Royal Icing

Royal icing is so easy to make and really fun to work with.  The trick is in the consistency of the icing.  This icing is used to decorate cut out sugar cookies and will dry hard.  That makes it easy to package up and give as gifts.

I used royal icing on my spring sugar cookies, Easter cookies and butterfly cookies.

I used a #2 piping tip on these pastry bags.

Whisk together water and meringue powder.

Add in the cream of tartar and all the powdered sugar.

With the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, mix until completely incorporated.

Add water one teaspoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.  You need thicker icing for outlining and thinner for flooding.  When I say thick icing, use the 10-second rule.  That means that if you draw a knife across the top of the icing, it should come together in about 10 seconds.  A thinner icing follows the same rule, but should come together in 5 seconds.

If your icing is too thin, just add more powdered sugar.  If it’s too thick, add more water.  Pretty simple.

Separate into smaller bowls and add in the food coloring.  Just one drop of the Americolor brand food color goes a long way.

One drop will give you a pastel color, more will make the color darker and intense.

I like to put my piping bag, fitted with a tip into a tall glass.  It makes pouring the icing into the bag so much easier.

This icing is used mainly for decorating cut out sugar cookies, but can also be used to adorn a cake or cupcake.  To use it on a cake, you will pipe the design out on wax paper and allow it to dry completely.  The shape should just peel off and you can add to your cake.

Royal Icing

From sweetopia.net

3/4 cup warm water

5 Tablespoons meringue powder

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

2.25 lbs. powdered icing sugar (3¾ cups per pound)

In mixer bowl, pour in the warm water and the meringue powder. Mix it with a whisk by hand until it is frothy and thickened…about 30 seconds.

Add the cream of tartar and mix for 30 seconds more.

Pour in all the icing sugar at once and place the bowl on the mixer.

Using the paddle attachment on the LOWEST speed, mix slowly for a full 10 minutes. Icing will get thick and creamy.

Cover the bowl with a dampened tea-towel to prevent crusting and drying.

Tint with food colorings or thin the icing with small amounts of warm water to reach the desired consistency.

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Spring Decorated Sugar Cookies

Decorating sugar cookies is my way of releasing my inner artist.  With a paper and pencil, my best work could rival a 5-year old’s stick person drawing.  But, for some reason a sugar cookie gets my creative juices flowing.  Maybe it’s knowing that I get to eat the tasty art that makes it more appetizing (a little pun intended!).

Regardless, these are my canvases and I love to paint with royal icing!

This cupcake cookie cutter is one of my prized cutters.  It’s a copper one, given to me by a dear friend.  Thanks Vali!

Here are some pretty pink flowers with yellow middles, sprinkled with clear sanding sugar for shine.  This flower cookie cutter is from Wilton.

Butterflies are pretty for the spring.  This butterfly cookie cutter is also a Wilton.

Step one to making the cookie dough is creaming the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Mix until completely incorporated.  After that come the eggs and vanilla.

Sift in the dry ingredients.

Mix until the dough comes together.

Separate into two flat rounds.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

I like to roll on parchment paper with some flour and use half a disc at a time.

Cover with another piece of parchment paper and roll away, to about 1/3 inch (1 cm) thick.

This is my favorite cupcake cookie cutter from Sur la Table.

Cut out with any shape cutter and set onto a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Refrigerate again for about 15 minutes and then bake it off.

If this is your first time making cut out cookies, you should consider splitting it into two days.  It is quite a time-consuming baking project.  Keep in mind that you still have to make the royal icing too.  Those directions will come in my next post.

Sugar Cookies

From sweetopia.net

2  1/2 cups butter (at room temperature)

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 3 tsp vanilla)

5 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1.  Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer on low to medium speed.  (Use the paddle attachment).  Mix until thoroughly incorporated – for about one minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula and mix again for a few seconds more.

Over mixing the butter and sugar in this step will cause too much air to be incorporated into the dough.  If you’d like a light and fluffy cookie, that’s ideal, however the dough will spread more during baking; not ideal if you’d like the cookie to hold its shape.

2.  Add eggs slowly and mix.  Scrape down the bowl with your spatula at least once and mix again.

3.  Cut open your vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out.  Add to mixing bowl.  Alternatively, add liquid vanilla extract.  Stir briefly.

4.  Sift your dry ingredients together.  (Flour, baking powder and salt).

5.  Add all of the flour mixture to the bowl.  Place a large tea towel or two small tea towels between the edge of the bowl and the electric mixer so that the flour won’t escape.  Mix on low speed for 3o seconds.  Remove the tea towels and observe the dough mixing; when it clumps around the paddle attachment it’s ready.  It’s also important at this stage not to over mix the dough (the glutens in the flour develop and the dough can become tough).

6.  Roll the dough out between 2 large pieces of parchment paper.  Place on a baking sheet and into the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.

7.  Roll out the dough further if you need to, and cut out cookie shapes.  Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Re-roll scraps and repeat.

8.  Put cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again.  They will then hold their shape better when baked.

9.  Preheat your oven to 350°F or 176°C.

10.  Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes or until the edges become golden brown.  The baking time will depend on the size of your cookie.

11.  Let cookies cool to room temperature and decorate!



Fresh Herb Compound Butter

I completely realize that adding anything to butter is really gilding the lily, but this compound butter just adds freshness and flavor to any dish.  I selected herbs that were plentiful in my garden.  From left to right, I have thyme, chive, flat leaf parsley and Greek oregano.  You can tell it’s spring because the oregano is budding with its orange flowers.

Compound butter has a multitude of uses.  It can be used for spreading over baked fish, chicken, steaks, pasta or even mashed potatoes.  Where ever you want to add some richness and fresh herbal flavor, this butter is your answer.  It can be easily stored in the freezer, rolled up in wax paper for about 4 months.

I used two spoons to form the butter into quenelles, a three-sided football shape…….just for presentation.  This would be a lovely way to serve butter to company as well.  This video shows a simple way to make quenelles.

 

Compound Butter

1/2 cup butter (one stick)

1 tbsp thyme

1 tbsp chive

1 tbsp parsley

1 tbsp oregano

1/2  tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

 

Bring butter to room temperature.  Finely chop all the herbs and mix together with the butter in a small bowl.  Add salt and pepper.

 

Easter Egg Sugar Cookies

Luckily for us, the Jewish calendar is giving us a really late Easter this year.  It’ll give you a chance to make these cookies and be a cookie decorating pro in just 3 weeks!

I used Wilton’s comfort grip cookie cutter for these and they are the perfect size for your canvas of creativity.  The decorating options are endless.

Here I dabbled with a tiny star tip for the pink flowers and a circle tip for the dots and writing.

 

 

I added some clear sugar sprinkles for shine.

 

 

This cookie uses a really fun technique of piping horizontal lines, alternating in pink and yellow.  While still wet, I dragged a toothpick up and down across the lines to create the marbled affect.

One of my favorite sites for cookie decorating inspiration, Sweetopia has a wonderful step-by-step tutorial for marbling.

 

 

Can you tell I like the star tip?  It just gives great 3-D texture and who can resist tiny little flowers?

One year after making and giving these as gifts, people still remembered these cookies.  There’s nothing like a homemade gift to make your friends feel special!  So this Easter, go out and make some of your friends feel special already!

Of course, don’t forget to keep some for yourself too.

The cookie and royal icing recipes are the same as my butterfly sugar cookies.

Mix It Up!

As you can tell from this two-gallon glass jar, we eat a lot of rice in my house.  This, my friend,  is nothing.

I grew up with an entire 20-gallon bucket of rice that was stored under the kitchen sink in my parents’ house.   It’s the only place it would fit and we couldn’t lift the thing more than 3 inches off the ground, sooo there it stayed!

I was the rice preparer in the family and I’ve washed and cooked enough rice as a child to consider it illegal child labor!

Unfortunately, according to my parents it is the job of every youngest child in the Chinese family to cook the rice.  The bright side is that now it’s my 6-year old daughter’s job in the kitchen.  The irony is………..she LOVES doing it!  It’s a win-win situation.

It seems the whole world is in a tizzy about eating healthy and organic, so I decided to ease my family into it a bit without causing a big raucous.  No, I haven’t totally cleared my pantry of processed food stuffs.

I would have a mutiny on my hands people!

So this is my kitchen tip for rice:  Mix it up!!  Add in organic brown rice with your regular white rice.  Genius, right?  My mixture here is 50/50.  You do have to remember that you either want to add more water when cooking the rice this way, or soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes before cooking, to soften the brown rice.

This little tip has my family eating healthier without the big flavor shock and I feel like I pulled one over on the little buggers!

Creamy Spinach Soup

This spinach soup not only packs a lot of nutrients into a small bowl, it also delivers a punch of flavor.

I’m not sure about all the vitamins in spinach, but I’m sure there’s a lot.  All I know is that it helped Popeye fight Bluto and he always won, so it’s gotta be good for ya’, right?

The velvety mouth-feel of this soup makes it so easy to eat (or drink) and I paired it with a crusty Italian panino, which is a wonderful texture contrast.  The cayenne pepper really wakes up your palette.

The next time you want to serve a simple but elegant soup, try this.

Or, the next time it’s a busy weeknight and you want something flavorful and easy, try this…………right out of the pot!

 

 

Creamy Spinach Soup

Adapted from pioneerwoman.com

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

16 ounces, weight Spinach

2 cloves Garlic, Finely Minced

4 Tablespoons Butter

1/2  Medium Onion, chopped fine

1/4 cups Flour

3 cups Half & Half

2 cups Skim Milk

2 teaspoons Kosher Salt

1/4 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper (Optional)

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

4 ounces Gruyere Cheese, Grated (other Cheeses Are Fine)

In a large skillet, heat olive over over medium heat. Add spinach and garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, or until wilted. Add spinach to a blender or food processor. Pour in 1/4 cup hot water and pulse until pureed. Set aside.

In a large soup pot, cook onion in butter over medium heat until onions begin to soften. Sprinkle flour over the top and stir to combine. Cook for about 2 minutes, then pour in milk, stirring occasionally. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in pureed spinach, then cook another 3 to 5 minutes until thickened.

Check seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, or cayenne as needed. Serve in a bowl. Add a little grated Gruyere.

Butterfly Catcher

There’s nothing more festive than baking and decorating Easter cookies in the spring time.  Easter is a celebration of renewal and new life.  These butterfly cookies are also a vibrant reminder that butterflies will soon be flying around my garden  again.

Here I tried to capture the bright colors and symmetrical patterns that God so lovingly bestowed upon the beautiful butterfly.  I’m sure you’ll find that decorating these cookies are almost as good as eating them!

Try these this Easter and I’m sure you’ll have friends and family ooing and awwing over your work!

 

Sugar Cookies

From sweetopia.net

2  1/2 cups butter (at room temperature)

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 3 tsp vanilla)

5 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer on low to medium speed.  (Use the paddle attachment).  Mix until thoroughly incorporated – for about one minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula and mix again for a few seconds more.

Over mixing the butter and sugar in this step will cause too much air to be incorporated into the dough.  If you’d like a light and fluffy cookie, that’s ideal, however the dough will spread more during baking; not ideal if you’d like the cookie to hold its shape.

2. Add eggs slowly and mix.  Scrape down the bowl with your spatula at least once and mix again.

3. Cut open your vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out.  Add to mixing bowl.  Alternatively, add liquid vanilla extract.  Stir briefly.

4. Sift your dry ingredients together.  (Flour, baking powder and salt).

5. Add all of the flour mixture to the bowl.  Place a large tea towel or two small tea towels between the edge of the bowl and the electric mixer so that the flour won’t escape.  Mix on low speed for 3o seconds.  Remove the tea towels and observe the dough mixing; when it clumps around the paddle attachment it’s ready.  It’s also important at this stage not to over mix the dough (the glutens in the flour develop and the dough can become tough).

6. Roll the dough out between 2 large pieces of parchment paper.  Place on a baking sheet and into the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.

7. Roll out the dough further if you need to, and cut out cookie shapes.  Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Re-roll scraps and repeat.

8. Put cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again.  They will then hold their shape better when baked.

9. Preheat your oven to 350°F or 176°C.

10. Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes or until the edges become golden brown.  The baking time will depend on the size of your cookie.

11. Let cookies cool to room temperature and decorate!

Royal Icing

6 oz (3/4 cup) of warm water

5 Tablespoons meringue powder

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 kilogram (2.25 lbs.) powdered icing sugar

In mixer bowl, pour in the warm water and the meringue powder. Mix it with a whisk by hand until it is frothy and thickened…about 30 seconds.

Add the cream of tartar and mix for 30 seconds more.

Pour in all the icing sugar at once and place the bowl on the mixer.

Using the paddle attachment on the LOWEST speed, mix slowly for a full 10 minutes. Icing will get thick and creamy.

Cover the bowl with a dampened tea-towel to prevent crusting and drying.

Tint with food colorings or thin the icing with small amounts of warm water to reach the desired consistency.

Berry Buttermilk Muffins

These berry muffins came out beautifully and I couldn’t ask for a better way to use up the left over berries from my fruit tart.  They were very tender and moist.  The crunch from the turbinado sugar also adds a wonderful texture contrast to this  billowy soft muffin.

The next time you find yourself with extra berries around the house, try this recipe.  You’ll love them for breakfast in the morning!

 

 

Buttermilk Berry Muffins

adapted from the Joyofcooking.com

 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated white sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Zest of one orange

1 large egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup buttermilk

2/3 cup safflower or canola oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups fresh raspberries and blackberries

1/4 cup turbinado raw cane sugar

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Position rack in center of oven. Butter or spray with a non stick cooking spray 12 – 2 3/4 x 1 1/2 inch muffin cups or use paper liner. Set aside.

In a large measuring cup or bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract.

In another large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest. Gently fold in the berries. With a rubber spatula fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are combined. Do not over mix the batter or tough muffins will result.

Fill each muffin cup almost full of batter, using two spoons or an ice cream scoop.  Generously sprinkle raw sugar over the top of each muffin.

Place in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Makes 12-15 regular sized muffins or 6 jumbo muffins.

Note: If using frozen berries you may have to bake the muffins a little longer than the stated time. Also, if making jumbo sized muffins, again, you may have to bake the muffins a little longer.