Sunday, November 29, 2015

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

This recipe is a sure way to bring the flavors and aromas of the holiday season into your home. With delicious ingredients like butter, eggs, flour and molasses, a medley of spices gets combined to make a dough which captures the spirit of Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate.   I created some simple cookies this morning for a very special client of mine, which is why I wanted to reintroduce you to the recipe.  You're going to want to try it in the coming weeks! 

Gingerbread Boy

The cookie dough is typical gingerbread dough, which is to say that it is a bit difficult to handle if you let it come to room temperature while working with it.  I like to roll and cut out my cookie shapes while the dough is still cold from the refrigerator;  you will see that it is still malleable regardless of having been chilled.

Gingerbread Christmas Tree

Once baked and cooled, the cookies will hold their shapes, the tops will dome slightly, but their texture will have you and the kids reaching for more.  Iced with a good royal icing (enter it on my search box), the cookies can get decorated according to your tastes.  
Gingerbread Men
These gingerbread men are simple, yet utterly delicious.  With a simple white outline, each cookie gets a set of eyes, a smile, some buttons down the middle, a bit of coloring along the legs and a dapper pin of holly leaves (these are candies attached with royal icing). 

Gingerbread Christmas Trees
The gingerbread Christmas trees have swoops of icing to suggest snow laden boughs.  A sprinkling of snowflake candies attached with royal icing, along with some dots for ornaments, complete the look.  Easy! 



Sometimes, the simplest of cookies are the best tasting.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Small Business Saturday


I highly encourage all of you to shop locally at a small business today and help support your fellow friends and neighbors.  Some of the things that I love doing on this particular day is to visit some antique shops and pick up anything that catches my eye, stop at a local cafĂ© to sip a latte for energy, and then grab something to nibble on from the farmers market.  You should also consider the many individuals that have online shops through Etsy, their own websites and through word of mouth.  Don't forget those caterers who are at the ready to help you entertain in the coming weeks.  Shopping small and shopping locally is a very wise thing to do throughout the year, but it's especially prudent to do so during the holiday season. 

Cheers!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving



This is the time to gather around the dinner table with friends and family so that we can be reminded of all the good things in our lives.  Let's be thankful and grateful for what we do have.  May you have a warm place to enjoy a good dinner with friends and family no matter where you happen to be. 

Happy Thanksgiving!



Sincerely,

David  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thank You for Five Amazing Years!

As the blog marks its fifth anniversary, I want to take a moment to thank every single reader, well-wisher, supporter and friend, who has taken the time to read a post or two over the past five years.  Back in 2010 when I was encouraged to start a blog by several friends, I really didn't know what I was going to be writing about, where this blog would lead me or what doors it would help open up for me.  What I can say with a certainty is that these five years have led me to some wonderful experiences.


Over the course of these five amazing years, I have made many friends and acquaintances, and it is because of your kind words and encouragement that I have managed to create content which I hope is informative.  I can't tell you how fulfilling and rewarding it is to me to hear from someone who has had success with a recipe that I've grown fond of, or to hear that I've helped solve a collector's mystery for an individual.  When a dear reader writes telling me that I've assisted in making their lives a little better and a bit nicer, or that I've inspired them to try something new, it makes everything that I create and write about all that much more worthwhile.

A reader of the blog recently sent me a kind note that summed up what I hope and wish Good Things by David means to some of you.


Hello David!

I used your sugar cookie recipe for the millionth time to make cookies for a mommy and me get together.  

Little Sammy from the bee-themed first birthday party is a big boy now with a baby sister.  Time has gone by so quickly.  Thank you for all of your inspiration and great recipes.  Though I've never met you, it is so nice to have you and your recipes as a part of our family traditions.

Much love to you and yours,
Jessica


From the bottom of my heart, thank you Jessica, and thank you readers for five amazing years!  I wouldn't be here creating and sharing content if it weren't for your support.

Truly,

David




Friday, November 20, 2015

A Beautiful Acorn Wreath

If you have an abundance of acorns covering your yard or if you happen to know of someone who has a bumper crop that they want to get rid of, make a magnificent wreath with them this season.  My friend Chris, created one of the most beautiful acorn wreaths that I've ever seen, and its symmetrical beauty, along with its rustic charm, is worthy of any home large or small.  I asked Chris how he made the wreath from start to finish, because I wanted all of you to be inspired to create something wonderful to adorn your home for the holidays.  


The instructions from Chris are straightforward and easy, so if you want to make your wreath just like the one gracing his beautiful Connecticut home, gather the tools and materials, and begin this weekend.


Acorn Wreath Tools & Materials
  • 14" Tubular Styrofoam Wreath Form (solid)
  • brown paint (spray or acrylic)
  • matte lacquer spray
  • hot glue gun (with sticks)
  • Approximately 2-1/2 - 3 gallons of acorns
  • craft paper (to cover work surface)
  • baking sheets
  • ribbon 
  • needle & thread
  1. Pick through your acorns and discard any that are blemished.  Carefully wash all of the acorns in hot soapy water to remove any detritus; pat dry.  Scatter acorns on clean baking sheets and place them in a preheated 300° F (150°C) oven.  Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes.  This helps dry the acorns and kill off any bugs or microbes.
  2. Paint the solid tubular wreath form in brown paint to hide the green wreath color, and let dry completely.  
  3. Working on a surface covered in craft paper, begin gluing the acorns in a symmetrical pattern on one side of the wreath, filling in spaces as you go.  Let the one side dry and set completely.  Gently flip the wreath over and continue in the same pattern, until you have completed the wreath.  Let the wreath set.
  4. Once it is complete, spray the entire wreath with a matte lacquer spray.  This will act as a protective coating, but it will also even out the color of the acorns and give it a nice sheen, which Chris likes.  Let this dry.
  5. To hang:  loop a length of ribbon (Chris used a rustic, burlap ribbon) around the wreath to the desired length; depending on where you will hang it, this can get attached behind a mirror with a staple gun or tied around a picture nail).  Attach the end of the looped ribbon to a surface and secure it.
  6. To finish: tie a beautiful bow using the same ribbon and stitch it to the vertical ribbon.  Done!  
Easy!
Chris says that it is important to have a very symmetrical wreath that is crafted on both sides if it is to be hung in front of a large mirror.  

Stitching the beautiful bow onto the looped ribbon is ingenious!


Chris likes this mixed nut wreath in the shape of a star.  Using a foamboard backing, the nuts are attached in a haphazard, yet harmonious manner.


With several holidays approaching in the weeks to come, it's nice to spruce up our homes with festive, decorative touches.  Adding a wreath or two to one's surroundings is a great way to bring some warmth, festive cheer and color to any space.  Making a nut wreath like this, which can get used for years to come, will undoubtedly be a great way to usher in any fall or winter holiday.  

Happy Crafting,

David

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Cauliflower and Apple Soup

If you're looking for an appetizing and elegant soup to serve at your next holiday feast, try this recipe from chef Daniel Boulud.  I have made a couple of variations of his Curried Cream of Cauliflower and Apple Soup for the past week, and I have to say that it is quite delicious.  Chef Boulud uses a blend of saffron and Madras curry powder, which makes for a spicy soup that is perfect for cool weather. 


My versions of this soup don't include saffron and curry powder.  I've made it using a small amount of ground cinnamon (1/4 teaspoon) so that it doesn't overpower the flavors of the apple and cauliflower, and I have included some freshly chopped tarragon to complement the warmth of the cinnamon.  Using vegetable stock and absolutely no cream whatsoever, you can make a vegan version of the soup that is absolutely delicious!  I love using these Wedgwood drabware pieces to serve the soup. 

For Chef Daniel Boulud's recipe, click here.


Whether you make chef Daniel's version of this soup and garnish it with the curried apple dice or whether you decide to be inspired and create your own take on the tasty combination of apples and cauliflower, this soup is bound to become a favorite for your fall season menus.  A light soup for a first course or for a main course, all that is needed is some freshly ground pepper and some fleur de sel to finish.  Garnish with fresh herbs as desired.  

Friday, November 6, 2015

Creating a Pumpkin Shaped Cake

Pumpkins are everywhere now that it's Fall, and many of us are using them throughout our home as decor or attractive dinnerware, but have you ever made a cake in the shape of one?  Last week I decided to make my first pumpkin-shaped cake for a Halloween party as a surprise for guests, thinking it would be a piece of cake to do.  Well, it was and it wasn't.

Pumpkin Shaped Cake on a Caramel Glass L.E. Smith Cake Stand

The first order of business was to take out my pumpin-shaped cake mold out of storage, and get it ready for baking.  This wonderful, heavy cast-aluminum cake mold was produced exclusively for the Martha by Mail catalog many years ago, and I was fortunate to have purchased one when they were around.  I'm glad I finally decided to use it.


Martha by Mail Pumpkin Cake Mold

This past month I wrote a post about the mold providing all of you with the recipes and detailed instructions for making the MBM version, right from the recipe card.  The cake ingredients looked good, so I went with it. Although I didn't create the jack-o'-lantern design that is pictured on the recipe card, I did make an adorable pumpkin cake cloaked in a burnt-orange glaze, which was given a green-colored marzipan stem as an accent.  



A pumpkin-shaped cake can be baked and iced for any fall occasion.  You don't need to reserve this delicious cake for a Halloween spectacle, because it can be served alongside the pumpkin pies, apple cakes and other desserts that many of us will make for Thanksgiving.  Filled with tasty pumpkin puree, and flavored with a bevy of spices, the Martha by Mail recipe is bound to be revisited at some point in the future.

What I have to confess to you here and now is that I encountered a problem during the cake making process, but it was all due to a mistake on my part.  It was a humbling moment for me because I thought the cake was ruined and I would have to start all over again.  We've all had those experiences when baking things that just didn't turn out the way we thought they would. These mistakes or bumps in the road are teachable moments for all of us. Don't worry, I'll give you some tips to prevent you from encountering the problems I had.  It's all in the name of learning from one's mistakes!



Whenever I bake anything, it's important to have my mise en place near the mixer, if I'm using one, so that I can make the dessert without having to pause or stop for an ingredient.  Using some yellowware bowls and an extra KitchenAid mixing bowl, I divided my ingredients up for the pumpkin cake.


Recipes for cake batters may call for the addition of stiffly beaten egg whites to lighten the batter.  Folding egg whites is a technique every baker should master. You start by adding 1/3 of the beaten egg whites to the batter, gently cutting them down the middle with a large spatula, turning the batter from the bottom, up & over the egg whites.  You continue doing this until the whites get folded in completely.  Most recipes call for adding the egg whites in thirds.

And now, onto where I went wrong....



What I should have done was to fill the mold halves no more than 2/3 full of batter.  Having been in a rush, I used up all of the batter (which, as you can see, is almost to the top of the 5qt. mixer bowl) and divided it evenly.  WRONG! 

The arrows that I've placed in the photo, on the molds, show you where I should have stopped filling.  This cake batter is lightened with a lot of egg whites, so what ended up happening about 45 minutes into baking was that I found a soufflĂ©ed cake which was spilling over the molds.  YES!  Thankfully I had the rimmed baking sheet underneath the molds so that the excess could spill onto it, but still, it was unsettling to watch this.

Rather than taking out the cakes, I let them continue baking.  In fact, they ended up taking at least 2 hours of baking rather than the 1-1/2 hours.  I thought this would dry out the cake, but it did not.  In fact, the baked cake was very delicious.

Long story short:  fill the molds no more than 2/3 full and bake the cake with a baking sheet underneath (just in case) for a solid 2 hours.  Make cupcakes with any leftover batter.

Live & Learn!



Look at what my molds looked like underneath when I turned out the cakes. Messy!  Nevertheless, the cakes came out intact and beautiful.  Once cooled, I placed them onto a rimmed baking sheet and chilled them thoroughly.  I would go so far as to suggest that you freeze the cakes until they're solid before you decorate them.  Since the cakes are exceedingly tender, they need to firm up before you handle them.

Note:  the bottoms of the pumpkins need to be trimmed on a 90 degree angle while they are cold so that they stand up when finished, and not topple to the sides (they bake at a slight angle because of the mold).


An orange-colored butter & milk glaze was made to cloak the pumpkin (I made this without consulting a recipe) and I whipped up some heavy cream, flavored & sweetened with pumpkin spice and vanilla sugar (1/4 teaspoon of spice to 1 cup of heavy cream), to sandwich the cake halves.


The cakes were glazed on a cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, and they were then sprinkled with clear sanding sugar to give a glittered pumpkin effect to the finished cake.  These were then given a thorough chilling in the refrigerator until the glaze had hardened.  Any excess drips were trimmed before assembling.


I placed one half of a glazed pumpkin cake onto a cardboard cake round, set on a caramel glass cake stand (also Martha by Mail), and I began to spread the whipped cream on the inside.  Both halves were gently sandwiched together and I then filled the crevice between the halves with more whipped cream.  With some leftover orange glaze, I poured it over this area in order to mask the halves and give the effect of a solid cake.  With some sanding sugar, I sprinkled it to make it even with the rest of the cake.  The entire cake was then chilled in the refrigerator.


Last, but not least, was the stem of the pumpkin.  I started out by adding some avocado gel food coloring to a small amount of marzipan, and then I kneaded it to get an even color.  Use gloves when working with marzipan because it is sticky.  

I had some forest green coloring in case I wanted a deeper color, but I was happy with straight avocado.  It was only a matter of shaping the stem and giving it a ridged texture, making sure I pulled some of the marzipan out to create a flat base with which to rest it on top of the cake.



Voila!  The stem attached, some leaves to cover the cake plate and that cardboard cake round, and the dessert was ready.  As you can see, I had a spectral interference while I was arranging the cake....



It's never too late to learn something new.  My lesson here is to remember that I can't rush the cake making process and that I need to pay attention to what I'm doing.  Will I make a pumpkin-shaped cake again?  Absolutely.  Will I learn from my my mistakes and not repeat them?  You better believe it.

At the end of the day, I was very pleased with my results and the guests enjoyed this centerpiece-worthy dessert.  I hope that you profit from this lesson on making molded cakes, and if you happen to have the Martha by Mail pumpkin cake mold, by all means use it and make a pumpkin cake this fall.   

As I said, live and learn!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November 2015


Our November seems to have started off feeling more like late summer. Higher-than-normal temperatures and bright sunny skies have many of us out and about, but make no mistake, Fall is definitely upon us.  This month is all about planning, cooking and entertaining.  A flurry of activity awaits us in the following weeks, with the majority of us eagerly anticipating the Thanksgiving holiday.  

The holiday gives us all a chance to be with loved ones under one roof, partaking of a delicious, warm dinner prepared by one or more individuals. However you celebrate this month and wherever you may be, let's not forget to be kind and thoughtful toward one another, and most importantly, to be thankful.  There is always something in our lives to be thankful for.

Cheers!
David