I’m Baaaack!! So I had some technical difficulties with WordPress, for a couple months 🤨 I did keep going with the baking challenges but I didn’t get to post them in a timely manner.
I also was not able to comment or “like” most of the blogs I follow, so I am so sorry that I have been absent for so long 😔 But I will be trying to make it up to all of you!
So, now I must take you back to Christmas time for this baking challenge. 🎄Sorry!
Sally’s challenge for December was to make homemade butter cookies. I think many of you will remember these as spritz cookies. They are usually made with a special piece of culinary equipment that, quite frankly, never work! Fortunatley, Sally did not make us buy this antiquated piece of crap 😂
Since this was a rather simple recipe, the dough came together rather quickly
The most important part of combining the ingredients is the addition of the milk. The piping consistency of this dough is important. It needs to be thin enough to move through the piping tip, but thick enough to hold the shape after piping. So, add the milk a tablespoon at a time.
I used the largest tip that I had and, after chilling the dough for several hours, piped them onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
These were baked at 350F for 15 minutes.
These were cooled, and then I decided to dip them into melted chocolate and added sprinkles
They were buttery, and full of almond and vanilla flavor! 😋
So, once again, I am getting this post in just under the deadline 😂. Honestly, I should be packing for our trip south, but I really want to keep my Sally streak alive! This past month has been very busy with holiday merriment, visiting with people I won’t see for several months and climbing with the kids. All great stuff, but I need to get back to blogging now💕
This month’s Challenge was to make a gingerbread house from scratch. Sally provided a wonderful video and great recipes for the gingerbread, frosting and royal icing.
My daughter and I have been making gingerbread houses for years. My son was there too, eating all the candy and pointing out all our flaws😉. So this time around, I really wanted to challenge myself to construct something that truly reflected our family. So, what could be better than an outdoor climbing gym at the North Pole 🌟
My daughter and I headed off to the Candy and Cake store with a rough plan. We knew this would take several days and that we would most likely have to try somethings that would not end up working, but that was ok. We purchased gum paste, fondant, templates, molds and edible paints, we set to work on the figures first.
my daughter made the top row, I made the Santa and last elf.
I love these penguins, but flippers do not make for good climbers😂 We decided that they would be working the front desk!
That was pretty much the first day! We stopped here to allow the gum paste creatures a chance to dry out.
The next day my daughter was called into work, and I was on my own. I began painting these little guys.
Two of the elves are on top rope and needed harness, while the middle one is bouldering, so he didn’t need one😊
I also starting baking the gingerbread. I made one batch of Sally’s recipe and got lucky! I was able to get all the pieces I wanted, with a little leftover for some tree shapes.
The ginger bread is delicious! The little extra trees and bears were quite tasty! The walls need to be transformed into climbing structures. This is where the fondant came into plays. I dyed some white fondant and made marbled colors and one dark “wall”. The fondant was rolled thin and “glued” to the gingerbread with the buttercream recipe.
You can see the structured wall on the right, (below) the fondant was pressed onto a brick template. The wall on the left is using the marbling effect only.
The wall on the right (below) has the marveling effect and pressed with the template. Since this is the bouldering wall, we also wanted to make extra features which was done using Rice Krispies!
Once the fondant had time to dry, it was time to affix the elves. They also needed ropes and holds wich we made from gum paste and fondant, and painted.
Then I had to turn my attention to the front of the gym! We needed a desk, a sign and the penguin workers!
I struggled, so hard with the penguin eyes!!! Oh my God! I tried paint, made them out of fondant, nothing looked even half way decent! I ended up buying sugar eyes, and they look stoned😳
I do like the name of the gym, “Slay It”, get it?? Sleigh=slay=crush it! I am so clever😉
The desk is made out of Rice Krispies too and covered with pink fondant that was pressed onto a brick template sheet. The smaller trees have frosting decorations and the larger trees….
These are made from melted white chocolate wafers.
So, after 5 days, a ton of trial and error, and the messiest kitchen you could imagine..
I had to take a panoramic shot to fit it all in one frame! It is more of a diorama than a house, but I am pretty happy with it 😅
I had to add some mats, safety first!!
It is outdoors, so need some snow❄️
Another awesome Sally Challenge in the books! I think I will just do the normal challenge next month!! No extra work for me😄
This month Sally challenged all of us to make sugar cookies decorated with royal icing. I am a fan of royal icing for my sugar cookies and made some last year, so I was ready to try to improve on my earlier attempts.
I began by making Sally’s recipe for the sugar cookies. This is a really straight forward dough and easy to work with, not to mention tasty. I rolled out the sheets and refrigerated them for a day, then used 9 different cutters to punch out the shapes.
The cookies were baked off, cooled and stored for another full day. Here is were I made a crucial decision. I used pre made royal icing from a baking supply store. I should have stuck with Sally’s royal icing recipe as it tastes better! The pre made icing looks great, was easy to work with but has more of a sticky, marshmallow consistency that we don’t really like.
But, I learned a valuable lesson and won’t do it again! Sorry Sally.
Once I got the premix to the right consistency, I began the outlining and flooding of the cookies.
There was some planning that has to go into this as the icing needs to dry before detail work can begin. Also, I decided to do some cookies with the wet-on-wet technique so those had to be handled quickly in order to prevent the icing from drying. I had to have a plan in place before I started!
I gathered all my decorations and mixed several colors of icing.
Then set to work! The snowflakes, snowmen, trees, bells, stockings, candy canes and lights were flooded and allowed to set to for one day so that I could add detail later.
The mittens and ornaments were flooded then other colors were added immediately. I used a straight pin to pull the colors together.
A little colored sanding sugar and pearls finish them off.
The verdict: I did ok. I think I did a better job with the wet-on-wet technique but I really suck at writing on the cookies! And, as I said before, I would not use this pre mix again. The consistency was a little too thick. I also will use only #1 or # 2 tips next time. The #5 was too wide and hard to control the flow of icing.
I had so much fun decorating these. I didn’t realize how many hours went into them until my hubby told me, apparently he was keeping track 🙂
I am not sure if Sally will be continuing this challenge series moving into 2018, but I hope she does as I have learned a lot and had so much fun challenging myself in the kitchen.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I had no idea this was going to happen today!
Fortunately I was prepared. I had already been to several grocery stores and stocked up on all the ingredients necessary to prepare for the upcoming festivities. I decided to make the Christmas cookies that I’d promised my mother-in-law for Christmas Eve.
I use a shortbread cookie recipe that was given to our culinary class by the head pastry chef. The book our chef had was pretty old and beat up and this was in 2013 so I don’t remember the title or author, so I will just include the recipe below. I love this recipe for a couple reasons. For one this dough is not too sweet so I can comfortably pile on the royal icing without fear of overdoing the sugar. For another, the dough is fantastic to work with. It freezes well for long term if needed and it is easy to roll out and cut the cookies. One change I do make is to add whole-wheat pastry flour to give the dough a nutty flavor and you may want to consider adding some vanilla or almond extract if you find the cookies a little too bland.
I mixed the dough and chilled it for 24 hours, then rolled out and cut my shapes. The cookies went into a 350°F for about 20 minutes. I wanted them slightly browned.
Anyone who has decorated cookies knows that the most labor intensive, and arguably the most important aspect, is getting the icing the right consistency. I used Antonia74’s royal icing recipe, which I found on Pinterest. It is similar to many other formulas using both meringue powder and cream of tartar for stabilizing; it also makes a large quantity. I don’t know why but I find it excruciatingly annoying to have to stop decorating and make more icing! I would rather toss half of it than stop to make more!
I gathered all my pearls, sanding sugars, and sprinkles and made white, red, green, black, yellow and sky blue icing. My go to consistency is a 10 second count.
A few short hours later…..
When I finally finished cleaning up, I was shocked to see that it was still snowing. So, time to move onto the fudge. I use the very simple recipe found on the back of the Jet Puff Marshmallow Crème jar. This is one of the few things my mother actually baked and did not buy, as I am not a descendent from one of those families with a strong culinary heritage. In fact, no one in my immediate family was interested in producing home cooked meals. Hence my constant references to the food network and my short stint in culinary school! But this fudge is a keeper.
I use a thermometer and boil until 234°F and then add the rest of the ingredients.
Now I am set for Christmas Eve, just a few items to bake and cook for tomorrow morning then it is off to grandma’s house. Oh, one more thing..
Go HAWKS! Merry Christmas Everyone!
Short Dough I yield: total dough weight 1lb. 9oz.
8 oz. Butter or butter and shortening
3 oz. sugar
1/4 t. salt
2.25 oz. eggs
12 oz. pastry flour
Using a paddle attachment, mix the butter, sugar and salt at low speed until smooth and evenly blended.
Add the eggs and mix just until absorbed.
Sift the flour and add it to the mixture. Mix just until evenly blended.