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Grandma’s Butter Cookies October 22, 2012

Filed under: Desserts,Recipes — MKCoehoorn @ 2:40 am
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Warning: massive amounts of cookie dough ahead.  Do not proceed unless you have your sweet tooth ready.

I put the egg carton next to it for size reference. The dough sits as high as the top of the egg carton and is nearly as long in diameter.

Seriously, this recipe makes an incredibly large amount of cookie dough.  The card I inherited from my grandmother said that it makes about 170 cookies, but does not mention what size these cookies are.  I do know that it is big enough that when  I make the dough, I usually divide it up into about 7 lumps, and freeze it until I actually need to bake cookies for something.  The cookies by themselves are quite yummy and are great for frosting, but the best use I have found is for my Turtle Shells.  I haven’t tried it, but I suspect that this cookie dough would also make for a pretty good fortune cookie.

But on to the recipe:

10 eggs

1 lb butter, softened

4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

enough flour to make a dough (about 9 – 10 cups)

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and butter.  Add in the sugar and mix well.  Sift in the baking soda, cinnamon, and cream of tartar.  Then add the flour one cup at a time.  After about 6 or 7 cups, you may need to give the mixer a rest and turn the dough out onto a very well floured surface to knead in the remaining flour.

Once you are satisfied with the texture of your dough, divide into 6 or 7 equal parts and coat with flour.  Then wrap with plastic wrap or wax paper, place in zipper freezer bags and freeze until ready to use.

When you are ready to bake, allow the dough to thaw to room temperature before you begin working with it.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out dough and cut with cookie cutters or form a log about 1 – 2 inches in diameter, then cut into 1/4 inch slices.  Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden (and smell delicious).

 

Baking with Bacon August 17, 2012

Filed under: Anniversary,Celebrations,Desserts,Recipes — MKCoehoorn @ 3:56 am
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With 2 birthdays, a dessert competition, a commission and a back to school event, August quickly becomes a very busy baking month. This year, 3 of those events fell on the same weekend with the other two occurring  about a week later. Fortunately my husband gave me a freebie on his birthday and asked for Butterfinger Torte (I’ll go into that with another post) instead of a cake. But that still left me with three events to bake in one weekend.

Cake #1

Cake #1 was a commission. Every so often a friend of mine pays me to make a cake for him. He’s actually asked for two this month with the first being an anniversary cake. I started making flowers for this cake a few weeks ago with gum paste.  I deliberately made extras on the flowers to account for breakages.  So before I started assembling and decorating the cake, I had 9 lavender roses, 9 orange roses and about 36 hydrangeas in three different shades of blue, though I only used 6 roses (3 of each color) and half of the hydrangeas.

Cake #2

Cake #2 was an entry in our dessert competition at church.  It got the flowers leftover from making the commissioned anniversary cake as well as some other flowers I made to use up colored gum paste that was getting old.  It was a great excuse to practice my flower skills.  It ended up with the remaining 18 hydrangeas and 36 roses in blue, lavender, orange, gold, yellow, and pink.

Cake #3

Cake #3 was technically a batch of mini-cupcakes and was also be entered in the dessert competition.  Over the last year I have realized that most of the judges for our church competitions (we also have pumpkin and chili cookoffs) are males.  And a large number of them like bacon.  So when I found a recipe for Maple Bacon Breakfast Cupcakes on the Cupcake Wars website, I knew I had to try out the recipe on them.

Cake #4 was my son’s birthday cake.  Since he is a big fan of all vehicles (show me a 4 year old who doesn’t love cars and trains) we are doing something of a train theme this year.  He is getting a train set for his birthday and I made a train inspired by Thomas and Friends.  Even though he was quite happy with the result, I was not and so I refrained from taking a picture of it.  But for the record, it consisted of two cakes baked in loaf pans.  One was cut into two pieces, one of which was stacked at one end of the intact loaf cake for the engine, and the other half was made into the coal car.  For the smoke stack I used 1 regular sized cupcake and then the wheels on the train and coal car were mini-cupcakes.

This sounds like a lot of work, but it really was not too bad.  The biggest issue  was that we’ve been having triple digit temperatures for the last few weeks and I have to fire up the oven for the better part of the day.  But I do have a few ways of saving on time.  Of the four projects above, only 1 was be truly from scratch – the bacon cupcakes.  For the other three I starting with Betty Crocker chocolate fudge cake mixes as my dry ingredients.  Instead of using the box instructions, I add 1 1/4 cups of milk, 1 stick of melted butter, and 3 eggs to each box of mix.  I divide the batter into the pans and bake as directed.  For 9 inch round cakes it’s about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  For the cupcakes – bake at the same temperature but about 15 – 20 minutes for the minis and 20 – 25 minutes for the regular size.  Or just bake until a bamboo skewer comes out clean.

Side note, instead of toothpicks, I test my cakes with bamboo skewers, the ones you would use for shish-kebobs.  The longer stick means that you don’t have to remove the cake from the heat to avoid burning yourself when you test for done-ness.  Also, to avoid having to hunt for them, as I always have to do with toothpicks, I keep all my skewers in a mason jar (a la flower vase) next to my stove.  They are contained, out of the way, and still convenient when I need them.

But on to the bacon:

I found this recipe on the Cupcake Wars website and for the most part I remained true to the recipe, with only two exceptions.  As you read through the ingredients on that recipe, you will see that it calls for maple sugar.  Maple sugar may be common in grocery stores in metropolitan areas, but in Small Town, Nebraska, where I live, the only way you can find such exotic ingredients is online.  And I don’t like to pay shipping – so I skipped that one ingredient.  At my husband’s suggestion (he was my taste-tester) I increased the strawberries in the frosting to 1/2 cup.

Since I did remain so close to the original, I’m not reposting the recipe here.  But you can follow the link straight to the recipe on the Cupcake Wars site.

Unfortunately my bacon cupcakes were too avant-garde for my small town compatriots and while my flowers were impressive, neither entry won the dessert competition.  But I’m not too upset.  Instead, I’m already looking to our pumpkin competition this fall and considering other desserts for next summer.

 

Cheater’s Manicotti July 26, 2012

Filed under: Dinner,Recipes — MKCoehoorn @ 4:22 am
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My default meal for a family with a new baby or a potluck is Cheater’s Manicotti.  I call it “Cheater’s” because real manicotti has a ricotta cheese filling that I don’t use.  I got the idea several years ago while watching The Rachael Ray Show.  She was making a Sloppy Joe Manicotti and I remember thinking “that would be really good with string cheese.”  (No, I was not pregnant at the time.)  So I started experimenting.  After a few tries my husband suggested putting some salami in the noodles with the cheese.  And it has pretty much stayed the same since then.

I will say, you can use individually wrapped string cheese (ie Cheeseheads) if that is all that is available.  But if you happen to live somewhere like Wisconsin where your grocery store has 4 cases containing nothing but cheese, cheese, and more cheese, then you should really get the string cheese that is packaged together (I like J&S from Woodmans).  I mean it.  It really does make a difference in the taste.  Whenever my family goes to Wisconsin, and often when we have guests from there, we get good cheese as a part of the visit so that I can make this when we get home.

It also makes a difference if you buy a block of mozzerella and shred it yourself instead of buying the preshredded bags.  They do work, but there is a definite difference.  (I married into a family of self-professed cheese snobs – they know when they are getting good cheese.)

Ingredients:

1 box of manicotti noodles

14 sticks of string cheese

14 slices of hard salami

1 jar of pizza sauce

1 lb shredded mozzerella cheese

Bowl of cold water

Directions:

Preheat your oven to about 425 degrees.

On your stove bring a pot of water to a boil, then add the noodles.  Cook them for 7 – 9 minutes.  Drain off the hot water and submerge them in the bowl of cold water (or pour it into the pot).

While waiting for the water to boil and the noodles to cook, you can prep your cheese by separating the sticks or removing them from their packaging.  You can also separate your slices of salami and shred your mozzerella.  Then spoon some of the pizza sauce into a 9×13 inch glass casserole dish and spread it around so that the bottom is covered.

Once the noodles are cooked and cooled enough to hold them without burning your hand you are ready to stuff them.  Wrap a slice of salami around one stick of string cheese and insert into the noodle.  Place the noodle in the prepared dish and repeat with the rest of the noodles.  When they are all done, spoon the remaining pizza sauce on top and spread it around until everything is covered.  Top it with a generous amount of mozzerella cheese, evenly spread over the noodles.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until all the cheese is melted and gooey.  Serve immediately.

I generally allow two noodles for adults and one noodle for kids, so one batch will feed about 7 adults.

 

Gum Paste June 25, 2012

Filed under: Celebrations,Crafts,Desserts,Edible,Recipes,Wedding — MKCoehoorn @ 3:40 am
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Gum paste (also called sugar dough) is a companion to fondant, and a cake decorator’s friend when it comes to making lots of flowers.  Unlike fondant, after sitting out for a while, gum paste becomes hard, yet very fragile.  While delicate, this makes gum paste a wonderful choice when you want to have a lot of flowers or other 3D decor on a cake.  It can also be used with a Cricut Cake machine (so far I prefer it to fondant and sugar sheets for that purpose).  Because it dries out, you do have to work quickly, but while you are learning it’s not a chore to eat the failures.  Plus, as you have scraps that get a little too dry to work with, you can drop them into a little bit of water to make gum paste adhesive (I’ll discuss that more later.)

Gum paste can be a little pricey when purchased ready-to-use.  I think it runs about $8-10 at my local Walmart.  So when I was asked to make a cake for my aunt’s wedding, I decided to do a little research and try my hand at making gum paste.  The recipe is simple, but it does require some ingredients you are not likely to have on hand.  Gum-tex and Glucose are both available from Wilton and Amazon, as well as many craft stores such as Hobby Lobby.

My recipe:

4 cups sifted powdered sugar (divided)

1 Tbsp Gum-Tex

1 Tbsp Glucose

1 Tbsp Imitation, Clear Almond Extract

3 Tbsp warm Water

Sift 3 cups of powdered sugar and the gum-tex into a bowl and make a well in the middle.  The sifting is very important.  If your sugar has any lumps, they will be very apparent in the gum paste and will affect the outcome of your project.  Make sure you sift the sugar at least once before combining it with the other ingredients.  Combine the glucose, extract and water in a glass measuring cup and warm in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Pour into the well and mix together.  Once the water/glucose mixture is worked in, pour everything into a ziploc baggie and seal without any air in the bag.  Let sit overnight.  The next day, when you are ready to work with the gum paste, work in the last cup of powdered sugar.  I found it necessary to also add some more water by misting it on with a small spray bottle.  The dough should turn white and soften as you work with it.  Once every thing is combined, cover the unused portion of gum paste with white shortening and wrap in plastic wrap so that it does not dry out.

I mentioned above something called gum paste adhesive.  This is basically a little bit of gum paste that has been dissolved into water.  It makes a runny syrup that can be brushed over soft gum paste to make it stick to another piece of gum paste.  It is used quite a bit in making flowers and attaching leaves to floral wire stems.  When I make it, I generally use about a 1/4 inch piece of gum paste and drop it into about 1 Tbsp of water.  Then let it sit for at least an hour so that it has time to dissolve.  If there is still some gum paste in the water an hour later that is okay, you can still use it.  Just stir the water a little with your brush before you spread it onto the flower you are working on.

 

Easter Bunny Pops April 11, 2012

I came across these Easter Bunny Pops and had to try my hand at making them.  But as with anything I did things a little bit in my own way.  Instead of buying wooden hearts and beads, then painting them white,  I just cut hearts and 3/4″ circles from some white craft foam.  Then I drew on the eyes, mouths, noses, whiskers and toes with craft foam markers.  I also used glue dots instead of hot glue since I knew that I would have little hands trying to help me and cut up some cotton balls when I ran out of white pompoms for the hands and tail.

After about 8 bunnies, I got tired of struggling to tie tiny bows so later bunnies were bow-less.  Bowed or not, these little dum bunnies were a hit at our breakfast potluck at church on Easter.

 

Marshmallow Fondant April 6, 2012

Filed under: Baby Shower,Celebrations,Desserts,Recipes — MKCoehoorn @ 6:52 pm
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Vehicle Cake from my cousin's baby shower

Over the last several years there has been a rising trend to cover cakes with a sugar dough called fondant.  If you have been blessed by not having a chance to try it, professional bakers have described it as like working with Play-doh, and tasting like it too.  Many cake buyers sacrifice the taste of the confection they are purchasing to have it look nice.  When I make a cake, I like for it to taste as good as it looks without having to remove the decorations.  So I was quite happy to discover that there is a way to make a slightly better tasting version out of marshmallows.

My Recipe (makes about 2.5 lbs):

2 Tablespoons clear, imitation vanilla extract (or other clear flavoring)

3 – 4 Tablespoons water

10.5 oz mini marshmallows

2 pounds powdered sugar

gel food coloring

shortening

cornstarch

In a large microwave safe bowl, pour the extract and water, then add marshmallows.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Coat a spoon thoroughly with shortening, then stir the marshmallows.  Continue microwaving and stirring until marshmallows have melted and are soupy.  Between stirring sessions, clean off the spoon and recoat it with shortening.

When melted, stir in powdered sugar.  When you have stirred in as much as you can, grease your hands and work surface liberally with shortening and dump mixture onto surface.  Knead remaining powdered sugar into mixture until it has a dough-like consistency.  Coat with shortening and allow to rest for a short time.

Clean up the shortening mess and prep the surface with a dusting of cornstarch.  Add a few dots of food coloring to dough and knead to spread the color throughout.  A marble effect takes a shorter kneading time, while a solid color requires more work.

Roll out to about 1/8″ and drape over cake.  Smooth over the top and sides of the cake.  Trim excess from the bottom edge of the cake.

Top view of the vehicle cake

Cost Breakdown:

Great Value Miniature Marshmallows (10.5 oz) – $1.00

Wilton Clear, Imitation Vanilla Extract (8 oz)- $4.00 (or $0.50 for 1 oz used)

Great Value Powdered Sugar (32 oz) – $1.68

Total Cost – $6.68 ($3.18 for what was actually used)

Additional Costs:

Great Value Shortening – $4.42

Great Value Cornstarch (16 oz)- $1.00

Wilton Pastel Food Coloring – $1.77

Compared to Wilton Rolled Fondant (5 lb) – $18.88

Polka dot gluten free cake from the baby shower