Ganache Magic!

Chocolate ganache is magical. It really is the most magical food you can make and every time I whip a batch up, I’m enchanted. A very forgixving recipe, even if you mess up the proportions it’ll probably still come out okay. Part of what’s so magical is how easy it is to whip up and how versatile this concoction is. It’s my single most-made recipe. Observe:

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High Heel Fashion Cookies

These cookies are ready for a night on the town! I made a set of purple high-heeled sugar cookies for my friend’s mother’s birthday.

I didn’t have a heel cookie cutter and it was too short-notice to buy one, so I cut the basic shape by hand.

The heel shape got piped onto the cookie and I left the background blank. I wasn’t sure how it’d look, but I like the way it came out. Really lets the shoe shine. Next time, I’ll be more careful to keep the sparkle on just the icing, not the cookie base!

Everything was covered in luster dust and glitter dust for an extra sparkle and shine.

Simple, but sweet.

This one here was one of my favorites.

Fashionable and fun! I’d totally wear that purple shoe with the teal bow.

All lined up and ready to go out for a walk.

Some of the shoes came out rather funny-shaped, so I think I need to give these another go so I can really perfect them. Perhaps a high heel cookie cutter is in order.

Patriotic Sugar Cookies

Every heart beats true for the red white and blue! These cookies were actually sent to a congressman’s office back in November during the election campaign, but I figured that with all the craziness going on in DC, now was as good a time as any to post them.

I had fun with a basic red, white a blue starts & stripes theme.

That one up there reminds me of Captain America a tad too much.

I added a touch of white luster dust to smooth out the details. Working with bold colors is very unforgiving and the dust helps soften them.

I like the diagonal ones the best. The stars were tricky to pipe freehand but I finally got the hang of it.

Oreo Red Velvet Brownies

Will someone please just tell all the other brownies that they’ve lost and they should just go home? Because these oreo red velvet cheescake brownies will win every single time.

 Red velvet brownies. Why? Just do it, okay.  Start off with a dense, red velvet base.

Generous cheesecake swirl on top. 

 Oreos. Oreos, Oreo crumbs, Oreo pieces. Everywhere. These brownies are incredibly decadent but you’ll keep going back for more. Guaranteed crowd pleaser!

Baseball Cake

Take me out to the ballgame! This baseball cake was commissioned as a birthday surprise. A three-tired cake with a baseball on top. The biggest layer, the bottom one, was only 6 inches across. Think miniature.

The birthday boy’s girlfriend wanted a Giant’s colored baseball themed cake and left the designing up to me (my favorite kind of order!). Well, baseballs aren’t orange, so I did the best I could to keep tried to the theme and stick to the basics of the game.

Everything is fondant-free, of course. I just used swiss meringue buttercream for everything. It’s nice because it hardens up in the fridge so it’s easy to work with.

My first time using the grass piping tip, can you believe it? I like the added texture.I had some trouble with the orange/white seam, as you can see, but I learned enough that the next time I make a cake like this, it’ll be even better. Not everything I make is perfect, especially not the first time around, but I try to make each project into a learning experience.

I got lucky with the dome shape at the top  – the carving could have gone horribly wrong but it worked out great! Overall, not a perfect cake but definitely a fun one! Raspberry chocolate cake on the inside, by the way. Yummy!

Surfing Cookies

It took long enough, but let’s celebrate the sun FINALLY coming out after a long winter.

These were actually Christmas/Holiday cookies for some of my dad’s surfing pals, but I didn’t think my East Coast readers would appreciate the bragging about SoCal weather had I posted them back in December.

Hawaiian shirt cookies and edible surfboards.

The floral print on the Hawaiian shirt cookies was done using a marbling technique. I put icing drops of one color onto the still wet base and used a toothpick to draw each dot in to make a petal. I always want to make a tutorial, but you have to work fast with this technique and I never have enough hands to keep the camera frosting-free!

The little pocket on the breast of the shirt is my favorite.

I had fun with the surfboard designs. I just piped wavy lines and filled them in what whatever color pastry bag I was holding.  I was running out of royal icing at the end so I eeked out whatever was left and I just made it!

Don’t they make you want to head to the beach and lay out in the sunshine?

Here’s to springtime and summer!

Raspberry Brownie Bites

Let’s dress up a classic dessert – brownies – and get them all ready to go to a party, shall we?

I baked my favorite brownie recipe, by Smitten Kitchen, of course, into this awesome brownie bite pan.  It’s basically a mini cupcake pan, but with squares. It’s pretty shallow, which makes for perfect, bite-sized desserts.

After baking, I melted some dark chocolate and thinned it a bit with vegetable oil so it’s be nice and runny. I dunked some of the squares into the chocolate, lets the extra drip, and let them set on a piece of wax paper.  Not only does the chocolate coating taste great, but it also helps to seal in the freshness and moisture. You can see the chocolate covered ones below; they look like petit fours.

Some got chocolate ganache heaped on top of the brownie bites instead of a complete coating. 

And the white cloud of deliciousness you see is marshmallow fluff.  I was in a hurry so I didn’t have time to make frosting, plus the brownies were being served at a dairy-free event and I didn’t want to mess with margarine frosting, but I’m really happy with how the fluff looked and tasted.

They were topped off with fresh raspberries. 

The little squares looked like perfectly delicious gems. Next time, I think I’ll try a light glaze on top of the berries to make them really shine. Chocolatey, fruity, sweet and chewy.

And they’re so small that you can try one or two [every time you walk by the fridge].

Jewish recipes, hamentaschen, lemon bar step-by-step

Lemon Bar Hamentaschen: Step-by-step

Purim is coming up! It’s a Jewish holiday filled with celebration, silliness, and, of course, food. In celebration (and because they’re delicious) I made some hamantaschen. They’re basically just a three-cornered cookie with some sort of filling in the middle. These amazing recipes have been making their way around Facebook, and I was inspired by the lemon bar variety.

So let’s get started! We start with a basic sweet dough. This one is butter free, baking this entire recipe dairy free – yay! The dough is tougher and sturdier than your average cookie dough and also less-sweet. I used this dough recipe here. Roll the dough out right away and cut into circles. I didn’t have a circle cookie cutter, so I used a drinking glass. Worked just as well.

Because I was using a liquid filling, I didn’t fold the cookie around the filling. Instead, I folded the cookie first to make a little cup.

Just pinch in each corner.

Make sure to press firmly so they don’t open up in the oven.

Nice little cups ready for filling.

I made a standard lemon bar filling using eggs, flour, sugar, and lemon juice. I cooked it over the stove to thicken it before filling the cookies.

Spooning it in.

Then I gave the corners and extra pinch just to make sure they stayed where they were supposed to.

And here we go! Beautiful right out of the oven. I did a little dance when I saw how well they kept their shape!

These treats are surprisingly easy and super impressive. From idea to oven in only about 45 minutes.

A little sprinkle of powdered sugar on the top and they’re ready to go.

By the way, these little guys travel pretty well, too.
And taste great! Not too sweet, not too soft, not too crunchy, not too messy. Easy to pick up and eat and a good size, too.
Happy Purim!

Roasted Pears with Vanilla Ice Cream (and caramel)

The perfect Valentine’s day dessert! These treats are pretty easy to make as long as you plan ahead and are perfectly portioned.

Roasted vanilla pear, recipe courtesy of the every-wonderful and oh-so-reliable Smitten Kitchen.  I used vanilla bean paste instead of real beans because that’s just what I had on hand.

Cold homemade vanilla bean ice cream on top of a warm pear straight from the oven. 

It stated to melt before I could take good pictures, so I just dug in and enjoyed the beautiful mess. 

And yes, that would be homemade caramel sauce on top. Caramel is my baking nemesis, but Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s recipe made it so easy.  The roasted pears also made their own sauce of wonderful pear drippings. I drizzled some of that on too, because I couldn’t find a reason not to.

A candle for ambiance. The guests will just have to wait and drool – I’m busy taking artsy pictures over here!

This last picture was taken before I licked the plate clean. Judge all you’d like – it was absolutely delicious.

Winter Wonderland Gingerbread House

With all the snow from Nemo, I thought it might be a good time to post the snowy gingerbread bread house my mother and I made over the holidays.

For the first time, we made the gingerbread house from scratch and cut out the pieces! And of coruse, if I’m going to go through the trouble of making the gingerbread and cutting the pieces, it’s going to be more than just a little square house. Below is a front view of our Victorian-style gingerbread cottage.  

We used Sweetopia’s simple, delicious, and sturdy gingerbread recipe and scaled up this amazing pattern by 100%

Here’s a closeup of the front. The Roof is made of those delicious Pirouette Chocolate cookies (so hard to keep from eating them!) And the door is marshmallow. The mailbox is a white chocolate coated wafer cookie on a green candy stick and the little gold balls are edible sugar dragees.

And here’s the back view. Little baby peanut butter cups as decoration along the roof, a marshmallow chimny, and green m&m’s (the mint flavor) along the back. Plus dragees for a little more sparkle  

Ice cream cone trees (take a pointy cone, turn it over, and pipe green textured frosting on) and a pond in the back. We found these cute gummy candies as decoration and used Amy’s graham cracker bunnies to give the scene some life.  Can you find the set of bunnies who are well, particularly loving?

The pond is jolly rancher – we crushed them up, put them in a pile/circle on tinfoil, and watched the like a hawk as they were melting in the oven. Once they cooled, it was just a matter of peeling off the pond and plopping it into the board.

The ice-skating marks were made by running a wet paintbrush over the pond after it had been (accidentally over-dusted) in powdered sugar.

No winter gingerbread scene would be complete without a snowman. See the little pretzel fence in the back ground? That fence kept falling over, but we finally got it to almost stay up…

Jelly beans along the side.  We bought the candy a few days after Christmas when it was all on sale!

And the whole back view. The snow on top is powdered sugar and, on top of the roof, roral icing smeared on thick.

The front bay is lined with Mike & Ike’s as well as green chewy disks. Not sure what brand they were, but they were definitely delicious. The walkway is made of mini peanut butter cups and cut-up cinnamon and chocolate marshmallows. I didn’t even know they made marshmallows in those flavors and sold them at the supermarket; must have been a seasonal thing.

The windows, by the way, were made using that same crushed jolly ranchers method. I cut the holes for the windows before baking and cleaned them up more right after the gingerbread came out of the oven. Once the giant cookies has cooled, I sprinkles the jolly rancher pieces in the holes and popped them back in the over for a bit until they had melted. It’s hard to see because there’s no light in the house,but the effect was really cool and looked like beautiful stained glass. 

And the front view once more.  With every year comes a new gingerbread house. I’d better start thinking about how to top this one!