Saturday, February 24, 2018

For the Love of Green

Spring officially begins for me with the first sightings of our beautiful crocuses and snowdrops which surround our house.  It doesn't matter what the calendar tells me, these little harbingers of the coming season, signify that our landscape is slowly but surely waking up.  In a matter of weeks, everything will be green!

I simply had to go outside early this morning to cut a few dozen snowdrops from the sloping glade behind our house.  There are literally thousands upon thousands of snowdrops surrounding our home, that bringing in a few dozen feels like nothing.  

With a pair of sharp scissors and a small basket, I gathered as many delicate snowdrops as I could, and began making small arrangements.

Spring is a very good time for me to dust off and wash my beautiful collection of jadeite (jadite) glass, because it looks absolutely wonderful on the dining table, in my kitchen cabinets and on the counter.  This alluring green glass happens to be in one of my favorite shades of green.    

What you must understand is that I don't always display my green glass.  I tend to reserve it for spring, summer, and a few times during winter (especially around Christmas!).  I can also be picky about the type of jadeite I allow in my house.  It has to be American made bar none, and it has to be from either the 1940s-1960s, or from the millennium.  I have yet to add any contemporary jadeite that is currently being made in Ohio.        

(Side Note:  the color green has been my favorite ever since I can remember.  From an early age, I gravitated toward green things.  Mom says that I always had to have things in green.  Toys, clothing, pens and markers, book bags, name it! She's so right.  When I turned six years old, I remember requesting a "green party".  I wanted everything in the color green; from the birthday cake, the presents and what I was going to wear that day.  Mom, being the indulgent parent that she was and is, made sure I had what I wanted.  To this day, the color green seems perfect to my mind.)

I haven't mentioned little Henry in a while, but he is growing.  From week to week he seems just a little bit bigger, a little bit heavier, and just a tad more adorable.  He is very curious about every single thing that goes on in our home.  

Naturally, this morning's flower arranging had to be inspected by Henry.  He carefully walked around the flowers, smelling each bunch and dipping his nose from vessel to vessel.  Henry approved of the snowdrops! 

I can't wait to start using my Fire King restaurant ware from the 1950s in the coming weeks.  My heavy cups and saucers are ready to be filled with some delicious coffee for an early breakfast, the berry bowls are set to hold a fresh-from-the-oven biscuit or scone, my Fire King double egg cups are just the thing for fresh eggs from my neighbor's hen house, and the salad and dinner plates can soon hold any number of sandwiches, pasta salads or desserts that I know I'll be making.  

Are you ready for Spring and all of the green that is coming with it?  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Puzzle Piece Sugar Cookies

My friend Dennis, who happens to be a superb baker, preserve maker, gardener and cook, recently helped his great nieces create some fantastic puzzle piece sugar cookies for a school project of theirs.  With the help of his two nieces, Dennis and company made dozens of multi-colored puzzle pieces which were gathered and arranged into cookie bouquets.  

The mission of this project was to let children know that we are all part of one great, big puzzle in life.  Puzzle pieces come in different shapes, sizes and colors, and every piece is essential.  Every piece is valuable.  

The girls holding a printout of my recipe, along with the dough!

I was flattered that Dennis decided to use my Heirloom Sugar Cookie recipe for these colorful beauties, because it is one that I've come to trust time and time again.  Needless to say, Dennis loved it and so did the kids.  

Dennis isn't one to do things on a small scale.  Using his large commercial Hobart mixer, pound after pound of sugar cookie dough was made in no time at all.

Here is that beautiful cookie dough as it was coming together.  Can you imagine having this 20qt. mixer?  The machine itself weighs around 200 lbs!!

Using this French rolling pin which was given to Dennis by his friend Judy, the dough was rolled out to the desired thickness before the pieces were cut out.

The girls took their duties seriously.  Dennis made sure to instruct them that the dough needed to chill thoroughly.

I love this photograph because you can tell that Dennis, as a great uncle, and as the consummate baker, has taught his nieces to cut out as many shapes as possible, as close together as possible.  This is the way I like to work with sugar cookies, because it creates less scraps and less waste.

Working over a paper plate, the baked and cooled cookies were given some colorful royal icing.

Some of the cookies were stenciled with food coloring spray.  Very spiffy!

Once the cookies were dry, Dennis attached lollipop sticks to the backs of each cookie, and these were then carefully arranged in baskets, which were filled with the most colorful ribbons and tissue papers.  Success!

This kind of project is one that you can recreate in your own home.  Cut out and bake sugar cookies in the shapes of puzzle pieces, make several batches of royal icing in bright colors, and assign the kids some simple tasks so that they are all a part of the big picture.  Before you know it, you'll have your own edible puzzle pieces.

Many thanks to my friend Dennis and to his nieces for allowing me to share their remarkable creativity!  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Xoxo Sugar Cookies for Valentine's Day

If you want to surprise your lovey this Valentine's Day, make a few sugar cookies and quickly decorate them using a combination of royal icing, and a cake decorator's gold highlighter.  There is no need to spend endless amounts of time in the kitchen piping elaborate designs on cookies to show how much you love your significant other.  A base coat of tasty royal icing, some brushstrokes of a superb highlighter, and voila!  

Let's jump right into this year's Valentine's Xoxo cookies because you're going to want to make some for the love(s) of your life.

Bake your cookies using a reliable sugar cookie recipe.  As you can see, I cut out dozens of hearts.    

For this project, I only used three colors to pipe onto the cookies.  White, red and light pink royal icing were the colors I wanted to work with.

There is something magical about seeing a tray full of iced cookies that are waiting to dry.  That glossy, wet look is out of this world!

Unfortunately, during humid weather (such as what we're experiencing here in Philadelphia) this part cannot be rushed.

Once the bases are completely dry, add some gold highlighter into a small container and either add, drop by drop, clear lemon extract or unflavored vodka.  You want to mix it with a small paint brush until you have a smooth color.

For my cookies, I centered the XOXO and left the letters to dry completely. The cookies can be left as is if you wish.

I decided to add a bead of icing, in the same color as the base, to each cookie. I used a #1 piping tip to create the border.

Once the cookies dry completely, they can be packaged up in boxes, clear cellophane bags, a platter or even some cake stands.  It's up to you.

These joined hearts were rather whimsical.  Each heart was given a base color, and while the icing was wet, I drew the colors in opposite directions as shown. As soon as the bases dried, I painted the same XOXO onto them, and finished each cookie with a bead of icing.  

Done and done!  It's up to you how you want to surprise your loved ones this Valentine's Day, but make sure to include something sweet, as per tradition. Make them bright, make them tasty.  Send the love of your life some hugs and kisses this February 14th.  


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Philadelphia Eagles Cookies

If you're in the Philadelphia area, then you know that this weekend is all about the Philadelphia Eagles.  A week ago I was asked to make some custom Philadelphia Eagles sugar cookies for my favorite cafe.  Going through images of the football team's logo, I narrowed it down to the football helmet that all of the players use; a Philadelphia green helmet with the wing of an eagle.  After making one large batch of them, I was pleased with the results.  Needless to say, people went crazy over them!  Throughout the week I had to make dozens and dozens of cookies, and each batch sold out within a few hours of arriving at the cafe.

You don't have to be from Philadelphia to support my city's football team.  I have friends in North Carolina, Massachusetts and California, who are behind the Eagles.  What better thing to have for people at your Super Bowl party than a plate full of Philadelphia Eagles sugar cookies?  Let me show you how easy they are to make.

Make several batches of my tasty sugar cookie recipe and then a couple of batches of my royal icing to decorate the cookies.  Here I am using my commercial Hobart mixer to make this an effortless process.

Roll out and cut 4" rounds, and then bake and cool the cookies.  After you've mixed the royal icing, tint a large batch of it using a combination of Ateco turquoise, Ateco leaf green and a drop of Ateco black, to get that unmistakeable Philadelphia green color.  It's not quite full on turquoise or leaf green.  It's somewhere in the middle, with a hint of black.

Freehand the shape of a football helmet as shown above with the Philly green color, using either a #4 or a #5 piping tip.  Don't forget to outline a small circle for the ear hole.  This is the dam which will hold in the color for flooding.

Immediately fill in the entire football helmet with the green color, getting an even layer of icing throughout the cookie as shown.  Continue with the other cookies.

It's important to let the base of the cookie dry completely before continuing with the decorating.

Using a black royal icing and a #2 piping tip, pipe the mouthguard area as shown, and immediately pipe the shape of that inimitable wing of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Using a gray royal icing and a #2 piping tip, fill in the bottom 4 feathers as shown.

Using white royal icing and a #2 piping tip, fill in the rest of the wing as shown.

While the royal icing is wet on the wing, immediately draw out the gray icing onto the white icing as shown, using a cake decorating modeling tool or a toothpick.  Do the same to the black areas where the feathers connect.  Using the same decorator's pick, draw out the ends of the feathers.  Let the entire cookie dry completely.

The cookies are done!

Aren't these super easy?  I know that if you decide to make a batch of these cookies for your Super Bowl party, you're going to be the hero of the day. Everyone is going to want to take one, so plan on making extras.  They're not going to last.

Whether you are rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles or the New England Patriots, get your cookie cutters out and make some fantastic football-themed cookies for tomorrow's game.

Go Eagles!!