Tuesday, July 29, 2014

graduation cap cookies

I made these graduation cap cookies at the request of my friend Monica, who I've been making goodies for over the course of several years now! Her daughter was graduating from 8th grade, and Monica wanted these as cookie favors for her graduation dinner party. I didn't have a graduation cap cookie cutter though, so I asked my handy hubby to make me one! (See this link for other copper cutters that he has made for me!)

She only needed 16 cookie favors, so I made one batch of sugar cookie dough and one batch of royal icing (you can find both recipes in my new book!). After chilling the dough briefly, I rolled it out and used my new shiny copper cutter to cut out my graduation cap shapes.

After the cookies had baked and cooled, I used stiff blue royal icing to outline the graduation caps.

Then I filled it in the runny blue royal icing, let it dry overnight, and then used the stiff blue icing to outline the caps once more and add details.

Next, I used stiff yellow royal icing to add the tassels.

And the final touch was a little dot of stiff blue icing as the "button" that holds down the tassle.

Happy Graduation, Viviana! Hope you enjoyed the cookies!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

dulce de leche

I've always known what dulce de leche was, and have tasted it in ice cream and other flavored desserts, but I hadn't actually tried it by itself. My best friend from college has a husband from Argentina, and when he told me that he would eat dulce de leche straight out of the jar with a spoon, and could almost finish an entire jar, I thought, "What?! That is crazy!" In my mind I was picturing eating spoonfuls of straight caramel by the jar. Which I thought was crazy.

But when I made my first batch of dulce de leche, I finally understood what he meant. This stuff is addicting! It is like caramel, but soft, and almost pudding-like. I found myself sneaking spoonfuls of it from the fridge, using a new spoon each time, until I had accumulated a big pile of used spoons in the sink. I had only made one jar with which I had planned on making multiple desserts, but soon it became clear that I would barely have enough to make my Hello Kitty alfajores with!

I have now made three batches of this stuff! (Well, actually four batches, if you count that I made double the amount with the last batch!) For the first two batches, I used this recipe from David Lebovitz (the recipe is also in his awesome ice cream book), where the method was to roast sweetened condensed milk and a pinch sea salt in a baking dish, covered with foil, and placed in a water bath. The directions were to roast it for 90 minutes, but I ended up doing 3 hours because I wanted a darker caramel. Once it was out of the oven, I whisked in a bit of vanilla extract to add to the flavor of the caramel.

And for the last batch, I read somewhere online about cooking it in a slow cooker water bath instead, so I tried it out with my rice cooker (set on the slow cooker setting). This method was a lot easier because you didn't have to keep checking on it and refilling the water, however it took about 13 hours in the slow cooker to get the color caramel that I wanted! So I suppose there are pros and cons to both methods. ;)

This dulce de leche is so versatile - with it I have made three batches of Hello Kitty alfajores, a batch of ice cream, and I still have so many ideas on what to use it for! Posts to come on that later!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

hello kitty alfajores - dulce de leche sandwich cookies

The first time I had alfajores, I was blown away. My best friend from college was in town visiting with her husband and kids, and we were at the Ferry Building when her husband, who is from Argentina, spotted a stand with goodies from Argentina! Needless to say, they bought a box of alfajores for us to snack on later.

At first glance, they just looked like sandwich cookies dusted with powdered sugar. I didn't know what to expect, but as soon as I bit into that cookie, I was hooked! The cookie itself wasn't too sweet, and had a delicate, tender, and deliciously crumbly texture. Combined with the dulce de leche filling and powdered sugar on top, it was the perfect balance of sweetness, and I HAD to learn how to make them!

The day after our house guests left, I began my quest to make these addictive cookies. I made dulce de leche for the first time (post to come on that later), and then I made the cookies using this recipe. When it came time to roll and cut out my cookies, I of course had to make them in the shape of Hello Kitty!

Once baked, I tried the cookies, and although they were super crumbly and had a fine texture, they were a bit too egg-y for my taste (maybe from the 4 egg yolks?). So I tried this recipe instead, and while I enjoyed the taste of the cookie much better, the texture was a little more coarse than the first recipe. So I'll have to do some more experiments and somehow combine the two recipes later on!

In any case, once I filled them with homemade dulce de leche, they still tasted delicious! (I used a piping bag and medium round tip to apply the dulce de leche filling, but you could just use an offset spatula, butter knife, or spoon).

I did a final dusting of powdered sugar, and then used the back of a toothpick to trace Hello Kitty's eyes, nose, whiskers, and bow, just to define her face through all of the powdered sugar.

While these cookies are best when eaten right away, they can also be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in an airtight container.

Just in time for for Argentina's semi-finals game in the World Cup tomorrow! Go Argentina!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

chocolate coconut non-dairy popsicles

I've made these popsicles with two different recipes now, and each time they came out great! Although, both times I didn't start out with the intention to make popsicles :)

The first time I made these, I had meant to make non-dairy chocolate coconut ice cream, from the Bi-Rite book "Sweet Dreams and Sugar Cones". While the resulting ice cream had ended up tasting great, it was rock hard and almost impossible to scoop! Even after letting it thaw a bit, my scoops came out in jagged pieces. So I placed the whole container of ice cream in the refrigerator and let it melt down overnight, before re-freezing the mixture in this awesome popsicle mold.


The second time I made these, I had meant to make a chocolate coconut whipped frosting, for non-dairy cupcakes that I was making for my friend Reggie's daughter (who is allergic to cow's milk). I found this recipe at Oh She Glows, except that I added about 4 tablespoons of good cocoa powder, but even though I had separated the coconut cream from the milk, it still would not whip up stiff enough to be piped as frosting! So instead, I froze the mixture as popsicles, this time using a Hello Kitty popsicle mold that Reggie had bought me for a past birthday. :)

I'm so glad that both times I was able to turn my failed desserts into delicious popsicles!

Friday, June 27, 2014

chevron cake for baby gender reveal

I was first introduced to Monica a few years ago, when my friend Cindy was hosting a baby shower with Monica and they asked for my help in making red velvet cupcakes with white chocolate tiaras. Since then, I have made goodies for Monica several times! There was the piggy cake and  pool party piggy cookies that I made for her daughter's birthday one year, and also a mini Hello Kitty cake a few years ago (that I haven't yet blogged about). And a couple more goodies that I haven't yet blogged about (posts to come!)

So when she asked me to make a baby gender reveal cake for her friend who was expecting, I was excited to be a part of it! And the funnest part was that only the doctor and I knew the gender of the baby, not even the parents-to-be knew! Monica had to drop off a top-secret reveal envelope at my house, which was sealed by the doctor and never opened ... until I got my hands on it! :)

Monica's friend already knew she wanted a chocolate cake that looked like this one, except with yellow chevron instead of blue. I wasn't sure if I liked that the placement of the mustache and bow and letters were at the top of the cake instead of the middle though, so I sketched it out to help me decide.

I baked up two 8-inch homemade chocolate cakes (recipe in my new book!), and sliced them in half horizontally to give me four cake layers. Then I filled them with freshly whipped cream (tinted blue or pink based on the information in the secret envelope!), and then covered the top and sides with two coats of cream cheese buttercream.

I piped a quick shell border on the top and bottom of the cake, and then got to work piping the mustache, bow, and wording.

The final touch was piping the yellow chevron - I used a Wilton #5 tip, and just kind of did a freehand chevron design.

And then it was done! I had been a little worried about the chevron coming out crooked or uneven, but in the end I thought it looked pretty good!

The only thing I wish I could re-do was the top shell border - it was a super hot day, so my cream cheese buttercream started to melt on me! Needless to say, after a few quick pictures, the cake went back in the fridge to set!

And for the gender reveal on the inside of the cake?

It's a boy!

Monday, June 23, 2014

no churn mint chip ice cream

When making the mint-chocolate Keroppi cake, from my new book "The Hello Kitty Baking Book", you may end up with leftover green minty whipped cream (depends on how thick you layer on the filling and frosting! Plus, I was recipe-testing so I had a bunch left over!). If you do have some left over, here's what you can do with it the leftover whipped cream ... turn it into no-churn mint chip ice cream!

All you need to do is add a few tablespoons of creme de menth liquor (or I suppose you could add any other minty liquor, or even a tasteless one like vodka), and toss in a few handfulls of mini chocolate chips. Then freeze it for a few hours, and you'll get no-churn ice cream!

I'll be the first to admit, the texture of this no-churn ice cream is not quite the same as regular churned ice cream. It's a little harder, and not as creamy, but hey I'm never one to waste leftovers and this is a great way to use them up :) Enjoy!

Friday, June 13, 2014

mint chocolate keroppi cake

This was the first new recipe not already on the blog that I created for my book, "The Hello Kitty Baking Book", and I while I have made many, many Hello Kitty cakes, this was my first Keroppi themed dessert. And I thought it came out adorable!

As described in the book, I baked two 8-inch chocolate cakes, sliced them in half horizontally, and then used a Keroppi template to cut out the shape of the cakes. (The Keroppi template is included in the book!)

Then I whipped up a batch of minty whipped cream to fill in between each layer of cake.

After frosting the entire cake, I piped on Keroppi's details (details in the book), and piped stars to cover the rest of the cake.

When cut, the striking layers of chocolate cake and green minty filling are revealed.

Moist, refreshingly minty, and delicious, this cake is a keeper! 

To get the recipe (including the template!) and see brand new photos, you can pre-order my book here!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

mother's day brunch - canadian bacon strata, garlic lemon asparagus, fresh pea soup, and mimosas

To go along with the heart surprise-inside Mother's Day cake that I made this year, my husband and I also cooked up a lovely brunch for my Mom. The night before the brunch, I assembled my Canadian bacon strata (it's basically like a savory bread pudding). I have made this strata many, many times, and I love it each time. I usually make it when we have house guests, because this is the perfect morning breakfast dish that you can prepare the night before, and then pop in the oven first thing in the morning. That way, you can catch up with your house guests over coffee while it bakes, and you won't have to be busy in the kitchen cooking up breakfast!

I saw this recipe on the Everyday Food cooking show several years ago, and have been using the same recipe ever since. First halve and toast your English muffins (I like to do this all at once on a sheet pan in the oven, but you could also use your toaster if you prefer).

Once toasted, slice each English muffin in half to create a half circle. Then get your Canadian bacon and slice those into half circles as well, and then alternate English muffins and Canadian bacon when layering them into your buttered baking dish.

Next, assemble your custard mixture (milk, eggs, mustard, hot sauce, and seasonings) and pour it all over the English muffins and Canadian bacon.

Finally top it with grated cheddar cheese and a little bit of grated parmasan.

And that's it! So simple! Cover it with plastic wrap and let it set in the refrigerator overnight (or you could just let it set for 2 hours if you are making it the day-of). Then first thing in the morning, remove the plastic wrap and bake it at 350F for a little over an hour (the recipe says one hour and 30 minutes, but I usually don't need to bake it that long).

For our Mother's Day brunch, I set a nice and simple table, with champagne glasses for Mimosas. :)

For the Mimosas I just combined equal parts orange juice with champagne, but you can also add Triple Sec if you like.

To go with the strata, I also made a simple fresh pea soup adapted on this recipe from Sunset Magazine, with a sprig of fresh parsley and drizzled with good olive oil. (I excluded the almonds since my daughter is allergic to all nuts, used parsley instead of mint, and also added a bit of sour cream for richness).

Finally, my husband whipped up my favorite Mario Batali asparagus to go with the brunch. Lightly blanched and then tossed with lemon zest, garlic, and olive oil, this asparagus dish is so fresh and tasty, even the kids like them!

Hope you had a happy Mother's Day, Mom!