Life's A Beach Cookies


Every year one of my girlfriends has a beach party.  It is something I look forward to every year.  This year it is scheduled for next weekend; unfortunately this is my busiest week of the year and I will be working during the party.   Before I knew I would be working next weekend, I had already planned on making beach themed cookies and bought a palm tree and planned on using a circle for a beach ball. I thought that cookies would hold up better at the beach, rather than cupcakes or something else that would melt.  I  couldn't let a perfectly good palm tree cookie cutter go to waste, so before I started what I am calling "hell week" at work I decided to make the cookies I had planned for the party.  

Making the beach balls was easy.   I have a collection of various sized circle cutters and I justed used a medium sized cirlce.   I sketched out ahead of time, how I wanted the balls to look.   Once I settled on a design I liked, I outlined the circles in white royal icing using a #2 tip.  I then made the circles slightly off center in the cookie and outlined the triangles for the different colors.

 

After the lines were set I flooded the parts I wanted white using a #3 tip.   Here is picture of the balls in the process of being flooded.


Once the white had set, I flooded the other triangles with red, blue and green.   I used a #2 tip to flood these areas because they were so small  and I wanted to becareful not to get any on the white.  I then let the cookies sit over night to dry.  

When I got up the next morning, the cookies looked nice, but there was nothing special about them.  I contemplated a few different ideas to spice them up and finally decided to do the outlines around the colors in sparking sugar.  I had plenty of white icing left, so I just retraced the cookies and then sprinkled them in sparkling sugar, and I was much happier with the results.  

 

This beach ball is ready for his close up!


I worked on the palms trees at the same time I did the beach balls.  The palm trees were very easy to do.   I outlined the top in green, and the bottom in brown, each time using #2.  


 

Then I flooded the the trunks and leaves in green and brown using a #3 tip.    Again, I let the cookies sit over night.  



The next morning, I put the detailing on the trunks using a number #2 tip. Just two Xs, very easy.  And it finish the palm trees, I outlined the green in leftover green icing, and then sprinkled green sanding sugar. (I would normally use sparkling sugar, but for some reason I had a ridiculous amount of green sanding sugar in the house).  I then let the cookies dry for 6 hours.  

I love how the trees and beach balls look together!

Engagement Ring Cookies


As I have said before, I don't really need much of an excuse to make cookies.  So, when there was engagement party at work I did not hesitate to volunteer to make a batch of cookies.   I have made wedding cake cookies for bridal showers before so I thought this was a good opportunity to try out a new shape. When I decided to do an engagement ring, I didn't want the ring to be just silver/grey and white, so I went with making the bands yellow gold to give the cookie more color.  The photos unfortunately made the cookies look a bit orange. I also added sparkling sugar to the white icing to give it a more gem-like sparkle.


I did do something a little different this time-I did not use royal icing!  Instead I experimented with poured icing (recipe below).  For a while I had been seeing these cookie online that were super shinny and I could not figure out what was different about them.  My royal icing was never that shinny. After a bit of research I learned that these cookies were made with poured icing, which is made with light corn syrup, milk, and confectioners sugar.   This icing produces a hard, shinny finnish, as opposed to royal icing which has a more matte finnish.  

Poured icing is definitely something I would use again.  I need a bit more practice with it.  It was runnier than I thought it would be and I would make the icing that I am using to pipe the outlines thicker next time.  I found it to be easy to make (no whipping meringue poweder) and I loved the results.  I don't think I would want all cookies this shinny, but rings definitely called for it. 


 

Poured Icing
1 cup confectioners' sugar sifted
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Directions:
Place sugar and milk in bowl. Mix until mixed thoroughly. Add corn syrup and mix well. For filling in areas, use thinned icing (add small amounts or light corn syrup until desired consistency is reached).

The icing will dry to a shinny, hard finnish.

Low Fat, Low Sugar Rainbow Cake


Low Fat, Low Sugar, not two phrases I typically use to describe my baked goods.  I am big fan of the philosophy, if you want half the calories, eat only half the cookie, you still get all the taste.  I do not try to replace butter with margarine.  I do not use splenda instead of sugar.  Desserts are made to be enjoyed. They are treats, and should taste that way.  

However, recently I have been getting some requests at work to make something more diet friendly, and I had remembered seeing this cake a few years ago when a friend of mine made it and thought it was time to give it a try.

Most people are familar with the weight watchets one point cupcakes, which is chocolate cake mix and diet soda.  This is based on the same idea, cake mix and diet lemon-lime soda.   Except you need a lot of food coloring.

I have to admit, I was a little skeptical about this cake before I made it.  The one point cupcakes never impressed me, but this was so much better. Obviously the texture is different, but the cake is still moist and fluffy.  

I highly reccomend giving it a shot.  It is certainly a fun and festive cake.   It would be great for a kid's  birthday party or a gay wedding!

These are the ingredients: Two boxes of white cake mix (any brand), 24 oz of diet lemon-lime soda (I like sprite zero) , 16 oz whipped topping, two small boxes sugar-free instant vanilla pudding, and assorted food coloring.



To make the batter, put the cake mix in a bowl, and stir in the diet soda.  Because the batter will be thick I recommend using a hand mixer to get out the lumps.  

When the batter is mixed, divide the batter evenly into six bowls.  Mix in a different color of food dye into each bowl until you get the desired color.



Grease two 9'' round cake pans.   You are now ready to drop in your colors.  I find it easiest to fill the pans simultaneously so you can monitor how much batter is going into each pan and to make sure there is an even amount of batter.

In the first pan drop your colors in one by one in rainbow order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and  purple.


Now fill the other pan in reverse order starting with purple and then the blue, green, etc.




Keep adding the colors in the center.   The colors will not blend, I promise. 




Once you have used all the colors, you are ready to start  baking.  I love how the pans look once they are prepared.  



Bake the cake according to the instructions on the package, and add about ten minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Take them out of the oven when they are done. Because the diet soda is changing the make up of the cake, the cakes will not be as big as a normal cake, but it will rise. 

Here is what the final cakes will look like.  






This is VERY IMPORTANT: Do not touch the cakes until they are cool!  Leave the cakes in the pan.  If the cakes are still hot, they will tear.  Remember the texture is not a normal cake, so you can not treat the cakes the same way. 

When you are patiently waiting for the cakes to cool you can make the frosting.   To make the frosting put all of the whipped topping in a bowl, stir in the pudding mix.  That's it! Your frosting is ready to go.

Once the cakes have completed cooled and the frosting is prepared, stack one layer on top of the other.  


It is now time to frost the cake.  Remember this is not buttercream, so it will not spread the same way.  I recommend doing a crumb layer, refridgerating the cake, then frosting the cake with the rest of the frosting.  This will help with the spreading.

There will not be enough frosting to frost in between the layers with this recipe.  You can obviously make more frosting than the recipe calls for, but you will be adding calories, and the point of this cake is two eat something fun, that is also guilt-free.





The green has no significance, I just happen to have a lot of extra green food coloring.   You can also coloring all the frosting.



When you cut this cake, you will get lots of oohs, and ahhh, especially if people are not expecting the rainbow.  







I love how the single piece of cake looks on the white background.  



Adapted from Omnomicon Mom.

Elephant Cookies


E isn't actually for elephant in this case.  These elephants were for a special birthday girl, celebrating first birthday this weekend, and her first name begins with the letter E.  I was asked to make elephant cookies that incorporated the colors fuchsia and lime green and had an "E" on them.   I hadn't made an elephant before and I was excited to make a new cookie shape.





Overall I was happy with how these came out.  I wanted to make sure I had a nice gray for the base color of the elephant, so I did some research before I mixed colors.  Most people recommended adding a touch of light blue once gray was achieived, which I did, and I think that helped to make sure the icing didn't dry too dark.  

I also used Duff's new gel food coloring for the fuchsia and lime green. Sometimes I find that the Wilton colors are not "edgy" and it's hard to get alternative colors without some serious mixing.  When I saw the Duff gel colors, I thought this is was a good opportunity  to try something new.  I used the electric pink, with a touch of purple for the fuchsia, and this was easily achieved.  I also used the green colors from the same package for the lime green, it might have been call electric green, but I'm not sure.   Another reason why I recommend trying the Duff gel colors is that they are small squeeze bottles, so you can easily drop in one drop of color in at a time.   One of the things that I hate with the Wilton's is the constant use of tooth picks to get a few drops of color.  The Duff colors were much more user friendly.  Bottom line: I would definitely try the Duff gel coloring again.




I did run into a problem with these cookies. When I first started making these cookies, I knew that the trunk and the legs were going to be delicate, so I made the cookies extra thick and baked them a little longer than I normally do to make sure they were nice and firm.   This approach worked well, and I thought these elephants would hold up nicely.  

What I didn't take into account is that the Boston area is currently experiencing a heatwave with extremely high humidity.  When I started packaging the elephants into favor bags, my problems began, the first elephant's trunk broke off.   I immediately changed the way I packaged them, and just simply stapled the the bags, rather than tying them.   This seemed to work and no other elephants broke in the packaging process.   However, as the elephants waited around to be picked up, the trunks started falling off.  Needless to say I wasn't happy, and I spent most of Friday replaying in my head how I made these cookies.  I honestly do not know what I could have done any differently, and I think that the humidity just softened these cookies and the icing more than I anticipated. I think any cookies made during any similar weather conditions will need to baked much longer to make sure at that they are super firm! 

Tire Cookie Wedding Favors


Tire Cookies, not what you typically see for wedding favors, but when two people who work in tires get married, it is exactly what the occasion calls for!

I was asked to make these cookies by a good friend of mine who's mother got remarried in June.  The wedding ceremony itself was private, but this weekend they had a reception to celebrate with friends and family. My friend wanted to surprise her mother with tire cookie favors, which I thought was a great idea and I was happy to make them.


Once I got this assignment my first question was how to make the cookies.  Did I want just tires with writing on the tires, or have the tires drawn on another shape, like a rectangle, with the writting on the side?  I finally decided on just a giant tire shape with black frosting and white lettering.  I thought the white lettering would make the tires look a bit like whitewall tires.

Luckily I had just a bought a set of circle cookie cutters.   After a couple different trials, I picked out the two sizes to use for the outline and for the inner hole.   I encountered a few problems transfering the dough from the counter to the cookie sheet, the circles were ripping and becoming misshapped in the transfer.  I tried cutting out the circles on the cookie sheet after the transfer, and that helped keep the circles in-tact.



After making the cookies,  I outlined the cookies in black royal icing.  I tested a few cookies with the idea of makeing the cookies look like tread on the outside to give the cookies more texture, but I wasn't thrilled with the result, so I stuck with normal outlining and I was much happier with how they came out.

After outlining I flooded the cookies with the black icing.  After letting the cookies dry, I did the lettering.   The lettering didn't take me nearly as long as I thought it would. I think when I made the campaign cookies a a few weeks ago I made the icing a little too thick making it harder to do the lettering.  The consistency of this icing was much easier to work with making for an easier time doing the lettering. 

If you look at the photos it looks like there are sprinkles in the icing, but I didn't use any sprinkles.   The black icing dried really shinny and looked sparkly which photographed really well.



If you are looking for my sugar cookie recipe.  It is here on my Lobstah Sugar Cookies post. 

Make Any Chocolate Chip Cookie Better!


Mr. Apron's favorite is chocolate chip cookies.  He is always asking me to make them, and when I do they usually do not last very long.  On more than one occasion I have made cookies in the morning, to find that there are none left by bedtime.

You might be thinking, chocolate chip cookies - something I should be able to make for Mr. Apron in less than a hour, or at least fairly quickly whenever he has a craving.   However, I am a consummate perfectionist and when I discover a way to make a recipe better  I have to do that same thing every time, because not doing so would be an inferior product.

So, what is it that I do that makes any chocolate chip recipe better...... I let the dough sit in the refrigerator for 36 hours before baking!   It is so simple but it makes such a difference.  I cannot make chocolate cookies without doing this.  This is why, when Mr. Apron has a craving for chocolate chip cookies it is not something I can produce quickly!  (I also have to make sure that Mr. Apron doesn't eat all the cookie dough during the 36 hours.)



This is not something I came up with on my own.  A few years ago the New York Times ran an article about the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie and one of the chefs interviewed in the article made this suggestion.  I immediately tried it and I am converted.  I cannot make chocolate cookies without doing this.

For those of you who are not fond of the Tollhouse Cookie recipe, try it by letting the dough sit for 36 hours.   It will change the end result. The cookies come out much chewier and the flavors definitely blend together more, so the cookie is less bland. And according to the NY Times, letting the dough sit is something that Tollhouse used to do, but it wasn't printed on the Nestle bag of chocolate chips.

One piece of advice for refrigerating your dough: I find it much easier to let the dough come to room temperature before baking.   This will make it easier to form into balls and will make the baking time consistent with the instructions for whichever recipe you are using. If you don't have time to let the dough come to room temperature, be sure to extend your baking time slightly since the dough is colder than when it was first mixed.


  

My favorite chocolate cookie recipe, is from America's Test Kitchen.  After trials of many different recipes it is also Mr. Apron's favorite (and he's had a lot of cookies to compare).

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 2/3 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoon (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl.


2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.


3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the chips until incorporated.

4. Working with 2 tablespoons of the dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay them on the prepared baking sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are set and beginning to brown but the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.

5. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lobster Sugar Cookies


Just in time for the Fourth of July, I made Lobstah Cookies.  Yes, that's right Lobstah!  These cookies were made in Boston!

I want to say this upfront.  These cookies do not contain lobster!  I told a number of people of that I was making lobster sugar cookies, and more than one commented that they had never heard of seafood being using in a cookie.  I am not making this up. 

I as I have said previously, living in New England lobster is synonymous with summer, and the bright red color of a cooked lobster seemed to fit in perfectly for the Fourth of July and coordinated well with the cupcakes.  So, I was very excited to make these cookies.

Anyone who knows me in my professional life knows that this is has been a crazy two weeks for me at work, and baking has had to take a backseat.  The Red, White and Blue Velvet Cupcakes I made a few days ago, were relatively quick to make, so I was able to find the time one night to bake those and bring them in for my tired colleagues.  But sugar cookies with royal icing are time consuming, and I was beginning to wonder if I was going to finish these before Independence Day.  Luckily I got out of work earlier than expected one night, and was able to get ahead by making the dough and baking the cookies.


Besides the time issues, I also found that every store in my area was out of red coloring!  This included stores like Michaels that stock gel coloring which is what I typically use for royal icing, and the grocery stores were out of the liquid red color.  (I started looking for red coloring a week ago, not on July 3rd).  Fortunately I remembered seeing food coloring at a kitchen supply warehouse near where I live, and lucky me, they were still well stocked with multi-packs of food coloring.  I bought eleven to make sure I had enough red, since the bottles were rather small and I had never used this brand before.  The red ended up being a little darker than I wanted but overall I am happy with the color especially since I came very close to make blue lobsters.  





As I have mentioned before I use the Wilton Royal Icing recipe.  And here is my standard sugar cookie recipe.  

Sugar Cookies- from Fancys Flours
Ingredients:

• 6 cups all-purpose flour

• 3 teaspoons baking powder

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 2 cups unsalted butter

• 2 cups granulated sugar

• 2 large eggs

• 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

• Cream sugar and butter until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients in separate bowl and add to butter mixture. Mix well.

• Put a handful of the freshly made dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll to desired thickness. Cut with cookie cutters. Repeat with the rest of the dough. 

• Bake at 350 degrees for 8 -10 minutes. Let cool.