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Craftsy Writer
Sunday
Dec142014

My Parents as Pastries

Pastry portrait

This year, I made my parents a very special early Christmas present: a portrait of them as pastries, in front of their house (yep, the one I grew up in) in New Jersey!

My mom is depicted as a sweet little cupcake with a sewing project, a fancy little handbag, and a box of chocolates from Jean Louise in Spring Lake. 

My dad is depicted as a frosted brownie, with shades and a surfboard even in winter. Because yes, that is how he rolls.

Here's the reference picture I used:

First, I made a pen and ink drawing. Pastry portrait I took a break to test out various methods of applying masking fluid to make a snowy look. Pastry portrait and further along: Pastry portrait

and here is the picture and the finished piece side by side.

Pastry portrait

I think it came out pretty darned cute, and I thought by posting it here, it might just make you smile. Well, did it? Hey, maybe you should hire me to make a portrait of your family next year or for an upcoming birthday. Just sayin'. Find my online store here.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday
Dec132014

How to Make Ganache with Cocoa Powder

News flash: you can make ganache with cocoa powder.

I'll level with you: sometimes I am lazy. Like, when I want to whip up some ganache right this instant and I already have cream warming and I realize that I don't have any baking chocolate. This is not the moment that I really feel like up and going to the grocery store. This is the moment I wonder: "Can I do this thing with cocoa powder instead of chopped chocolate?". And inside, I am praying. Please, let this work.

Many times, this type of experimentation only ends in frustration and possibly tears. But this time, it worked. The first time I did it, it came out slightly lumpy; the second time, I sifted the cocoa powder first, and it came out fine. Overall: a success. And even better: it tastes great.

Recipe notes

JPHOTO-2012-07-31-8174.jpg

Photo via Flickr member cart_wheels

  • It is very important that you sift your cocoa powder before mixing it with the cream. Otherwise you may have lumps in the finished ganache. It will still taste good, though.
  • You can use unsweetened or Dutch processed cocoa for this recipe.
  • I like this ganache better with a little coffee, sugar, salt, and vanilla. You can omit or adjust these if you like. 
  • Let this mixture sit for a good spell if you're using it to top a cake. It will thicken as it cools. 

Ganache made with cocoa powder

Makes enough to fully coat a 9-inch cake, 1 1/2 cups or so

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon strong brewed coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

Procedure

  1. In a saucepan, heat the cream, stirring frequently to discourage scorching, until it begins to simmer and seems like it might start boiling any moment (but don't let it boil). 
  2. Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining ingredients until smooth. Let the mixture cool to your desired thickness. It will never become hard, per se, but it will set to a smooth, spreadable consistency.

What's your favorite quick fix substitution?

Saturday
Dec132014

CakeSpy's Recent Craftsy Posts

Weenies

How to make Marshmallow fluff from Marshmallows. A winning tutorial!

How to mix green paint. It's really quite adorable.

Learn my secrets: how to draw adorable pastries!

Tips on proper storage for the baking ingredients in your pantry. Bookmark this one for reference!

Cocktail weenies. Let me tell you how to make the best-ever ones, with an optional pig in a blanket upgrade.

Friday
Dec122014

Olive You: Lemon Pistachio Tuiles With Olive Oil

These might just be the most dignified cookies I've ever made: lemon pistachio tuiles with olive oil. 

Before the cookies, though, let me explain a bit about my experience baking with olive oil.

I made these cookies for what is quickly becoming one of my favorite companies to work for: Colavita. I've long purchased their olive oil, because I think you get a pretty good bang for your buck--they have a very good flavor but won't break the bank. I am a big fan of olive oil on bread or salads. When olive oil is drizzled over a pizza before serving...well, let me just tell you, that is my happy place.

Tuiles

I'm a little newer to baking with olive oil, but the more I do it, the more I love it. It gives cakes an intriguing texture, and a flavor that is something different entirely than a butter cake. I'm not saying I'm abandoning butter--that is never going to happen. But I am saying that if you want a totally new taste experience, try pound cake made with olive oil. Seriously. 

Tuiles

So, back to the cookies. 

First things first: how do you say the name of this cookie? Tuile rhymes with “wheel”, and ideally should be uttered in your Frenchiest accent. “Tuile” comes from the French word for “tile”; allegedly, the cookies’ resemblance to a particular type of roof tile are said to have inspired the name. While that particular connection may be a bit tenuous, the cookies are a sophisticated delight, lightly crunchy and bursting with flavor.

I made these with Colavita’s Limonolio Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which contains fresh lemon, and makes these cookies practically sing with zingy flavor. These crunchy cookies aren't just lemon-flavored, though: that zippiness is rounded out with lightly salty, rich pistachios. For a simple presentation, dust them with confectioners’ sugar, or if you’re in the mood to gild the lily, dip or drizzle your “tuiles” in decadent Perugina chocolate.
Tuiles

 

See the full recipe and tutorial.

Friday
Dec122014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Desserts that are GREEN. (CakeSpy online shop)

Yep. You can transform marshmallows into fluff. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

A people's history of "slutty" brownies. (The Perfect Brownie)

Yogurt minute bread. Intrigued? You should be. (Love, Thyme, and Honey)

Best-ever blondies? You've got my attention. (Hip Foodie Mom)

Chocolate chip pecan pie bars. SO MUCH YUM. (The Little Kitchen)

Brown butter maple cornbread. (Tutti Dolci)

What is figgy pudding, anyway? (Good Housekeeping)

What do Mary Jane candies and Paul Revere have in common? (Necco Candy)

Refreshingly creative gift ideas for foodies. (Burlington Free Press)

Always perfect for the holidays: candy cane cookies. (CakeSpy)

Food trend forecast for 2015. What do you think? (McCormick)

Book of the week: Blue Corn And Chocolate (Knopf Cooks American Series) Every food has a story. When new foods are introduced to a new land, they become part of the old world cuisine, and are gradually absorbed in their new homeland. Sometimes they take off in a big way--like the tomato in Italy! Author Elizabeth Rozin describes how travel and trade have affected the way we eat in a huge way.

Thursday
Dec112014

Merriest Christmas: Peanut Butter Snowballs

If you need a little Christmas, right this very minute, then this peanut butter snowball recipe is just the ticket to get you on a one way trip to holiday tastiness. It's also my latest creation for Peanut Butter and Company.

These cookies share the classic shape and crumbly texture of snowballs (also called Russian teacakes, Mexican wedding cakes, Armenian sugar cookies, bullets, and, oddly, moldy mice), but they have a taste that is full of peanut buttery goodness. Using crunchy peanut butter ensures good structure and offers enough bulk that they hold their shape; the lack of eggs and leavener keeps the cookies delicate, and distinctly different in character from the type of peanut butter cookies which are cross-hatched with the tines of a fork.

These cookies are a classic kissed with peanut butter to create a true holiday delight. Truth be told, though, I doubt anyone would turn these away at any time of the year!

Recipe here!

Thursday
Dec112014

The Best Chocolate Coconut Oil Maple Syrup Dipping Sauce

Chocolate coconut sauce and cornmeal cookies

Well, did I intrigue you with the title? I hope so, because this sauce is IT, dudes and dudettes.

What can you dip in chocolate coconut oil maple syrup sauce? Any and everything you can think of. Cookies, ice cream, cake, pie. I haven't tried it with a hamburger and fries yet but I'm pretty sure it would manage to improve that, too. Seriously--this stuff is just that good.

Chocolate coconut sauce and cornmeal cookies

This recipe was included in a preview review copy of a coming-soon novel entitled Criminal Confections (A Chocolate Whisperer Mystery). The book is super cute, exactly the type of mystery-meets-chick lit-meets foodie fiction type of book I read when I am alone (if I'm in public, it's War and Peace or something that makes me look smart, of course). I haven't finished the book so I haven't come to the recipe within the story yet, but it was included on the marketing sheet that came with the book, and I thought it sounded interesting.

Chocolate coconut sauce and cornmeal cookies

This sauce comes together in oh, about two minutes, and offers many delicious rewards. I have been enjoying it as a dipping sauce served alongside cornmeal pecan cookies (I'll post that recipe soon), but like I said, it really does make everything better.

"Hayden Mundy-Moore's Chocolate Butter"

Notes from the author: the keys to this recipe are the coconut oil and pinch of salt. The coconut oil gives the chocolate butter just the right luscious consistency. The salt (flaky sea salt is great if you've got it!) adds complexity. Natural cocoa powder and Dutch-processed cocoa powder both work well in ths recipe. Honey can be substituted for maple syrup, if you prefer.

from Criminal Confections (A Chocolate Whisperer Mystery)

  • 1/4 cup refined coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa power
  • pinch of salt

Melt the coconut oil in the microwave or on the stovetop over low heat. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and whisk until smooth. It will become thicker as it cools. Enjoy!

What's your favorite dipping sauce for sweets?

Wednesday
Dec102014

Recipe Redux: Butterscotch Chip Microwave Fudge

Fudge? That you can make in the microwave? Who has ever heard of such a thing?

Um, you have. On this very site, several years ago. It's OK. I understand that if you're new to the site you haven't spent all day sifting through my archives. I also understand that if you're a longtime reader...well, you forget things.

But this recipe is good enough to bring back. I made it "new" by employing butterscotch chips instead of peanut butter this time. And let me tell you, it stands the test of time. It appeals to me both on a level of novelty (it's fudge! made in the microwave!), but also on a level of taste (it's chocolatey! It's very, very sweet! It has butterscotch chips inside and on top!). 

Basically, what I am getting at here is that this recipe is fun, it's tasty, and it's worth your time. It's also easy enough that if you had a cookie swap to go to in an hour, you could still make it RIGHT NOW. 


Butterscotch Chip Microwave Fudge

Makes about 16 squares

  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 cup half and half, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch chip morsels, divided into 1/2 and 1/4 cup

Procedure

  1. Line an 8x8-inch or 9x9-inch pyrex pan with parchment paper or waxed paper.
  2. In a large microwave safe bowl, stir together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa. Pour 1/4 cup of the half and half over the mixture and place butter in bowl. Do not mix (it will be too thick to mix, anyway). Microwave on high until butter is melted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and 1/2 cup of the butterscotch morsels (the residual heat will melt them just enough). Stir vigorously until smooth. You can also put the mixture into a stand mixer if that sounds exhausting. If your mixture is too dry, add up to 1/4 cup more half and half, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together in a fudge-like consistency.
  3. Spoon the mixture into your prepared pan and using a rubber spatula, spread the mixture so that it is evenly distributed. If desired, sprinkle the top with the remaining chips.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour, or the freezer for half an hour, before serving. Makes about 16 squares.

Have you ever heard of or eaten microwave fudge?

Tuesday
Dec092014

Impress Your Friends: Stained Glass Cookies

Stained glass cookies

Let's be honest. When we share our baked goods with others, it's not *only* to unselflessly share sweetness and love. 

It's also to show off. And for a cookie that is really good for showing off, look no further than these stained glass cookies.

Guaranteed you'll get "oohs", maybe some coos, and a lot of questions about how on earth you did it. You don't have to tell; I'm not the boss of you.

But I will tell you how to do it, right here, right now. You start with a cutout cookie, fill it with crushed candy, bake it up, and voila. Total magic. And they taste good, to boot: buttery cookies with a sweet candy middle in whatever flavor you could possibly desire.

How's that for a Christmas miracle? 

Stained glass cookies

Stained Glass Cookies

Makes about 36 2 ½” cookies

  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 6 to 8 ounces assorted translucent hard candies, such as Life Savers, divided by color and crushed finely

Procedure

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add in the granulated sugar and continue to beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 more minutes.
  2. Reduce speed of the mixer to low, and stir in the egg, vanilla and salt. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary using a rubber spatula. Stir until combined.
  3. With the mixer still on low, mix in the flour in 2-3 increments, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Once it’s all been added, only mix until the dough comes together and there are no powdery traces of flour left. The dough may feel crumbly, but it should be easy to clump together.
  4. Divide the dough into two halves, and flatten into two disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until quite firm, at least three hours or up to overnight.
  5. Near the end of your cooling period, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Work with one disk of dough at a time to keep the dough from softening too much. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough to an approximately 1/8″ thickness. Using 2″ to 2 1/2″ cookie cutters, cut the dough into shapes and place on your parchment-lined sheets. Using smaller cutters, cut the centers from each cookie.
  7. Note: If the dough is too firm to roll directly from the refrigerator, let it soften for a few minutes and then try again. It should become easier to roll after a few minutes at room temperature.
  8. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of crushed candy into the center of the cookie (a little more or less depending on the cutout size). You want to evenly cover the cutout portion with crushed candy, so that you can’t see the parchment below the candy and so that it reaches every nook and cranny of the cutout. If any candy-powder gets on the top of the cookies, dust it off.
  9. Bake until just golden at the edges and set on top, 7 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring with a spatula to wire racks to cool completely.

Store the cookies, layered between sheets of waxed or parchment paper, for up to a week in an airtight container.

Tuesday
Dec092014

For Extra Yolks: Sugar Cookies with Egg Yolk Only

I love holiday cookies! But you know what I don't love? Recipes that call for only one part of the egg, like the tuiles I made for Colavita or the holiday tree meringues I made for Craftsy. Don't get me wrong--love the cookies. But those extraneous egg yolks TORTURE me. Like, I feel for a few minutes that it is my mission to make use of those yolks, make sure those eggs weren't cracked in vain. 

Happily, this recipe made use of not one, not two, but THREE of those egg yolks lying in wait. That in itself was an accomplishment, but can you imagine my pleasure when they tasted just lovely? Because that they are. I made a few edits to the recipe I found (you will have to forgive me, I forget where) subbing part whole wheat flour (because I like it), omitting the lemon zest (I just didn't have it) and adding a little more salt. I also added some cinnamon and nutmeg on top of some of the cookies, which made them smell and taste like the holidays.

Somewhat crunchy but with a little "chew" in the middle, these cookies are maybe not a showstopper, but they are a quotidian delight. 

Egg Yolk Only Sugar Cookies

Makes 48 or so

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2/4 teaspoon salt (I like salt - if you like less salt, add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks

 Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Thoroughly stir together first three ingredients. If you have time, sift them. I didn’t and the cookies turned out fine. Stir in the salt.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the vanilla, then one by one, beat in the egg yolks.
  4. Slowly stir in the flour mixture. Mix well.
  5. Form into 1 inch balls and place balls about 2 inches apart on a non-stick or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies start to brown around the edges. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Do you have go-to recipes for extra egg yolks?

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