Thursday, December 22, 2011

Snowman Cake

I made this cute cake for my son's preschool holiday party.  I am honestly so proud of it, it took about 6 hours total and turned out just as I had imagined it.  The top tier of the cake was chocolate, bottom was vanilla.  I made the little snowmen out of modeling chocolate, which is a dream to work with.  The snowflakes were cut out of fondant and dusted with luster dust (also completely awesome).

I usually make my own marshmallow fondant, but I used Satin Ice fondant, which actually tasted pretty good, I would definitely use this over Wilton fondant again.  The fondant did start to crack from the pressure of the top tier since I stacked the cake the night before.  I think next time I would transport and then do finishing touches.

The cake was a hit, I actually got more of a reaction from the parents then the kids.  So many lovely compliments, it really made my day and all the effort totally worthwhile.

Happy holidays!!!

Photo courtesy of Studio Six Photography

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Peppermint White Chocolate Meringues

Ah, these are awesome.  They might just be my new favorite Christmas cookie.  Even my husband, who doesn't like meringues, thought these were amazing.  They're a perfect combination of a chewy meringue, white chocolate, and sweet peppermint candy.  We ate the first batch so fast I can't wait to make another. 

I actually don't particularly care for white chocolate these days, but something about the combination of peppermint and white chocolate is delectable.  I dipped these lovely little sweets in a fringe of dark chocolate as well, and let me tell you, they are heaven.  Love love love.

The only thing I did a little differently is I ran the candy canes through my Bullet to make it more of a powder than coarsely crushed.  My teeth don't do well with super crunchy so this was a good solution to make them easier to eat.

White Christmas Dream Drops
from Sunset 

2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp. coarsely crushed peppermint candies (mine were powdery, I ran them through my Bullet)

Preheat oven to 250°. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a deep bowl with a mixer, using whisk attachment if you have one, just until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and salt. With motor running and mixer on high speed, pour in 1 tbsp. sugar and beat 10 to 15 seconds, then repeat until all sugar has been added. Scrape inside of bowl and beat another 15 seconds. At this point, meringue should form straight peaks when beaters are lifted. Fold in chocolate chips and 1/3 cup candies with a flexible spatula.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, using a bit of meringue at corners as glue. Using a soup spoon, drop meringue in rounded 1-tbsp. portions slightly apart onto sheets, scraping off with another spoon. Sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tbsp. candies.

Bake until meringues feel dry and set when touched but are still pale, 30 to 35 minutes, switching pan positions halfway through. Turn off oven, open door, and let cookies stand about 10 minutes. Let cool on pans.

If you're feeling like an extra hit of chocolate, dip these in good quality melted chocolate and let dry on the parchment.

Make ahead: Up to 2 days, stored airtight.

Christmas Sugar Cookies

I have an insanely long list of Christmas cookies that I plan to make this holiday season.  I doubt I'll get around to even half of them, but I knew I wanted to make my favorite sugar cookies.  I love decorating cookies, and there is so much inspiration on the Internet.  One of my favorite websites is Glorious Treats.  Her cookies are simply gorgeous.  I have honestly been waiting all year to make her pastel snowflake cookies, and once December arrived these are the first cookies I made.

Decorating sugar cookies isn't hard, but holy smokes is it time consuming.  Set aside several hours for decorating, at least.  If you want to do piping on top of the fill color, you ideally need to wait about six to eight hours for the base to dry.  I use royal icing to do the frosting, using meringue powder.  I sort of go by Wilton's recipe but I find I need to at least double the amount of water, maybe it depends on the powder I'm using.  Consistency is key, so if you've never decorated sugar cookies before check out one of the many excellent online tutorials.

 Tyler and Laura's Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies
from Cafe Blue Ridge

1 C sugar
1C butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg yolk
2 C plain flour

In large bowl, use mixer to cream butter with sugar, then cream cheese. Add next 4 ingredients, blending well, then add flour and mix until incorporated. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, this makes the dough easy to roll. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

On lightly floured surface, roll out dough, one-third at a time, to desired thickness, and cut into shapes with lightly floured cookie cutters. If you really want the cookies to hold their shape, place cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for about 20 minutes, then put directly into pre-heated oven.  Depending on the size of your cookies, this recipe makes 4 dozen or so.

Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10 minutes or so, until they begin to brown lightly at the edges. Cool a few minutes in the pan, then transfer to rack.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Eggnog Cupcakes

If you adore eggnog as I do, you must must MUST make these!  I got the recipe from Bake and Destroy, and quite simply, they rule.  Bursting with eggnog flavor, I made these for my Iron Cupcake Challenge this month.  The cupcakes are moist and buttery rich, and the frosting is to die for.

Do make sure to use freshly ground nutmeg for these.  I never used to get whole nutmeg, but it's so worth the little bit of extra effort to grate it yourself (I use my microplane).  I have pre-ground nutmeg and it doesn't even smell like nutmeg now that I use the fresh stuff.

I added a snowflake sugar cookie on top to go with the winter/holiday theme, and made some cupcake wrappers to finish them off.   Cute, festive, and oh so yummy!

Eggnog Cupcakes
from Bake and Destroy

1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup eggnog
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 325 and line two cupcake pans with paper liners. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix all the dry ingredients together. Mix butter pieces in until they’re coated with the flour mixture.
Mix eggs, eggnog and vanilla together in a large glass measuring cup. Add to dry ingredients gradually until mixed. Don’t over mix!
Fill cups 2/3 full and bake 17-22 minutes or until golden brown and the tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool in pans about 5 minutes then cool completely on wire rack.

Eggnog frosting:

2 sticks butter, room temperature
4-6 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup – 1/2 cup eggnog (I used about 1/3 cup to get it to piping consistency)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch salt

Mix butter and sugar on medium speed. Add nutmeg and salt. Pour in eggnog gradually until frosting is spreadable. Add eggnog and sugar to taste and to desired consistency. Add less eggnog if you plan on piping the frosting on.

Linked to:
Sweets for a Saturday
Mrs Foxs' Sweet Party 
Seasonal Inspirations 
Strut Your Stuff Saturday

Friday, December 2, 2011

Apple Cider Cream Pie

I made this quite a while ago for my supper club.  It was a lovely fall flavored pie and definitely something a little different.  I had some issues with the crust, it got quite over-baked despite covering it with tin foil, but the apple cider vinegar gave it a nice tart flavor anyways.

The reduced apple cider custard filling is amazing, I could have eaten it on it's own.  But with the addition of the lovely cinnamon spiced whipped cream the whole pie is delightful.  The pie does take some time, but if you're looking for a change to the usual holiday pies try this one out!

Apple Cider Cream Pie
from Food and Wine

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice and chilled
3 tablespoons cold milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 cups apple cider
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 

In a food processor, combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse in 1-second bursts until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine the milk and vinegar and drizzle it on top. Pulse in 1-second bursts until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather up any crumbs and pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

On a floured work surface, roll out the dough to an 11-inch round, a scant 1/4 inch thick; ease it into a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate. Trim the overhanging dough to 1 inch and fold it under itself. Crimp decoratively and chill the crust until firm, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in the lower third of the oven for about 15 minutes, until the crust is barely set. Remove the parchment and pie weights. Cover the edge of the crust with strips of foil and bake for about 15 minutes longer, until the crust is just set but not browned. Press the bottom of the crust lightly to deflate it as it puffs; let cool. Lower the oven temperature to 350°.

In a medium saucepan, boil the cider until it's reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Whisk in 3/4 cup of the sugar, the sour cream and salt, then whisk in the eggs.
Pour the custard into the pie shell without removing the foil strips. Bake the pie in the lower third of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the custard is set around the edge but the center is slightly jiggly. Let the pie cool completely.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the cinnamon until firmly whipped. Mound the cream on the pie, cut into wedges and serve.
Make Ahead The recipe can be prepared through Step 5 and refrigerated for 2 days. Serve With Baked apple slices.

Linked to:
Sweets for a Saturday
Strut Your Stuff Saturday 
This Week's Craving
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