Sunday, March 14, 2010
St. Patrick's Day Baking Extravaganza
Hang on. It's going to be a photo-filled post! Don't say I didn't warn you.
I actually planned ahead for St. Patrick's Day. Hey, it's as much of a shock to me as it is to you, trust me. I had a hankerin' to make sugar cookies and knew I wanted to send some to friends hither and yon, so I got to baking last weekend.
I knew which recipes to use and that I wanted to make shamrocks, but wasn't sure about how to decorate them. So I did some looking around and found this:
So cute! Now I had my inspiration, just had to execute. First, the recipes:
The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies
Allrecipes by Jill Saunders
Note: I halved this.
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
Preheat oven to 400 °F. Roll out dough on surface sprinkled with powdered sugar (won't make the dough tough like flour will) 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on parchment lined cookie sheets.
Bake 6 to 8 minutes until JUST turning golden on the edges. Cool completely on racks before decorating.
If you want to keep these simple, just sprinkle them with decorator sugar, non-pareils or other decorating sprinkles before baking. These cookies are very good all on their own!
Dries hard - makes for easy transport. Mine held up through a UPS trek to NY
3 tablespoons meringue powder
4 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or other flavoring of choice - watch color though, it will tint the frosting)
6 tablespoons water (less for really thick icing, more for thin)
Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl. Beat on high for at about 10 minutes or until stiff peaks form.
Divide and color as desired. Add more water as needed for flooding or more sugar if you get a little heavy handed with the water.
Now for the pictures:
I divided the icing into thirds, keeping one white. The other two are as you see.
I outlined some in light green...
And some in darker green.
Here's a handy tip for filling bags. (I just use sandwich bags instead of decorator bags. Snip the corner and you're good to go.) Place the bag in a small drinking glass, pulling the edges over the sides. Fill with icing, twist the top, snip the corner and decorate. The icing is pretty runny though, so work quickly and try to keep the end pointed up.
Also, keep the bowls covered with damp towels. It will keep the icing from drying out. It will form a crust pretty quickly!
After the outlines have dried, it's time to flood the insides.
Smear it around with a tooth pick to get the icing to all of the edges.
Once the flooding dries, it's time to decorate. Rember the idea cookies? I loved the swirly one, but...
Hm. Not exactly like the picture, eh? I laughed and laughed, then moved on to a different attempt. I stuck with a checkerboard and dots. Even with just three colors and two "designs", I ended up with a nice looking mix.
Then I wrapped each one in plastic wrap, nestled them in a bed of crinkly paper and shipped them to well-deserving folks.
Round One COMPLETE!
This weekend was Round Two.
I knew I wanted to do cupcakes and quickly got my inspiration from Bakerella. I didn't use her recipe, but loved the GREEN!
Green Velvet Cupcakes
Slightly modified from Joy of Baking
2 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (original called for 1/2 cup - I had 2 sticks ready so I used both. Stick with original for lower fat option.)
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk (I used powdered buttermilk. Add powder to dry ingredients, add water when adding wet)
1 oz (one bottle) liquid green food coloring (see pic below)
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar (used white wine vinegar-didn't have any distilled on hand)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine flour, cocoa and butter in medium bowl. Set aside.
In mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth and light. Add sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each and scraping down sides of bowl. Add vanilla. Add food color to buttermilk (or water if using buttermilk powder).
Alternately add flour mixture with buttermilk/color beginning and ending with flour, beating well each time. Mix SLOOOWLY to start when adding the liquid. Otherwise it will splash and get green food color everywhere. (It's a good idea to wear an apron or at least something that won't be ruined if you get food color on it.)
In small bowl or measuring cup, dissolve soda in vinegar. It will bubble (yay, chemistry) quickly add to batter, just folding in until incorporated - don't beat in.
Divide into 2 prepared 9" cake pans or cupcake liners. I got 12 cupcakes and a single 9" layer.
Bake cake approximately 25 minutes or until toothpick comes clean. Cupcakes will only take about 15 minutes. Ovens vary, so keep an eye on them. The might need more or less time. Cool in pans about 10 minutes then transfer to racks. Cool completely before decorating (or turning into cake pops).
The Best Buttercream Frosting EVER
I used this on my niece's birthday cake. It's da BOMB.
Woo-Chemical reaction in progress! And really, that's what baking is all about.
Now THAT's green!
The large Pampered Chef scoop works great for cupcakes.
I used plain white frosting first, but decided I need a bit of color to make the white sprinkles show more.
Dip a clean toothpick in the gel color, smear into the frosting and mix. A nice, pale green, just what I wanted. Obviously you can add more if you want a deeper shade. Go crazy!
Better! And I got to use my cupcake stand - so fun.
Next up — CAKE POPS!
Take the 9" cake, crumble, add frosting (about a 3/4-1 cup), mix, scoop.
If you didn't get enough pictures here, head over to my Flickr photstream for even more. (Yes, there are more!)
And if you're wondering about the wood stand in the group cake pop photos, stay tuned. I'll be posting a "How-To" on that later this week.