Yes, I finally bit the bullet and got myself a new mixer. Not just any new mixer mind you, but the most beautiful, pure KitchenAid Mixer ever. Literally, it’s presence in my kitchen is putting all my other appliances to shame. I may have to throw them all out and start again like in university.
I would like to thank all those who made this purchase possible:
– my old handmixer for dying in December. I loved you and I’m so glad that your final act was making royal icing for my first attempt at decorating cookies. Mind you, if I hadn’t made them and burnt out your engine, you would still be there. Thank you for being that sacrifice.
– my mother, who gave birth to me so close to Valentine’s Day that I would be able to celebrate my birthday recently and send me a birthday cheque for the purchase of a KitchenAid Mixer.
– Barnes & Castle, a discount appliance store in the GTA where I was able to purchase said KitchenAid Mixer for the awesome price of $188.99 before taxes and therefore convince my mother that she would not need to buy one online and thus save herself over a $150 in purchase and shipping fees. I’m a good daughter and an even better bargain hunter.
– Trevor, who came with me to said store on the windiest and busiest of all Saturdays to help me purchase said KitchenAid Mixer and lovingly carried it out of the store to the car, up three flights of stairs to our home and gently helped me extract it from its box. He must know that more baking is in his future.
Alright, I’m off to make some Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Buns for the busy week ahead. Even though the recipe doesn’t call for it, I’ll find an excuse to use my baby somehow.
A couple weeks ago, I went to what I thought would be my first Michael’s basic cake decorating class. Due to that unfortunate mix-up, I was put in the correct class which started last night. All I could think was “FINALLY!”
This time around, it was such a relief to arrive at the Michael’s store craft room and find people with the required sugar cookies laid out. Our class was all females with a nice mixture of ages and the instructor was wonderfully informed, chatty and super friendly.
The only dull thing was that the first class was, to put it mildly very boring. At least for me.
We started out by going through the Wilton’s booklet that came with the class (these babies are $25 at Bulk Barn, so I think that was a nice steal since the class was only $22). She went over the secrets to baking a good cake and how to make your own buttercream icing with shortening. It was good for a lot of people, but except for the odd little fact, this was nothing new to me. The instructor then pulled out a hand mixer and showed us how to make homemade icing and then we passed around the bowls of icing to compare the consistencies and which ones are used depending on if you are icing the cake or piping borders.
YAWN (I’m sorry).
Halfway through the 2 hour class, she then pulled out the piping bags (YES!) and we learned how to properly fill them without getting a mess everywhere (something I’m still working on). Cookie royal icing is way different than cake buttercream icing, so I think it was easier to get into the piping bag. I did learn that I need to recut my featherweight piping bags as my markings are a little off and that might make a difference in controlling my piping and why my tips are always a little wobbly.
Our instructor pulled out a plain vanilla cake that she made for the class and showed us how to level it with a cake leveler (we joked throughout the class about how everything she showed us was getting us on the Wilton’s brand) and then she filled the middle of the cake with icing and vanilla pudding. She iced the cake with the icing she showed us how to make and then showed us how to spread it with minimal crumbs.
For the rest of the class, we then got to use our piping bags with the star tip #18 and practice making stars on our practice board and our cookies that we brought. As a last sweet treat, our instructor cut up the cake she made and we each got to have a delicious slice.
Despite the slow start, it was a very good class. I felt totally in my element around other people interested in learning cake decorating. I also think its better that I start in the basics, even if nothing is really new to me right away. Nothing would be worse than being cocky and trying to take the next level class and feeling left behind and useless with icing leaking out of my piping bag.
Some great things I learned from the first class:
1). Lighter pans are better for baking cakes. It cooks more even and darker pans are more likely to burn the bottom of your cake.
2). Only fill your pans half-way with cake batter to prevent the top cake lump from forming (although this part is usually cut off later when you level the cake).
3). When measuring your piping bag with the coupler base, mark the bag against the first ridge where the tip screwed in and then cut it.
Next class we get to ice and decorate a cake with a cupcake design so we have to bring two batches of homemade buttercream icing (the Wilton’s recipe) and a round cake.
Looks like I need to buy a round cake pan for next week!
I love using cookie cutters so much so that I pretty much only make rolled sugar cookies. However, one of my childhood favourites is classic chocolate chip cookies and I was feeling a little deprived and sick of frosted sugar cookies (I’m sure this will pass). So, you wouldn’t believe how excited I was when I came across Callye (aka SweetSugarBelle)’s blog post for rolled and cookie cutter friendly chocolate chip cookies. It’s was best of both worlds – fulfilling my chocolate chip need and using my growing stack of cookie cutters!
I’ll admit though, I was a little bit nervous. I mean, these cookies are known as drop cookies, meaning they spread and form their own shape when baked. Would the dough listen to my predetermined cookie cutter or would they get it their little minds to create their own shape? Also since there are chocolate chips wouldn’t it be, oh I dunno, difficult to cut with a cookie cutter? I slowly accepted these fears as a challenge and decided to push through.
I blamed my chocolate chip cookie craving.
One thing I noticed that there is no baking soda in the recipe, so there would be minimal dough rising/forming. Still, I was a little skeptical that my cookies would be able to keep their shapes. Just because someone else was successful at it doesn’t mean that I would be just as successful. The universe is mysterious and cruel that way.
Callye makes a note that is to use a good cutter and boy she wasn’t kidding! Those chocolate chips are rough to cut through. I didn’t have any mini chocolate chips on hand since I just bought a huge bag of semi-sweet regulars from Costco, so something tells me that having minis makes the cutting process easier.
What she didn’t mention was how good the cookie dough is on its own. I guess that goes without saying though, as this pile of scraps used to be bigger.
So here are the cookies before they went into the oven. You can bet I was crossing my fingers that they would keep their heart shapes.
And they did! These chocolate chip cookies were moist and delicious and I highly recommend the recipe. I even substituted the butter for margarine (a frequent habit of mine) and accidentally added a full egg instead of just the required yolk (not a frequent habit – I was making supper at the same time and taking photos) and they tasted just as great with a cold glass of milk.
My favourite way to start the cookie decorating process is by starting with a white icing background, or a blank canvas if you will. This gives me a chance to practice my piping skills by outlining and filling the cookies and organize my gel colours for what I want to use.
Plus a white background makes your other decorations pop nicely, whether its more icing, sprinkles or drawing with edible writing markers. I bought these bad boys at Michaels with a 40% off coupon (they always get me). I’m not sure if you can buy Americolor in Canada which is the edible marker brand that everyone raves about, but these work just fine.
Mmmm, nothing beats a platter of Valentine’s Day cookies!