Today was a snow day in the GTA and due to the terrible road conditions, I didn’t have to go to work. This meant one thing that I’ve been putting off for the last week – attempting to make royal icing without my beloved mixer (RIP). I’d probably been putting it off due to fear of failing, but honestly it was much easier than I expected.
I pulled out my handy Pampered Chef whisk, setting myself in front of the television with a DVD of Gilmore Girls, rolled up my sleeves and went to town. To mimic the normal speedy action of a mixer, I whisked nonstop……for the required 10 minutes. Yes, I’m probably insane, but it worked and I really wanted to decorate cookies today.
The icing recipe I used is one I modified from Cookie Craft, which was one of the cookbooks I bought with an early birthday present Chapters giftcard (the other was The Pioneer Woman Cooks). I like using meringue instead of egg whites because I’m terrible at remembering that I have egg whites in the fridge that I have to use by a certain time.
Right after I came home from Christmas, I decided to take a Michael’s cake decorating class. I’d been meaning to do this for years and now I didn’t have to excuse of unexpected (film) work coming up, so what was holding me back?
So on a busy Saturday, I went and signed up for the basic class set to start on January 30th.
Cut to three weeks later, I had all my supplies neatly organized in my reusable Sobey’s bag (blueberry theme), my class syllabus and my receipt (this later made a big difference). I made sugar cookies on Friday (real butter!) and had the required six tucked away lovingly in a baggie, wrapped in paper towel and nested in a plastic container to later bring home decorated with the Wilton brand icing I purchased……or so I thought.
I arrived at the class 10 minutes early and waited as the Michael’s associates set up around myself and two other early birds. As we settled in our seats, and others joined us, I began to notice what everyone else had in their bulging bags. This didn’t immediately alarm me, but I saw that one lady had a gum paste kit with her. Then I saw another already had her icing bags set up and ready to go. These items were not listed on the required items list. Suddenly fear and panic set in. Did I come on the wrong date? Wrong time? Wrong class?
My fears were confirmed when I approached the teacher in front of everyone. Apparently when I registered for the class, the sales associate had accidentally put me in the intermediate cake decorating class, but still given me a basics syllabus and outline. These people already knew how to ice a cake and properly pipe roses with ease, where as I could barely fill an icing bag and keep my hands their normal colour.
Thankfully, a store manager took pity on my panic and saved me before the class really began, so I really only humiliated myself in front of half a dozen more talented people. I was led away from the room of the prying, nosy and probably judgmental eyes to the front of store registers, where I was properly registered for the next upcoming decorating basics class starting on February 18th and given a heartfelt apology for the mix-up.
Now working years in a retail setting myself, I knew it wasn’t the store managers fault, so I was polite and thankful and even making jokes about the mix-up. Inside I was steaming and red-faced and wanting the whole thing to be over and to be speeding down the road in my car, driving far, far away from this whole ordeal.
So I went back home, slightly demoralized from the whole experience and even a little sad, especially because I’d been looking so forward to taking this class. I tried not to make a big deal about it, considering that I’m still taking the class (19 days later than expected).
How did I fix this funk that I was in? I took to the facebook to mildly vent and my friends had the best idea: CUPCAKES.
Mini vanilla cupcakes with pink/white swirled icing with a few drops of almond flavouring. Delicious.
I had a terrible week that started right after my hand mixer decided to die on me, so last Friday when I got home from work, I decided that the only cure would be to make some cookies and spend the night decorating them. I had just bought some heart cutters from Dollarama and wanted to put them to good use. I had even found a decent sounding recipe for cookie icing that didn’t involve the needing of a mixer.
My only problem was that when I opened the fridge, I realized I was out of butter. I still had on hand a box of margarine squares sitting in the back, but I was in the middle of making supper and there was no way that I wanted to deal with rush hour, despite having two grocery stores just down the street from us. So I sucked it up and used margarine instead.
I’m sure this is probably not going to come as a shock to anyone, but the bare cookies had a little “off” taste to them. They were still edible and Trevor raved about them all night, but to me, they didn’t have the same rich, savory flavour. The icing recipe isn’t even worth posting, as although it looked nice, it was a pain to pipe and it wasn’t the same royal cookie icing taste that I’m used to. It also didn’t harden properly after 48 hours of sitting out, so some of the tops got squashed during packaging.
So lessons learned:
1). NOTHING beats butter in cookies. Seriously, the next time butter comes on sale, I’m stocking up so I don’t find myself in the same situation.
2). Double tie your piping bags. I wish I had taken a picture of the mess I had created, but lets just say that one of my bags exploded black icing all over my table and some of the cookies. I blame the consistency of the icing. And the icing recipe. And my shaky hands.
3). Make cookies with lots of time to spare. It was well after midnight when I finally put the piping bag down and I had been up since 6am, so I was a little cross-eyed.
Still though, it was nice to practice my piping. And if you recognize the handwriting of the word “love” that’s because it’s from a wonderful video tutorial from Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle. (Although she has much better writing).
And if it makes you feel better, I made cookies again tonight WITH butter and they turned out perfect. I’m also going to attempt to make royal icing by hand. But that is for next week…
Three nights a week, Trevor has night classes. This means that three nights a week, I do supper for just myself. Most of the time, I get my cheese fix and make myself pizza or lasagna, but tonight I had to make one of my favourite restaurant knock-offs – cheese and garlic “Red Lobster” biscuits.
As a kid, going to Red Lobster was always a treat. My family is really big on seafood and I’m always shocked when I meet someone who doesn’t like fish or shrimp. (FYI: we usually eat fish or shrimp at least 2x a week). The highlight for me was always the basket of biscuits you get before your meal. Since we can’t always afford to eat at Red Lobster when my craving hits, I tend to make my own.
Most of the recipes I’ve read online call for Bisquick, which works and is wonderful if you’re in a rush. However, I find nothing more relaxing at the end of a work day than rolling up my sleeves and dipping a measuring cup into my bag of flour and making something from scratch.
Trevor is lactose-intolerant, so I frequently try to find milk-free recipes for him to enjoy. When I first started collecting cookbooks, my mom gave me one from the grade 8 trip fundraiser at my sister’s elementary school. This was where I found the perfect milk-free banana muffin recipe for Trevor. I’ve gone through many failed banana muffin recipes, but I think I’ve found the perfect one. Milk tends to add moisture to muffins, but these muffins are soft, moist and super delicious.