Saturday, March 31, 2012

Completed Easter Cookies

Here's a few photos of my finished Easter cookies. 

I added some extra details to the carrot — a lighter orange stripe to separate the segments and some leaf details with a darker green edible ink marker.
I like how the texture on the bunny tail and lamb turned out.

Here's my recipe for royal icing:

Royal Icing
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
6 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Food coloring

In a large bowl combine meringue powder, water and lemon juice and stir until meringue powder is dissolved. Add powdered sugar and with an electric mixer on low speed, beat until evenly moistened. Then beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Divide and tint as desired and add water a teaspoon at a time to get desired consistency.

Easter Decorating Tips

Tip: When To Add The Flavorings

Two years ago I took a Christmas cookie baking class from baker and author Julie Richardson at SweetWares in Hillsdale (6306 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland, OR) and she passed on a helpful tip.

She told us to add our extracts and spices to the butter we are beating at the start of a recipe so that they get evenly dispersed throughout the final product. It makes sense since the fat in a recipe is basically the vehicle on which flavor travels. So whether it's an extract or a spice, beat it into the butter first.

I've taken this tip further and use it whenever I cook. When I saute, I season the oil before adding my meat or veggies. And, when I make a vinaigrette for a salad, I whisk my seasoning into the olive oil and then add the vinegar.  It makes a difference.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Making The Dough

The first step in making decorated Easter cookies is to make and chill the dough.

I always use my favorite cutout cookie recipe that's from pastry chef Emily Luchetti and was featured in the December 2004 issue of Sunset Magazine.

The reason I love this recipe is that it's simple and contains no baking powder which I thinks distorts the shape of cutout cookies. I like clean crisp edges. Another bonus is that it's not too sweet of a dough which is important when a cookie is going to be coated with royal icing.

The only alternation I made to the original recipe is the addition of 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract and the use of unsalted butter.

Here's the recipe:

Sugar Cookie Cutouts
Makes about 4 dozen 2-inch cookies

1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

 In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until blended, then beat on high speed until creamy. Add egg, vanilla and almond extract and beat until well blended. Add flour and salt; beat on low speed until combined, then on medium speed until well blended. Divide dough into two equal portions. Place dough between sheets of plastic wrap. Press evenly into a disk and chill until dough is firm, at least 20 minutes. Working with one portion of dough at a time (keep remaining chilled), peel off plastic wrap and roll on a floured board until 1/4 inch thick. Cut with floured cutters and transfer onto bare baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees (325 for convection) for 7 to 9 minutes or until firm to the touch and slightly darker brown around edges. Cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pass The Chicken

The Wednesday Community Meal at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral was extra busy today. We served 323 meals.

We had six donated cases of chicken quarters so we oven roasted them and served them with a salad, roasted tomatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy. The guests were kind and appreciative as usual. It's a wonderful community.

We expected a large crowd with it being the end of the month when money is typically tighter but we didn't expect the sun which I suspect drew even more guests out and into our dining room. Good thing it was Spring Break and we had lots of extra help from young volunteers in the kitchen. Thank you Micah, Zane, Olivia, Iris, Sierra, Elise and Eleanor! You were a big help.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Easter Cookies Are Coming

I'm getting my supplies together to make decorated Easter cookies and will share the results soon.

One supply that is a must is good quality food coloring and the best is AmeriColor soft gel paste. The colors are vibrant and easy to mix.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

French Macarons

My favorite cookie to make is the French Macaron. It's chic and delicious. Many people have been asking for the recipe, so I thought I should make a video to help. Oh, and here's the recipe:

Macaron Ingredients
180g ground almonds, sifted
270g powdered sugar, sifted
150g egg whites, aged 2 to 4 days in the fridge and then brought to room temperature
100g granulated sugar
pink food coloring (optional)

Strawberry Filling Ingredients

2 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 heaping tablespoons reduced- sugar strawberry preserves
red coloring (optional)

Additional equipment: stand mixer, four heavy sheet pans, good quality parchment paper, double-boiler and pastry bags

Last Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I enter the kitchen at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Northwest Portland sometime between 8:15 and 8:30 a.m. and the wonderful mayhem begins.

With a lot of help from a crew of the nicest and the most dedicated volunteers, we pull together a full meal for an unknown number of hungry guests using gleaned food, donated food and purchased food from the Oregon Food Bank.  I don't know all the ingredients I'll have to work with until the day before so it's kind of like an Iron Chef competition. Stressful but fun. Anyone can eat at Trinity between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Wednesday. 

Last week we served 268 meals. On the menu for the first 180 guests was a plate of frittata, roasted tomatoes, toast, homemade chunky apple sauce and bread pudding for dessert. Then it was onto our wonderful leftovers from Good Samaritan Hospital. The next group got roasted pork and a salad and the next taco rice casserole and a salad. And finally there was sweet and sour chicken and enchiladas.

Every Wednesday, there is a miracle in the kitchen. I don't know how it happens but we always seem to have enough for everyone.

Please come back for more stories from the kitchen of the Wednesday Community Meal at Trinity.  What will I have to cook with this week?