Monday, February 20, 2012

Cookie Journey~Outline and Fill

Today I thought I would start my cookie journey by outlining a few cookies, and then filling them in. I baked my cookies using heart cookie cutters, and I made pink icing. They did not turn out like I wanted them to. I will say that I did all this late in the evening, and I was tired. Tomorrow I am going to try to decorate in the morning. I am just more alert in the morning!
I started with a bowl of the icing that I made yesterday.
I added a little water to make it a better consistency.
I drew a knife through the icing, and counted to 10
to see if it would be 10 seconds until the line disappeared.
It was, so the icing was a good consistency.
This is called 10 Second Icing!
I used an AmeriColor brand Soft Pink. I love this
brand because the color is dropped in by squeezing the
bottle. It is so easy to control.
I put in five drops and mixed.
I filled my bag about 1/3 full with the pink icing.
I outlined the heart cookie. I think I should have outlined 
by leaving a little bit of an edge,
 so the icing is not on the very edge of the cookie.
I filled in by continuing to go around the design until the 
heart was covered, then I moved the cookie back and forth
until all the spots were filled.
Then I did the same thing to several small cookies also.
They are ok. But just ok.
I wouldn't want to give them to anyone!
So therefore, they are not good!
But practice makes perfect, and I will continue to
make some more heart cookies.
For more information of how to decorate this way,
 go to Sweetopia's YouTube page. She has a 
wonderful tutorial on what I did today, except 
hers look so, so great!

See you tomorrow when we will do some
 add ons to the basic decorated cookie
that we did today!

Don't forget about our 
Random Acts of Kindness Giveaway Blog Hop!

We are giving away a cookie decorating kit full of
useful things you are sure to use!
Click on the link for your chance to win.
Our giveaway ends Tuesday at midnight!!
Thanks for joining me today!
Hope to see you tomorrow!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Cookie Journey! and A Giveaway!!

Today I am starting on my journey to be a better cookie baker and decorator. I originally said that I would be posting about my attempt to improve my lack of cookie decorating skills throughout the 5 days of participating in the Random Acts of Kindness Blog Hop. I will do that, but I am also going to continue to work on  improving my limited skills by practicing whenever possible and posting my accomplishments and failures on my blog every Thursday. This ensures that I will make a step toward fulfilling my goal of becoming a cookie decorator, because I will at least be practicing once a week! That day will forever be known as Cookie Journey Thursday!
So, let's get started. Today I am posting the cookie recipe and the icing recipe I usually use. It is very possible that both the cookie recipe and the icing recipe are ones you use. They are all over the internet, and I have read many blogs where cookie decorators use these recipes. The cookie recipe is called "No Fail Sugar Cookies". I found the recipe on the Kitchen Gifts blog. I love the recipe, and I have used it for years, but I made one change that has made it a great recipe for me. The original recipe calls for 6 cups flour. I use only 5. For some reason it just makes a better cookie for me.
5 cups Flour
3 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 cups Butter
2 cups Sugar
2 Eggs
2 teaspoon Vanilla or Almond Extract
1 teaspoon Salt
Cream butter and sugar.....
until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and almond extract, and mix well.
Mix dry ingredients a little at a time to butter mixture.
Mix until flour is incorporated and the dough comes together.
The dough needs to be chilled. On the Kitchen Gifts web site
they recommend this great idea so you can start cutting out
your cookies sooner than later. Take a spatula full 
of dough, and put it in the middle of  a piece of
 parchment paper. Cover the dough with the same size
parchment paper. Roll out the dough to 1/4" thickness.
Place the dough on a baking sheet, cover with plastic, 
and let it chill in the refrigerator. Repeat the process
 until all the dough is used, and all the sheets of 
parchment are in the fridge. By the time you are done,
the first sheet you put in should be done. If not, wait about
1/2 hour. They should be done by then. 
Take out the first batch, cut out, and start baking at
350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
The best thing is that you are not adding any additional 
 flour to your cookies.

If covered properly with the plastic, these can stay in
the fridge overnight. Many times I have made the recipe
before I go to bed, and then I cut them out and 
bake them in the morning.

6 ounces warm Water
5 tablepoons Meringue Powder
1 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
2.25 pounds Confectioner's Sugar

I have been using this recipe for a little over a year,and I 
really like it. It makes up quick, and I have
had lots of comments of how good it tastes.
I found this recipe on the Cake Central website. I love this site.
I can truly spend hours browsing the cookies that bakers have
posted. It's a great site to see what's new and what everyone else is 
baking! There are so many talented people out there!! 
In the mixing bowl from your mixer, pour in the warm water
and the meringue powder. Mix it with a whisk until it is frothy
and has thickened a bit, about 30 seconds.
Add the cream of tartar and whisk for another 30 seconds.
Pour all of the confectioners sugar in the bowl, 
and place the bowl on the mixer.
Use your paddle attachment on low speed, and mix 
for 10 minutes. I usually stop the mixer at least one time 
during the 10 minutes to push down the icing that gathers
on the wall of the bowl.
Your icing will get smooth, thick and creamy.
Place in a sealed container until you are ready to use.

That's it. Tomorrow we will talk about some cookie 
decorating basics like how to outline and fill in.

Don't forget about the
 Random Acts of Kindness Giveaway Blog Hop!

We are giving away a cookie decorating kit full of
useful things you are sure to use!
Click on the link for your chance to win.
Our giveaway ends Monday!!

Thanks for joining me today!
Hope to see you tomorrow!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness Giveaway Hop

The Freshman Cook is having a giveaway!!! I have linked up to the Random Acts of Kindness Giveaway Hop The giveaway starts today(Friday) and ends on Tuesday 2/21 at midnight.! That's only 5 days to enter to win!! There are 150 different blogs participating in this giveaway. Check them out at the bottom of this post. This is going to be fun!! What are we giving away?
 A Cookie Making, Baking, and Decorating Kit!
Your kit includes:
1 Sil-pin Rolling Pin
10 Various Cookie Cutters
5 Decorating Tips
Several Couples
Several Tip Covers
A wash bag for your decorating tips
2 Decorating Colors

How do you win? There are 2 ways. 
1 is mandatory. You must follow 
The Freshman Cook, and send me a comment 
that you are following.
The 2nd way to enter is to follow 
The Freshman Cook on Facebook. This is optional.
Then send me a comment telling me you "like"
The Freshman Cook on facebook.

That's it!
For the next 5 days of the giveaway, I will be sharing
my lack of cookie knowledge with you. 
I have always wanted to spend time
decorating cookies in the hope that I might 
get a little better.(I am terrible)
Well, throughout the giveaway, I will be sharing
my trial and tribulations  as I attempt to 
decorate a cookie I am happy with.
I hope you will join me!!  :)

Improv Challenge~Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies!

Today is the day for the Improv Cooking Challenge!   This is such a fun challenge, I just love participating! This month our ingredients are carrots and ginger. I immediately thought of carrot cake, but I was looking for something a little smaller, like cookies. This got my brain thinking about cookies, and then whoopie pies, the ultimate cookie!
Carrot Cake Whoppie Pies
(adapted from Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley)

2 cups Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Salt
8 tablespoons Butter, softened
1/2 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 cup Grated Carrots

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder,
cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt together. 
Set aside.
In the bowl that you can use a mixer with, 
cream together the butter and both sugars. 
Cream on medium for  4-5 minutes
until light and fluffy. 
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.
Mix in vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
Add carrots.
Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
While the batter is chilling, make the cream cheese filling.
This is a recipe I have used for a very long time. I love it!
Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounces Cream Cheese
5 tablespoons Butter, softened
2 teaspoon Vanilla
2 cups Confectioners Sugar
Cream the cream cheese and butter together.
Add vanilla.
Add sugar 1 cup at a time. You might need more
if you want thicker filling.
Put filling in a pastry bag with a Wilton #12 tip.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Use a small cookie scoop, and place circle of dough
on your baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes.
Let cool!
Pipe the filling onto the bottom of 1 cookie,.....
and put the other cookie on top.

Thanks for stopping by The Freshman Cook!

Improv Challenge

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Club Baked~Soft Candy Caramels

Today is the day for Club Baked, and we are revealing our Soft Candy Caramels. I can't lie about this. I had some problems with this recipe. I have made caramels before, so I know how important the correct temperatures are to the finished product. The recipe even warned me to make sure my thermometers were calibrated correctly. But I had just checked my thermometers during my Christmas candy making marathon, and they were good to go. So what happened? Somewhere between then and now, my thermometers stopped working correctly, resulting in my first attempt at this delicious candy to be not so delicious. More like a sticky, gooey, messy disaster. But, I am so glad I tried again. My second attempt was perfection, if I might say so myself! The result was a creamy, chewy, deep caramel taste that lingers on your tongue, and coats your throat with warmth. Try this recipe. Your tongue will thank you! I am the host this time around, so here is the recipe!

Soft Candy Caramel
2 cups light Corn Syrup
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Firmly Packed Light Brown Sugar
2 cups Heavy Cream
2/3 cups Condensed Milk
1/2 cup unsalted Butter, room temp,cut into cubes
2 teaspoons pure Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Sea Salt

Lightly spray a 9" square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray
 and line it with foil, allowing the foil to just overhang the sides
 Lightly coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium saucepan, gently stir together the corn syrup and sugars,
along with 1/4 cup water. Set the saucepan over low heat and continue
to stir gently until the sugars are dissolved.
 Once the sugars are dissolved, clip
a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, 
turn the heat up to medium high,
and wait for the mixture to reach 240-245 degrees.
 This should take about 7 minutes.
You do not want to exceed 250 degrees. 
Watch your temperature carefully.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, stir together the cream
 and the condensed milk and set over medium heat. 
Gently warm the mixture, but don't let it boil.
Once the sugar mixture turns amber, remove it from the heat 
and stir in the butter and warm milk mixture until completely combined.
Be careful about splattering; it may bubble up when you add 
the milk mix. Place the pan back on medium heat, 
stop stirring, and bring the mixture back to 245-250 degrees.
Remove the pan from heat, stir in the vanilla and the salt, 
and pour the caramel into the prepared pan.
 Allow the candy to set for 8 hours, or overnight.
Place a sheet of parchment over the caramel, 
and invert it onto a cutting board. Remove the foil.
Spray a chefs knife with pan spray.
 Cut the caramels into 1" by 1/2" pieces.
and wrap them in wax paper or candy papers. 
Twist the ends of the papers to resemble old school candies. 
Distribute with brio to friends and family.

This great recipe is from Baked Explorations 
by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. We are baking
our way through this wonderful, tasty book. 
We would love for you to join us!

Next recipe we will be making~Nutella Scones!! Yum!!
Thanks for joining us!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Say Good Morning to Red Velvet Pancakes!

Here is one last Valentine's Day post, although this certainly does not have to be eaten only on Valentines Day! These are wonderfully delicious any and every day of the year.
Red Velvet Pancakes
(adapted from
1 1/2 cups Flour
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 tablespoon Cocoa Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
2 Eggs
1/4 cup Milk
1 cup Buttermilk
4 tablespoons Butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon White Vinegar
2 teaspoon Red Liquid Food Coloring
Butter or non stick Cooking Spray

Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup Confectioners Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 tablespoon Milk, if needed
Preheat a griddle to medium high heat. In a bowl whisk together
the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt.
Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, then add milk, buttermilk,
butter, vanilla extract, white vinegar, and food coloring,
whisking to combine completely.
Add the dry mix into the wet mix bowl. Stir just until
combined. Don't overmix.
Brush butter or pan spray on your griddle or frying pan.
Spoon batter onto pan. 
Cook until done.
Make the glaze by mixing the ingredients. Only add milk as 
needed. Just mix together with a fork. For best results,
make sure your cream cheese is really soft! That helps
it mix better.
Place pancakes on a plate and drizzle with glaze!

Happy Valentine's Day 
from The Freshman Cook!

Share the Day with Someone You Love!

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Heart Chip belongs with Pico!

There are few things I enjoy more than tortilla chips with Pico de Gallo. It's always the perfect appetizer, welcome at any party or get together. When you think about it, it's kind of a chameleon. It fits in everywhere.
Well, this Pico de Gallo will fit perfectly into your Valentine's Day plans. After all, it's red and white, and the chips are heart shaped!!
Pico de Gallo  and Heart Chips
Flour Tortilla Chips
2 Roma Tomatoes
1/2  Onion
Fresh Cilantro
1 Garlic Clove
1 Jalapeno (late for the pic)
Chop your Roma tomatoes into small bite sized pieces.
Mince your garlic.
Chop your onion into small bite sized pieces.
Chop the cilantro and the jalapeno.
Remove the jalapeno seeds, and mince the pepper.
Be careful not to touch your eyes after touching the pepper.
They will sting. Also be sure to not inhale the fumes when you are
seeding the pepper. They can make you cough.
Add everything to a bowl .
Cover and refrigerate. 
(The peppers are in there, they just were put in later)
Take the flour tortilla, and a heart shaped cookie cutter,
and cut out heart shaped chips. Place them on a baking sheet,
 spray the chips with pan spray, and then...
sprinkle with garlic powder. No salt here!
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool or eat warm.
Happy Valentine's Day!!