Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Oatmeal Cookies for All!

Until very recently, I had never made oatmeal cookies. I tried out a recipe for them about a year ago at the request of a friend and, well... They sucked. The recipe called for too much liquid and I ended up with a very puddle-y dough, resulting in weird too-thin-some-spots-too-chunky-in-others cookies.


So, I've been modifying and tweaking the recipe, and here's what I've got so far.

The original recipe called for just shortening, but I like a little buttery richness in my cookies, so I used half unsalted butter & half shortening.

I stuck with the recommended amounts of white and brown sugar, and mooshed them up together well.

And reduced the liquid. Above, I'm adding one egg and about 1/8th of a cup of water. This would be the time to throw the vanilla in, too.

In the eternal words of Rob Rainford, "Moosh moosh moosh." That is, mix it all up. Profound.

Add your dry ingredients - flour, cloves, cinnamon, salt, baking soda - and stir to combine. Now, I feel like we're missing something here...

Oh, yes, oats! Good ol' rolled oats.

Lots of oats.

And raisins! *PTOOEY* Oh, sorry, that's my natural reaction to raisins. (Ptooey.) I uh, I really hate raisins.

I know, right? How can I call myself a baker? Once I told someone I hated raisins, and she asked, "But... don't you like grapes?"

"Yes," I replied, "And they should never be defiled in such a manner."

That is how I speak of the vile fruits in polite company. What I could say about them behind closed doors may make the Cake Boss himself blush. But I digress.

My mom loves raisins. This is her half of the dough. That's how much I love my mom, people. I touched raisins.


Use a teaspoon or your handy-dandy scoop to measure out your cookie dough. No flattening is necessary, they will spread a bit on their own.

Fresh out of the oven, these are chewy with just a touch of crunch from the oats. As they cool, they get a nice crunchy bite to the outside and stay soft and chewy on the inside. Not that I'd know from the batch above, because, well, you know. The-Fruit-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named and all that.

I mentioned, though, that this was only dear Mom's half of the batch. As for the other half of our dough, I had much sweeter plans.

Semi-sweet chocolate chips. Oh, come to mama. 


Measured out and baked just like those other cookies, these come out chewy, crunchy and oh-SO-chocolatey. I wish I hadn't waited so long to start baking oatmeal cookies. I'll share my recipe as it is now, I may still tweak the balance of the fats to get just the right consistency, but otherwise, I'm pretty happy with it!

Crunchy & Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 C   Shortening, half unsalted butter if desired
1 C      Brown sugar, packed
1/2 C   Granulated sugar
1          Large egg
1/8 C   Water, room temperature
1 tsp     Vanilla
1 C       All-purpose flour
1 tsp     Salt
1/2 tsp  Baking soda
1 tsp     Cinnamon
1/2 tsp  Cloves
2 C       Raisins OR Chocolate chips OR Whatever floats your boat
3 C       Rolled oats

Cream together fats and sugars. Add egg, water and vanilla and stir until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix until dough forms.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, or from a 1-inch scoop onto cookie pan. TIP: These do stick a bit, so either grease your pan, or line with parchment paper. I was out of parchment paper when I baked these so do as I say, not as I did.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool on pan for 1-2 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Devour Cookie Monster-style.


You can have these ones.
Until next time!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Send-Off Cookies

So an exciting, sad, wonderful, bittersweet thing happened today.

My workplace supervisor and good buddy, Deon, left for a 4-month leave. I only found out it was happening last week, and I scrambled to put together an appropriate set of cookies for the event. 

By the way, if the name sounds familiar, I have mentioned Deon before. He was the one who suggested the jam-filled cookies I made back in this post. So I kind of owed him one.

First thing to know about Deon's leave of absence: he is flying away somewhere. So thing one was to make airplane cookies. As you can see, this cutter is more an old-time, fighter-jet type deal, so I had to alter it a bit to make it look more like a commercial plane.

I quite simply cut away the 'propeller' bit, forming a pointed front on each plane.

Once baked, I used an Ateco brand #2 tip to outline the cookie's parts in black-tinted royal icing. Next time I make royal icing, I'll be sure to whip up a quick tutorial with it. On this occasion, however, I was just using leftover icing I had stored in an airtight container.

I took a portion of white royal icing and thinned it until it was something like a thick syrup, as above. Then I poured it into a freezer bag, and cut a small corner off.

I carefully poured some of this thinned icing into each airplane outline, one to three at a time, and used a toothpick to draw the icing towards the outlines until they were all evenly filled.

I let the icing set for just a few minutes, then used a toothpick dipped in thinned black royal icing to dab on the plane's windshield and windows.

Please forgive the sideways picture. Blogger is refusing to let it upload the right way up.
 Like I mentioned, Deon is a supervisor where I work, and he is the king of fancy high fives. You did a great job? High five! You brought in baked goods? High five! You happen to be walking by? HIGH FIVE!

So uh, I made little hand cookies that said HIGH 5! on them.

So guess where Deon is flying.

Now guess why he's going there.

No, that's not a TV, he's not off to be a reality show star. No, no, not a computer screen. It's supposed to be an undeveloped Polaroid picture. These didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped, but the reason I made them is because Deon is flying away to New York City to take an educational internship in photography, his passion.

I'm so happy for him, but at the same time...

Good luck! Have a safe trip! We'll miss you! Impromptu dance party!


Oh, I guess I should explain that. I was having an absolutely awful day at work, when something good happened. It was just a small, shining ray of hope in my day, and I was so relieved to have a good thing happen on such a terrible day, that I stood up and danced a little at my desk when I thought no-one was looking.

Deon was looking. Oops. Excuse me while I die of embarrassment! He thought it was hilarious, and ever since, would regularly approach my desk all business-like, wait for me to look up from my work, and announce "IMPROMPTU MUCH MUSIC DANCE PARTY" which was the signal for all within earshot to dance like dorks.

Yeah, the office is about to be a lot quieter.

I packed all the cookies in a cute little box I got from the dollar store, which I somehow forgot to take a picture of, and brought them to work today.

Deon loved them. He accused me of trying to make him cry. He was kind enough to share with everybody, too. What a guy.

So today was kind of bittersweet. 

Another co-worker brought in an incredible chocolate-raspberry bundt cake for Deon, too, which completely blew my mind. I'll be pestering her for the recipe for sure, and when I get to try it out I'll be sure to share with you guys.

Since I'm talking so much about work, I should probably mention that my work schedule will be extremely busy starting next week, so it may be a little while between posts, but I'll do my best to keep up with things. Thanks so much for reading!

Until next time!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Valentine's Checkerboard Cake with Tutorial

I wish, wish, WISH I could have gotten this post up sooner so y'all could have seen it before Valentine's Day but I was busy! Maybe if you like this idea, file it away for next year?

Really, though, do you need a specific holiday as an excuse to make a gorgeous, delicious cake?

Of course not.

So remember how when I made those cupcakes and also made layer cakes and put them aside for a later use? This is that use. These are fresh out of the freezer and still quite firm, which is exactly what we want. Yes, you need to freeze your cakes for this application! You'll see why in a bit.

So, start off with two different coloured, different flavored 8 or 9-inch round cakes. These are 9 inch rounds of red velvet and silver white cake.

Trim them to be level, then stack them atop one another.

Now give your cakes a hat. There, we're done! Isn't it cute?

Seriously, though, I used this bowl as a guideline so I could cut an almost-perfect circle in my cake. Before I continue, I need to point out that this whole process was inspired by I am Baker's Vertical Cake Tutorial though I took it in a slightly different direction because I was aiming for a different finished product.

I want this cake to have a checkerboard interior!

I used a small rice bowl for the next circle. Holding the bowl in place I took a long, thin, sharp knife and cut straight down into the cake, following the outside edge of the bowl. If I'd had a tripod or a third arm, I would be showing you a picture of that right now.

I could have stopped there, but I chose to cut out one more circle in the middle, just using a round cookie cutter.

It didn't go deep enough so I had to use it to cut form both sides of the cake... I could have made my life easier here and just used the knife with the cutter as a guide but what are you gonna do.

Then I very, veeerrry carefully pulled the rings upwards one by one to separate them. Now, if we weren't working with frozen cake, the whole thing would simply crumble at this point, so don't skip freezing them for at least 3-4 hours!

Once you have all your rings separated, start fitting them back together, alternating colours as you go.

You'll end up with a neato target-looking cake! (Stay on target. We're too close! Stay on target! B-KOOM! Yeah, that's all I could think every time I looked at this cake. I am a nerd.)

Now, I missed an important step here. Please, learn from my mistake, and don't miss this step!! Before you painstakingly lift one target cake and place it atop the other, brush the bottom layer with a generous amount of simple syrup. Then stack them together. Pour a bit more syrup over the top and especially in the gaps between the rings, as above.

Then wrap the heck out of it in Cling Wrap, tightly, to hold the layers all together. (Over at I am Baker, Amanda tied hers with parchment paper and scraps of cloth, whatever works to keep your cake's layers all closely hugging.)

Then put them back in the freezer for a couple more hours. Yes, this takes time, but it will spare you the suffering I've had to endure. My cake did not hold together well, the layers came apart when served. I did not put the middle layer of simple syrup, I did not pour enough over the top. Perhaps I didn't leave in the freezer long enough.

Please, learn from my mistakes. Don't let this cake tragedy befall your family.


Where was I? (STAY ON TARGET!) Right. Once you've firmed up your cake in the freezer yet again, let it thaw in the fridge before starting decorating. Frosting and frozen cakes don't necessarily get along all that great.

Hurry up and thaw so I can frost you! (Stay on target!)

No, I'm not getting sick of that reference. Why do you ask?

Okay, okay, so let's get some frosting on this baby! I tried altering Amanda's recipe to suit my tastes better but the texture didn't come out how I hoped, so anyone who wants to try this: stick to Amanda's Perfect Crusting Buttercream recipe. If I ever get my variation on it right, I'll be sure to share.

I was really on an I am Baker bender when I decorated this too. This was inspired by the cake she made in her Vertical Layer Cake Tutorial to do a simple black-on white, handwritten message, but on top of the cake. Oh, dear, my handwriting needs some practice.

The important thing about these words, though, is that it's the lyrics to my husband's favorite love song. This cake was for Valentine's Day, after all. And if anyone is curious, yes, he loved it!

 I gave the sides some interest by piping simple, freehand, heart outlines all the way around. This is probably my favorite part of the outside of the cake. I may play with this idea further in the future.

So, what does this baby look like when you cut a slice?

Ooooh. I admit it took some finagling to get this shot. Like I mentioned, my lack of simple syrup understanding and foresight meant the layers didn't stay together quite right. So this is a somewhat reconstructed slice.

But, oh, look at that. Gorgeous. Worth the extra work and waiting time, worth all the trouble for sure.

I would offer you some, but I gave out slices as Valentine's Day gifts to people I ran into today, and hubby ate the very last slice after dinner, so... Sorry! But try making your own! It's fiddly, yes, but a stunning effect when you cut a slice and everyone sees the lovely checkering for the first time.

Even though my layers were a little, er, disconnected, it turned out delicious and beautiful and, once again, I learned something for next time. If you try it, let me know how it goes.

And, oh, (slightly late) Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!

Until next time!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Cupcakes Two Ways - Part Two

Hello again!

We're back with the thrilling conclusion of Cupcakes Two Ways! Our spine-tingling adventure started over here in part one, so be sure you've read that first. There's a lot of character development and drama and such in that first part, and, well, if you go and read this one first it's just going to spoil the whole thing.

So, if you've read part one, you know I'm a great big over-dramatic liar. There's that character development I mentioned.

Oh, and also I baked two kinds of cupcakes, and now it's time to frost and decorate them!

I am sorry this picture is so dark. Sometimes in the passion of baking, I forget where my light source is. Oops.

I am again sort of stealing from Bakerella - so poke this link here for her cream cheese frosting recipe. I only did a half recipe because by the time I was done baking the cupcakes, and my brother came by to visit, 4 un-decorated cupcakes had mysteriously disappeared. (The silver white cake only made 10 cupcakes, by the way, in case you're a stickler for math.)

In any case, I blitzed together the cream cheese and butter, above, then added my vanilla, below.

There's that spoon again! All together now: "D'aaaaaaaw!"

Yes, I'll get over the spoons eventually. Give me time.

Next, sift your icing sugar in a separate bowl to sort out any lumps, and add it bit by bit to your cream cheese mixture, blending all the way.

I must say, I was baffled when I first read this frosting recipe. Never, ever have I made a frosting that didn't include a liquid of any kind. No egg, no water, no milk, just fat, sugar and flavor. Part of me feared it wouldn't turn out well, but a much bigger part of me said to trust Bakerella.

And I'm so glad I did. This frosting, you guys. It is so good!

Next up, decorations! I hit my local bulk foods store and basically brought home anything and everything that I thought even might look decent on Valentine's Day cupcakes.

Clockwise from top left: Wilton sugar pearls, large heart sprinkles, pink sanding sugar, and tiny heart sprinkles. But oh, we're not done.

Clockwise from top left: Cinnamon hearts (oh goodness, my favourite!) sour gummy hearts, Valentine's Day Smarties (the chocolate kind) and regular gummy hearts.

It's fun time.

Friend Shanahan had suggested making a 'cloud' of frosting and popping two heart candies on top, I believe because when you're in love, your heart feels light as air. Or something.

Anyway it looked super cute! Now all I can think of is that Phil Collins song, what was it? "Two hearts, sitting on just one cupcake" or something like that.

But it was still missing something...

Tiny heart sprinkles fix everything.

Now, let me tell you, when I first sat down to sort through my photos for this post, I had over 80 pictures, just for the frosting & decorating step. I think I'm getting a little snap-happy with the camera. I eventually was able to cull all but my very favourite cupcakes to show you. This was very, very difficult to do, they were all so cute!

A simple spiral of cream cheese frosting piped on with a large star tip, with a simple pattern of Smarties over the top. I don't care what day of the year it is, more chocolate = more better!

Just one heart gummy atop a cupcake. It would be lonely if not for all the tiny heart sprinkles. Maybe I went a little sprinkle-happy, too.

On the silver white cake, since I still had quite a bit of frosting left, instead of making a new flavor, I just tinted the existing frosting pink. I do wish I'd had some kind of strawberry extract on hand because that would have been just extra special, but I didn't think of that at the bulk store. Next time.

So uh, there's a cupcake with pink cream cheese frosting and two sour gummy hearts. (See, berry flavor would have gone great with the gummies. Hindsight is 20/20, and all that.)

This one has a thick layer of pink cream cheese frosting with a simple pattern of sugar pearls and white heart sprinkles. I am probably ill-proportionately proud of it, but that's still not as proud as I was of this next one:

Anyone who's a big fan of Amanda over at I am Baker may notice a similarity here to her famous Rose Cake, and I freely admit it certainly took inspiration from her cake, though I hadn't read that post in ages. Reading it over again afterwards did give me some more ideas, though... but I'll be saving those for another day.

It should go without saying, but if you're not already reading I am Baker, Bakerella and Bakingdom, guys, you really should be. Fantastic blogs. Just don't compare mine to them because, well, I tried it and then I got kind of sad.

Know what cheers me up when I get sad?

Looking at pretty cupcakes. Awww, yeah.

I would definitely do this again. I highly recommend the 'buy every candy that looks good and throw it on cupcakes' method of decorating, especially if you have kids who want to help in the kitchen. Would also be super fun at a party, set out your icing and sprinkles and just let people go nuts.

I know they're not the fanciest cupcakes in the world but they were a tonne of fun to make - and even more fun to eat. Now the question is, how am I going to top these for V-Day itself?

You'll just have to keep an eye out for the next post to find out.

Until next time!