Saturday, March 31, 2018

Hatching Bunny and Baby Chick Sugar Cookies

It isn't quite Easter at my house until I've iced a few sugar cookies and have brought out my vintage Fire King jadeite.  With spring in the air and the promises of sunny weather, it's the perfect time to initiate an Easter egg hunt, and to make a few Easter baskets for the kids this holiday.


I love Easter to no end.  The pastel colors, the dyed eggs and the endless sweets, bring back good memories from childhood.  Who doesn't remember getting those Paas dye kits from the local Kmart or F.W. Woolworth store? Mom would usually set out bowls to hold the dyes, and us kids would carefully dunk each egg into the smelly solution, turning them around with the little wire holder that came with each kit.  Good times!


As I said, Easter just wouldn't be the same without my sugar cookies.  For family and friends, near and far, I baked and iced some whimsical hatching chicks and some hatching bunnies.  A few small, blue-eyed bunnies decorated with colorful bows, rounded out the selection for this year's Easter baskets.

Take a look at how they were made!

Note:  the cookies shown here were cut out with an egg cookie cutter, a bunny cookie cutter and a hatching bunny cookie cutter.  Royal icings in white, orange, yellow, pink, green, black and sky blue were used to decorate them, along with large 6 mm French drageĆ©s.


For the bunnies, I outlined and flooded each body in white royal icing.  The bases were left to dry completely.  Pink icing and a very fine, #1 piping tip, were used to delineate an ear, and to outline a large bow.  I then filled in the areas of the bows, as shown, and while wet, I carefully placed a very large drageĆ© in the middle.  The cookie was then left to dry.


For the hatching chicks, outline and flood the cracked egg in white royal icing, as shown, using a #3 piping tip.  Immediately, outline and flood the chick's body in a bright-yellow royal icing, using a #3 piping tip.  Let the bases dry completely.  With a #1 piping tip, and the same yellow royal icing, add a whimsical curlicue at the top of the chick's head, and outline and flood two little wings, as shown.  Using a #1 piping tip and an orange royal icing, outline and flood a small beak as shown.  Let this dry completely.


Last, but not least, add two small black dots for eyes on the chicks.  For the bunnies, add a small sky-blue dot for an eye, and outline the details of the bows using a very fine, #1 piping tip and the same pink royal icing.

Done!

This hatching chick looks too adorable sitting on this Fire King, restaurant ware jadeite plate.  It's ready to be gobbled up during tea time.


For some special kids, I created these large bunnies hatching out of eggshells.  This particular cookie cutter comes from Copper Gifts.  Look for it because it will become a family heirloom cutter in your collection.

Outline and flood the cracked egg in either yellow or orange royal icing, and immediately pipe horizontal lines, in alternating colors, using a light blue and white royal icing and #2 piping tips.  Immediately drag a cake decorating pick or toothpick through the icing to create the design.  It's important to wipe the pick between each run so that you don't mar the icing.  Let the eggs dry.


Outline and flood the bunny's body in white royal icing, and while wet, add pink ears, a pink nose and blue eyes.  Let them dry completely before packaging the cookies.


I love the bows on my bunnies.  I think the little critters look extra-spiffy for Easter.  This cookie was set atop a Fire King restaurant ware cup ready for a pouring of tea.  Delicious!



If you've used my heirloom sugar cookie recipe and my perfect royal icing recipe, then I can guarantee that these treats are going to be good.  I like to test one or two just be sure, each and every time.


I hope many of you have baked and iced sugar cookies of your very own this Easter.  Package them in clear cellophane bags and tie each with a colorful ribbon.  You can then carefully place cookies in Easter baskets, or atop platters for the brunch or dinner at your home.  Make them tasty, make them colorful.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Cook's Illustrated, American-Style Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread is essentially a very large scone, one that isn't sweet, but yet is tender, delicious and perfect with a cup of tea.  American-style soda bread adds a little bit more sugar, some caraway seeds and a good amount of plump, juicy raisins.  It was such a bread that I was looking forward to baking this weekend for St. Patrick's Day.


After asking several people for their favorite versions of soda bread, I settled on the recipe by Cook's Illustrated, which can be found in their Baking Illustrated book.  Their recipe uses buttermilk, and I have to say that it makes all of the difference.  The bread is tender, the crumb is light.  


This is the Baking Illustrated recipe!  Please note that I doubled the recipe in these photos, because I wanted to bake 2 breads.  

  • 3 cups lower-protein unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plain cake flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter for crust
  • 1-1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoons caraway seeds
Step 1

Step 1
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Whisk the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together in a large bowl.  Work the softened butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
    Step 2
  2. Combine the buttermilk and egg with a fork.  Add the buttermilk-egg mixture, raisins and caraway seeds and stir with a fork just until the dough begins to come together.  Turn out onto a flour-covered work surface;  knead just until the dough becomes cohesive and bumpy.  12-14 turns.  (Do not knead until the dough is smooth or the bread will be tough.)
    Step 3

    Step 3
  3. Pat the dough into a round about 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches high;  place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.  Score the dough by cutting a cross shape on the top of the loaf.
    Step 3 
  4. Bake, covering the bread with aluminum foil if it is browning too much, until the loaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, or the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees, 40-45 minutes.  Remove loaf from the oven and brush the surface with the melted butter; cool to room temperature, 30-40 minutes.

My only regret this time around was scoring the breads a little deeper than I should have.  This caused the cross in the middle of each bread to spread more than I was hoping for, but nevertheless, the breads were still tasty.


I've already had a couple of slices of Irish soda bread with my afternoon tea.  If there is any bread left, tomorrow morning I will toast some pieces and slather on the butter and jam.  Give this recipe a go in the coming days.  I think you'll like it as much as I do.  Cheers!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

St. Patrick's Day Shamrock Cookies

Sugar cookies in the shape of four-leaf clovers are a festive way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  This year I was so happy to make several dozen for folks around town, especially after having spent days without being able to bake.  With a couple of batches of sugar cookie dough and some smooth royal icing, I set about gilding and icing some pretty shamrocks, for a little bit of that luck of the Irish. 



The brand new shamrock cookie cutters (proudly made in Missouri!) that I purchased on eBay, make beautiful cookies.  The largest of the cookie cutters create a very generous sugar cookie, while the smaller ones make tasty mini bites.  

After cutting out the large cookies, right before baking, I used the smallest of the cutters to score the dough in the center.  The impression of the small, four-leaf clover was etched onto the surface of the cookies as they baked.  This made it easy to ice them.

Three shades of green royal icing were used for this project.  

You have to have a little gold on St. Patrick's Day!

Outline and flood the centered shamrock in any of the green royal icings.  Let the icing dry completely.  Mix unflavored vodka with tiny amounts of gold cake decorator's highlighter until you have a smooth paint color;  add highlighter to a small bowl, and slowly add the vodka, drop by drop.  Using a fine paint brush, apply the highlighter onto the small shamrocks as shown.  These cookies might take 3 coatings of the highlighter before they are picture perfect.  Let each coat dry completely before giving it another go. 

Note: don't worry if you get highlighter onto the negatives of the cookies.  These are going to be covered in royal icing.
 

After the gold shamrocks have dried completely, use green royal icing and a #4 piping tip to outline each shape.

Outline the perimeter of the entire shamrock using the same royal icing.


Immediately flood the shamrocks in the green royal icing until they have been filled.  Proceed with the rest of the cookies until you have a variety of shades of green.  Let the cookies dry completely.


It's up to you whether you want to go back and add a bead of icing to create borders on your cookies or dots where you see fit.  I made a variety so that people could choose what they wanted.

Done!


Don't let St. Patrick's Day pass by without making some shamrock cookies.  You can quickly make dozens of these for your friends, family and neighbors, or for a birthday party.  Gild them, ice them and then devour at least one cookie on St. Patrick's Day.  A Shamrock Sugar Cookie will probably bring you some good luck!    

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March Winter Storm

This past week has been a rough one for our area of Pennsylvania. With snow, wind and downed trees, power was cut off for much of our region. Thankfully our power was restored after four long, cold day.

However, we are in the midst of another Nor'Easter. I hope that everyone in the affected areas of the Northeast is safe and warm.