Heart-shaped Chocolate-dipped Sugar (sort of) Cookies with Sprinkles.

 

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I love making Valentine’s Day desserts, which is funny, since I really don’t love Valentine’s Day. But I do love making things that are pink, or red, or heart-shaped – or better yet – all of the above! I had this sugar cookie recipe made with Monk Fruit in the Raw that I was dying to try, and this heart-shaped cookie cutter that I had yet to use, so I decided on heart-shaped sugar (sort of) cookies for this year’s V-Day Small Indulgence of choice.

the main ingredient.

the main ingredient.

I followed the recipe pretty much down to the teaspoon, except that I added one thing – red food coloring. I wanted my cookies to be pink and swirly – and I figured a small amount of red food coloring would do just that. I wound up with dough that looked a little like a human heart. I figured that meant I must be on the right track.

the tell-tale heart dough.

the tell-tale heart dough.

I chilled it for a few hours, then rolled it out and cut it into heart-shapes. The result was swirly pink hearts, just as I had hoped!

pretty in pink swirls.

pretty in pink swirls.

I let them cool, and then thought that although they were cute as they were, they needed something more. So I melted down some milk chocolate, and dipped them. Oh, and added some festive sprinkles, while they were still wet.

dipped and sprinkled.

dipped and sprinkled.

I chilled them for a bit, then packed them up, and shared them with my fiance, my parents, my friends, and my co-workers. I guess I really don’t mind Valentine’s Day that much after all – it gives me the chance to spread the love, by doing what I love.

all you need is love.

all you need is love.

I suppose it’s true what they say: love actually…is all around…and in cookies.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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Stevia. Sweet Stevia.

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I assumed that baking with Stevia, the all natural herbal sweetener, would be simple enough. I’ve baked with Splenda before, and the results frankly, were splendid. I just did some minor adjusting to the quantity used compared to that of regular old sugar (I used less Splenda), but everything else remained the same and the cakes all turned out just fine. In fact, one could hardly tell that no real sugar was used in the making of those cakes. I figured baking with Stevia would be exactly the same. It even says on the package to use half the amount of Stevia that you would use of regular sugar (i.e., 1/2 cup Stevia for every cup of sugar). I don’t think so, Osbourne.

I figured I’d try a pound cake, because, really, how can you screw that up? Well, apparently you can, and I have the cake to prove it. I can’t really even figure out exactly what the issue is. It looks like it might not be cooked all the way through – but it was starting to burn on the edges, and no batter stuck to the toothpick when I inserted it, multiple times. i wound up taking the cake out, and cutting a hole in the bottom to see if it cooked all the way. I still couldn’t tell. I ate some. It tasted relatively cooked, but something seemed “off”.

if it looks like a cake, and it smells like a cake...

if it looks like a cake, and it smells like a cake…

This cake was not the quality I’ve become accustomed to, so I decided to cast it aside, and try again .It’s a shame, too – it looked rather pretty, on the outside.

stevia: my new pet peevia.

stevia: my new pet peevia.

Well, I had to try again. No only to save my pride, but because this cake was supposed to be for my diabetic friend’s birthday tomorrow. I began flipping through the recipe binder, and settled on an apple cake – one of my specialties. I had apples on-hand, so it seemed like kismet.

stevia success.

stevia success.

This time it worked. I don’t know if was because it was an apple cake, or because I switched from bundt cake to cupcakes, or because the sun was out – the world will never really know. All I can say for sure, is that apple cupcakes baked with Stevia work and taste like regular cupcakes.

even better than the real thing.

even better than the real thing.

There are many brand names out there for Stevia – I use Truvia. I also use it in my coffee, and have been for a few years now. So, give it a try in your favorite cake recipe – you may wind up with a winner! But you can’t win unless you try.

Random Recipe Wednesday: Chocolate Bread.

Last week, I made chocolate bread for the first time. It turned out terrible. I vowed to tweak the recipe and try again, until I got it right (see A Loathful Loaf). Well, it only took a second try – I could tell as the dough was mixing that this was going to be 1000 times better.

that’s a good lookin’ dough ball.

It looked better, smelled better, felt better, and most importantly tasted better. Mission accomplished – ladies and gentlemen, we have bread. Chocolate Bread.

thank you, bread!

Please note: as I mentioned in my previous post, the recipe I based this off of was from a UK website (you can see the original here), thus all the measurements are in grams and liters. Most baking scales default to grams anyway. Also, as you’ll see, it calls for caster sugar. I actually purchased a small bag while still in the UK, because I’ve yet to find it in the states, but I’m sure it can be ordered online – or just give it a try with regular sugar – baking is all about experimenting! And finally, regarding the instant dry yeast – I used one 7g packet of Dr. Oetker’s Yeast Levure. It’s sold in many higher-end American supermarkets in packs of three.

Chocolate Bread.

What you’ll need:

500g all-purpose flour

10g salt

50g caster sugar

90g cocoa powder

1 packet (7g) instant dry yeast

50g butter (room temperature)

50g sweetened dark chocolate (melted)

100 ml half and half

200 ml water

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, caster sugar, cocoa powder and instant dry yeast. Add the butter, melted chocolate, half and half, and water. Mix for 2 minutes on low speed with the dough hook attachment. Scrape the bottom of the bowl, and mix on medium speed for 5 minutes – the dough should pull away from the sides and form a ball.  On a floured surface, knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball, and return to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough ferment for 1 hour.  Remove the dough from the bowl, knead for 2-3 minutes, reshape it into a ball, and place it on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Cover the dough ball with plastic wrap, and let it proof for 1 hour. Preheat the over to 200 C (about 400 F). Uncover the dough, slice a cross in the top, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Enjoy! (And make sure to try it with some peanut butter).

Shine on you crazy cakeball.

So on a whim, I wandered into the kitchen tonight after having dinner with a friend and fellow baker, and just started creating, without any real plan. I used coconut the other night, so that was in the front of my mind, and I had a bag of leftover cake scraps in the freezer, so I pulled that out. I was totally on autopilot. I then mixed the cake with some vanilla buttercream, added a little coconut extract, and some shredded coconut, shaped them into balls, melted some light blue colored white chocolate I just happened to have in the cabinet, coated each ball, and sprinkled them all with white sanding sugar. The result? White chocolate covered coconut cake balls that sparkle like diamonds in the snow..

shiny.

Not only do they look like a winter wonderland,  they taste like it too. And if you’ve never tasted winter wonderland, it’s about time you did. Just goes to show you, sometimes the best things come out without thinking. I should really stop thinking more often.

sunshine cake dream.

 
I had an order due last night for 12 dozen sunshine cupcakes, 4 dozen chocolate, 4 dozen vanilla, and 4 dozen strawberry. It was for my friends tanning salon, Dazzle Me Bronze, which is celebrating it’s 8th anniversary (and is an absolutely gorgeous salon, fyi). Being that I love baking, my friends, and tanning (it’s warm and i’m always cold), I of course agreed to the job, although I was a bit nervous at first, as 144 cupcakes is a lot for one person.

But as they say, one really does learn through experience, and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout my time as a baker is proper planning and preparation is key. I worked it all out in my mind ahead of time: all the ingredients were purchased and divided on Monday. The icing was made on Tuesday. All the little fondant sunshines were made on Wednesday. Two of the 3 flavors of cupcakes were baked on Thursday (Vanilla, and Strawberry – one should try and bake from lightest to darkest). I took off from my day job on Friday, baked the remaning chocolate cupcakes, iced and then decorated them all. The job was done around 7:30 PM which was pretty much exactly what I had estimated (I took some breaks throughout the day for chores and leisure, which I also knew I would do so I included that in my pre-planning – it’s good to know yourself). I delivered the cupcakes in tact, and came home to a clean kitchen – planning ahead also makes for an easier cleanup.

Anyway, the reason I’m telling you all this is to help you avoid some of the costly mistakes and frustration I experienced early on, including running out of ingredients mid-job, getting only 3 hours of sleep in order to get a job done in time, and turning your kitchen into a war zone of batter explosions and icing blasts. It also makes for a better end product – a more relaxed baker is a more focused baker and is less likely to make mistakes..

I’m sure now you are all dying to know just how the sunshine cupcakes turned out. Well, wait no more!! Feast your eyes below – it’s ok to stare directly at the sun in this case.

chocolate sun.

 Chocolate with chocolate buttercream and gold sugar sparkles….

vanilla shine.

Vanilla with buttercream and gold sugar sparkles, and…

pink sky.

Strawberry with buttercream and pink sugar sparkles.  It’s a sunshine day!!

modern sugar art.

Pronounced “pah-stee-yazh”, pastillage is, in simple terms, a sugar paste. Don’t worry, I never heard of it either, and I’m supposed to know these things. But that’s why I go to school, right?

Anyway, I just learned how to make and decorate with this lovely pasty substance, and it really wasn’t all that hard. That is, the working with it wasn’t that hard. The stuff itself dries so hard that if you drop it, it shatters. You could make weapons out of this stuff. Edible weapons. For the ninja on the go. I’m so patenting that.

give us some sugar...weapons.

Anyway, my first and only pastillage creation to date was not a weapon (not intentionally anyway), but it did look a little….spikey.

it's a bird. it's a plane. it's sugar paste!

I admit, in the photo it looks…odd. Kinda like  Frank Gehry meets Jurassic Park. It’s just not very photogenic, sadly. Live, it was pretty cool. My teacher even said so. So nyah nyah.

a sugar jem.

I made this thing called a sugar disc (I believe that’s the technical term). It’s one of those things that messes with you – it appears to be extremely hard to create, yet, is ultimately quite simple. Unless you have no drawing/painting skills whatsoever. Basically, you mix sugar and water, pour it into a giant ring, let it cool, and paint on it. Simple, right?

The hardest part was deciding what to actually paint. The teacher suggested cartoon characters. Being that I’m over 30 and have no children, I only know cartoon characters that were popular when I was at cartoon-watching age. So, I reached into the depths of my brain, and perused the log of characters I enjoyed as a youth. The Smurfs? No, too simple and small. Scooby Doo? Hmm…now we’re getting somewhere. Then, I remembered the cartoon of all cartoons – the one I loved so much, that even when I wanted to sleep in, I forced my younger brother to get up and watch and report every detail of whatever I missed. It was THAT good. Can you guess what cartoon character from the 80’s a fabulous pink-wearing diva like myself would hold dearest to her rock and roll heart?

 

well, duh.

I must say, the painting part was a little challenging. It really does require a bit of a steady hand. But in the end, I was pretty pleased with my sugary shrine to the best cartoon rockstar ever drawn.

Synergy would be proud.

My teacher said it was truly outrageous. Truly, truly, truly outrageous. Ok, he didn’t really.  He actually broke it. The sheer magnificence of the piece must have made him nervous.