Monday, September 27, 2010
I love cookies. I don't make them too often though, because I think I am just a little too lazy... It is faster and easier to make bars! So this month's challenge was going to involve as much time management challenge as baking challenge!! Actually, though, the baking aspect was not what intimidated me. The sugar cookie recipe looked fairly straightforward, and Mandy actually gave us some great hints and tips which helped a lot. It was the decorating part that had be pretty well scared. I want to be artistic. I know I am (kind of) creative, but artistic isn't really my thing. Luckily, though, Mandy gave us a lot of freedom in our decorating. She gave us the theme of "September," and we could shape and decorate our cookies in whatever way said September to us.
As you know from the last Daring Cook's challenge, one of the big events for me in September is the Jewish New Year. Apples are part of the celebration, so apple shaped cookies were in order. Also, an apple is one of the (very) few cookie cutter shapes I have, so that worked out well!
I made the challenge cookie recipe as written, except I used part brown sugar instead of all white sugar. That is just my silliness... The dough came together really quickly. Then, as Mandy recommended, I rolled the dough out in three pieces before refrigerating it. I don't know why this idea has never either occurred to me before or been pointed out to me before. It is brilliant! It makes working with the dough so much easier, since it is still fairly soft when you roll it, but you can keep the extras cold while you work with one section at a time. For that alone, Mandy, this challenge taught me usefull baking skills!
When it was time to cut out the cookies I recruited my best kitchen helper, Little Girl. She had a great time using the cookie cutters, and rerolling the scraps to cut again. And I had a blast seeing her have so much fun! She is definitely hired for future cookie making projects!
Once the cookies came out of the oven and were completely cooled it was time to tackle my fears and start decorating. The challenge recipe for frosting was royal icing. This uses raw egg whites. Which I am not generally opposed to, but for the sake of... curiosity? health? keeping on my toes? I decided to find an egg free icing recipe. I used this one which I found on allrecipes.com. It looked straightforward enough, so I went for it.
First I tried mixing food coloring into a portion of the icing to make the red for the apples. No matter how many drops I added, though, I couldn't get darker than pink. And piping? I made a HUGE mess. (Sorry, I refused to take pictures of the mess... it was sticky...) I then resorted to painting. I put the plain white icing onto the cookies and dipped a (clean!) paintbrush into the food coloring. It worked ok. Or, it would have worked really well if I had any artistic talent. So I made as many red apples as I had patience for (I think it was four), then I moved onto jarred frosting and colored sprinkles... At least they were decorated!
For one last bit of fun, I used the extra scraps of dough to make one extra-special cookie. Hubby and I bought our first house. So I made a celebratory house cookie for us to share... I again used the painting method, and made a cute little house that doesn't really look like our new house, but it got the point across nicely!
Thank you so much Mandy for making me face one of my kitchen fears! I can't say that I have conquored it, but I can say that I now have a better understanding of what I still need to learn! It was totally worth it. If you would like to see the beautiful, creative, artistic creations my fellow Daring Bakers made, take a look here and be amazed!
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.
I made my apple butter in the crock-pot, using a recipe which was based on a bunch of different ones I had seen in my searches. I know John wanted up to credit our sources, but unfortunately I kind of can't... I did what I do for my applesauce, substituting honey for a large part of the sugar. I then let it cook all day. The apple smell filling the apartment was so good!! After about six hours I opened the pot to start the mashing. It was great, and I was so excited to see how the finished product would turn out!
This was traditional family canning at its very best. And I was so flattered that my father-in-law included me and shared his family "secret" with me!!
Thank you, John, for introducing me to canning, and for giving me the opportunity to learn new ways of celebrating the New Year and my amazing family! This challenge taught me a lot. And about food preservation, too!
To see the amazing creations my fellow Daring Cooks came up with, take a look here. Try not too drool on your keyboard!!