Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Red Velvet Sugar Cookies

Valentines Day seems to be an excuse to make things as girly, sparkly, and almost gaudy. And it's okay. I love it. You could dump a whole pound of sparkle sprinkles and it's totally acceptable. So for Saige's preschool class we made some red heart shaped cookies, a huge bowl of buttercream icing and about 15 pounds of sprinkles, sparkle gel and icing for them to decorate till their valentine hearts content.

As I was making the dough, Frank from Gygi's, brought in a bottle of red velvet emulsion that had the lid broken off. I thought for a few seconds, maybe even a little bit longer but blame it on my head cold that I was fighting- man sinus infections are evil, but knew this would be a perfect time to try it out.

Keep in mind, the previously stated sinus infection made it so I couldn't taste a thing!! Terrible thing on a day where I had 4 cooking classes and couldn't taste a single thing made.
So I couldn't taste the strength of the flavor in the cookies but the emulsion made amazing red color which is so hard to obtain and according to Julie, one of my lifesavers- who volunteers and comes and does dishes and help out at the classes, the flavor was pretty good. I think in the future I will add some of this:

It's probably the best tasting cocoa powder ever made, and it does have a red hue so I bet it would add to the color. But if you are okay with not having it super chocolatey flavor keep it straight.
So we mixed it up, placed it in the fridge and a couple of hours and pulled it out, with fridge rack marks and all.

Let it sit for a few minutes to soften back up, trying to roll it out and it being still very cold will only make you angry and want to throw it. So just get set up while its warming up.

This really doesn't need a whole lot of flour to keep it from sticking but lightly flour the counter and the rolling pin. And roll it out pretty thick. That's the secret, thick dough will give you thick soft cookies. I tend to over roll so they aren't always the same thickness but try to get them all uniform.

Doesn't that just scream "I love you, I want to give you my love in the form of a cookie!" yep. It does.

Bake them for about 8-10 minutes, watching carefully. You don't want these cookies to brown, so check it often, keep track of your time and take them out when you think they are almost done. You will thank me when your cookie stays soft and not crunchy.

And even throw a paper straw on there before you bake them ( I placed the uncooked dough over the straw and lightly pressed it down onto the straw and baked like normal). So 30 medium heart cookies and 10 large heart cookies on a stick (for Milo to hand out for his valentines) we had red velvet sugar cookies.

Saige wanted to make homemade lollipops, but being sick I didn't have it in me. So we bought some of my favorite bags, used a cute little saying and handed out 3 blow pops for everyone. 3 manufactured pops make up for 1 homemade, right?
This was fun, a spin on the traditional sugar cookie, which makes me want to try the other emulsions we sell. So stay tunes for more emulsion fun. Until then enjoy Valentine girl, who could never be too Valentiney

And I have to admit, I didn't take a picture of the way Milo's cookies turned out. The frosting smeared, I was frustrated and glad that that it was going to preschoolers. They won't care.

Here is the recipe for the cookies, they really are lovely sugar cookies, just keep in mind, roll them out thick. You will have a soft cookie if you do! Enjoy!

Sugar Cookie Recipe:
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c melted butter
1 tsp vanilla ( for the Red Velvet Cookies, I sub'd the vanilla for the Red Velvet Emulsion, and added about 2 teaspoons, maybe a little more, until I got a good color.)
2 eggs
1 c sour cream
Combine in a separate bowl:
5 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
In a large mixer, add dry ingredients mixture to the wet mix. Mix until all combined. Take dough out and make a ball and wrap into plastic wrap and store in the fridge for 2-3 hours, or even overnight.
When dough is firm, roll out a portion of dough on a floured surface. Roll out thick, really thick. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 9-10 minutes. Bake until firm when touched but color has not changed. You DO NOT want brown edges.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Ultimate Strawberry

Costco sucked me in, once again. Seeing these gorgeous strawberries in the middle of winter brings memories of warmer months and having amazing strawberries always available. So I fell for it and bought this huge container.

With lots of options- strawberry cobbler, lemon strawberry bars, strawberries and milk, strawberry lemonade and even eating them plain-I was stumped as what to make.

I even searched through my favorites, lots of options, all sounding good but in a few cases I was out of some ingredients (called for 4 eggs and I only had 3, etc). So I decided chocolate dipped was the answer for today.

I enlisted the help of a cute girl, who just woke up from a nap, notice the sleepy face. And we prepped our strawberries.

We carefully washed them and placed them to dry.

There is the on going debate with strawberries- stem or not? I see both point of views and I do it both ways depending on the event. If they are eating on the go I take off the stem, no one wants to carry a stem. But also think its great for something to hold on to while eating, and even more while dipping. So your choice!

We lined a cookie sheet with parchment, best thing ever invented. Makes clean up a breeze and nothing sticks to it. Just use and toss when done. Brilliant.

After we washed and hand dried the berries, (if you plan ahead you can let them air dry, but I never have time to let them dry. Just make sure to get all the water off, chocolate and water are enemies and really don't play well together), place them on the cookie sheet spaced out enough that you leave room for the dipping.

While you are drying you can start melting your chocolate. The microwave works just fine, 1/2 power for one minute then stir. Do that again. Keep repeating and stirring until about 90% melted. After that you can stir it together until the rest of he chocolate is melted.

I decided to do an experiment.

At Gygi's I'm shocked at how many questions come up regarding making strawberries. At least a couple times a day, and the bigger surprise to me is what chocolate they have used and plan on buying. "I usually use chocolate chips and melt them down, then usually add some vegetable oil to thin it out."-is the usual comment. I tend to cringe but be very nice about it. And if that is the way you do it, and it works for you, kudos to you. I can't figure it out!

But I wanted to attempt it again. So I melted some dark chocolate chunks, same thing as the cookie chips, melted it the same way as above except after melting, it was really thick.

When dipping my spatula in the white it poured right off, in the dark it stuck right to the spoon and came off in one chunk. (sorry I forgot to take a picture, my helper was on the other side making a mess). So I added a little vegetable oil and stirred. Added some more, it did thin it out but still didn't have the viscosity that I wanted (big word I know, that's one word I learned when becoming a chocolatier haha, more on that another day).

So we started dipping. I like to go about. 3/4th of the way up the berry. Saige likes to do about 1/3. It's totally your call and there is no right or wrong.

After you dipped it in, lift out and and gently shake the excess off. Make sure not to go to crazy, chocolate will go everywhere and you could break off the stem. So be careful.

If you prefer, shake it above your finger. It is a good way to snack on the chocolate.

After you have gotten the excess off gently place back on the parchment to dry. Can you see the difference between these? The one on the left was the first one done, can you see that it's not wet looking, and starts to develop a shell ? That's a good thing.

After they have completely hardened, you can than swirl a different color over or dip again. I highly recommend waiting in between to make sure the chocolates don't run. Again, your call.

So the strawberry above was dipped with the dark chunks, can you see the difference? It's much thicker, wetter, and looks like hot fudge. It's not really the look I was going for so I dipped about 5 and decided to go back to my way. It's so much easier and tastes and looks better.

Enter Peters chocolate. This thing rests in our cupboards, all 10 pounds in its glory. It was bought by Matt for a school project he did and now it calls my name occasionally (okay okay, truth be told, I'm not much of a chocolate lover. But on occasion I do a little). So I cut off a little, tempered it in the microwave and started dipping.

Look how pretty they turned out. Keep in mind they are still wet here, but they are thinner and smoother and perfect.

Even a few got some heart sprinkles. Saige was a great helper and honestly did a lot of these. I helped with the drizzle. Let them set up before taking them off the parchment. They really will set up quickly. Your house temperature may affect it, so if your room is pretty warm stick them outside for a sec, or in the fridge. Just for a bit, it will set up fast.

Loaded them up on a cake stand, and we took them to Nana and Gramps' for a wonderful Sunday dinner.

This big guy still looks good, I shouldn't discount him. Just different than what I am use to.

After doing this I think everyone can come to the conclusion that Chocolate dipped strawberries are actually really quite easy, like really easy. My darling 5 year old did a lot of these, and I would like to think that she is this culinary genius, but this might not be the task for that. You can do it, its fun, easy, and everyone will think that you are amazing, really. So the biggest difference that I know will help you out is THE RIGHT CHOCOLATE FOR THE RIGHT TASK!!! That's it. Use what is made for the task and it will make such a difference.

This is what I used, and recommend.
White Callebaut Snaps
Milk Callebaut Snaps
Dark Callebaut Snaps
or if you are feeling super chocolatey you can use the
Peter's Ultra Milk. (it does take some extra steps, but it's a different quality from the snaps)

We dipped about 50 strawberries and used about 1 cup of each chocolate. So you really don't need a lot. You can even go back and do a double or even triple dip of chocolate after each layer dries.

So I hope I helped, maybe taught you a thing or two. I would love, please please please, to hear how you have done it!! So please share!!


Friday, February 24, 2012

A final farewell

After a week long trip in California, we reluctantly headed back home.

After making cupcakes with Macy, in a new kitchen, we had a good time, nothing is better then funfetti.

Breakfast on the beach.

Yummy for everyone, waffles, breakfast burritos, and omelets. Can't go wrong.

We packed up our stuff.

Made sure to leave out our treasures from Mimi. She stopped by before we left and gave both kids, and even a little for Matt and I, presents to open on the way down!! It was such a lifesaver, and the kids loved looking forward to seeing what they earned.

And with maybe the most pleasant stop in our minds- at Bass Pro Shops we all made a lifelong friend:

Yep. She loves us.
(we may have been so enthralled with this lovely mermaid, that Milo may have escaped over to the slot machines. Luckily the security guard kindly brought him back. We were hoping for at least a couple bucks!)

D to the land

Are there those moments in your life where time can't go quick enough and you just can't get there as fast as you would like?

Disneyland was that place for our kids. They were asked to save their money, and lots of months had to pass but we finally made it there.

The shuttle ride over seemed to take forever for these two. But as we walked through the gates these two had faces as bright as fire and eye's as big as fishbowls.

 Think these kids are excited?

 Milo and Parker were buddies for the day, pretty sure Milo enjoyed being with Parks almost as much as being at Disneyland.

 These two are such the pair. Glad they had some great friends to hang out with, cause Mom and Dad are just not as fun as cousins.

Although, Milo does make sure to give lots of hugs to Mom and Dad. It could be a comfort thing for him to make sure we are there, but I think we enjoy it more than he does.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Saige. Once in a while I get lucky with the camera. 

And this Ms Macy-wow she is one of a kind, and is the funniest, sweetest, cutest girl in the world. I bribed her this trip with my cupcake necklace and had a friend by my side the whole trip.

In true boy style these two were in awe at the boats and water, and wanted to hang out there all day! Good thing we could persuade them to see all the other cool things available.

Ms. Saige, waiting in line for the train, she loved it!

Many frequent Disneyland visitors recommended going to the princess meet and greet first, especially cause Saige would have bugged us the whole time to go there.

Made sure to grab a picture of the princesses in front of the castle. Saige asked, "Is this really where they live?" with the biggest smile on her face!

Once we got there. Saige was in heaven, but I was shocked at how much Milo loved it. He was hugging and touching and was totally in LOVE with these princesses. (haha)

I have said it before, this kid knows how to get the girls.... I just hope he gets it out of his system before he is 13.

With our large family group, we tried to stay together but ended up splitting up a little and met up throughout the day!

Mickey Mouse visits were a must.

Wishes in the wishing well with Lindsey and Jake made everyone happy.

Tea cup rides made us dizzy.

But they are a required.

Watching the boats float by as we awaited our turn on "it's a small world".

Sweet Lisa and Amanda. Still waiting for Small World.

And we finally got on the boat! And managed to get our whole family on the same boat!

Even hungry sweet new Spence made the trip. He was so good!

Goofy rides and walks around the park, made for a fun day with lots of people.

Parades caught Saige's attention and made it so she couldn't even smile for a picture.

Monte Cristo's for Lindsey- pretty sure I hate a week's worth of calories with this one meal- but we were in DLand. It's not everyday right?

Fireworks at the end were a perfect ending to an amazing day. As we were waiting Saige leaned down, and whispered, "Dad, this really is the best place. I had the best day!" that alone made the day worth it. And with hair like that, doesn't it scream, "I HAVE HAD A GREAT DAY!!!"?

And thanks to Jake, he made a great Pillow and a great ending to a wonderful night!

While everyone was leaving the park after the fireworks, we had a few people that still wanted to catch a few more rides. Matt and I hung out with the sleeping kids, totally wiped out from the day!

I think it was safe to say that everyone had a good time, Milo still asks to go back, and even said the other day, " Mom, I decided that on my mission, I am going to go to Disneyland!" I think he has a great idea there- where else can you get so many different people, and it is called the Happiest Place on Earth- great way to teach about the plan of salvation, right?

Thanks Disneyland, you didn't disappoint.