Sunday, March 28, 2010

Decorated Easter Cookies - week 13 of 52

This weekend a friend and I decorated cookies for Easter! I used an Alton Brown sugar cookie recipe and decorated with royal icing (different from buttercream icing, because when royal icing dries, it dries to a hard, smooth finish).

My friend made gingerbread cookies and I made the sugar cookies, we decorated and then split the cookies. Coworkers, you can expect tasty tasty Easter cookies this week!

The sugar cookies take a little time to make (needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours) but they turned out great! Note: the dough will be quite hard when it comes out of the fridge, but after working it a little, it will soften up.

This is my second time decorating cookies and it takes a steady hand, practice, practice and more practice and a little bit of creativity to get beautiful cookies.

Did you knows:

- Bulk Barn has an excellent selection of baking accessories (ie disposable piping bags, sprinkles, coloured sugar, bulk icing sugar).
- I recommend Wilton’s meringue powder vs the Bulk Barn version, as it is finer, and dissolves better
- has some great examples of decorated cookies
- If you type in “Easter Cookies” in Google images, there are beautiful cookies decorated by other bakers for ideas

Happy Easter and bon appétit!

Sugar Cookies – makes 36

• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1 tablespoon milk
• 1 tsp vanilla
• Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg, milk & vanilla and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill. Cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack. Serve as is or ice as desired.

Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Royal Icing Using Meringue Powder – makes enough to ice 36 cookies

• 4 cups (440 grams) confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar
• 3 tablespoons (30 grams) meringue powder
• 1/2 teaspoon extract (vanilla, lemon, almond)
• 1/2 - 3/4 cup (120 - 180 ml) warm water

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder until combined. Add the water and beat on medium to high speed until very glossy and stiff peaks form (5 to 7 minutes). If necessary, to get the right consistency, add more powdered sugar or water. To cover or 'flood' the entire surface of the cookie with icing, the proper consistency is when you lift the beater, the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface of the icing for a few seconds before disappearing.

The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

Makes about 3 cups

Good eats!

Last week I got a new Kitchenaid stand mixer and it's great! It's changed the way I bake! I can now put all the ingredients in the mixer and walk away. It is great when making things like icing, which sometimes need to be mixed for 5-10 minutes! It certainly came in handy this weekend when I made sugar cookes and royal icing. The best investment ever!

Bon appetit!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Simply Lovely Lemon Bars - week 12 of 52

The first time I had lemon squares I was visiting a friend in Arizona and her mom had bought some from a bakery. I found a recipe in my Complete Canadian Living Cookbook. The cookbook has all the basics you will need and all recipes are “Tested Till Perfect”. The fresh tanginess is quite nice – they could be a little more tart (I didn’t have quite enough zest – that might be it).
The crust is simple to make and similar to shortbread and the lemon part is mostly eggs. It’s a nice after dinner treat and would be perfect for afternoon tea!

Simply Lovely Lemon Squares – makes 30

3/4 cup (175 mL) butter, softened
1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour

4 eggs
1-1/4 cups (300 mL) granulated sugar
2 tbsp (25 mL) finely grated lemon rind
1/2 cup (125 mL) lemon juice
1/4 cup (50 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
1 tbsp (15 mL) icing sugar

Grease 13- x 9-inch (3.5 L) metal cake pan; line with parchment paper. Set aside.
In bowl, beat together butter, sugar and salt until light; stir in flour until blended. Press into prepared pan. Bake in centre of 325°F (160°C) oven until golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on rack.

TOPPING: Meanwhile, in bowl, beat eggs with granulated sugar until pale and thickened. Add lemon rind and juice, flour and baking powder; beat until smooth. Pour over base.
Bake in centre of 325°F (160°C) oven until set, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on rack. Dust with icing sugar. Cut into bars. (Make-ahead: Layer between waxed paper in airtight container; refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 1 month.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Billy's Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes - week 11 of 52

Billy's Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes

One of my favourite things on earth is white cake with white icing (yes, the white birthday cake from the grocery store). The Two-bite white cupcakes are close second! This week, I wanted to make cupcakes from scratch and I found this recipe on These are the famous cupcakes from Billy’s Bakery in NYC. I decided to substitute one vanilla bean pod for vanilla extract, for a most rustic vanilla cupcake.

They are incredibly easy to make and are fun to decorate (decorating being the best part)! The cupcakes are better than the grocery store cake – the cupcake is just the right amount of sweetness and the icing turned out perfectly! I made mini cupcakes, which are a perfect two-bite size.

The icing recipe makes quite a bit – I would suggest making 2/3rds of the recipe, otherwise you will have a lot of leftover icing. As well, a little piece of advice - a stand mixer is much handier for making the icing because I will guarantee your arm will hurt from mixing that icing. Let your stand mixer do the work!

The easiest way to fill muffin tins without the mess is to fill a zip-top bag with the cupcake batter and snip a little hole at the bottom and pipe into prepared muffin tins.

Also, if you're going to decorate your cupcakes, Bulk Barn has a huge (and affordable) selection of sprinkles, coloured sugars, icing flowers etc.

Did you know: Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla native to Mexico. This rare pod grows on an orchid that can only be pollinated one day a year (thanks to Wikipedia and Alton Brown for this info!)

Bon appétit!

Billy’s Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes – makes 30 large cupcakes



• 1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
• 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
• 4 large eggs
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I substituted one vanilla bean)
• Billy's Vanilla Buttercream
• Colored Sprinkles, for decorating, optional

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.
2. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.
3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.
4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter. Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Billy’s Vanilla Buttercream

Makes enough for 30 cupcakes
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add 6 cups sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy. If necessary, gradually add remaining 2 cups sugar to reach desired consistency.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Homemade sponge toffee - week 10 of 52

This week I thought I would dig out my candy thermometer (see week 4) and try making homemade sponge toffee. I love Crunchie bars and those are the ones I would always save for last from my Halloween candy stash! I found Christine Cushing's homemade sponge toffee recipe online. You combine suguar, corn syrup, water and cook until about 300⁰F and add baking soda - pretty easy!

Did you know (a couple of things I learned along the way):
- once sugar syrup gets to near 300⁰F, it goes from gold coloured to dark brown/burnt very fast - keep an eye on the syrup mixture! The first batch turned out a little too dark (read: burnt) so I had to make a second batch (tastes terrible too!)

- when you add baking soda to the sugar syrup a chemical reaction happens to make the syrup expand. Think grade 3 baking soda/vinegar science experiment, a little less violent though

- you need to work pretty quickly once the mixture is taken off the heat because it wants to cool and harden

- cleaning the pot that the candy was in - a little bit of a pain! Soaking the pan for 5-10 minutes will make cleanup a little easier.

The result was Crunchie worthy sponge toffee! To make these even more tasty dip in melted chocolate chips - homemade Crunchie bars!

Bon appétit!

Homemade Sponge Toffee - makes lots!



2 1/2 cups granulated sugar (625 ml)
2/3 cup light corn syrup (150 ml)
6 tablespoons water (90 ml)
2 tablespoons baking soda (30 ml)
2 teaspoons vanilla (10 ml)

1.Grease a 9 by 13-inch pan with vegetable oil. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper, making sure the parchment sides are at least 2 inches above the sides of the pan. Grease the parchment paper with a little more oil.
2.In a deep medium saucepan add sugar, corn syrup, water, and vanilla. Over medium-high heat bring the mixture to a boil (without stirring) and cook until hard crack stage, i.e. until temperature reads 300 degrees F. on a candy thermometer. This should take about 10 minutes. During the cooking process, if there are any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan, brush the sides of the pan with a clean pastry brush dipped in water.
3.Remove the sugar mixture from the heat. Working quickly, add the baking soda and whisk to incorporate the soda into the sugar mixture, about 5 seconds. Note the mixture will bubble up when you add the baking soda so be very careful not to touch the hot toffee. Immediately pour the hot toffee into the prepared pan. Let cool and set completely before touching. Break into pieces and serve. Store at room temperature in an airtight container

Monday, March 1, 2010

Good eats!

Good eats - special Olympic edition! There is nothing sweeter than Canadian men's hockey gold - well, maybe a Canada Donut from Tim Hortons and a double double coffee! They are a limited item at your local Timmy's. So proud to be Canadian, eh?