Sweet Hope’s FrankenFrosting: The Best Cookie Icing Ever!

February 21, 2014

I know I know I know. Get it out of your system. I’ll wait.

The best cookie icing ever?! Really!!!!
How dare you say that!!!
Who do you think you are?!?!
Arrogant and Deluded,  Party of Two, your table is ready.

Feel better? Can I continue?

Before I get to THE BEST COOKIE ICING EVER! let me give you a little of the back story. If you’ve calmed down enough to hear me out, that is.

As you know, assuming that you read all my posts and take notes so as not to forget a single detail of my life, I’ve been a glaze purist since the early beginnings of my cookie life. So what do I like about glaze?

Glaze only requires four ingredients.
Glaze is stable. It never separates as can happen with royal icing.
Glaze can be stored indefinitely in the fridge or freezer.
Glaze has a perfectly sweet flavor that compliments the cookie.
Glaze has a soft bite and a shiny finish.

There are also a couple well-documented challenges with glaze. With the viscosity of thick honey glaze requires multiple layers of wet on dry application to add dimension to areas of a design and while it’s possible to do fine detail and writing with glaze, the strand of icing coming out of the piping tip will always flatten on itself. Try as hard as it might glaze is unable to hold the raised tubular shape of piped royal icing. Here are a couple examples where you can see that while the writing is clean, even using the smallest tip size, the line of icing goes flat and rounds out the lettering. The word “ballerina” is a prime example.

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The other major issue with glaze is the slow drying time, especially when it includes layer on layer for dimension. Typically a glazed cookie requires up to 24 hours to air dry before it can be sealed into a cellophane bag but even then glaze can become slightly damp again once sealed, perhaps from absorbing moisture from the baked cookie, which creates tacky points of contact between the glaze surface and the cellophane bag.

Enough already! Just get to the point! What do you mean you have THE BEST COOKIE ICING EVER?

You’ve always had a hard time living with unresolved tension, haven’t you? Okay then,  I’m going to get to the point and end your suffering.

A couple months ago I had a cookie order that involved a lot of writing and I wanted the writing to be super clean with some height,  the kind of writing I knew I could get with royal icing. Royal icing. I love the puffy dimensions, the super fine detailing, and the quick drying time of royal icing but the hard crunch, the dull finish, and especially the taste have always been major turn-offs for me.

So the brain gears started turning. . .what would happen if I took a big scoop of royal icing and stirred it into a big scoop of glaze?  And so I did because that’s the kind of risk-taker I am. One day I’m combining icings, the next I’m free jumping off tall buildings. And what happened with tossing all caution to the wind is that I ended up with an icing that offered the best of glaze (soft bite, slight shine, and sweet taste) and the best of royal icing (shorter drying time, fine details, and puffy dimension).  And no wonder because it IS glaze and it IS royal icing.

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Another advantage I’ve noticed from adding royal icing into glaze is that the finish is slightly less slick and more rough, a result of less corn syrup I’m guessing, which produces much better results with airbrushing, stenciling, and stamping on the surface of the icing.

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While I can achieve the puffy dimensional look with multiple layers of pure glaze as previously mentioned and no doubt already jotted down in your “Another Brilliant Thing Anita Said” notebook, the amount of dense glaze that ends up layered on the cookie can overwhelm the baked cookie underneath, leaving a bite that’s almost too sweet. If there exists such a thing.

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The one immediately obvious downside to combining royal icing and glaze is that it requires double the time in preparing two separate icings and so that’s why for the past couple weeks I’ve exchanged my apron for a lab coat and locked myself away in my culinary laboratory, only emerging  long enough to consult and compare notes with some of the finest icing researchers to hold a piping bag including the one, the only, you know her and you love her, Jill. After tweaking through a half dozen different “royal glaze” recipes I’ve come up with a number of variations that gave me finished results similar to the original combo version with one single notable exception. When I combine the two separate icings the airy puffiness of the whipped royal icing lightens the dense, compact quality of glaze and I end up with icing in my bowl that looks and behaves like royal icing. It’s fluffy and still able to form loose, soft peaks. However, when I mix all the ingredients together in one bowl, no matter what the order I add them or the quantities of each ingredient, the finished icing looks and behaves like glaze. It’s dense and smooths back into itself. I suppose I could have continued my experiments until I found that one magic recipe and filled up yet another freezer shelf with plastic buckets of icing but instead, I decided to stop the insanity and stay with Anita’s FrankenFrosting, named by everyone’s favorite retro sheek, Arty McGoo.

So if you’re looking for an icing that offers the best of both glaze and royal icing you might want to give FrankenFrosting a try. Here are the recipes that I use for my mad icing science!

Sugarbelles’ Royal Icing – A Tweaked Version

Ingredients:
2 pounds powdered sugar
5 tablespoons meringue powder
1/2 – 3/4 cup water
2-3 teaspoons oil-free extract or emulsion
1 tablespoon glycerin
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:
Follow Sugarbelle’s directions in her recent cookie icing post, adding the cream of tartar along with the other dry ingredients and the glycerin when adding in the flavorings.

Sweet Glaze Icing

Ingredients:
2 pounds powdered sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
(adjust your flavorings as desired)

Directions:
Add all the ingredients to your standing mixer in the order in which they’re listed and then, using the beater attachment, beat at low speed until the ingredients are just combined and then beat for another 2-3 minutes at medium high.

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The steps that go into making the actual FrankenFrosting are actually so complex and nuanced  that I thought it might be better to show you how to do it rather than tell you. Please don’t start the video until you have notebook and pen in hand.

I know. I put everything you look for in a highly educational and entertaining cookie tutorial. Banjo music, off-center framing, and tediously boring stirring of multiple bowls of icing by icing covered hands. It’s a beautiful thing. Step aside SweetAmbs, there’s a new girl in town!

The point of the video is simply to show you in the most B-rated form of video production a comparison of all the icings side by side. I would recommend Netflix or HuluPlus if you’re looking to be entertained.

Final Frankenfrosting thoughts:

  • I keep my “starter icings” thick and only thin the Frankenfrosting with water after adding coloring gel since different colors require more or less gel.
  • Even though Frankenfrosting has a soft bite because of the glaze, I still go ahead and add glycerin to the royal icing since I want the option of being able to use pure royal icing or pure glaze.
  • Frankenfrosting can be left on the counter in an airtight container (or piping bags/bottles) for a couple days (I’m of the small camp that avoids leaving reconstituted egg whites at room temperature for extended periods of time), and should keep in the freezer for several months.

BEST COOKIE ICING EVER. . . in my kitchen anyway!

Sweet Stories and Flying Flour Bags

February 12, 2014

In case you haven’t noticed I haven’t blogged in . . .  looking at my watch . . . yep, that’s what I thought, in forever!  But then again, how was I to know the grueling number of hours it would take to effectively train for an iron-woman triathlon? What between the 20 mile runs and long-distance endurance mountain biking and then to top it off getting up every morning before dawn to put in an intensive two mile swim in the San Francisco Bay before starting another batch of cookies . . .

Oh wait. That was a dream I had. Forget what you just read. Never happened.
Gosh, that was embarrassing.

While my life hasn’t changed that dramatically some changes have been taking place I’m excited to share with you so let’s get right to it shall we?

When I originally started Sweet Hope Cookies back in 2011 it was more or less illegal to sell home-baked cookies in California but I’ve been able to tap dance around that because I “technically” don’t “sell” cookies. To get the full meaning of that last sentence please read it again and this time, when you come to the words “technically” and “sell” pause long enough to make air quotes. Nope, instead of selling cookies, I simply ::::tap tap tap::::: encourage people to make a donation to The ALS Association and when they do I make them cookies :::tappity tap tap tap::: as a personal gesture of appreciation, and if you think that’s fancy tap dancing, you should see me tango.

Anyway, to keep things on the up and up every dollar donated went directly to The ALS Association which meant the cost of ingredients was paid out of pocket, and after three years worth of flour, sugar, butter and eggs the pockets had grown a little thread-bare so last year when California passed the Homemade Food Act, a bill opening the door to home-bakeries, I was thrilled thinking that at last I’d be able to cover my expenses before sending the larger portion on to The ALS Association. Unfortunately the new law prohibits any sales outside the home bakery’s local area and with a large segment of my customer base located outside California registering Sweet Hope Cookies as a CFO (Cottage Food Operation) would mean losing some great customers, a number of whom have lost someone they loved to ALS. That makes them more than customers. It makes them family and family sticks together in love and in cookies.

So after scratching my head for a while I came up with a plan and here it is, all done and tied up with a bow. It begins with Sweet Hope Cookies continuing to operate as it always has. Customers outside my local area will make a donation directly to The ALS Association and then I, as a thank you for their generosity, will ship them a personal gift of cookies . . . and she spins and plié, plié, plié aaaand curtsey.  In addition, over the past few months I’ve filled out all the paperwork, acquired all the permits, and paid out all the fees to form a separate for-profit home-bakery business for local sales, and the money earned through this new venture will go toward covering the expenses incurred by Sweet Hope Cookies. What that means to you is that whether you’re buying cookies through Sweet Hope Cookies or through my new local business  you’ll be helping support  The ALS Association by keeping Sweet Hope Cookies up and running.

And the name of my new home-bakery business?  She stretches out her hand and pulling back the curtain reveals . . .

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Flying Flour Baking Company, LLC was given it’s name by my long-suffering cookie-widow wife who would have you believe that when I’m  making cookies I’m hard to be found through the billowing white cloud of flour suspended in the air. What she fails to understand is that when I’m in the kitchen with flour and dough I’m no longer simply Anita, devoted spouse, witty humorist to the world, and responsible adult but I am Anita, the Cookie Whisperer. Sugar, flour, butter, and eggs are my muse and I must be free to create without giving thought to the mundane details of dough crusted knobs and countertops covered in blankets of flour. It would be like. . . like . . .  like . . . .Claude Monet’s wife breaking into his studio demanding he stop painting water lilies until he’s mopped up a few drops of purple paint on the floor. Yeah, it’s exactly like that. We artists are never understood.

I am so going to pay for that.

Anyway, how much do you love my little superhero-ish flying flour bag? Another idea of Dana’s that was brought to life by my ridiculously talented friend Krista who you can find at Cookies with Character or her new Etsy store, Drawn with Character. Krista is married to an equally skilled artist and you can enjoy some of Kevin’s amazing graphic illustrations over on his Facebook page. In fact, I was so smitten at first sight of my little flying flour bag  that all I wanted to do was be able to hug and squeeze him, and so calling on my great powers as the Cookie Whisperer (along with an extensive search of the internet) I made it happen.

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So now I have two cookie bakeries, two cookie websites and two cookie Facebook pages, though the Flying Flour Baking Company website and Facebook page are both still in the works and are going to be geared specifically to the local cookie community. In addition to custom decorated cookies I’m eventually going to offer other made-to-order sweet treats locally including some rather spectacular variations of rice crispy treats, gourmet caramel corn, and chocolate covered Oreos. If you’re a local fan of Sweet Hope Cookies, please be sure to “like” Flying Flour over on Facebook and sign up for the website newsletter as soon as it becomes available so you can be among the first to learn about upcoming designs and the occasional sweet deal.

So that brings me back here to Sweet Hope Cookies. I’m been thinking a lot about a renewed direction for this blog. The first couple years I wrote primarily about Randy (my brother….best ever), ALS, and the ALS Association. Along the way I threw in photos of the cookies I was making and then to keep the content interesting for those who are cookie-obsessed like myself I shared some basic tutorials on cookie decorating which led to sharing recipes on cookie flavors I experimented with in my culinary laboratory. I enjoy putting together tutorials and recipes but they take a lot of time plus there are a number of far more experienced and talented cookie decorators than me who pull out all the stops when it comes to creating incredible tutorials. You know em and you love em.  As I said, I’ve been thinking about all this for a while and how I could continue to keep Sweet Hope Cookies focused on ALS awareness as well as stand as a tribute to my brother Randy. That’s when I turned my attention to one of the things I admired most about Randy and that was how he engaged with people. Whether a friend or a stranger he was meeting for the first time people talked to Randy. It might start out as a conversation filled with small talk but usually there would come a moment when the conversation would take a turn and become something more meaningful. Maybe it was the questions Randy would ask, or the way he’d focus his full attention to what the other person was saying. It could have been the way he’d make direct eye contact and hold it there on the person or how he’d lean in just a little as though he was on the edge of his seat listening. Really listening. Whatever the reason, people seemed to open up and share bits and pieces of their stories with my brother because they sensed in Randy someone who was genuinely interested in the story they were telling.

To honor that part of my brother I’m going to change things up. The occasion cookie recipes, mini tutorials and contests with embarrassingly cheap prizes will be steered over to my Sweet Hope Cookies Facebook Page, so that at least for a while I can fill this blog with photos of the cookies I’ve made and the stories that go with them. The story might be a sentence or a couple paragraphs. The story might be silly or it might sucker punch your heart. Some of the stories might not even be considered stories at all, at least not the kind of narratives that come with dramatic twists and turns and car cases. On the surface some stories might not even seem worth telling but then when you look underneath the mundane even the most ordinary bits of life are part of a meaningful story when they belong to you or someone you love or someone you don’t know who happens to live on this same great planet you inhabit. And if I have a story to tell but no cookies to go along with the story, I’ll make some because even the best story is better with cookies.

I hope you end up liking where this takes us and if not, at least you can be grateful that unlike Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime Video this blog comes with no monthly subscription fee.

Links to Bookmark


Sweet Hope Cookies Website

Cookie Snapshot and Stories
Use Sweet Hope Cookies for all shipped orders nation wide

Sweet Hope Cookies Facebook Page
Cookie tutorials and recipes, tips and tricks, and cheap prize contests

Flying Flour Baking Company Website
Local Bakery Online Storefront
Use Flying Flour for all cookie orders in Contra Costa County and surrounding areas

Flying Flour Baking Company Facebook Page
Announcing new baked goods, holiday offers and occasional sweet deals

The ALS Association
The organizations national website

The ALS Association, Oregon-SW Washington Chapter
An awesome chapter that supported my brother and family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orange Buttermilk Sugar Cookies

December 23, 2013

I know. This time of year is all about cookie flavors like pumpkin spice, gingerbread, and peppermint but I need you to put away those crunched up candy canes, that bottle of light molasses and the ground ginger and cloves and grab yourself an orange. One humble orange. Here. I have a full bowl of them. Take one. Go ahead. Don’t be shy.

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With one lone orb of orange you’re about to make an Orange Sugar Cookie that’s so citrusy, so bright, and so sweet that a single taste you’re going to forget all the spicy, dark flavors of winter. Gingerbread what? Pumpkin Spice who?

The only other special ingredient you need is some powdered buttermilk which is going to slightly mellow the tart taste of the orange and convince you that you’re actually eating the best orange creamsicle of your life.

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What elevates this Orange Sugar Cookie to some higher plane of cookie heaven is that instead of just using the zest or the juice of the orange we’re going to add in the WHOLE orange. Yep. All of it. The peel, the pith, the seeds, the meat. The whole thing. And here’s how…

Take the whole unpeeled orange and drop it into a pot of boiling water and  boil until you can easily run a knife into the center of the orange. An average orange will take between 45-60 minutes. Boiling the orange releases the bitter oils from out of the peel and pith while leaving in the flavor and also softens the skin so you don’t end up with tough little bits in the cookie.

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Once the boiled orange is cool enough to handle chop it into chunks.

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Drop the chunks into a food processor and blitz the fruit into a puree.

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Give the puree a taste. It should still be a little bitter but not to worry because it’s going to add the perfect bite of tartness when mixed into the dough. Now that your boiled orange puree is ready to go, it’s time to make up your first but not last batch of Orange Buttermilk Sugar Cookies.

But hold the presses! Or the standing mixer if you will because we need to talk about flour and with this recipe comes the perfect time to do so. Recently a couple of you have tried my flavors and left me a comment that while the flavor was good the cookie dough was so dry and crumbly it made it difficult to roll and cut. If this is happening to you then the obvious problem is related to the ratio of wet ingredients to dry ingredients and I suspect there are two potential sources for why your dough might end up being crumbly.

THE EGGS

I now use only large cage-free eggs. Check to be sure you’re using large eggs rather than small because the difference in liquid between egg sizes can make a significant difference to the cookie dough texture.

THE FLOUR

When measuring my flour I first fluff the container of flour with a large spoon and then fill my measuring cup repeatedly with spoonfuls of flour.  If you sift your flour into the measuring cup you’re going to need to increase the amount of flour I give in each recipe and if you dip the measuring cup directly into the flour bin you’re going to want to decrease the amount of flour in the recipe. My dough always turns out pliable without being either tacky or crumbly. I suspect if you follow my recipes exactly and are getting a crumbly dough it’s because you fill your measuring cup more densely with flour.

And on one final note, in recipes where I’ve  increased the flour to compensate for added wet ingredients as I have with this one, you’ll find the cookies have a floury taste directly out of the oven but give them a few hours to overnight for the cookies to rest and you’ll end up with the moist and delicious cookie you were counting on. Yet another opportunity in life to practice patience!

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Orange Buttermilk Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange emulsion (optional)
*1/2 cup boiled orange puree
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup buttermilk powder
5  – 5 1/2 cups flour

Directions:

…..Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  1. Boil one whole orange in a pot of water for about 60 minutes or until you can easily push a knife into the center. Remove the orange from the water and when it has cooled enough to handle, chop into chunks and then puree in a food processor. Set aside.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and powdered buttermilk. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar.
  4. Add in the eggs and beat for 30-45 seconds.
  5. Add in the vanilla extract (and orange emulsion, optional) beating until well-blended.
  6. Add in the orange puree.
  7. Add in the dry ingredients one cup at a time until the dough is fully incorporated.
  8. Roll out the dough on a lightly-floured surface to the desired thickness. Place the cut cookies onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake on the center rack of the oven for 8-12 minutes. Baking time will be determined by the thickness and overall dimension of cookies.
  9. Remove cookies from the oven and allow to cool on baking sheet before moving to cooling rack.

* The whole orange can be boiled up to two days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use and while I haven’t tried it myself, this time of year it might be fun to replace the orange with several of the super sweet Satsumas mandarin oranges so popular this time of year.

Maple Bacon Pancake Cookies (Minus the Pancakes)

November 20, 2013

Let’s play a game of photo association.
When most people see this . . .

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 They think breakfast.
Eggs. Bacon. Pancakes. Maple Syrup.
Okay, I’ve give you that breakfast is a safe answer.

But now let’s change the photo up a bit . . .

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And add in butter, flour, white and brown sugar, and vanilla extract.
Now what word comes to mind?

Oh no, you didn’t Anita!
Oh yes. I did!

And here’s how it happened.

About a month ago I made my first batch of sugar cookies with real bacon and pure maple syrup.  While the flavor of maple didn’t shine through the cookies were still basically awesome. Savory and sweet, tender and crisp. What’s not to love about that? And I kept meaning to post the recipe but then one day  I noticed a box of pancake mix at the store and thought, “Hold the press! We’ve got some more research to do!” So last week I made the Maple Bacon cookies again but this time I replaced the maple syrup with maple flavoring and a cup of the flour with a cup of pancake mix. As it turned out the maple flavor balanced perfectly with the bacon but the pancake mix  added essentially nothing to the cookie. It was a nice idea though, don’t you think? So I scratched the pancake mix and made the Maple Bacon cookies one final time. This time I made a few fundamental changes. First, I omitted the salt called for in my regular cookies since the cured bacon added more than enough, but not too much salt, and along with the maple flavoring I added back in the vanilla extract I’d omitted with batches one and two and this time I made a wonderful discovery. The cookies didn’t need pancake mix after all because they already tasted like bacon, maple syrup, and pancakes for the simple reason that pancake mix is part flour, sugar, and vanilla flavoring.

And that’s what led us to Maple Bacon Pancake Cookies, minus the pancakes.

So let’s get to the recipe by beginning with the star of the show.

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 BACON!!!
And as a point of personal information that is of no interest to anyone but myself and my primary care physician, while I love bacon enough to have a shirt that declares my fond devotion, I don’t remember when the last time was that I actually ate bacon primarily because it’s too fatty and too salty and one slice is never enough so it’s just better to not get me started. There are about 325 different foods I could say the same thing about. Including cookies. Oh the irony.

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But back to the cookies. Begin by cooking up 12 slices of bacon until they’re brown and crisp. You don’t want any blubbery chewy bits but crisp it all up and then drain on paper towels to soak up as much fat as possible. I found that by cooking my bacon between layers of paper towels in the microwave got me the results I was wanted.

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Chop up the 10 remaining slices of bacon. The thinner the cookie the smaller the bits.
No additional comment is necessary about the 2 slices of bacon that went missing between the cooking and the chopping.

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Add the chopped up bacon to your dry ingredients and then mix thoroughly so the bacon will be evening distributed through the dough.

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Look. Cookie dough. Bacon. Dark colored with brown sugar and maple flavoring.
My heart is singing.

Before I roll out the recipe, not that there’s any great mystery beyond “add bacon and maple flavoring”, I wanted to mention a couple asides at no extra cost to you.

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When cutting out cookies with little hard bits and bobs in the dough, press down firmly on the cutter and then shimmy the cutter gently back and forth from side to side on the board. This will help to not only give you a clean cut of the dough but will either cut through the hard bits or press them back into the dough leaving you with a clean cut line.

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If there are still hard bits remaining around the edges of your cookie, don’t pull them out as this will leave you with a messy edge and little empty spaces in your cookie dough that will make the cookie structure less stable and more susceptible to burning in the oven or breaking later on down the road.

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Instead, using a sharp paring knife or an exacto blade cut the excess bit from the cookie. Keeping the cookie in the cutter while you do this sugary surgical procedure will protect the cookie shape and give you a firm edge to guide the blade.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, my favorite tools for cleaning up the edges of a cookie are an exacto blade and a boo-boo stick to be used prior to baking and a microplane or zester for sanding the edges of the cookie after it’s been baked and cooled. These are three of my gotta-haves. Along with toothpicks. Toothpicks are to cookie decorators like air is to humans. Okay, so we need air too but you get my point.

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So now I have several stacks of cookies with tidy clean edges but because the bacon requires they be stored in the refrigerator I need to come up with a way to decorate them quickly.

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And so I flooded the cookies with pink glaze and while the icing was setting up, I rolled out a thin layer of Choco-Pan and cut out some flower shapes using a set of flower fondant plungers.

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Choco-Pan is a brand name for chocolate modeling clay or chocolate fondant, not to be confused with the sugar-based fondant that’s wrapped around wedding cakes and makes it look pretty right until the moment when everyone peels it off their slice of cake into a sloppy pile of sugar goo on their desert plate. Choco-Pan on the other hand is yummy and while it comes in a wide range of colors I only keep a supply of the brown chocolate and the white chocolate since the white can easily be colored with coloring gels. I’ll occasionally buy a small container of the black for Halloween since coloring it with black gel on my own ends up changing the flavor…and not in a good way.

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By the time all my modeling chocolate flowers were punched out the icing had set firm enough to gently place the flowers onto the surface.

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If you don’t own any fondant plungers you can use mini cookie cutters. If you don’t own any mini cutters you can roll out six tiny balls. Place five of the balls in a tiny circle, place the sixth ball in the center and lightly press them all. Bingo, you have a flower!

And if you don’t have any chocolate fondant lying around the house. . .

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Unwrap some Tootsie Rolls, put them into the microwave for a few seconds (6-8), and then shaping the warm candy into a ball use it as you would the Choco-Pan.

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The flavor of the dark chocolate Choco-Pan is exactly like that of Tootsie Rolls. The chocolate fondant and softened Tootsie Rolls are equal in ease of use but there are a couple differences to consider when decorating cookies with Tootsie Rolls.

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Tootsie clay is best used for cookies that aren’t going to be sealed in an airtight bag since the clay seems to absorb the moisture of the baked iced cookie and becomes tacky to the touch while the fondant will remain dry to the touch and hold it’s shape. Both are best used for flat designs rather than dimensional details and both need to be kept out of warmer temperatures.

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The more significant difference is in the texture. The chocolate fondant which is made to be eaten with baked goods breaks apart when chewed like a thin layer of fudge, while the Tootsie clay is stretchy and chewy which in my opinion makes for a rather weird mouth feel when combined with the cookie chew. But hey, maybe it’s just me.

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Maple Bacon Pancake Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1.5 teaspoons maple flavoring
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 1/2 cups flour
10-12 slices (approx. 3/4 cup) chopped crispy brown bacon

Directions:

…..Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1. Cook the bacon until crisp and brown. Drain on paper towels. Chop into small pieces.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, and chopped bacon. Set aside.
3. Cream the butter and sugars.
4. Add in the eggs and beat for 30-45 seconds.
5. Add in the vanilla extract and maple flavoring beating until well-blended.
6. Add in the dry ingredients one cup at a time until the dough is fully incorporated.
7.  Roll out the dough on a lightly-floured surface to the desired thickness. Place the cut cookies onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake on the center rack of the oven for 8-12 minutes. Baking time will be determined by the thickness and overall dimension of cookies.
8. Remove cookies from the oven and allow to cool on baking sheet before moving to cooling rack.

Storing Maple Bacon Pancake Cookies: Cookies may be left on the kitchen counter for 1-2 days but after that time store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator, removing 15-20 minutes before serving to allow time for them to warm to room temperature. While bacon is salt-cured and smoked, always be conservative when it comes to food safety. 

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White Chocolate Pistachio Cherry Cookies

October 17, 2013

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There’s a program in the U.K. called “Masterchef” which is nothing, absolutely nothing like the American version. The primary difference being that Masterchef UK is really good where as Masterchef US is really annoying. Oh, that’s not to say I don’t watch it but I do so knowing that like most of reality TV it’s as scripted, staged, and rehearsed as the Broadway performance of Les Mis. Everything about the US version is predictable. The contestants are character types from the kitchen klutz to the arrogant foodie to the ditsy southern belle, no offensive intended to my readers with southern belle leanings. On the Masterchef US version at least two contestants will hate each other and duke it out with saucepans every episode and you can bet your rolling pin that there will be a contestant who is competing to make their dead mother or father or cousin or mail carrier proud and with tears they’ll confess sensing their dead mother or father or cousin or mail carrier hovering close by while mincing onions. Oooooookay. And no matter whether it’s the first episode or the tenth, one of the contestants is going to say to an arm-crossed sneering Joe Bastianich, “I’m not ready to go home yet.” Boo-hoo.

I should have been a TV critic.

The difference with the UK version is everything. The contestants are real people, just ordinary amateur cooks who are more focused on doing their best each round than drawing bread knives and jousting with the other competitors. They demonstrate decency and appropriate manners toward the other contestants, complimenting each other’s skills and cheering their successes.  How very British of them. The very best part is that while competing on Masterchef UK the contestants are given ample opportunity to learn new skills by cooking along side professional chefs while working a lunch shift in the kitchen of local restaurants, and I’m happy to report that to date no spirits of dead loved ones have cheered any of the contestants on each time they crack an egg. The only show I enjoy more than Masterchef UK is The Great British Bake-Off which is the. best. baking. show. ever. Mary Berry, I love you.

Now that you’ve scratched a hole through the side of your head trying to figure out what this all has to do with White Chocolate Pistachio Cherry Cookies, I’ll tell you. In a word, nothing. I just had a rant I needed to purge before it soured my insides. Oh, and because in a recent episode while preparing a dessert one of the UK contestants mentioned something about the classic combination of white chocolate, pistachios and cherries, which I heard as “Anita, you should really think about making white chocolate, pistachio and cherry cookies.”  So I did.

Speaking of pistachios I could at this point turn off the lights, set up my slide projector and show you a reel of slides from a trip I took to Turkey back in the 1990′s with my parents and my sister for no other reason than  I remember walking along the ocean’s edge near some Turkish town eating warm pistachios from a greasy paper cone I’d bought from a vendor’s cart. But instead, how about we just converse for a minute about cleaning pistachios.

Before baking with pistachios it goes without saying, at least I hope it does, that you first need to remove them from the shell. You knew that, right? Whew. Imagine my relief. What you might not know is pistachios have a papery dry skin like peanuts that you’re going to want to remove along with the shells so that all you end up with is the brilliant green pistachio meat instead of little dry bits of nut skin and trust me, you don’t want dry bits of nut skin in your cookies because when you try to deny you ate any White Chocolate Pistachio Cherry Cookies people will see the nut skins caught in your teeth and know you are a liar. Remove the nut skins.

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To remove the skins, fill a bowl with the pistachios and then cover with boiling water and leave the nuts to soak for 2-3 minutes. Drain the water, place the nuts in the center of a dish towel, place another dish towel on top, and rub vigorously. Most of the skin will slip right off. The pistachios in my hand show how they look before and after their bath and rub-down.

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I really wanted the  pistachios and dried cherries to add a solid crunch and chew to the cookies and so I did a coarse chop of both and then rolled out my dough to a full 3/8 inch thickness which allowed for bigger chunks in the cookies without creating a bumpy cookie surface. With bigger chunks not only do the individual flavors come through more distinctly but look at those colors, will you? Would these be an awesome looking Christmas cookie dough or what?!

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Last year about this time my cookie cutter obsession leeched out into the world of cookie molds and House on the Hill makes some beautiful high quality molds. While they make a clear imprint on the surface of a smooth rolled cookie recipe, I use them more often with modeling chocolate and when I’m not using them on modeling chocolate I’m using them to decorate our home.

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But then again, our home decor also includes a flying pig (thank you Callye!) and Cookie Monster (thank you Kay!) which can either be interpreted as eclectic decor or a hoarder’s decor.  Oh, I thought I should mention, my birthday is December 15 and I don’t yet have the adorable pumpkin mold from House on the Hill. I’m not saying those two facts are related but if you see a connection then by all means let the spirit move you…Dana? Sis? :::tap tap tap::: Is this thing on?

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I was going to show you how I made the modeling clay tops but it seemed unnecessary given that no human being passes through childhood without at least once pressing a dime, a paper clip, or their dogs nose into a ball of Playdoh to see what happens. Just roll out your modeling chocolate on parchment paper, dust the mold with cornstarch (white modeling chocolate), cocoa (brown modeling chocolate) or magic pixie dust, press, lift, and cut around the design using a knife or cookie cutter. You can then just leave the relief pattern as is or lightly airbrush, paint, or luster dust with metallic colors to add an antique look or paint with coloring gel or edible markers. And finally, to adhere the chocolate relief to the top of the cookie, either place the chocolate mold directly onto a slightly warm cookie or brush the bottom side of the chocolate mold with any flavor extract (or vodka for you booze hounds) and press onto the cookie surface.

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But what I just told you to do . . . that’s not what I do and here’s why. To get the full imprint of the mold into the modeling chocolate you need to roll out a fairly thick layer of clay which for most people is too much sugary goodness for a bite of cookie, but if they remove the modeling chocolate completely then they end up with a naked cookie and a rolled sugar cookie weeps for a sugary blanket of something.

How did I solve this cookie crisis? Think fondant covered wedding cake. Same deal. What I do is flood the top of the cookie with a thin layer of glaze icing in white or a color that will accent the colors on the chocolate mold. Once the glaze has completely dried I lightly press the chocolate mold on top. Nothing is needed to adhere the mold to the cookie since there’s just enough tackiness between the chocolate and the glaze to bond them together. Now when someone goes to eat a cookie, they have the option of peeling off the chocolate mold and still having a complete and perfect cookie. Voilà!
By the way, if you don’t have any cookie molds you can roll out a thin layer of modeling chocolate and add quick designs using texture impression mats or poly clear stamps. I don’t know…maybe I will do a modeling chocolate post someday but for now here’s a recipe for White Chocolate Pistachios Cherry Cookies.

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White Chocolate Pistachio Cherry Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1.5 cups white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extra
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 1/2 cups flour
1 cup ground white chocolate
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 cup chopped sweetened dried cherries

Directions:

…..Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and finely ground white chocolate. Set aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugar.
3. Add in the eggs and beat for 30-45 seconds.
4. Add in the vanilla extract beating until well-blended.
5. Add in the dry ingredients one cup at a time until the dough is fully incorporated.
6. Stir in the chopped pistachios and cherries.
7.  Roll out the dough on a lightly-floured surface to the desired thickness. Place the cut cookies onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake on the center rack of the oven for 8-12 minutes. Baking time will be determined by the thickness and overall dimension of cookies.
7. Remove cookies from the oven and allow to cool on baking sheet before moving to cooling rack.

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One last thing. If you’re thinking of adding the pistachios and dried cherries to chocolate cookie dough, reconsider. I tried that first but the flavor of the pistachios and cherries were all but lost in the chocolate. Plus, while you could see the green of the pistachios the red of the cherries didn’t come through. No extra charge for that final tidbit.