Wednesday, December 17, 2014

paw patrol badge cookies

My friend Celeste is another friend who asked me to make cookies after seeing the caterpillar cookies I made for Nancy! While Celeste and I recently reconnected via Instagram, I hadn't seen her since her wedding several years ago! Since she was having a Paw Patrol themed party for her oldest daughter Cameron, she asked me to make dog pone or paw print cookies. But when I suggested making cookies in the shape of the Paw Patrol badge logo, we both thought that would be better!

But first, I had to get my hubby to make me another custom copper cookie cutter :) As always, he obliged, and made me this awesome shiny new cutter!

After baking 2 batches of sugar cookies (recipe in my new book!), I started on the decorating. I made a batch of royal icing, divided it, and colored it. I started with the outlines for the dog bones on the badge, piped with stiff blue icing.

Next I used stiff yellow icing to pipe the letters "PAW", above the bone.

Then I switched back to the blue stiff icing to pipe the borders of the badge.

Next I filled in the bone and the badge borders with runny white icing...

.. and then filled the inside of the badge with runny red icing. I let the cookies dry overnight, and then went back with stiff blue icing to pipe the words "PATROL" on the bone, as well as outlining the bone with another layer of blue.

To make the letters pop a bit more, I did another outline of "PAW" with stiff yellow icing, and then added the final touch - a piped paw print in the center of the "A", with stiff white icing.

And then they were done!

I wrapped each cookie in a cellophane bag tied with raffia, since Celeste was going to add these as party favors in each goodie bag.

I met up with Celeste to give her the cookies, and got to meet her daughter Cameron for the first time! She's adorable! And it was so good seeing Celeste again after all these years! It's amazing how fast time flies, isn't it?

Happy birthday, Cameron! Hope you had an awesome party and enjoyed the cookies!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

hello kitty cookies with soft frosting (and hello kitty con!)

For the first ever Hello Kitty Con this past October, I was super honored to be invited to give a cookie decorating workshop! I was asked to give 4 one-hour sessions on the first day of the convention, with about 35 participants per session. Plus, I would get a free badge to attend the convention for the entire weekend, and attend the opening night reception! Let me just say, I was out-of-this-world excited!

To prep for my workshop the week of, I baked 150 giant Hello Kitty cookies. And when I say that the cookies were giant, they were about the size of a piece of toast. That's because I used a Hello Kitty toast cutter to cut out my cookies! (See below with a quarter placed for size reference).

The cookie/toast cutter came with a stamper, that allowed met to get Hello Kitty's details on the cookie before baking. I would use these marks as a guide for the participants to decorate their cookies. I decided to use a "soft frosting" (buttercream) instead of a "hard frosting" (royal icing) so that the participants could learn this technique and also apply it in decorating a Hello Kitty cake, like this one! (see here, hereand here for other examples too!)

The first step was outlining the bow with black frosting.

Next came the rest of Hello Kitty's face and ears, plus her eyes and whiskers. And yellow frosting for the nose.

Next came piped stars in red frosting to fill in the bow.

And then piped stars in white frosting to fill in her face.

And there you have a delicious giant Hello Kitty cookie! Now for all you avid bakers out there, this probably seems pretty easy to do. But the majority of the participants in the workshops had never even held a piping bag before! So many people came up to me afterwards to tell me how much fun they had!

Besides baking all the cookies for the workshop (to be hand-carried on the plane), I also had to prep all the piping bags to be fitted with tips. That took forever.

And making the frosting and filling the bags took forever too! I can't believe I flew with all this frosting! I flew with two suitcases, and only half of one suitcase contained my actual clothes and things. The rest was frosting. Given that each suitcase was over 50 pounds, that's about 75 pounds of frosting that I flew down with me. CRAZY.

By the way, in order to hand carry my baked and undecorated cookies onto the plane, I had the cookies neatly stacked in bakery boxes, which were then stacked inside my handy cupcake courier. With my two suitcases full of frosting safely checked in, I was at the gate about to board the plane, when the flight attendant glanced at my cupcake courier and mentioned that the plane was really small, and that I might have to gate check my cookies. WHAT?! I almost had a heart attack - there was no way that my cookies would survive being gate checked! Luckily, I was able to shove the cupcake courier almost all the way under the seat in front of me, and for the remaining 1/3 of the cupcake courier sticking out I was able to use my legs to stealthily hide it. Whew! Disaster avoided.

Anyway, here's me before my cookie workshop. So excited!

And here's the setup that each participant had.

Here's a shot of the workshop in progress. It was so fun meeting everyone, and they were all so happy to be there! And I was so happy to be among fellow Hello Kitty lovers! It's like we all had an instant bond in Hello Kitty :)

Here's a shot of me and my bestie Reggie, and PAUL FRANK! He was there giving a workshop on making wall hangings, and decided to stop by. So I gave him a cookie. :)

I had such a wonderful time at Hello Kitty Con and everything that came with it - all things Hello Kitty including art, fashion, food, workshops, lectures, and panel. Just being surrounded by all things Hello Kitty, and being able to hang out with other people who also love Hello Kitty was seriously the best! Words can't express how thankful I was for this opportunity!

I'll end with some pictures that I took during my time at Hello Kitty Con! Enjoy!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

kouign amann (and apple pie kouign amann)

The first time I tasted kouign amann was almost two years ago, a few weeks after I had given birth to my third child (my son, Micah). My good friend Helen came to visit us and meet the baby, and she brought us a box of delicious pastries from her favorite neighborhood bakery, B. Patisserie. All of the pastries were delicious, but the one that stood out was the kouign amann. It was divine. To me it was like a cross between a croissant and a palmier. Buttery and flakey, it also had a crisp caramelized sugar element to it - I was hooked!

We recently went apple picking with Helen and her family, and she again bought us a box from B. Patisserie, full of different flavored kouign amann! Needless to say, the box of kouign amann didn't last very long in our house, but I was still craving more! So I decided I would try my hand at making them! I followed Anita Chu's recipe at Dessert First (love her site!), and also used the photo tutorial at the Kitchn to help me along the way. Both sites recommended useing European butter as it has a higher fat content ratio, so I went out and bought some Kerrygold salted butter.

The recipe started with making a simple yeast dough with a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. After letting it rise, covered, for about an hour, I transferred it to the refrigerator to let it chill for half and hour.

The next step was to pound the block of butter. Sounds strange, but yes you read that right! With a little flour on my pastry board and rolling pin, I pounded and flattened my butter into a large rectangle.

Then I let the butter chill in the fridge while I rolled out my dough.

Once I had it rolled to the right size, I placed my flattened butter in the center, and then folded each side of the dough over the butter.

Then I again rolled out the dough, and folded it in thirds once more. Then it went into the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes.

What comes next is a series of steps called "turns", where you roll out the dough and fold it into thirds, then roll out the dough, and fold it into third again. This is what creates the beautiful flaky layers in the pastry. There are a total of 4 turns - after the first 2 turns the dough should chill in the fridge, and the last 2 turns incorporate layers of sugar in between the folding. But I ended up having the chill my dough after every turn, since it was pretty warm out that day.

After the final turn and chill in the fridge, I rolled out my dough once more and used a pizza wheel to slice my dough into twelve 4x4-inch squares.

Then I placed them into a combination of tart rings (well, I used these english muffin rings!) and mini tart pans.

To make the signature kouign amann shape, you simply fold in the 4 corners of the square of the pastry. Then you let them rise for another hour, before baking them at 350F for about 40 minutes (rotating the pan once in the middle of baking).

Inspired by our trip to the orchard, I decided to turn half of the pastries into apple pie kouign amann! (We had picked "Roman beauty" apples, but you can use any kind of apple you like.)

You can find the apple pie filling in my new book (I cut the recipe in half to fill 6 kouign amann), but it's basically diced apples mixed with flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and cloves. Then before shaping my kouign amann, I placed a spoonful of apple mixture into each center.

To give you an idea of how much work these were, I started making my kouign amann at about 11:00am that morning, and they didn't come out of the oven until 5:30pm that evening. They took that long to make. But, they were so worth it.

Be sure to remove the tart rings almost as soon as they come out of the oven, otherwise the caramelized sugar will cause the pastry to stick to the tart rings, making it almost impossible to remove the pastry in one piece!

And as for the apple pie kouign amann, they turned out to be quite delectable, kind of like apple pie on steroids! Although I think next time I'd cook the apple mixture a bit on the stove before filling the pastries, to hopefully keep my apple pie center glossy and silky (in this batch, the apples were a bit dried out, since they didn't stay completely covered during baking like they do with apple pie).

Also next time I make these, I think I'll cut down on the amount of sugar incorporated into the layers, as I found them a tad too sweet compared to the ones at B. Patisserie.

And with that, I'll end this post with some adorable pictures of the kids at the apple farm :) Enjoy!