Thursday, February 28, 2013

#Pure Michigan...More State Cookie Love!

So, what's the best way for an amateur cookie decorator to get in some more practice?
Keep extra cookies and icing on hand, at ALL times!
Every time I make cookies for a special occasion or an order that comes in, I always take the extra dough and cut out a variety of shapes that I find interesting, fun, or for an upcoming season or holiday...
...then I freeze them!
Yes, you CAN freeze your baked cookies!
I always have royal icing or glaze leftover as well.
So, when I don't have any special occasions or orders to fill, and I get the urge to decorate...
I can just pull my pre-baked cookies out of the freezer and practice away!
I had cut out some of my state (Michigan) cookies last time I baked.
So I thought it would be fun to play around with them.
I did our state's "Pure Michigan" campaign and added the commercial phrase:
"Your trip begins at".
And then for fun, I just added "Da Yoopers" to our Upper Peninsula.
They're not perfect, as my icing was a little thin and I struggled a bit with it being runny.
But alas, they were fun.
Have you ever made your state's cookie?
Leave me a comment and tell me where you're from and if you have state cookies, I'd love to see them.
Follow me on Facebook, and post a picture of your creation on my page!
My Facebook link is in the sidebar!
I can't wait to see!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Do You Know Loren? (The Baking Sheet)...Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

Do you like the taste of salted caramel?
Do you know Loren of The Baking Sheet?
Well, if are about to become acquainted with her!
She has shared the most AMAZING salted caramel cookie recipe with us!
And lucky for you...I'm going to point you in the right direction of it!
I made these today...and granted, mine are not as pretty as Loren's...
But they TASTE fabulous!
You have GOT to try these!
They are a nice thick butter cookie, topped with this lovely pool of homemade caramel, and the sea salt on top makes for the perfect blend of sweet and salty!
And the best part of all...they are super easy to make!
Now before you make these, go check out Loren's baking page "The Baking Sheet" on Facebook.  She also has a blog.  She does beautiful work!  She is one of my baking idols.
So go check her out and follow her page.
And then...go try this recipe.
You will NOT be disappointed! 
You can find the recipe here. 
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Be sure to thank Loren for sharing it!
Happy baking!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Valentine Cookies...And An "AHA" Moment

Ever since I first started dabbling in cookie decorating a couple years ago, royal icing has mystified me.  I look at my "cookie idols" work, and wonder what it is that they do to make their royal icing so perfect.
I get bubbles, air pockets, cracks...too thick, too thin, too fluffy.
And then just when I think I have it down, I'll flood my cookies and wake up the next day to check the drying process, and they are all funky looking!
I've been told over-mixing, humidity, all kinds of things can contribute to bad royal icing experiences.
Another thing that has always troubled me about royal icing, is the taste.
I have tried many recipes, and I've never found one I truly loved.
I've experimented with a variety of flavor extracts as well...vanilla, almond, butter, etc.
But I've never found a really YUMMY royal icing.
I decided it was time to make a change.

Inspired by the lovely Pam over at Cookie Crazy , I decided I would take a leap of faith and try glaze.  If you are not a cookie decorator, you must know, that most cookiers either decorate with glaze OR royal icing, not both.  Most cookiers are LOYAL to an extreme of one or the other.  If their medium is royal icing, they stick with it...if their medium is glaze, they stick with it.  Decorating with the other is foreign ground!
There are a FEW, and ONLY a few, who do both.
Well, I made up a batch of glaze and flooded some cookies.  My husband tasted the glazed cookies and declared them to be SUPERIOR to royal icing.  Well, after I flooded those first glazed cookies, I attempted some detail work (piping some writing and designs).  Let me tell you, this was NOT a success.  For me, glaze is VERY difficult to pipe with for intricate details.
So, I got to thinking.  I loved the taste of glaze.  I loved how it wasn't as "crunchy" as royal icing.  I loved the shine and sheen of glaze.  But I could NOT pipe intricate details with it.  It just wasn't happening for me.
So, I thought, why not use both!
Glaze AND royal icing!
By flooding the cookies with glaze, we'd get the yummy taste and softer texture.
By using royal icing for the detail work, like lettering and small designs, I could get the "control" I needed with a stiff batch of it.
And so, that is what I now do.
I flood with glaze...thus giving me the great taste, softer texture, shine, and sheen.
And most of all glaze gives me the SAME CONSISTENCY EVERY SINGLE TIME!
I don't have to wonder, will there be air bubbles, will it crack...
And then I do my intricate details with royal icing!
By using royal icing JUST for intricate details I only have to make one consistency.
I always use the original stiff icing, and it gives me great control when piping letters, flowers, and any other small detail work.
Since I started doing this, I have been a much happier cookier!
No more worries about flooded royal icing cookies.
Glaze brings a smooth, sheen every single time!
And with piping my detail work in royal icing, I know I'll have the control I need with my pastry bag.
I hope you enjoy these Valentine cookies.
I did these with this method.
Flooded with glaze and piped the details with royal.
I am enjoying combining the two means of icing on all of my cookies now!
It has made me a lot less stressed out!
I hope you have a very Happy Valentine's Day!