Thursday, December 15, 2011

Merry Christmas from Frilly Milly

What better way to say "Merry Christmas" than a colorful batch of glace icing!  I shot this the other day and couldn't help but turn it into a Christmas card.  You've still got 10 days left to go - and I hope each and every one is filled with art, baking, creating, spending time with people you love and most importantly, remembering the true Reason for the season.  Here's wishing you and yours a very blessed holiday.  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cookies for Santa

Last Saturday my friend joined me for a night of cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies (not gonna lie, totally love them) and holiday baking.  We made peanut butter fudge Gingerbread Men (see previous post) and dozens upon dozens of sugar cookies. Be still my beating heart! :)

We quickly ran to the store to pick up our ingredients, grabbed some dinner "to go" and last but not least, stocked up on cookie cutters!  My local Joann's sells a great 40 piece set (some large, some miniature) for $19.99, but with a 50% off coupon it was just too good to pass up.

We had a great little assembly line going - I would roll the dough, she would cut the shapes and I would transfer them to a cookie sheet.  An hour or so and 5 dozen cookies later...we were ready to start frosting.

I've tried various frosting techniques over the years, but I'm kind of a sucker for a more "polished" look, so when I saw this technique on Our Best Bites' site, I was sold.  Based on our cookie cutter choices, we chose to make red, green, blue, yellow, brown and white icing.  One thing I will tell you is that a little goes a long way with this type of frosting.  You'll look at your bowls with just a large spoonful and think it will never be enough...but you'll be amazed at how far it stretches. Trust me.

The last step in making the icing is to make the piping.  I remember coloring with my dad before bedtime when I was a kid and he would always outline his picture before shading it all in which always made it look so good (especially in comparison to my scribbles!).  In the world of sugar cookies, piping is that outline and the icing is the shading (thankfully now I'm actually able to "stay in the lines" :)).  Put a #3 tip on a pastry bag, fill it up with a thicker version of the icing (see instructions) and begin outlining.  You'll want to get a head start on this process since you need it to dry just ever so slightly before you begin flooding the cookies.  It's fun and it goes pretty fast - even better if you've got a partner in crime that starts the decorating while you finish the piping!

When it comes to the flooding (again, at some point I need to improve at taking step-by-step photos!), I use tiny demitasse spoons and toothpicks.  I scoop a little bit of the icing with the spoon and pour it into the center of the cookie, then drag it to the edge of the piping with the toothpick.  Want berries on your wreath or buttons on your snowman?  While the main color of your cookie is still wet (say the green of the wreath), take a toothpick and dip it into the red and gently tap tiny drops of the icing onto the green.  Seurat's got nothing on you!

And this, my friends, is the final result!
Share them with friends or save them for yourself (I ate one for breakfast this morning), but most of all, enjoy the creative process.  Turn on Christmas music, light up the tree, grab a cup of hot cocoa and frost away!  Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Fudge

I don't know about the rest of you, but fudge is pretty much a staple for me when it comes to holiday baking.  I'm not opposed to any variations (although I think chocolate mint might be my favorite), but when my friend Rachelle specifically requested that we make peanut butter fudge, she didn't have to twist my arm!

I know there are so many variations, but I love this recipe - it only requires 6 ingredients and is finished in 15 minutes or less.  Most recipes, including this one, ask that you pour the fudge into an 8x8 pan to make the standard, thick squares of fudge. I prefer to pour the fudge into a small 10x15 jellyroll pan and then smooth it out as evenly as possible using a large sheet of wax paper.  Once it's cooled and the fudge has completely set, I like to cut the fudge into fun shapes using small cookie cutters.  In the fall I made pumpkin fudge and cut it out into the shape of leaves...

So it was only fitting that in the spirit of Christmas, we turned our peanut butter fudge into Gingerbread Men.

If you want to really get crazy, you can use a toothpick to poke holes for buttons and eyes (and drag it for the mouth), and fill the holes with nonpareils.

One thing you'll find is after cutting out your first round of gingerbread men, you'll have a lot of "scraps" left over.  The great thing about fudge is that it's extremely pliable, so just combine the scraps, roll it out between 2 sheets of wax paper and continue on the cutting process!  Enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Pirates

Lately I've had the chance to work on a few Frilly Milly projects (not nearly as many as I would like - but hey, I'm happy to get to "play" at least a little bit!) and thought I would just post a few photos and tips on how to recreate them if you so desire.  The one I'm most excited about is not quite finished yet, but hopefully will be up sometime the beginning of next week if not sooner.

The first project is not really Christmas-y, but I received an order for pirate cupcakes for a birthday party and the leftovers turned into something a little bit festive :).  First...the pirates.

The  cupcakes are chocolate cake with buttercream icing.  I know fondant looks better, but I don't like the way it tastes so I stick mainly with buttercream and just work to make it look as smooth as possible.  I just made 3 different colors of buttercream - the skintone (using copper gel coloring), red ("no taste" red gel) and black (I used a combination of the black gel along with a little cocoa powder to get a rich black).  I apologize for not having step-by-step photos (which would make this so much easier to follow), but I'll try to at least explain each step of the process.

I frosted each cupcake with a #1A tip making a swirl starting along the outside edge and working my way into the center (not building up...just filling in).  From there I took my small palette knife and smoothed out the swirl.  I let the icing crust for about 10 minutes before going back over them with a small square I cut out of a VIVA paper towel (solid white - no print - using the softer side on the cupcake) to get a fondant-like smoothness.

Next, I used a #104 petal tip for the red and starting not quite at the center of the cupcake (with the "head" of the pirate pointed toward me and fat side of the petal tip facing toward the "chin" of the pirate) and made slightly curved stripes from left-to-right layering on top of each other slightly and tapering at the right-hand corner where the "knot" of the bandana would go.  I created a little knot using the same tip.

From there I moved to the black icing with a #3 tip.  I made a long diagonal line over top of the bandana to the base of the chin from left to right.  Small black eye dot on the left, large black eye dot on top of the black line on the right and then facial hair, smiles, etc.  Place a junior mint on the large black dot of the right eye and viola! Your pirate cupcake is complete!

Since I had several cupcakes left over and quite a bit of icing as well, I turned the rest of the cupcakes into Santa Claus!  The only addition was a bag of white icing using a #12 tip.  I used the same method for the hat as I did for the pirate's bandana - except just going straight across rather than curving.  I even had an extra pirate leftover and turned him into a Santa as well (I just have a small picture taken from a phone of that cupcake - but it's worth seeing because it just makes me laugh!).  

So whether it's a Pirates or Christmas party - or better yet, a "Pirates of Christmas" party :), now you have a fun and festive dessert to share!