Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Home in Autumn

It’s that time of year again when the leaves of our trees begin to change color.  No matter how often I see the same trees, along the same driveway near the house, I still manage to gasp when I behold all of the splendor of our deciduous trees at the right moment.  To me it almost seems like magic when we make our way up the curving, sloped driveway onto the road, because it is along this stretch that I first begin to take in what nature does during the Fall.  

With our weather being rather balmy from week to week, peppered with thick clouds and the occasional rainstorm, it’s been difficult to capture good photographs of the property.  Thankfully, I did go out for a walk on a day in which the sun was poking through the clouds.  Although I was under the weather during this excursion, I feel as if it did me a world of good to be out and about.  

I’m not sure if you have particular favorites when it comes to trees, but whether they’re sycamores, walnuts, beeches, maples, dogwoods, lindens, oaks or paulownias (yes, we’re surrounded by all of these), they all have something to contribute to one’s surroundings.  It’s great to be outdoors exploring and observing nature’s magnificent beauty right now.  Take a moment from your busy schedule and go outside.  Stroll through the neighborhood, a city park or a nature trail and find out what changes you catch sight of.  Autumn is a good time to be outdoors!  


You can see that the sky is still overcast, yet it's warm and a bit muggy.  The driveway gets covered on a daily basis with leaves falling off the trees and it's a struggle keeping it tidy and clear.  

As I make my way up the driveway and onto the road, you can see that the trees bordering this property and the one across the street are clearly past the verdant stage.  Crimsons, yellows, browns & chartreuse shades always take my breath away when I'm this far up the driveway.  Every single year, I long for these mornings.  It's something that I never tire of. 

If I turn to my right, the sloping lawn that's dotted with oaks, next to the bank barn, is wondrously carpeted with leaves in various shades of brown.  This area is covered in acorns!  

Along the fencing here by the driveway you can see how thick with trees the landscape is.


Here is another good view of the same area with the barn to one's left.


A leaf-covered driveway, yes, but one that is always a pleasure to walk on or drive up this time of year.  Winter is another story.



The entrance to the field is a nice place to pause and observe.  This is where I take in what's going on all around me and see what has changed.


The meadow is absolutely spectacular right now.


A quick turn to look behind me shows you how the hill simply swallows the stone barn.


It's time to head back to the house and make some tea.  The cats are probably wondering where I am and how long I'll be out.  I'm sure they're anxiously awaiting their afternoon treats. 

My Home in Autumn.


I do hope everyone is having a great autumn wherever you happen to reside. If you're on the east coast and are experiencing nature's beauty right now, then feel privileged that you are where you are.  To my family & many of my friends on the west coast, this little bit of Pennsylvania where I live is for you.  

Cheers & Happy Autumn!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Halloween Cookies

Spooky, scary and hair-raising Halloween Cookies make good treats to hand out at parties this time of year.  With so many great cookie cutters to chose from shaped like tombstones, skulls, scaredy cats, witches, witch's hats, pumpkins, Frankensteins and more, all one needs is a bit of spine-tingling creativity to bewitch guests this Halloween.  Let the partygoers wonder how on earth your ghostly creations came about as they nibble on a plump pumpkin cookie covered in orange & black nonpareils or when they take a bite out of a spider-infested tombstone.  
Make a few of these if your Halloween party is small, but ice dozens of them if your gathering is meant for a crowd.  Nothing could be easier than flooding delicious sugar cookies in your favorite October colors and then embellishing each treat with an array of candies.  Halloween Cookies are meant to be as eye catching as any great costume.  You can get very creative with these.  

After you bake the required number of sugar cookies, tint batches of royal icing in several shades of orange, green, purple and black.  Choose which candies you wish to add to your cookies and get the kids involved.  If you give yourself a bit of time, these can then be packed up into cellophane bags or treat boxes for gift giving.  They can also be stacked or arranged around a haunted gingerbread house or a stack of cake stands for a ghoulish presentation.  It’s entirely up to you!

As you can see, I’ve used some of my favorite copper cookie cutters from the former Martha by Mail catalog to create these ghastly cookies.  Those 'scaredy cats' look like they’ve been spooked by something from another world and the 'batty tombstone' cookies seem as if they’ve been around for centuries.  The warty, spooky and BOO-carved pumpkins are ready to be eaten.

How I Decorate Cookies

This festive bunch is simple to make.  
The Witch’s Hat (top left) is piped & flooded with black royal icing and is left to dry.  Beads of icing are piped as stripes along the top and are then covered with orange & black nonpareils.  A sugar spider is affixed with icing.
The Neon Cat (top right) is iced in vibrant purple.  The tail is then flocked in black sanding sugar.  Once dry, a small dot is added for an eye.
The Spidery Tombstone (bottom left) is flooded in black royal icing.  With purple icing, while the black icing is wet, create a web & drag down the colors with a toothpick for the design.  Let dry.  Pipe a bead of purple royal icing for a border and flock with sanding sugar.  Affix sugar spiders with icing.
The BOO Pumpkin (bottom right) is flooded with bright orange icing.  A green stem is piped and both are left to dry.  Pipe a bead of black royal icing around the pumpkin and then pipe BOO; flock the ‘carved boo’ with nonpareils.  Affix a sugar pumpkin with royal icing.
The Giant Pumpkin (center) was flooded with orange royal icing and was flocked with orange & black nonpareils while wet.  A green stem was piped with icing.

Darker than you think cookies.
Kitty Cat (top left) is flooded with brown royal icing and is given an orange eye; this is left to dry.  A bead of black royal icing is used to trace the outline and is then flocked with nonpareils.
Black Witch’s Hat (top right) is flooded with black royal icing and is left to dry.  A red sash is piped above the brim and is embellished with dots & a sugar pumpkin.  A red ‘Blood Moon’ is piped on the cone of the hat and a bat candy is attached.  Spooky!
Menacing Tombstone (bottom right) is flooded with a chartreuse royal icing and is given dots while the base is wet.  Using a toothpick, draw out ‘legs’ for spiders.  Ghoulish!  Let this dry.  Pipe a bead of black royal icing for a border and then add a plump Black Widow with royal icing.  Attach sprinkles for legs and give the spider two red eyes.  As a final embellishment, pipe any color icing along the base, haphazardly, and flock it with autumn leaf candies.  Attach sugar pumpkins to the wet icing.  This tombstone is gruesome!
Warty Pumpkin (bottom left) is so easy to make.  Flood the pumpkin with orange icing and add a green stem.  Let this dry.  Pipe green dots for ‘warts’ and then flock them with sanding sugar.  
Fuzzy Pumpkin (center) is also easy to create.  Flood the base of the pumpkin with orange icing and immediately flock with orange sanding sugar.  Attach a green stem with icing.

I absolutely love this Menacing Tombstone cookie.  The windswept leaves along the base, with a stack of pumpkins, make this final resting place seem neglected and eerie.  The fact that it’s teeming with spiders adds to the macabre atmosphere.

The Great Pumpkin was iced with the most iconic of designs.  A jagged-tooth Jack-O-Lantern with his adorable face is going to be loved by anyone who is lucky enough to get it.    


Trick or Treat!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sugar and Spice Cookies

Sugar and spice cookies are just the thing for Fall.  If you crave an iced cookie with a bit of spice, but don't feel like gingerbread before December, then this recipe is the way to go.  Think of it as a perked up version of my delicious sugar cookie recipe that so many of you already like.  Dough that comes together quickly, rolls out nicely and bakes into beautifully-shaped cookies, are just some of the virtues of this cookie recipe.  Last, but not least, are the texture and flavor of the baked treat; not too sweet and never unbearably hard & crisp.

For the months of September, October & November, we all want to fill our home with the aromas of spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and nutmeg, among others.  In the right proportions when mixed into a stellar dough, the baked cookie can stand on its own, get sprinkled with cinnamon sugar or it can be brightened with a good royal icing.


Take out those cookie cutters you've been meaning to use all year long and get your ingredients together.  The wholesome basics of flour, eggs, butter, sugar and spices are all in there.  Putting them together couldn't be easier.  All you really need to do is make sure that the butter & egg are at room temperature and you're on your way to making delectable treats.  Rolling out the dough between parchment paper straight from the mixer makes quick work of getting the cookies into the oven.  I've even provided you with a printable recipe!

Set some time aside this weekend and create spiced cookie dough for your next baking project.  You're going to love the simple goodness!  

The Basics

Click on:

A word on spices: You will see the breakdown of spices that I used for my recipe.  Always make sure that your spices are fresh & still fragrant.  You can substitute approximately 2-1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice for the list of spices if you wish.

If I'm making a spiced cookie dough, I find that adding the spices as I cream the butter & sugar disperses them much better.  If you've never tried making your spice cookie doughs this way, I really do encourage you to try it.  

This photo speaks for itself.  I do, on occasion, divide my doughs from the mixer and form 2 rounds for chilling, but lately I'm finding that dividing the dough in half and rolling these portions between pieces of parchment paper, saves time & energy.  I have cookbook author, Nancy Baggett, to thank for teaching me this trick.  Nothing could be easier!


As I said, this cookie dough is perfect for the Fall season, but it's also good anytime one craves sugar & spice.  Cut out a multitude of shapes using your favorite cookie cutters and then ice the sweets with royal icing.  However, you can always cut out simple rounds and sandwich two cookies with your favorite jam.  This is a good alternative to linzer cookies if you happen to have a nut allergy.  

Either way, you're going to love the flavor of these cookies.



I hope this recipe becomes a favorite with you.  Share the goodness by baking up cookies with a little sugar & spice, and have fun while making them!

David

Saturday, October 4, 2014

October Demo at Williams Sonoma


My October baking & decorating demo at Williams-Sonoma will cover Halloween cookies & cupcakes using recipes that I've developed here on Good Things by David.  The two hour demonstration will introduce you to simple, tasty treats that are appropriate for this time of year.  Cookies in the shapes of pumpkins, tombstones, bats & cats, plus red velvet cupcakes in the shapes of menacing skulls will undoubtedly get devoured by all.

The event takes place on Sunday, October 12th, beginning at 1pm.  Stop by to say hello and learn how to create irresistibly spooky cookies & cupcakes.  It's going to be fun!

Address: 42 St. Georges Rd., Ardmore, PA 19003
Phone:(610) 642-5009

  
David