Sally’s Baking Addiction: December, 2018 Challenge: Gingerbread House🎄🎅🏼🌟

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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. 

I added some elf ears and harness, safety first!
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.

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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.

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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! 

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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! 

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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….

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So, after 5 days, a ton of trial and error, and the messiest kitchen you could imagine..

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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 😅

 

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I had to add some mats, safety first!!

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It is outdoors, so need some snow❄️

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Another awesome Sally Challenge in the books! I think I will just do the normal challenge next month!! No extra work for me😄 

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday 🌟

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Something Delicious and Different for your Easter Table 🐰

I made these Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Eggs last year. My blog was pretty new at the time, so I am guessing most of you haven’t seen that post. I talked about my grandmother as the  inspiration for making these decorated eggs. She was rather unique, so if you are interested, take a look at those first couple of paragraphs💕

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This is barely a recipe, they are that easy! You can find numerous recipes for homemade Reese’s all over the internet. I followed The Recipe Critics formula. Simply combine smooth peanut butter, powdered sugar,  melted butter and a small amount of milk. Mix on low speed with a paddle attachment, the dough will be crumbly and that is ok!

Pull the dough together on a floured board and roll out to, roughly, 1/2 inch thickness. Use an egg shaped cutter to stamp out the shapes. I didn’t have one, so I made templates out of parchment paper. I traced around the circumference of a large egg and cut out the patterns.

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I then used the templates, and a sharp knife, to make the peanut butter eggs.

The eggs need to be refrigerated for, at least an hour. This will help with the chocolate dipping process. Melt 1 bag of milk chocolate chips with 1 Tablespoon of shortening. The shortening will give the eggs a nice shine.

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I used a fork to submerge the eggs into the chocolate. I did have to use a second bag of chips to have enough chocolate coating for 21 eggs.

Honestly, you could stop right here and devour these after the chocolate sets. There is no shame in that 😋 Your family and friends would be thrilled with them, just as they are!

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This is a giant Reese’s Cup! 

If you want to go the extra step, this is how I decorated my eggs. I used a royal icing recipe that makes a firm consistency. Some royal icing formulas are soft and have a marshmallow type texture. Delicious, to be sure, but those won’t hold the definition of the piping tips particularly well. You will have softer lines, like the leaves in this picture.

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They are leaves, but without veins. My icing was too warm at this point 😞

I like Antonia74’s recipe for this project. It is still tasty, but with a stronger consistency.

I made a batch, divided it up and started coloring! The icing was bagged up, with a variety of flower tips, and I was ready to go.

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I like to use disposable bags with coupler attachments. I can then change my flower tips to make different colored flowers, lines and flower petals.

It may take a few tries for you to get the look you want. I tend to practice a few times on my cutting board or parchment paper to see how the flowers will look before moving to the eggs. If you do make a mistake, not big deal! Wait for the icing to dry and pop it off the surface of the chocolate!

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This is a better example of leaves with the details I wanted. See the veins in the leaves?

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As I said before, if you don’t have the time for all the decorating, just eat them plain! I want to wish you all a Happy Easter🐰🐥💕!

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Easter eggs

  • Servings: About 20 large eggs
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Beautiful, festive and with all the taste of a Reese's peanut butter cup! These Eggs will be the highlight of your Easter Buffet

Credit: The Recipe Critic and invisible-no-more.com

Ingredients

-3 cups Powdered sugar

-1 and 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

-1/4 cup butter, melted

-2 Tablespoons milk

-1 to 2 bags milk chocolate chips

-1 to 2 Tablespoons vegetable shortening

 

Directions

  1. Beat together powdered sugar, peanut butter, and butter together. At this point the dough will be crumbly. Add two tablespoons of milk and continue to beat together until the dough softens. If the dough still seems crumbly that is ok.
  2. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to desired thickness. About ½ thickness. You can use egg cookie cutters or with a knife, shape the dough to look like eggs.
  3. Place eggs on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer for an hour.
  4. When you are ready to dip them, add the chocolate and 1 Tbsp shortening in a microwave and melt 30 seconds at a time. Stirring it after every 30 seconds and being careful not to cook the chocolate to burn. Of, melt chocolate and shortening over a double boiler
  5. Dip each egg in chocolate. I used a fork to help cover in the chocolate. Place them on parchment paper to set.
  6. If more chocolate is needed, melt the second bag with the shortening. Enjoy!

Antonia74's Royal Icing recipe

Ingredients

-3/4 cup warm water

-5 Tablespoons meringue powder

-1 teaspoon cream of tartar

-1 kilogram (2.25 pounds) of powdered sugar

 

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, pour in the warm water and the meringue powder. Mix it with a whisk by hand until it is frothy and thickened…about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the cream of tartar and mix for 30 seconds more.
  3. Pour in all the powdered sugar at once and place the bowl on the mixer.
  4. Using the paddle attachment on the LOWEST speed, mix slowly for a full 10 minutes. Icing will get thick and creamy.
  5. When the icing is just sitting on the counter, be sure to cover the bowl with a dampened tea-towel or paper towel, to prevent crusting and drying.
  6. Tint with food coloring* or thin the icing with small amounts of warm water to reach the desired consistency.

*I prefer gel colors so they will not change the consistency of the icing, and the colors are more intense.

 

MIY Studio Crafts Co. and Raining Cookies: Women supporting Women!

One of the main reasons that I began blogging was to connect with other women who were struggling with the big “what’s next” question. One of those amazing women is Mary Forbes. Mary is a lot like many of us moms who raised her kids and has worked most of her adult life, and then found herself in the position of asking herself “What do I want to do now”?

Many of us don’t know that answer right away, but Mary really did have an idea. She has always had a talent for all things crafty, especially with a needle and thread, or yarn. She wanted to create a space for women to come together, support one another and enjoy crafting. It didn’t happen quickly! She had to find the right place, fix it up, take care of her family, work at her job and successfully battle breast cancer!

Now Mary’s dream is a reality, and in Snoqualmie Washington! MIY Studio Crafts Company offers a variety of workshops and classes taught by either Mary herself, or other women from all over the state. I was eager to visit her studio and when a cookie decorating class popped up on the schedule, I jumped at the chance to sign up!

MIY Studio Crafts Co is a converted home that Mary purchase and turned into a warm and inviting crafting studio. The house was built in 1910, and needed some serious upgrading.

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When the railroad was built, it ran right through the front yard of the house. So, now the back of the home is the front entrance.

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I arrived a little early to take some pictures before our class began, which was focused on the basics of decorating cookies with royal icing.

The inside was redone and was bright, pretty and organized for any type of craft project one could imagine.

 

This class took place on Sunday morning, so Mary offered snacks and mimosas!

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The mimosas were quite popular!

I then met our teacher for the class. Julia Omholt from Raining Cookies is a young woman who operates her cookie business from a commercial kitchen in nearby Redmond, WA. Mary and Julia have known one another for many years. In fact, Julia makes cookies for wedding ceremonies and Mary served them at her daughters nuptials this past summer.

Julia brought everything needed to teach the class, which I really appreciated. Many of you know I like to bake and decorate cookies already. But, the most annoying part of that process is making all the icing, getting the consistency correct, and making all the colors….Well, that was all ready for us and all we had to do was the fun part! Oh and drink mimosas!

Each participant was given a folder with recipes for the royal icing, sugar cookies and a source list where we could purchase cutters, tips, and general baking supplies.

 

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Our box contained six cookies: 2 giant hearts, heart shaped sunglasses, XO, lips and a cookie that said “love”. This was a Galantine’s Day event after all!

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The studio had a designated space for demos, and Julia spent time going over the correct consistencies for our Royal icing. She provided both piping and flooding icings for us to work with.

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Our colors were red, pink and teal.

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Julia demonstrated her method for piping and flooding.

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Then it was our turn to practice on plastic covered lines before moving onto the cookies.

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Julia was very patient with us and provided detailed instructions on how to achieve the specific look of the cookies. It was fun to attempt to make the cookies as professional as hers!

These are my cookies below.

 

 

Have you ever purchased a cookie that looked great but tasted like paste? Well, that is not these cookies! Julia has wonderful flavor combinations, and these were delicious 🙂

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Mary is planning on having more baking classes and workshops, in addition to all the other great offerings that she has scheduled! And, Julia ships her cookies anywhere, so you can find out for yourself just how tasty they are!

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I love it when women support other women! I am proud to recommend and promote both of these ladies and their businesses. I plan to attend more of Mary’s workshops, especially over the holidays, to learn and create her beautiful projects.

You can find MIY Studio Craft Co on Facebook and on Instagram here

And Rainingcookies.com or follow on Instagram here

So proud of both of these ladies, both doing what they love and are passionate about. Taking the big steps to make their dreams come true 🙂

 

Sally’s Baking Addiction, December Challenge: Iced Sugar Cookies

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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.

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A little colored sanding sugar and pearls finish them off.

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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.

 

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Black & White & Color Photo Challenge

I did some experimenting in the kitchen the other day. I wanted to make candy turtles but wasn’t sure which type of caramel or chocolate combination would be best. The hubby and I are in agreement with the caramel choice but not on the chocolate options.

You know what, they are all good! But now which beauty shot is best? I leave that to you good people, I know you will pick the best one! 🙂

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Grab your camera or phone and join Linda from Everyone Else has the best titles and Take the “Black and White and Color” photo challenge!

Sally’s Baking Addiction November Challenge, Decorative Pie Crust

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This month Sally challenged us to make pretty pies. This is not my forte! This is only the second pie I have ever made, and for it to be pretty? Well, I did give it my best shot.

Sally’s challenge was to bake any pie we chose and she provided many beautiful designs to inspire us to be creative with the lattice topper.

My first pie was also a Sally challenge, from back in July, and we really liked the cherry pie recipe from her website, but cherries are no longer in season. So I chose her cranberry almond apple pie to bake for our family Thanksgiving dinner.

The first order of business was to make the crust and allow it, at least two hours, to firm up in the refrigerator. Sally’s pie crust recipe is easy to follow and does produce tender, flaky layers.

After a couple hours I rolled out the bottom dough and placed it into a 9 inch baking dish.

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The almond portion of the pie is from almond paste. Sally recommends Odense and it is rolled out and fitted into the bottom of the pie.

This went back into the refrigerator while I mixed up the filling.

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Now came the tricky part for me-how to decorate the top of the pie? I decided that I wanted to make a braided edge so I cut strips 1/4 inch thick and made three stranded braids. Not that easy it turns out, when there are small bits of butter running throughout the dough! But I eventually got it done and laid them over the circumference of the dish.

With the extra dough, I cut wider strips, and used cookie cutters to stamp out turkey and heart shapes.

The pie went into the oven until it was golden brown and the filling was bubbling.

 

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This was probably my least successful challenge to date. It was tasty, although I feel it should have baked longer, and we did enjoy it. However, I need more practice with pie dough!

What a great reason to keep practicing 🙂 Can’t wait to see what Sally has in store for us in December!

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Black & White & Color Photo Challenge

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and, like most bakers, I have been in the kitchen for the last couple days. I finished this apple, almond and cranberry pie late tonight. Here it is right before going into the oven. Which looks more appetizing?

 

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The black and white version of the pie

or

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The color version

I wish you all the best of holidays and a very Happy Thanksgiving!!

Grab your camera or phone and join Linda from Everyone Else has the best titles and Take the “Black and White and Color” photo challenge!