Saturday, May 30, 2015

Gilding Cookies

When it comes to cookie decorating, there are so many design possibilities that it's sometimes hard to know when to stop.

And that's how it was with my rose cookies — I liked them but I couldn't resist adding some extra oomph by gilding the borders with gold luster dust. Now, I can say they're done and I'm satisfied. Though I have to admit, I'm already dreaming about my next cookie project. It never ends!

In the meantime, here's how I gilded the borders of my rose cookies. It's simple to do as long as you are sure your royal icing is completely dry. I let mine dry for a full 24-hours just to be sure.

For this project you need edible gold luster dust which is available at cake decorating stores and online. You also need a few drops of vodka or lemon extract and a small, food only,  soft paint brush.
In a small bowl mix about 1/4 teaspoon of luster dust with just a few drops of vodka or lemon extract. You just want to add enough to make a spreadable paint.
Gently paint the gold around the border.

A before and after shot. I definitely like the gold border best. Let the cookies dry completely before packaging or serving.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Rose Cookies

No paint was used to create these rose cookies. They are all made with royal icing that I manipulated with a scribe tool.

The process isn't hard but it does take some time so these probably aren't the best cookies to make if you have to make a lot. But for a single batch, it's a fun afternoon art project. 

Here's how I made them:

These are the colors I used. Take your time choosing and mixing your colors. I mixed cream for the base coats and small amounts of light pink, red, blue/green and yellow, and an even smaller amount of brown.
Put all of the icings into pastry bags fitted with #2 tips except for the brown. Leave that on a plate or bowl covered with plastic wrap.

First outline and fill your cookie with the cream colored icing. Then add drops of light pink and top those with some squiggles of red. 

Use your scribe tool (you could also use a skewer or toothpick) and swirl the red into the pink to make it look like a rose.
Add drops of yellow and blue/green for leaves.

Draw through the dots with your scribe tool to lengthen them to a point to shape leaves.

Dip your scripe tool into the brown icing and use it like a pencil to highlight the leaves with veins and outlines. One dip in the brown icing is good for two or three swipes. You also need to periodically wipe your tool clean so the icing doesn't build up. It takes just a little for this effect. You can also highlight the roses.

Adding highlights to another cookie.
Getting ready to make a single rose.

Adding the red icing.

The finished rose.
After the cookies dry, you might want to add a border. For this pearl border I used piping consistency royal icing and a #3 tip.

A leaf tip also makes a nice border.

When you complete your border you might need to use your scribe tool to knock down the last point.

Framed works of art!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Stripe And Chevron Cookies

These stripe and chevron cookies look impressive but are so simple to make. The only real trick is to be sure that you have all your icing colors mixed and ready to go before you start decorating since these are made using the "wet on wet technique," meaning you add the base coat of icing and then immediately add other colors of icing on top of it.

This technique is great because you can get so many different looks depending on what colors you choose.

I obviously decided to go bright. Here's how I made them:

Mix your royal icing colors and thin them so that they are flood consistency. Put the icings into pastry bags fitted with #2 tips.

Flood a cookie and immediately add some stripes.

Add some more stripes.

And even more stripes. This cookie looks good as is, or you can create a chevron effect.

To create a chevron, draw through the stripes using a skewer or scribe tool, being sure to wipe the tool clean after each swipe.

Then draw through the stripes going in the opposite direction. That's all there is to it! Let the cookies dry completely before packaging and serving.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Down To The Wire

It took some real frantic scrambling to be ready to serve promptly at 11 a.m. today when the doors of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral were opened for guests of the Wednesday Community Meal.

Mixing the pork, rice, tomatoes, sauce and cilantro for a pan of enchiladas. We layered this mixture along with shredded cheese and flour tortillas in hotel pans and baked them until bubbly.  This method of basically making an "enchilada lasagna" works really well when feeding a crowd.
Today's meal of pork enchiladas was a real hit with our guests but boy were they labor intensive. And, they were designed on the fly this morning while trying to utilize the ingredients we had on hand — rice, onions, tortillas, tomato sauce and cheese. 

To make them also required a major shopping trip to Cash 'n' Carry for pork and additional ingredients like cilantro, fresh tomatoes and extra cheese. Volunteer Dave as usual saved the day by running to the store for the necessary ingredients while we worked hard to get organized to make 10 hotel pans of enchiladas.

At 9:30 a.m, the pork was still cooking and I knew that we were facing crunch time. We had to get at least four pans in the oven by 10 a.m.

All of the volunteers were so great and worked well under the pressure — Tomatoes, onions and cilantro were being chopped, pork was being shredded and enchilada sauce was being mixed. The kitchen was chaotic but we all endured, knowing we were making a delicious dish that would please our guests.

By 11 a.m., I was still making pans of enchiladas but we had enough out of the oven to start the meal. It was down to the wire,  but we did it!

We were very busy today and served 366 meals. There was a long line to get inside up until the last 20 minutes of our two hour service. But most importantly, our guests loved the food.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Chocolate Brioche

While in New York City with my family last week, we made a bee-line to Aux Merveillex de Fred, a French pastry shop in the West Village that just opened this year on January 9th and is chef Frederic Vaucamps' first shop outside of Europe.

Their menu is simple, just meringue and cream coated Merveilleux Cakes and soft brioches that the shop calls Cramiques. We had to try something but weren't in the mood for a sweet cake so we went with the very last Chocolate Brioche on the shelf. It was a good choice. It was absolutely delicious —  yeasty, light, airy and filled with large dark chocolate chunks. I was also impressed with the $1.75 price, very fair considering the quality and prime location.
The tongs are behind the very last chocolate brioche on the shelf at Aux Merveilleux de Fred.
My husband Joe and our daughter Eleanor with our delicious purchase.

So beautiful and a bargain at $1.75.
Once home,  I decided to try my best to recreate the taste and so I spent yesterday experimenting and created this recipe. These chocolate brioches are especially delicious warm right out of the oven but if you can manage to set a few aside, they would make a fabulous bread pudding. My husband has requested that making these doesn't become a habit because they are just too hard to resist.

Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Brioche
(makes 15 large rolls)

1 1/3 cups milk
2/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into small pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
3 eggs
1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt
6 to 8 cups unbleached flour
10 oz. dark chocolate chunks or chips
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
Swedish pearl sugar (optional)

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the milk with the sugar and butter. Heat just until the butter is almost completely melted

Pour the milk mixture into a large bowl and let it cool until it is still warm but not above 115-degrees.

It's important to make sure the milk mixture is warm, not hot, or it will kill the yeast.
Add the yeast and stir until dissolved. Add the three eggs and salt and mix well to combine. Add the flour, a cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Flatten the dough in the bowl and pour on the chocolate chunks or chips.
Adding the chocolate chunks.
 Knead the dough for 5 to 7-minutes, adding additional flour as necessary. It takes a while to get the chocolate evenly distributed throughout the dough. Don't rush this process.
The chocolate is beginning to get incorporated but it still needs some more kneading time.
Now it's ready for it's first rise.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel. Let the dough rise for 60 to 90 minutes or until double in bulk. Punch the dough down and let it rise a second time until double in bulk.

Divide the dough into 15 portions and shape rolls. Place the rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving about 1.5 inches of space between them.
The rolls ready for their last rise of 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375-degrees and let the rolls rise for 30 minutes. After rising, whip the egg with the 1 tablespoon of water to make a wash and brush it over the tops of the rolls.
Adding the egg wash.
 At this time, you can also sprinkle on some Swedish pearl sugar if desired.
 Bake the rolls for 25 minutes or until done and golden brown.
The finished chocolate brioches. I added pearl sugar to some and left some plain.
The inside of a warm brioche. The chocolate is gooey and this is my preferred way to enjoy them.
The inside of a cooled brioche. The chocolate has set but they are still a treat to eat.

Friday, May 22, 2015


I am so thankful for all the terrific volunteers at The Wednesday Community Meal who pitched in to fill in for me while I was away this week. I appreciate it so much and so do our guests who have come to depend on the weekly meal at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. It's important to me that we never let them down.

Everyone came together to serve 309 beautiful well-rounded meals and I have no doubt there were a lot of smiles in the dining room.

My friend Cheryl deserves a special shout out for planning the menu around all of the gleaned food. She also kindly snapped and shared a few pictures so I wouldn't feel too left out.

Wednesdays really are a highlight for me and I can't wait to see everyone next week and thank them in person for all their hard work.

Linda and Mary are so dedicated. They come each week to serve in the dining room and are always willing to fill in wherever needed.

I love Diana. She is a dedicated server in the dining room and it's not easy work. The pace is fast, and you're on your feet moving about the large room for two hours straight.

I always appreciate having Tom's help in the kitchen. He fits volunteering at the meal around his work schedule and comes in regularly to help every other week. He is great to work alongside and makes everyone miss him on the weeks he's gone.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Art Festival Cookies

I'm catering a lunch at an arts festival this Saturday at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and cookies are on the menu.

At first I thought I'd just make chocolate chip since they're crowd pleasing and quick to whip up. But in the end, I decided I should also offer another choice and come up with a cookie that's "artsy" and celebratory.

Decorated cookies, which I consider my art, were an obvious choice except that they're not easy to make in large quantities unless you do something really basic.

So I decided to go for round cookies decorated in an few bright colors. I love how these turned out, they are simple yet high impact and will be a colorful addition to my menu.

When you are just adding a base coat to a cookie, it's important that you keep the icing clean and neat and avoid smudges and smears. The secret is to use 15 second icing for the outline and flooding — That's icing that settles back into place in 15 seconds after you draw a line through it with the back of a spoon. This consistency is important when you are working on a small cookie and want the icing to settle and be smooth yet be stiff enough to not run out and over the edges of your cookies.

Once you get the hang of outlining and flooding, it goes very quickly. I was able to decorate 100 cookies in two hours — That's just 1 minute and 20 seconds per cookie!

Here's more information on the arts festival which is free and open to everyone. The Trinity Arts Commission has worked very hard putting together a special event that celebrates a variety of art mediums and offers something for all ages.  There will even be two performances of the play "A Wrinkle in Time."

If you would like to partake in the noon lunch, tickets cost $7.50 and can be purchased at the festival. I hope to see you there!

Trinity Arts Festival 
"A Wrinkle in Time"
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral (147 NW 19th Ave, Portland, OR)

May 16 - 10:00 a.m.- 9:00 p.m.

Free admission to all events.
Childcare available 10-12 and 1-5:30 in the nursery.

All Day
CAULDRON ~ multimedia installation
IF YOU FELT THE SAME ~ multimedia installation
ARTISTS AMONG US ~ 15th Anniversary Exhibition
MOVING OUTSIDE ~ outdoor fiber art exhibit

10:00 a.m.
AMAZING PORTAL ~ puppet theater (children/youth)

11:00 a.m.
COSTUME MAKING ~ workshop (children/youth)

11:30 a.m.

12:00 p.m.
LUNCH ($7.50/person, Kempton Hall)

1:00-4:00 p.m.
ORGAN WITHOUT STOPS ~ marathon concert

1:00 p.m.
MOVE! DANCE! PLAY! SING! ~ participatory session for kids
BOOK DISCUSSION ~ Book of Creation, John Philip Newell
LIFT UP YOUR VOICE & SING ~ beginning voice class
TIME & MULTIMEDIA ART ~ panel discussion
TRANSPARENT SNOW GLOBE COLUMN ~ interactive installation

2:00 p.m.
MOVE! DANCE! PLAY! SING! ~ participatory session for kids
SONGWRITING AS TRUTH-TELLING ~ participatory workshop

3:00 p.m.

4:00-5:30 p.m. & 7:00-8:30 p.m.
A WRINKLE IN TIME ~ dramatic adaptation by John Glore

And, here's how to make Colorful Cookies:

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.
I used a small 1.5-inch round cutter to cut the cookies. When I make small sized cookies I'm careful not to roll the dough to thin since I want the cookie to be satisfying and perfectly balanced with the sweet icing. I aim for 1/4-inch.
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 few drops at a time to get desired consistency.
Using 15 second icing and a #2 tip, outline and fill in the cookie.

Use a skewer or scribe tool to manipulate the icing, evenly distribute it and fill in any gaps. Give the cookie a gentle shake to help the icing settle and that's all there is to it. Let the cookies dry completely before packaging or serving. This takes about 6 to 8 hours.