Thursday, December 13, 2018

Retro Christmas Cookies

For local clients and customers I decided to go a little retro with their Christmas sugar cookies this season.  Snow globes filled with beautiful evergreen trees covered in icy sugar crystals, jadeite-colored Christmas trees strewn with garlands that look like tinsel, Christmas stockings that are stenciled with snowflakes, and a few Victorian ornaments that are shiny and bright with colorful drageés, are just some examples of what I made.


Let it be known that not only do the cookies look pretty, but they taste the way a good sugar cookie ought to.  It doesn't matter how nicely a cookie is decorated or how elaborate the artwork is, the cookie base and the royal icing has to be delicious.  Being in the business of making custom cookies for special clients and local customers here in Pennsylvania, my ultimate taste testers and critics are the kids.  

Well, I think it's safe to say that this year's retro Christmas cookies are going to go down in the history of this blog as the tastiest treats for kids and adults this holiday season.  

Let's quickly go through them so that you can make some of your own.  Give yourself a couple of days to tackle cookies like this.  The results are absolutely worth the effort.

Christmas Snow Globe Cookies

The Christmas Snow Globes:  ice the base of the snow globe in jadeite-colored royal icing using a #2 piping tip, and while the icing is wet, carefully place multi-colored (or silver) drageés as you see here.  Using white royal icing and a #3 piping tip, outline and flood the entire globe of the cookie; while the icing is still wet, flock the bottom half of the globe (or the entire thing) in clear, fine sanding sugar.  Let this dry completely.  Gently pick up the entire cookie and flip it to the side.  Carefully shake off any excess sanding sugar, making sure that this is done over a rimmed baking sheet.  With a Christmas tree stencil and a cake decorating air gun, airbrush Ateco gold onto the cookie. Half of the tree will be exposed beautifully, while half of it will be covered in icy crystals.  Done!  


Red Cookie Stockings:  for the stocking, outline and flood the boot of the stocking in red royal icing using a #3 piping tip.  Immediately ice and flood the cuff of the stocking in white royal icing using a #3 piping tip.  While the icing is wet, carefully place 2 mm silver drageés as shown.  Let this dry completely. With a cake decorating air gun, airbrush Ateco gold onto the cuff of the stocking and then carefully airbrush gold snowflakes on the boot using a stencil.  Let dry completely.  Voila!

Christmas Cookie Stocking

Green Cookie Stockings:  for the stocking, outline and flood the boot of the stocking in jadeite-colored royal icing using a #3 piping tip.  Immediately ice and flood the cuff of the stocking in white royal icing using a #3 piping tip. While the icing is wet, carefully place 2 mm silver drageés as shown.  Let this dry completely.  With a cake decorating air gun, airbrush Ateco gold onto the cuff of the stocking and then carefully airbrush a green chevron pattern on the boot with a stencil.  Let dry completely.  Done!


Victorian Ornament Sugar Cookie

Victorian Ornament Cookie:  for this simple, yet utterly beautiful cookie, outline and flood the entire cookie using white royal icing and a #3 piping tip. While the icing is wet, carefully drop 3mm gold and wintergreen drageés as you see here.  Let the cookie base dry completely.  Using the same white royal icing and a #2 piping tip, pipe a bead of icing along the perimeter of the ornament.  Using red royal icing and a #2 piping tip, pipe dots around the ornaments as shown, or however you wish.  Let the cookie dry before packaging it.   

Jadeite-colored Christmas Tree Cookie

Jadeite Christmas Tree Sugar Cookie:  to get the "sectioned" look onto your Christmas trees, outline and flood every other tier of the branches in jadeite-colored royal icing with a #3 piping tip and let the areas dry completely.  After those sections have dried, outline and flood the alternating tiers in the same fashion.  Let the entire base dry completely.  Using the jadeite-colored royal icing and a #2 piping tip, pipe the lines of "tinsel" in a zigzag pattern as shown.  While this is still wet, immediately flock the garland with clear, fine sanding sugar.  Do not disturb this until it has dried completely.  Gently pick up the entire cookie and flip it to the side.  Carefully shake off any excess sanding sugar, making sure that this is done over a rimmed baking sheet.  To attach the multi-colored drageés,  you have two options.  You can either pipe dots of royal icing and stick the drageés onto the dots while the icing is wet, or you can use cake decorating "adhesive".  Both are effective and both give the cookies a different look.

This happens to be my favorite cookie of the bunch.




Can you believe that I almost didn't blog about these cookies?  What I love about showing cookies here on the blog and through social media, is that many of my friends are getting the confidence to roll up their sleeves and begin decorating cookies of their own.  Nothing is more flattering and more rewarding than seeing good friends, acquaintances and new readers rolling, cutting, baking and icing cookies at home.   

As for me, I'm onto round two of my Christmas cookie decorating. This next round will be for my entire family on the west coast.  Stay tuned!


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Hanukkah Sugar Cookies

For those who are celebrating Hanukkah, the eight day holiday is a great time to eat traditional sweets of all kinds, but I personally think it's even better if you get to share a few of them with those who are dear to you.  This year, if you have a moment, bake and ice sugar cookies in the classic shapes of Hanukkah that we all know and love.


Two dear friends of mine recently asked me if I would make special Hanukkah cookies for their family and friends.   I immediately set to work on assembling my tasty sugar cookie dough as a base, and several batches of that good royal icing recipe I created many years ago. Hanukkah cookie cutters were then taken out, and I began one of my favorite tasks of all time.  Baking!


During the Festival of Lights, one candle on a menorah is lit for every night of the observance of this holiday.  Eight nights and eight days require a menorah with eight candles, plus an additional candle (in the middle of the candelabra) used for the actual lighting of the candles.  It is on the final night of the festival that every candle on the menorah is lit.  Throughout the eight day observance, families and friends gather together to play the game of dreidel and to partake of traditional sweets and foods.  That delicious Hanukkah gelt is adored by everyone, and yet, there is always room for sugar cookies so that guests can have one or two.


The menorah sugar cookies you see here were such an easy design.  I outlined and flooded round sugar cookies in white royal icing, which was then left to dry.  A menorah with a scrolled footed base was then piped as shown, with a #2 piping tip in sky-blue royal icing.  While the icing was wet, I placed eight 3mm gold drageés on the 'candleholders', and then carefully placed a larger 5mm gold drageé in the center of the candleholder to represent the candles of the menorah.  The perimeter of the round was then given a bead of royal icing in the same blue color.  After the icing dried completely, I took some Rolkem gold cake decorators dust and applied it carefully with a fine brush.

I love these gilded menorahs!


The dreidels were also very simple.  I piped a dreidel design onto a white royal icing base with blue royal icing (#2 piping tip), and then immediately piped the corresponding symbols of nun, gimmel, hey and shin as shown. Once this was dry, I took more of the Rolkem gold and applied it to the symbols of the dreidels.  Voila!

The Stars of David were created on round sugar cookies and on ones in the shape of the star itself.  All were given a base coating of white royal icing which was left to dry, and then I piped the double stripes of the stars as shown using two separate colors (teal and marine blue).  While the icings were wet, I flocked the cookies in a beautiful teal-colored fine sanding sugar so that the Star of David would sparkle.  Done and done!


Don't you just want to have a platter of these cookies for your Hanukkah table?  If you place each cookie in a clear cellophane bag and tie it with a blue ribbon, you can have each guest at your gathering take one from the dessert table.  You can also use cookies like this for each place setting on the dining table.



Consider making a few of these as a hostess gift if you're traveling to a friend's house.  Wherever you decide to celebrate the Festival of Lights, I hope that you are surrounded with friends and family, and are blessed with love, happiness and good health.



To my friends Candice and Rena, Happy Hanukkah!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

L.E. Smith Caramel Glass for Martha by Mail

In the latter part of the nineties (late twentieth century), the L.E. Smith Glass Company of Pennsylvania manufactured a special shade of glass, called caramel glass, for the Martha by Mail catalog.  This particular color was used on a limited number of glass items that were already being produced for Martha Stewart Living, back when their exclusive catalog was in business.  The production run for this shade of glass lasted for less than a handful of years.

Many of us collectors tend to classify this particular opaque glass as 'slag glass', while others label it chocolate glass, brown glass, and of course, caramel glass or caramel slag glass.  Make a note of it while searching for pieces online.  Not everyone is going to call it caramel glass.

Slag glass is characterized by swirls or whorls of cream or white glass mixed in with the dominant color portion of the dish.  Antique slag glass was actually made by combining molten metal ores with molten colored glass in order to produce that swirled multi-toned finish. More recent glassmakers, however, employed a simple mix of two colors of molten glass to produce the whorls found throughout the pressed glass.

When Martha by Mail commissioned the L.E. Smith Glass company to make their exclusive shade of caramel glass, the Pennsylvania glassworks used the technique of mixing small amounts of cream-colored glass into the caramel glass, in order to make each vessel unique.  Not one covered dish or cake stand in my collection is exactly alike in coloration.  Every single dish has a distinctive hue pattern.  
 

To my mind, they are the quintessential autumnal shade that I like to use this time of year, because the tone is warm, soothing and ideal for any fall table arrangement.  Since these covered dishes and cake stands are appropriate for table settings in October and November, I like to have them out in the kitchen or in the dining room where they are easily accessible.

Let me show you every single covered dish and cake stand that the former glassworks of L.E. Smith made for Martha by Mail in this wonderful shade of caramel. 


Over the years, I've managed to add a piece here and there whenever I find them.  Some covered dishes are more difficult to procure than others.  The cake stands themselves are probably the rarest of pieces to find these days.  


These are the plain round cake stands that measure 8", 10" and 12" in diameter.  I absolutely love the cupped bases, and the lipped plates.  They make just about any dessert look tempting.  Think of placing a pumpkin bundt cake covered in a delicious drippy glaze on one of these, or use them to showcase this year's Thanksgiving pies.  Pumpkin, apple, pecan or even a cranberry pie would look amazing.


The beautiful scalloped cake stand is a recent addition to the collection.  The design pattern of this particular shape is called 'Dominion' or 'Dominion-Honeycomb'.  It features a faceted scalloped base, and a scalloped-edged plate which has an intricate honeycomb pattern underneath.  I can say without a doubt that this cake stand is probably the rarest piece of caramel glass from Martha by Mail.  Collectors don't want to part with them.


The covered turkey dish is one of my favorites to use for Thanksgiving.  Sitting quite regally, the dish can function as a centerpiece, it can be used to serve soup during dinner or it can be a part of the dessert buffet to hold whipped cream for pies.

I don't know why, but the caramel turkey dishes are a bit difficult to find these days.  They pop up every now and then, but I think that collectors are holding on to their pieces because they truly are beautiful.


The charming squirrel and acorn covered dishes are always available online. These are the perfect bowls for butternut squash soup.  I love how the footed base has a leaf pattern to it, and I adore the shape of the acorn with its ribbed and diamond-patterned sections.


The footed melon dishes are works of art.  This is another one of my favorite pieces because the texture of the melon and the veining of the leaves is truly exquisite.  That small bud on top of the melon is what makes this piece a keeper.  If you ever come across this particular dish, buy it.  You will not regret owning one.


The caramel glass rooster is interesting because it has very realistic qualities to it.  The cockscomb and wattle are done to great effect, and the plumage on the body and tail are fascinating.  I believe this original mold used to belong to Westmoreland.

The bowl of the rooster covered dish is not very capacious, so this particular dish is great for serving scrambled eggs.


Another favorite of mine is the pumpkin dish.  Do not confuse this particular pumpkin with the one that was made by Longaberger.  Although both are equally charming, they do have distinctive leaf patterns.  The one by L.E. Smith is a bit more subtle, while the one from Longaberger is more pronounced.  I love using mine to hold candy!

By the way, if you look closely, you can see how gorgeous the slag glass coloration is on this particular pumpkin of mine.


Sheaves of wheat pair well with caramel glass dishes.  A gathered bunch of wheat stalks like this makes a good centerpiece for a dining table, a coffee table or even a sideboard.


Last year's Thanksgiving table had a simple centerpiece of sheaves of wheat surrounded by a quartet of caramel glass turkeys.  For your table this year, you can place any combination of these Martha by Mail covered dishes and, if you're not going to use them at each place setting, you can fill each one with nuts and dried fruit, or you can use them as containers for delicious gravy.


I loved this particular place setting from a couple of years ago.  Used as bowls for acorn squash soup, the caramel glass pumpkins looked irresistible placed atop this transferware china from Spode.  




Martha by Mail Caramel Glass


Whether you label it chocolate, brown, slag or caramel, this distinguished glass from the former L.E. Smith Glass Company of Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, is highly collectible now.  Prices for Martha by Mail caramel glass vary from around $30-$40 per piece, to well over several hundred dollars for the much-coveted cake stands.

If you're fortunate enough to have one, two, three or more of these caramel glass dishes in your home, please use them in the coming weeks.  They are going to be a welcome addition to your living spaces.  If you don't own any Martha by Mail caramel glass yet, start looking for them online, in antique shops (they do pop up there) and in consignment shops.  You are going to become enamored with it once it arrives in the mail.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

PeekaBoo Halloween Cat Sugar Cookies

Kitty cats, jack-o-lanterns and candy corn are absolute essentials for Halloween.  If you cleverly combine their images, you can make the most adorable sugar cookies for your Halloween party and for neighborhood trick-or-treaters this year.  Trust me when I say that the little ghouls and goblins are going to want one of each of these cookies in their loot pails. 


I first came across the inspiration for my sugar cookies while visiting the local Paper Source store.  The images at the store were part of a charming Halloween paper kit, and as you can imagine, my mind immediately turned them into cookies.  I wasted no time in searching for the right cookie cutters for this endeavor from my holiday collection.

Using the Sugar & Spice Cookie Dough Recipe (use the blog search engine for the recipe), I made several batches of it and several batches of my royal icing (search for it on the blog).


The plastic candy corn cookie cutter can be found at Michael's Craft Stores under the Sweet Sugar Belle label.  Because the adorable candy corn is to be showcased in its entirety once the cookies are completed, it's important to keep that in mind when cutting out your custom cookies.  The heart is used for the kitty cat's head and the cupcake cookie cutter is used to cut out the tops of the heads in order to form the ears.  

PeekaBoo Halloween Cat & Candy Corn Cookies: cut out as many hearts as you have candy corns from a slab of rolled out sugar cookie dough. Cut off the bottom 1/3 or 1/4 of the heart at an angle using the candy corn, and then cut off the top of the heart to create the cat's head.  Using an egg wash, glue the cookies together before baking.  Continue cutting out and gluing cookies until you have the desired amount.


You can see how well the cookie cutter creates the tops of the kitty cats.  They look cute already!


The pumpkin cookie cutter is one that I bought from Williams-Sonoma many years ago.  The heart is a soft-grip cookie cutter made by Wilton.  The cupcake cutter, which is also made by Wilton, is the same one I used for the candy corn cookies. 

PeekaBoo Halloween Cat & Jack-o-lantern Cookies:  Cut out an equal amount of pumpkins and hearts.  Cut off the bottom 1/3 or 1/4 of the heart with the top portion of the pumpkin cookie cutter, and using the cupcake cutter, cut off the tops of the hearts to create the cat heads as shown.  Using an egg wash, carefully glue the "cat heads" onto the pumpkin tops before baking your custom-made cookies.

All of the cut out and "glued" cookies should be chilled for at least 30 minutes on prepared baking sheets before baking.   


Batches of royal icing should be tinted in the following colors: copper-orange, white, black, pink, avocado green and lemon yellow.  


This image shows you the baked-on egg wash which solidly glues the cookies together.  You're going to have people wondering how you made these!


After outlining the shape of the pumpkin in orange royal icing using a #4 piping tip, immediately flood it with the same icing.  Using black royal icing and a #2 piping tip, add a large solid dot for one of the eyes, and then pipe a "winking eye" on the other side of the jack-o-lantern.  Pipe an offset smile to make him even cuter.  Outline and flood the green stem of the pumpkin as shown.

Note: Some of the jack-o-lanterns were made with winking eyes, while some were left with plain round eyes.  It's up to you!


Outline and flood the cat's head in black royal icing using a #3 piping tip, and while the icing is still wet, pipe pink ears and a pink nose as shown with a #2 piping tip.  Using white royal icing and a #2 piping tip, pipe large white dots for eyes as shown, and then add a small black dot on each eye.  You can have the cat looking straight at you or you can have it looking off to the side.  

Let the cookie dry completely.

When the cookie is completely dry, pipe orange whiskers on the kitty using a fine #1 piping tip.  Using a #2 piping tip and black royal icing, outline and flood the cat paws hanging over the jack-o-lanterns, and while the icing is still wet, pipe 3 cat claws on each paw using the orange icing and #1 piping tip.  

Let the cookie dry completely.

Jack-o-lantern Sugar Cookies: some are winking and some are not.

Icing the PeekaBoo Halloween Cat & Candy Corn Cookie:  Outline and flood each colored section of the candy corn in the corresponding color, as shown, using a #2 piping tip. Outline and flood the cat's head in black royal icing using a #3 piping tip, and while the icing is still wet, pipe pink ears and a pink nose as shown with a #2 piping tip.  Using white royal icing and a #2 piping tip, pipe large white dots for eyes as shown, and then add a small black dot on each eye.  You can have the cat looking straight at you or you can have it looking off to the side.  Let the cookie dry completely.

When the cookie is completely dry, pipe orange whiskers on the kitty using a fine #1 piping tip.  Using a #2 piping tip and black royal icing, outline and flood the cat paws hugging the candy corn as shown (above), and while the icing is still wet, pipe 3 cat claws on each paw using the orange icing and #1 piping tip.  Let the cookies dry completely.


Whether the PeekaBoo Halloween Cat Cookies are hugging a delicious candy corn or a jack-o-lantern, they are going to look amazing packaged up for friends and family.  I can't wait until my niece and nephews get these treats in the mail.   

I have to thank Paper Source for giving me the inspiration. 



I can't think of any Halloween treats out there that are cuter than these PeekaBoo Halloween Cat cookies. With a handful of easy to find cookie cutters, you can custom make cute and mischievous kitties by shaping and forming cookie dough just like you see here.  I can guarantee you that your Halloween party will be the talk of the town if you include a set of PeekaBoo Halloween Cats holding some pumpkins and candy corns.  


Happy Halloween!