Diamond Ring Cookie Cutter Challenge

LilaLoa is having a contest/challenge to see what creative designs we can come up with using a diamond ring shaped cookie cutter. We can't make a diamond ring. We can make everything else using this cutter.

I have 6 ish designs I came up with. I'll slowly post each one as they get finished. I'm really excited.

My first design is this skull face.

My second design is this gold fish.

My third design is this potion bottle.

My 4th design is this ice cream sundae.

EDIT: So today - 4/18/13 - I had extra diamond cookies and royal icing. I decided to throw together the last designs I had in mind. I won't be able to decorate after today, because I will be busy packing! I will be moving to a new home in a couple weeks.

So excuse the color bleeding...and messy deigns. I never let any of the colors dry properly.

My 5th design is this tulip.

My 6th design is this gumball machine.

And my 7th design, completely thrown together randomly is this snow globe.

Coloring Chocolate with Gel Paste & Cookie Giveaway

A little over two years ago, I decided to make a food blog to share my tips, tricks, and recipes with other foodies out there. A couple months after that, I got engaged. Wedding planning was on! I wanted to help pay for the wedding, so that my husband wasn't the only one. So a couple months after that, I made a facebook page to help sell and advertise my baked goods.

I took a giant break 2 months before the wedding and several months after the wedding. Maybe some of you noticed nothing was being posted on the facebook page during those months? I had a few old clients contact me while I was on my break, and I realized I love doing this! So I decided to end my break, and keep my facebook page active again with new posts from the new orders!

Yay! And just in case you didn't know, for the bloggers that follow me, my facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/GwensKitchenCreations. Sometimes I post photos on there, and not on here, and vice versa. I am a little inconsistent. I will try to be better!

So to thank everyone for being there to support me in my creations, and for all the nice comments about them...I decided to do a cookie giveaway. I will be giving away 1 or 2 people a dozen decorated sugar cookies. They can pick the design of their choice. These will be mailed to the winner(s). This contest is not international, and is only for people in the United States, sorry.

But before I let you know how to enter, I wanted to share an amazing, and cool tip and trick with you about the colors of these cake pops.

These cake pops were colored/dyed with wilton/americolor gel paste food color. What?!?! Yes, the chocolate did not seize up. The chocolate was still chocolate. I was always taught that water based food coloring will make chocolate seize up, and become unusual as a dip for cake pops. I was told to always use oil based colors for chocolate. I decided to do an experiment.

I took a dollop of white chocolate/candy melts, added some gel food color...and it did form some lumps. Experiment 1 failed. 

Experiment 2: So I decided to add paramount crystals to my next dollop. I added some gel food coloring. And nothing bad happened. It was still smooth chocolate. I used both wilton and americolor gel paste, and they both worked wonderfully!

Can you imagine the crazy colors cake pops will be in the future because of this? I sure can.

I even made the cake pops match the sugar cookies for the same order.

The secret is to add paramount crystal to your chocolate/candy melts. Then add the colors. I'm sure a lot of people will be thrilled to know they can make teal or tiffany blue cake pops using gel food color instead of playing with blue or green oil color. That's what I did here to these cake pops. I added teal gel paste. Getting teal was difficult using just blue and green oil colors. There's not that many oil food colors out there compared to gel food colors.

The best part is, if you use gel paste food coloring for cake pops, you can use the same color for frosting/buttercream for cupcakes...and even for fondant. To make all your desserts match the same exact color!!! This was good for me, because I had a customer that wanted tiffany blue cake pops...and tiffany blue cupcakes. I made them match exactly using a small amount of teal gel paste in white candy melts and white buttercream. They match perfectly! Yay =]

OK...now to thank everyone! I will be giving away a dozen decorated sugar cookies to 1 or 2 winners. The winner(s) will choose the designs of the cookies, and will receive them in the mail! Anyone in the United States can enter.


There is 3 ways to enter, and even more if you have tons of friends. Leave all comments on this blog.

1. Like my page on facebook, and leave a comment below saying you did or already do. Click here to go to my facebook page.
2. Follow me on this blog. Leave a comment below saying you are following me.
3. Let your friends know about this giveaway. If they come back here and leave a comment with your name on it, both of you will win a dozen custom decorated sugar cookies.

The winner will be chosen via random.org. The winner will be drawn on April 20, 2013 so enter before then!

Good luck everyone!

Congratulations Sarah!!! You are the winner! Please contact me within 2 weeks!

Carrot Cupcakes

I love carrot cake. I also love cream cheese frosting. Good thing that these two things were made for each other. My husband is not fond of carrot cake, so nobody is helping me devour these yummy carrot cupcakes. I made them into cupcakes so that I can give them away. I knew ahead my husband wouldn't eat them. He's missing out!

These carrot cupcakes are moist and delicious beyond imagine. They have toasted walnuts, sweetened shredded coconut and currants in them. The currants give them a yummy chewy tangy bite when you get one. It's yummy. 

This recipe can make 1 small 7-8 inch round cake or 18-20 cupcakes. This recipe is really easy too!

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tps baking soda
1 tps baking powder
1 tps ground cinnamon
1/2 tps all-spice, optional
1/2 tps salt

2 large eggs, room temp.
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup (8 oz) shredded carrot
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

2 cups of cream cheese frosting

1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
2. Beat eggs with sugar until pale. 2 minutes. Add oil, and mix until combined.
3. Add in dry ingredients. Mix well.
4. Add in carrots, currants, walnuts, and coconut. Mix well.
5. For cupcakes, fill 2/3 full and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. For 7/8 inch cake, bake for 40 minutes.
Top with cream cheese frosting on your choice!

Macaron Tips and Tricks and a Recipe

I've made french macarons many many times. My first few attempts ended in misery - broken shells, cracks, hollows, no feet. Everything that could go wrong in a bad macaron - did.

However, I never stopped trying. Who knows how much pounds of almond flour/meal and powdered sugar I sieved. But, it was not in vain. I learned so much from all these failures, and I want to share my tips and tricks with you.

Today, I make perfect macarons every time. Not a single crack in any batch. Every batch has feet. They are perfect.

When I first started, I did use recipes that you find everywhere online. The ones that sift powdered sugar and almond flour together. The ones that get folded into stiffed egg whites. They failed me. I switched to recipes that used meringue powder. I even did Pierre Herme's recipe, that require boiling sugar and water to a syrup stage. I did everything.

The recipe that folds almond meal/icing sugar into stiffed egg whites never worked for me. I tried them a thousand times. What irony - they are now my favorite macaron recipe.

The meringue powder recipe was the first success for me. However, those produced hollows for me. Hollows are the air pocket gap between the shell and chewy center.

The recipe that requires the sugar syrup also worked. They also produced hollows and lopsided feet on the macarons. One side had more "feet" than the other. I had perfect ones in some batches. But I disliked making syrup. It was one step I wanted to remove. Making macarons is already tedious enough, I don't want to add another step that could go wrong.

So I went back to the first recipe I've tried. I modified it just a little bit. From all the mistakes and tricks I've learned - My first recipe worked. I was thrilled. The recipe that is the most simplest, also produced the best macarons for me now. Ironic that I use to hate it so much.

Ok, let me share the recipe first. Then I will share my tips and tricks.

3 large egg whites, ~95-100g, aged overnight
1/4 tps cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar, 50g
pinch of salt
2 cups powdered sugar, 200g
1 cup almond flour, 120g

1. Sift the salt, powdered sugar, and almond flour into a large container. Discard any clumps in the sieve.
2. Using a whisk attachment, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add sugar in 3 batches. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Add gel food coloring, if desired, whisk again.
3. Add 1/3 of the almond mixture into the egg whites. Fold until incorporated - about 15-20 turns. Then add another 1/3. Fold again. Repeat one last time. It will take about 65 folds for the right consistency.
4. Pipe small circles onto a baking sheet/tray lined with a baking mat or parchment paper. I used 3 half-sheets/trays.
5. Let rest until a skin forms. It should no longer be sticky. 30-60 minutes.
6. Bake at 275F for 17 minutes.
7. Let cool completely before attempting to peel them off.

This weekend, I made 3 full batches of that recipe. Chocolate, lemon, and raspberry flavor ones. Every macaron had feet. Not a single crack was found.

Okay! Now for the tips and tricks. I guarantee you can get perfect macarons too.

Tips and Tricks for perfect Macarons:

1. Buy/Get a food scale. Macarons are so delicate. You want precise measurements.
2. Almond flour can be made at home or bought at a store. Regardless of how you obtained it, sieve only the almond flour/meal before starting the recipe. You should remove all the almond bits that are not powdered-like. You want to start your recipe with real almond flour, not just finely grounded almonds. Now, from the sieved/sifted almond flour, measure out the 120 grams to start the recipe.
3. Aged egg whites are important. Don't use fresh eggs. Crack and separate your eggs whites into a small bowl. Loosely cover it with a paper towel on your counter overnight.
4. Always sift your icing sugar and almond flour, even if no clumps are visible. This will prevent cracks.
5. Beat your egg whites until foamy before adding sugar. Foamy like a thick cloud in a bubble bath. Then add your sugar in 3 batches. This helps dissolve the sugar.
6. Beat your egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stiff but not dry. It should still be shiny and glossy. Add gel food coloring now if desired. Whisk to blend.
7. The consistency you are looking for after folding all the almond mixture is "magma." It should flow like magma from your spatula when you lift some batter up with your spatula. A ribbon should also form in the batter when the magma falls down. This takes me about 65 folds.
8. The batter should not be super thick, or too runny. Too thick, and you will have peaks in your piped circles. Too runny and you will never have perfect circles. A piped circle should lose any peaks within 45 seconds if your batter is correct.
9. After you pipe your circles, bang your baking sheet gently on the counter several times to pop any air bubbles. Do this to all your baking sheets.
10. Let the skin form. This can take 30 to 60 minutes. A skin should form around the macaron. The sides and top should not be sticky. Touch it before baking.
11. After the skin forms, preheat your oven to 275F. Bake for 10 minutes. Then spin/rotate the tray, and bake for another 7 minutes. This ensures even browning and prevents the oven from getting too hot. If it is too hot, the macarons will crack. Double pan your sheets if necessary.
12. After the macarons are done baking. Let them cool completely. If they are still warm, it won't peel off the parchment paper.

I hope my tips and tricks help you. They have definitely helped me obtain perfect macarons.

Do you want to know what it looks like when it's baking? I do. I sit in front of my oven to watch the magic happen every time. It only takes about 8 minutes for magic to happen.

From these piped circles:

to these feeted macaron shells:

After the shell forms, I throw them in the oven:

After 2-3 minutes of baking, they are still pretty flat:

At 4 minutes, they get a little taller:

At 5-6 minutes:

At 7-8 minutes:

Completely baked and cooling:

Watching the first batch form feet is always my favorite part in making macarons. I sent my friend some macarons via snail-mail, aka the USPS. I hope they arrive safely. I will find out on Wednesday if you can send/mail macarons.

From my 3 batches of macarons, I made about 120 filled cookies. Due to being tired and lazy. I chose to fill them with fillings I can get from a jar. I chose nutella for chocolate, lemon curd for lemon, and raspberry preserves for raspberry. Next time I will make ganache and flavored buttercream.

I hope my post helps you make perfect macarons too!

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