if using this recipe to make a gingerbread house, omit the baking soda)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • zest of one orange
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup molasses

Directions:

  1. Cream together the butter and sugar for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and mix until blended.
  2. Put the flour, spices, baking soda, salt and orange zest in a medium bowl and whisk mixture together.
  3. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry mixture to the wet mixture until the two are well blended.
  4. Put the dough in 3 even portions, formed into a rough disk and chill the dough in the fridge for a few hours.
  5. When you are ready to bake the dough, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Cut the dough into desired shapes and place on a parchment/Silpat lined cookie sheet. ( I dipped one side of the cookie in sprinkles before placing on the cookie sheet.)
  7. Bake in the middle rack of your oven for 12-16 minutes for larger cookies; 7-9 minutes for smaller cookies or until the dough darkens a little along the edges.
  8. Cool cookies completely for decorating.

Makes about 36 3″ sized cookies, which equates to almost one double batch of sugar cookies.

Baking Gifts

Coworkers are typically difficult to buy for. In college, I would really only buy for fellow female student coworkers. It was easy…Starbucks gift cards, bath stuff, etc. When I graduated and got thrown into the real world, I was introduced to working in a primarily male field. I can’t shop for males, at all. I have enough trouble shopping for  my husband, father and brother! So, I started making edible gifts.

Last year, I bought cute Christmas chinese take-out boxes and put decorated sugar cookies, oreo truffles and chocolate covered pretzels in them. This year, I branched out from those ideas just a little bit.

I had my first adventures of making homemade peppermint marshmallows. The KA definitely was put to use here! I couldn’t have even fathomed making these last year with a $10 hand mixer.

Another recipe from Cookie Craft that I’ve been wanting to try is their rolled gingerbread cookies. These did not disappoint.

Of course, the oreo truffles made an appearance, and this time, instead of putting a bunch in one bag, I bought cutesy Christmas foils to wrap them in!

Adorable right? I love you Hobby Lobby.

Of course, here is a small picture of the packaging in action. I will say my kitchen was a big ol’ mess after this, but it was worth it! My coworkers seemed to love the goodies. Of course, the easiest recipe (oreo truffles) became the hit of the gifts!

Tutorial: The Basics of Decorated Sugar Cookies!

These cookies are usually impressive when I bring them to a party. Sure, it’s time consuming, but all in all, very easy and cheap to do yourself!

Your cookies might not come out as perfect as you would like the first time, but give it 3-4 times, and you will see your skills improve and your creative juices start flowing with new cookie ideas. (Just in time for the holidays!)

Supplies you need to decorate:

  • Wilton icing tip(s) 2 and/or 3- Ultimately, it depends on how small or detailed the cookie shape is. Tip 2 is smaller, but tip 3 doesn’t show shaky hands as easily. So either of these two work.
  • Couplers- These are great to use, because let’s say you are doing tiny details, as well as  broad outlining with white icing, you can easily change out tips when you use these, rather than having to make a whole new bag of icing.
  • Decorating Bags- Pick your poison, basically. If you are feeling green, feel free to buy a couple of reusable bags. Royal icing is VERY easy to clean, since there is no grease in the icing, so this is a good option. There are also disposable plastic or parchment triangles to use as well. I use plastic disposables, because I can deal with many colors at a time without worrying about running out of reusables.
  • Squeeze Bottles- These bottles just make working with flood icing a lot easier, in my opinion.
  • Toothpicks – These will quickly become your cookie decorating miracles, and you will see why in this post.

First, of course, you roll and cut your sugar cookies. This is my favorite recipe.

Rolled Sugar Cookies
Source: Cookie Craft

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest

Directions:

  1. Whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl.
  2. Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar together for about 2 minutes, until it is light and fluffy. Add the egg and extract/zest and mix until blended.
  3. Gradually add the flour/salt mixture to the wet mixture until the two are thoroughly combined.
  4. Divide the dough into 2-3 portions and form them into a disk shape. Then, wrap each portion in wax paper and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  5. Once chilled, roll dough out into desired shapes and place on a Silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-16 minutes, until cookies start to turn golden along the edges.

Then, whip up some royal icing (This is the recipe I use, and I sub 2 tsp. of almond extract for 2 tsp. of the water called for in the recipe.). Really mix it well until it gets fluffy and stops looking shiny. It takes a while, especially with a hand mixer (I’ve been there…), so if you are using a hand mixer, be prepared to mix for a good 10 minutes.

Of course, color your icing the colors you want. Flood icing is simply royal icing with a little bit more water added until it’s fairly liquidy. The best way to find out if your icing is the right consistency is to mix it well and let it drip from a spatula or whisk, into the bowl. If the icing holds its shape in the liquid for about 5 seconds, it’s good to go! Then, just pour it into your squeeze bottles.

Now that all of your icings are prepared, fill your icing bag about a quarter of the way full. This allows you to maintain good control of your icing, and overfilled bags can really be strenuous on your hands to squeeze. Depending on the complexity of the cookie, choose tip 2 or 3. Tip 2 is good for more detailed cookies, but I used tip 3 for the below cookie since the shape is fairly simple.

Then, pipe your outlines. If you happen to mess up, use a toothpick to guide the icing to the right spot. Make sure there are no gaps in your icing, because if you leave gaps, flood icing will spill right out of your cookie.

After all of your cookies are outlined, start squeezing your flood icing in.

After you squeeze a fair amount in, use a toothpick to spread icing into the corners of the cookies.


Now, your cookies should look something like this. If you have detailing to add, like I did, allow the flood icing to set for a couple of hours so that it just doesn’t sink into the flood icing.

I can’t stress this enough: Allow your cookies to dry for 24 hours. I tried 12 hours once, but one good squish crunched the flood icing in, revealing some flood icing that was still very wet underneath.

I hope this helps those of you who were curious about royal icing decorating. It’s not that bad at all, and the results are really awesome!

Cool cookies on a cooling rack.

Grandma’s All Occasion Sugar Cookies

sugarcookie

This was the final cookie that I placed in my Operation  Baking Gals box. I figured that this would serve as a good excuse to try another sugar cookie recipe. I’ve seen quite a few food bloggers use this for rolled (shaped) cookies and rave about it, but the problem I have with this recipe is that they did spread a little. Spreading wouldn’t allow a cookie to keep it’s original cutter shape, so I’m going to stick with my go-to recipe for rolled cookies.

My husband did really like these, and I will admit that they have a great flavor.  This recipe is also from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From my Home to Yours.

Grandma’s All Occasion Sugar Cookies
Source: Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking From My Home to Yours

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • sugar and/or cinnamon for dusting

Directions:

  1. Using a mixer, beat the butter until it’s fluffy. Add in the sugar and mix for 2 minutes until the mixture is pale. Add the egg and yolk and beat for another minute or two; beat in the vanilla. Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together in a separate bowl. Then, with the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture until it’s just incorporated. From then, finish mixing with a spatula until it’s mixed well.
  2. Place the dough on the counter and divide it in half. If you want to make roll-out cookies, shape each half into a disk and wrap in plastic. If you want to make slice-and-bake cookies, shape each half into a chubby sausage (the diameter is up to you-I usually like cookies that are about 2 inches in diameter) and wrap in plastic or wax paper. Whether you’re going to roll or slice the dough, it must be chilled for at least 2 hours. (Well wrapped, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)
  3. Preheat the oven to  350 °F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
  4. If you are making roll-out cookies, working with one packet of dough at a time, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to a thickness of 0.5 cm/1/4 inch, lifting the plastic or paper and turning the dough over often so that it rolls evenly. Lift off the top sheet of plastic or paper and cut out the cookies. Pull away the excess dough, saving the scraps for rerolling, and carefully lift the dough onto the baking sheets with a spatula, leaving about 4 cm = 1 1/2 inches between the cookies. (This is a soft dough and you might have trouble peeling away the excess or lifting the cutouts; if so, cover the dough, chill it for about 15 minutes and try again.)
  5. After you’ve rolled and cut the second packet of dough, you can form the scraps into a disk, then chill, roll, cut and bake.
  6. If you are making slice-and-bake cookies, use a sharp thin knife to slice the dough into 0.5 cm = 1/4-inch-thick rounds, and place the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 4 cm = 1 1/2 inches of space between the cookies.
  7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheet at the midpoint. The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much, if at all.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and dust the cookies with sugar or cinnamon sugar, if you’d like. Let them rest for 1 minute before carefully lifting them onto a rack to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.