Sunday, December 26, 2010

How to Make Fondant Snowmen

This cute little snowman was part of an order of holiday cupcakes I shared the other day. I've had quite a few requests on how to make him, so ask and you shall receive! These instructions also work for gumpaste.

The pictures don't have the best lighting, but I'm hiding at my parents' house with the plague, so please forgive me.
These are some of the tools you'll need, but your mileage may vary. I used white pre-made fondant, orange and blue food colouring for the nose and scarf, a black edible food marker, a paint brush, and that gumpaste tool with the little wheel cutter thing. You'll also need some egg whites or water to glue the bits together.  You might also need cornstarch or shortening to deal with the stickies.
Roll out three balls of fondant, in various sizes, like you would when making a real snowman.
 Stack them! Use whatever you've decided on for glue, and stick them together, just like a real snowman.
 Dye some fondant orange.
 Shape said fondant into a little tiny carrot for the nose.  Remind yourself to get a manicure.
 Stick the carrot nose onto the snowman's face, taking care not to get any residual orange dye on his head.
 Dye some fondant blue, or whatever colour you want his scarf to be.
Roll it out, then cut a thin strip for the scarf. Using the wheel cutter thing, cut tiny strips into the bottom of one half, to resemble scarf fringe.
Gently wrap the scarf around the snowman's neck.
And finally, use the edible marker to draw on eyes and buttons.  You could also use black fondant for this part, but I find the pens easier and just as cute.

That's not so bad, right? It's just like making a real snowman, but you don't have to get cold or go outside or exert much energy.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas (or happy weekend if you don't celebrate)!

Stay tuned for the Candy Cane tutorial next!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Salted Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (and Knitting)

Salted butter adds a neat twist to these chocolate chip cookies:
The classic chocolate chip cookie is my favourite kind of cookie.  Although the BCCC (big chocolate chip cookies) are still my top recipe (you can't go wrong with all that butter and sugar), these provide a great alternative. They're soft, chewy (but not cakey), with a bit of crispness to the edges. Plus they're easy to make, require less butter and sugar, and yield a larger batch than the BCCC. I kept pretty straight to the recipe, but as always, I omitted the risk of death nuts.
In other news, my attempts to make sure I'm completely Grandmafied by the time I'm 30 are going well! I've recently learned to knit.
I made this cowlneck scarf for my mom, and am currently working on a few more as Christmas presents for friends (almost done, blenzies!). I'm hoping to move on to something a little more complex next, and will probably post the odd project from time to time.

But back to the cookies...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holiday Cupcakes

Happy Winter Solstice!

I'm lucky to have a beautiful view of the North Shore mountains from my apartment, whose snowy peaks and white ski runs help remind me that it's officially winter today.  But aside from the mountains, it's Vancouver weather as usual.  Some rain.  Some sun.  Lots of moderate cold.

These cupcakes, with festive fondant candy canes and snowmen, help remind me that Christmas and snow is just around the corner. (Well, maybe not the snow).

Do not worry -- I'll post a tutorial of how to make the fondant candy canes and snowmen in the next day or two.  I created these quite late at night, in poor lighting, and a little (a lot) unsure of how they'd turn out, so I'll take some time to make comprehensive instructions.

I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Best Banana Bread

This is quite possibly the best banana bread ever.
But first I have some amazing news to share: On Wednesday I finally finished my Communication degree.  4 majors, 2 schools, countless years, several trips, and a baby later, I am done. It's nice to have accomplished something so many people said would be impossible. And how did I celebrate? By baking, of course.


Not too long ago, Monet over at Anecdotes and Apple Cores posted a recipe for her favourite banana bread.  I've made a few different banana breads lately (okay, I mainly bake them into muffins), but none of them really blew me away. I'd yet to find a recipe to be faithful to.


I might have found it now, though.  I changed a few things to suit my tastes-- adding whole wheat flour, a pinch of nutmeg, and yogurt instead of sour cream.  The results were incredible.  A moist, lightly spiced bread that goes great with tea.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lemon Blueberry Quinoa Muffins

A few weeks ago I decided to take a quick trip to Chapters to use up a giftcard I had on some new baking books.  

Unfortunately, the trip turned into one of the moments where you become aware that how incredibly and grotesquely awkward and feeble you feel on the inside shows on the outside.

I had a rough idea of what I wanted but Chapters has a rather extensive collection of cookbooks.  Who knew? By the time I had chosen my favourites, holding each new favourite until it was replaced, my arms were exhausted and shaky from all the heavy lifting.  (If I ever write a cookbook, that shit's going to be paperback. Seriously.)

I ran into a two friends of mine when I was nearing the front of the store. As I was shakily extending my arms to prop open the books to showcase some of the recipes, my dear friends kept asking if they could, you know, maybe hold my books for me and I could just point to the recipes.  And then one of the employees kept coming up asking if I needed a complimentary bag while I waited, or if she could take the books to the counter for me since they were clearly very heavy.  At first she seemed cordial but after about the fifth attempt, her lips said, "It's my job!" but her eyes said, "Your pathetic arms are about to snap from holding a book."  I gave in, and she quickly whisked the books away from me and I resolved to make an attempt at a push up that night. 

(I didn't).
Anyway, these muffins come from one of the books-- Quinoa 365.  I've been wanting to eat more quinoa. In fact, I've had a box of it sitting in my cupboard for well over 7 months.  But I'm finicky about food, and spook easily when it comes to new textures.  I figured muffins would be a safe bet. You can't distinguish the quinoa at all, and the muffins have a lovely sweetness.  The boy likes them, too, so if one part-time foodphobe and a 4-year-old will eat them, you know they're good.

I've made a few other recipes from this book, so if you get the chance please pick up a copy.  I saw some kicking around at Costco for cheap.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chocolate Elvis Sandwich

I have something to confess: Not all my desserts are pretty, dainty, or even that good.  Sometimes they look like this. The poor quality photos, the obvious late-night binge-- there's nothing but a shame snack here.
My friend Asia emailed the other night to say she had made a Chocolate Elvis Sandwich.  I had no idea what this was, but needed to know immediately so I too could make one.  I was with another friend, Tara, planning our Martha party and we were both so intrigued we resorted to texting and emailing her concurrently in obvious desperation until she told us.

Have you heard of an Elvis sandwich?  It's a peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwich, fried in butter.  Holy awesome, right?  Well she kicked it up a notch by adding chocolate.  She didn't use bacon, though. (I disapprove, Asia).

This sandwich is every bit as wonderful and terrible as you think it is. Next time I can see it easily morphing with a fluffernutter and becoming a peanut butter, marshmallow, chocolate, and bacon fried dream.  God help us all...

Do you have a shame snack?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Vancouver Baker's Market

Just a quick reminder as I force myself through my last week of university (ever!!!) that I'll be at the Vancouver Bakers Market this Saturday, December 4th.  The market has moved to a much better location at the Creekside Community Recreation Centre in the Olympic Village.


Please stop by try some samples, and say hello.  I'll have some holiday-themed cupcakes, whoopie pies, pie pops, and more!


Plus I'll be donating $1 from every $5 earned to the Foodbank, so you can eat some treats and make a difference this holiday season!  


Hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These delicious, chewy cookies are going to be part of AVery Martha Christmas.
I'm lucky to have some of the most amazing friends.  Not only did they not abandon me when I had a baby (thanks, guys!), but they share a lot of my nerdy loves.  One of the most important being Martha Stewart.  So when I suggested we have a Martha-themed Christmas party, they were on board.

A Very Martha Christmas involves all the things Martha recommends for the holidays.  Decorations, food, general attire, drinks.  (There will be lots of drinks).  An entire evening devoted to her entertainment empire.

But the best part is we can nom on all her amazing desserts.  With the party just a few weeks away, it is clearly time to start taste testing, and the first order of business were these cookies.
Flat, but still flavourful and chewy, they taste even better than they look.  I added some white chocolate for some more variety, but I'm sure they would be delicious as per the recipe.  They did turn out gigantic though, almost the size of my hand, although that is easily corrected if you want smaller cookies.  

Get ready for a lot more Martha Recipes as we get the menu ready for our party!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Best Cinnamon Buns

I think I've found my favourite cinnamon buns.

I was at a drug store the other day, waiting for a prescription for what will be the first of many winter sinus infections (still hungry?), killing time palming through food magazines when I spotted Cook's Illustrated Holiday Baking 2010.  "YES!," I exclaimed embarrassingly loud when I saw the recipe for what they deem the best cinnamon buns ever.  I had to purchase.

No, these cinnamon buns aren't healthy (like these ones), but they are huge, gooey, and delicious.  Because I like excess, I'd probably even add more filling the next time I make them-- and I will make them again very soon. I didn't even mind the cream cheese icing, and cream cheese fits into my condiment aversion.  

Make these.  You will thank me.  Your hips might not, but come on, they're not the boss of you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ice Cream Bread and the Giveaway Winner

This bread is made with two ingredients, and one of them is ice cream.

Really.

(The other is flour).

A friend sent me this recipe yesterday morning, and I had to make it right away.  Partly because I had ice cream I wanted to use up so I could make new stuff, and partly because this recipe is a bit of a mindfuck.

I was pretty skeptical, but it turned out fluffy and sweet.  Everyone I made try it loved it too, and couldn't guess it was made with ice cream. (Guessing games are fun when it's not you that's guessing what the unknown ingredient you just ate is!)


 And the winner of the $35 giftcard to CSN stores, as generated by this little guy

is Elise!  Please email me at leannebakes@gmail.com so I can give you everything you need to claim your prize.  Congrats, Elise!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Bars

These chocolate caramel bars contain all that is good and holy in the world: butter, condensed milk, sugar, more butter, and chocolate.

This dessert was part of a very bittersweet weekend. I had the opportunity to visit with some of my favourite family members, but it was unfortunately because we were attending my granddad's funeral in Kelowna. 


On Sunday night, a few of us gathered in the kitchen to cook dinner.  Of course, I stayed the hell away from cooking, and instead opted to make dessert.

I had been eyeing these bars for quite some time, but had been afraid to be alone in the house with them, for obvious diabetes-inducing reasons.


But if there's one thing I have in common with my paternal family, it is our undying love for all things chocolatey, caramely, buttery, and all-round terrible for our asses and arteries. There was no better crowd to make this dessert for.  (My grandma even had one for breakfast the next day!).
Incredibly rich, the salt adds the perfect touch to the sweetness of the caramel and chocolate. They'd be perfect to have around the house during the holidays, as the recipe yields a rather large batch, and can be cut into small squares. 




Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Owl Sugar Cookies and a Giveaway

How adorable is this little guy?
He comes from a recent order, where I was sent a similar design and asked to recreate it (the original design can also be found here!).  The cookies ended up so cute I almost felt bad giving them over to be eaten.  A few of these will be making an appearance at the Baker's Market this Saturday, as well as some other cute and delicious treats, so don't forget to pop by.


But wait!  That's not all...


When they're not busy creating websites solely devoted to finding you the perfect barstool, the good folks over CSN stores are handing out free stuff.  And this time, they want to give you, loyal (or otherwise) reader, a $35 giftcard to any one of their numerous online stores.


The contest will be open for one week, until Wednesday November 17th, to residents of Canada and the U.S.  You don't have to become a follower, join me on Facebook, or kiss my ass in any way (but you should).  Just leave a comment here telling me what your favourite dessert is, and a winner will be randomly selected (via random.org) after the contest closes.
Owl says, "Whooooo is going to win?"

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Malted Brownies

Last week I made the mistake of going to the culinary crackden that is Gourmet Warehouse unaccompanied.  Gourmet Warehouse is magic.  It has some of the best prices in Vancouver, and an endless selection of everything you didn't know you needed (but you do!).


Everytime I walk in the excitement gives me amnesia and I completely forget what I needed in the first place.  And the worst part is I don't even care because I'm so overtaken with delirium.  Take this recent trip for example: I'm not sure what I was pretending to go for in the first place, but it might have been meringue powder.  I left with, oh, 9 more items than that.  Including a bundt pan, english muffins rings, and purple food dye.  I already have purple food dye.  Once the high wore off (I'm totally kidding-- it never wears off) I was left with a bunch of useless wonderful, incredible items to use!  So here's the first order of business: chocolate malt brownies.
It's been a day since this army of delicious invaded my life, and they have basically been devoured by my family me.  These brownies ended up incredibly fudgy, dense, and chewy.  Practically perfect.  The malt added a neat kick.   I'd imagine they'd be extra good with some chopped up Maltesers.  If you try it (and I'll be ever so jealous if you do), please mail me some.


Malted Brownies
from your hero and mine, Martha


Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for pan
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (about 4 1/2 ounces) malted-milk powder
1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Maltesers (optional)

 
Directions: 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour a 9-by-13-inch baking pan; set aside. Combine chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water; stir until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, malted-milk powder, and malt balls; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat sugar and eggs until thickened and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add melted chocolate mixture and vanilla; mix to combine, about 30 seconds more. Using a spatula, fold in flour mixture until just combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs on it, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer brownies to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ginger Pear Muffins

These ginger pear muffins bring families together. 
Well, sort of.  This is the second time I have made these muffins.  The first I declared a flop-- almost a right-into-the-garbage flop. They were lifeless and dry, almost rubbery.  Instead of wasting them, or suffering through eating them myself, I disposed of them at my parents house, moved on, and hoped to just forget.  But two nights later when I was visiting, praying no one would mention the atrocity I had pawned off on them a few days earlier, my brother told me they were, and I quote, the best muffins he had ever had.  

After initially dismissing his opinion as that of a baked good rube, I considered the possibility that he was onto something.  Upon further inspection, I figured muffins were still a bit rubbery, but the flavour was on the right track.  So I attempted again, making a few more adjustments, and voila, brother and I could agree on supreme muffin awesomeness.
 Sometimes, you just have to keep trying.


And although not baking, this has been posted by a few friends on FB, and I think it's worthy of passing on to you all...





Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sweet Potato Rolls

The boy hates potatoes.  He loves fruit and vegetables, but their starchy companion can go eff itself for all he cares.  I even made him homemade tater tots for Thanksgiving this year, but he was having none of that. This is sad because it means I don't really get to eat potatoes, unless I want to cook them all for myself.  Back before I realized how futile my relentless potatoing would be, I bought two sweet potatoes, with hopes that the little one would maybe, possibly come around and give them a try.  He was unfazed by the bright colours; I was shot down.


Not wanting to waste them, I went on a hunt for something a little more interesting I could make.  I came across a lot of pie (with marshmallow-- seriously?!) recipes, cupcakes recipes, and some for potato chips, as well.  None were that exciting-- except maybe for the pie, but it had been a long week and I was not up to the mental gymnastics it would have taken to put that near my mouth (see previous post on my food insanity).  


But then there were rolls. 
These little guys were incredibly simple to make, and had a wonderfully subtle sweetness to them.  Everyone loved them-- even the boy.  My mom thought they would be good with ham; I thought they would be good with turkey; my dad thought they'd be good with jam.  Bless his heart.  


And, because Queen is amazing...

Monday, October 25, 2010

RLB's Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake

Inspired by all the wonderful goods I'm baking for the Baker's Market this Saturday (butter count is up to 4 pounds so far!), I'm breaking from the unusual amount of healthy crap I've posted lately with something significantly back to normal: RLB's Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake.
This recipe was a big step for me because I have this... thing... about condiments.  They are gross.  So effing gross.  Over the years I've been able to come to terms with some of them, namely certain salad dressings.  Ketchup and mustard are acceptable ingredients in some recipes.  Consuming any of these, however, takes a bit of mental preparation beforehand.


Mayonnaise can jump off a cliff and die, though.  It is so repulsive I want to vomit thinking about it.  It's not allowed in my house, and if I'm-- god forbid-- visiting somewhere and something I need in the fridge is behind it I have three options: 1) abort the mission and don't bother getting what I want; 2) grab a stick/knife/ruler/long object and use it to move the mayo jar out of the way, so the item can be safely grabbed; or 3) move the mayo jar with my hand, and either douse said hand in bleach or ammonia or gasoline or just cut the damn thing off.  Regardless of which method I choose (and I've yet to choose the third) I'll be considerably concerned for the rest of the day that somehow airborn mayonnaise particles have penetrated what I just ate.


So we've established that I'm crazy.


That out of the way, I've recently come to terms that sour cream is not (like mayonnaise) the devil, and sometimes it tastes good in baking.  Deep breath.  Because of this, and a conscious effort on my part to get over myself just a little bit, I had picked up some sour cream from Costco a few weeks ago, thinking of all the recipes I kept finding and not being able to make because I lacked some.  It sat in my fridge until the day before it expired, isolated from all the other food products.


I finally buckled, not wanting to waste, and made RLB's Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake.  RLB recommends this recipe be made in a bundt pan, but sadly, I don't have one yet.  But she also suggests the recipe can be made into cupcakes, and RLB's word is truth, so I wasn't about to pass these up just because they wouldn't be in a beautiful uniform bundt shape.  


The cake was incredibly light and fluffy, and the filling was the perfect hint of cinnamon chocolate.  One of my favourites from Heavenly Cakes so far!  So good I completely forgot about the sour cream... issue.
If you haven't picked up a copy of Rose's Heavenly Cakes, I highly recommend it.  Each recipe from this book is divine; I've yet to find a bad one.  

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Woodchipper Vanilla Cherry Birthday Cake

For several months leading up to the boy's birthday he was absolutely adamant about the type of cake he wanted.  It had to be vanilla with cherry icing.  And he wanted a woodchipper on top.  He would not change his mind, no matter how hard I tried to convince him it should really be chocolate.

Clearly, I was not up to the challenge of making a woodchipper out of gumpaste.  I knew he would want to play with it, so it seemed the best option was to buy a small toy he could keep.

The cake itself is a basic vanilla recipe from Martha Stewart, the icing is swiss meringue, flavoured with a natural extract, and cherries were also mixed in to it for the filling.  The trees were made with a similar method to this tutorial (but much smaller).
I give desserts the same longing gaze.

It's much simpler than the cake I made him last year...




PS.  You should really join me on facebook

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