Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas French Macarons

peppermint macarons

snowmen & penguin macarons

I really wanted to make french macarons again, but for Christmas I wanted to figure out some creative way to make them more Christmas-y. At walmart I found a bag of Andes Peppermint Crunch (they're the Andes mints that you sometimes get at the end of a meal at restaurants like Olive Garden...but these were peppermint and in little crushed pieces). I thought these would be perfect for the macarons.

Just like the jack-o-lantern macarons, I used this recipe I found on Bakerlla's blog.  The only difference is instead of grinding up almonds in a food processor I use almond meal (from Trader Joe's).  I found this really cuts down the time and the pain of trying to get the right consistency of ground almonds and then trying to sift them when they're freshly ground from the food processor. It was difficult because you can easily grind the nuts just a little too much and turn it into almond paste or not grind the nuts enough...both of which make it impossible to sift.  So, based on my limited experience, I found the almond meal works best for me.  Just make sure to sift it first then measure it out.

For the peppermint macarons I made the batter and divided it into two to add the red food coloring (I wish I had made them more red...they turned out more hot pink). I filled them with the chocolate ganache and then sprinkled the peppermint crunch on the outer part of the chocolate ganache before sandwiching it with the top macaron. They turned out pretty cute and festive but I do need to work on making my macaron sizes more uniform...that's the hard part!

For the snowmen/penguin macarons I just piped two rounds close to each other so they'd run into each other as they spread out a little. When they baked up I had a body of a snowman (one looked like a penguin to me)! I used orange rainbow chip sprinkles for the nose/beak, edible marker for the eye/buttons/penguin body, and piped the scarves/bow tie/feet with tube icing.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas cookies

 shortbread decorated snowflake
 shortbread decorated snowmen and mittens
(oops these weren't quite done...missing the fuzz on the bottom) 
 shortbread decorated polar bear
 shortbread decorated snowman
 gingerbread man
mini gingerbread girls and boys

Every year my sister and aunt get together and have a Christmas cookie baking weekend.  Here are some pics from our cookie baking bananza.  We make 10 different kinds of cookies (see "Merry Christmas!" post for a pic of all the cookies on a platter).  These cookies include shortbread decorated cookies, gingerbread men/girls/boys, chocolate krinkles, butterballs, toasted fingers, almond refrigerator cookies, coconut macaroons, rhonda rolls, gingerbread biscotti, and dolly bars.

For the shortbread cookies we make:
  • Snowflakes - white icing base with docorative white piping, sanding sugar and a silver peril in the middle
  • Snowmen - white base for the body, red or green scarves, green "x" buttons and a black hat with a holly on it (we used holly shaped sprinkles instead of piping)
  • Red mittens - red base with white piped decorative snowflake and using a grass tip we piped a white fuzzy bottom (sorry I forgot to get a picture of the mittens when we were done piping the fuzzy bottom part)
  • Polar bears - white base, docorative white piped snowflakes, sanding sugar and a holly/maile lei around his neck 
For the gingerbread people we make:
  • Gingerbread men - white icing for the face and hair, green scarf using a basket weave piping tip, dipped the feet in chocolate and then green, red and white peril sprinkles
  • Gingerbread boys/girls - white icing for the face and hair, piped a little red heart on the chest, dipped the feet/dress bottom in chocolate and then green, red and white peril sprinkles
Every year I look forward to our annual Christmas baking tradition. Over the years it has gotten harder for us all to get together as I moved farther away and my sister had my little niece...but I'm glad we make time, during this special time of the year, to spend together baking beautiful treats to give to our family, friends and co-workers.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Christmas cookie platter

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! It's been a crazy baking stayed tuned for more christmas cookies and treats! Here's a "taste" of what's to come...including shortbread decorated cookies and gingerbread men that I will post more close up pics of later.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving came and went so fast and it's been so hectic since then I haven't  had a chance to post my Thanksgiving cupcakes until now! For turkey day I wanted to make these turkey decorated cupcakes I saw from the i-heart-baking blog. The challenge was to find candy corn after Halloween.  Luckily I found them at Winco still in the I could get just what I needed.  I made pumpkin cupcakes (adapted from Paula Deen's pumpkin bars) with cream cheese frosting. 

For the decorative base I piped the frosting with a size 16 ateco star tip. For the body I added cocoa powder to the cream cheese frosting, put a cupler in the piping bag without a tip and piped a little round circle about the size of a quarter. For the head I used yellow reese's pieces, edible marker for the eyes and, since I didn't have rainbow chip sprinkles, for the nose I piped a little orange beak with a size 3 wilton tip and orange wilton icing in the tube. The waddle is a heart sprinkle upside down. And of course for the feathers I used the candy corn. They turned out really cute and everyone seemed to enjoy them. Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  With Christmas just around the corner...let the Christmas baking begin!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Animal Cookies

 Shortbread cookies with royal icing

 Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Vegan vanilla cupcakes with soy buttercream frosting

For my little nephew's first birthday my sister chose a safari theme. So, I thought we could make little animal cookies. I have the little Noah's Ark animal cookie cutter set by Wilton and decided to make the giraffe, elephant, lion and zebra. For the cookies we piped yellow & orange for the giraffe, yellow & brown for the lion, blue & black for the elephant, and white & black for the zebra. While the base icing was still wet for the giraffe and zebra, we piped the spots/stripes, mane, eye, feet and tail. This allows for a smooth finish. For the lion and the elephant we let the base or body icing dry and set a little first before piping the rest of the details. My sister made the cupcakes and we just topped them with the little animal cookies. Everyone seemed to enjoy them and the little guy got to have his very own vegan cupcake to destroy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Transformer Cupcakes

A few weeks ago I made these Transformer cupcakes for my husband's birthday. He loves Transformers and I found these little plastic rings at our local decorette shop. I made chocolate cupcakes and piped vanilla buttercream frosting with a star tip to add a little decorative touch. I found that when I pipe from the center outward I can get the stars closer together (of course I didn't figure that out until the last center one)...the one that got destroyed first with the candles. I'm of course the only one that would notice that though. He was very happy when he saw them and it was a great birthday treat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I wanted to make something special for my niece and nephew for Halloween. They're only one, but I just love making them little treats for holidays. I've been learning to make french macarons and had the idea to make them orange, draw jack-o-lantern faces and fill them with dark chocolate ganache. I was so excited how they turned out. My husband is a much better artist then I am and drew almost all the faces. He's so creative in making all different facial expressions. We used edible marker to draw the faces. The smooth surface of the macarons are perfect for drawing on.