Wednesday, June 29, 2011

July 4th Cake Pops!

I really love how these turned out...however, after making these I can't even begin to tell you how glad I am that I purchased Bakerella's Cake Pop book awhile back!  My original plan was to do simple round cake pops dipped in red, white and blue.  Then I got this genius idea to do them in the shape of stars, much more fun and festive right?!?  I proceeded to punch out stars from the cake balls that I had already formed...still going smoothly!  Onto the lollipop sticks they went and then into the red candy melts, looking see I thought I could use the Pirate Pop method (Bakerella pg 95) wrong!  After the red had hardened I started to dip half of each star into the white, here is where everything started to go completely wrong...the red melted into the white candy, so I decided to let them chill in the fridge.  Not sure what I was thinking at this point - maybe just a slight state of panic - but I put them in a glass pan before I put them in the fridge.  FYI, hot candy melts stick to glass when chilled and do not release!!!  I tried to pull them off the pan and ended up pulling out the sticks from each of the stars :( !!!

24hrs later...decided to try again!  Turns out I needed to dip them the Cupcake Pop method (Bakerella pg 19) not sure why, but this ended up working great!
The instructions are at the bottom of this post, sorry for the lack of pictures ( I sometimes forget to take pictures when I find myself doing multiple attempts).  Hopefully these directions will be clear, if you should try these and have questions I would be happy to help you!

1. Roll out your cake balls prior to cutting them, I really think that this helps with consistency.
2. I flattened the ball into more of a disc shape and then pushed it through the cookie cutter.
3. Chill the cut outs in the fridge for a little while (I think I did about 1/2 hr or so).  This is really crucial so that it is sturdy enough to stay on the stick, otherwise they have a tendency to fall off in the candy melts.
4. Since I was doing 1/2 red and the other 1/2 blue I took each star and dipped it halfway into the melted red candy coating, I immediately put the lollipop stick into this side of the star, twisted it slightly to let any excess coating fall off and put the stick to stand in a piece of styrofoam.
5.  After are all dipped with the red bottoms and have sat for awhile it is time to dip the tops in the blue (depending on how many you make and the length of time you may want to put them back in the fridge for a bit to let the exposed cake harden cake started to get to soft and it was a little difficult to work with. Once I chilled it it worked great!)
6.  Dip the top half of each star into the blue, making sure that it at least meets the red coating or goes a little past, twist again to remove excess coating, cover with sprinkles, non-pariels or just leave plan!

These are so cute and would look great in a variety of shapes and colors!

Hope everyone has a fun and safe holiday weekend!  Thanks for stopping by, if you try these I would love to see what you come up with!!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

July 4th Printables - Freebie!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer so far!  It doesn't seem possible that next Monday is July 4th already!  Thought I would share some free July 4th printables with you for anything that you might be working on for the holiday!  Also the Summer Printables are still here for any other outdoor fun you may be planning!

Click here to download!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Birthday

This past weekend was super busy, not only did we celebrate Jacob's graduation, my mom was also in town and we got to celebrate her birthday!  Since most of the planning happened for this between the graduation party on Friday and the dinner on Sunday it was not as elaborate as I had originally envisioned but there are some details that I really love.   Plus it was more important that we got to spend time together than that I found the perfect dinner plates :)! 

I had planned enough ahead to get the menu designed for the dinner, I was really happy with it and with a few adjustments I am going to make a set with this design and it will be for sale soon in my Etsy Shop (which is kind of empty right now :( !)

For the dinner itself I decided I wanted to have everyone make their own panini's (or at least select their own toppings).  I designed a list that coordinated with the menu where everyone could circle their selection and my wonderful personal chef, aka my husband made us wonderful paninis! We also served salad with gorgonzola and candied walnuts (I bought these from Trader Joes and they are one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted...that is if you like walnuts!), along with a mixed fresh fruit salad.  Since there were only a few of us I wanted to keep the desserts simple.  I made Lime & Basil Macarons, served strawberries as well as some spicy peanut brittle that my mom had made (this is from the recipe that Sandra Bullock and her sister created and it is beyond amazing!, the recipe is in a past issue of People Magazine, but I found a copy online here, hopefully you can see it!).  I also made Grapefruit Margaritas that I found on Pinterest, I think I made them a little too strong, but the flavor was pretty good...and the color was beautiful :)!! Here are some pictures from the party (not the greatest pics, seemed it was one camera mishap after another that day)!

It is a little hard to see some of the text in the pictures, but I love the bright colors of the design!  Oh and yes I used paper plates...I had had my eyes open for a couple of weeks looking for something that I really liked with no luck, finally late Sunday afternoon I found these at Target and the colors matched perfectly, plus made for easy clean-up!
Since the plates were so colorful I didn't end of using placements, instead I just layered the plates on top of these awesome (disposable) napkins!
Bought several bouquets of flowers and filled wrapped Mason jars in pink ruffle ribbon with the flowers.  Love the simple look of these jars.  I tied three of them together with the same ribbon on the dinner table for the centerpiece as well (didn't get a picture of this unfortunately)

Though I didn't have luck finding dinner plates, I did find these dessert the color and pattern of these!  I also found some oil cloth placemats that my mom had made a while back and used these on the buffet to separate the dessert area and the drink area. 

Love how these stemless white wine glasses looked when used for the margaritas!  A little salt on the rims and some awesome straws from  Polka Dot Market were the perfect finishing touches!
It was a very relaxing dinner and we were sorry to see her leave.  Next year will be a BIG party, as she is turning the big *0!!!

Look for this printable set coming soon to the shop!

Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lime & Basil Macarons...Fresh Summer Flavor!

Earlier this spring when I was searching for flavor combinations for the boxes of macarons that I was doing, I stumbled across this recipe on Yael's Yummies.  Lime and Basil....YUM!  Okay, so maybe it sounds a little different, but the freshness of these flavors combined has no doubt become a fast favorite! 
I started with macaron recipe from my previous post here.  I kept the macaron itself just lime flavored.  I added the zest from one lime, but you could certainly add more depending on your personal taste. I also add a combination of green and lime green gel coloring to get that beautiful bright green color, this of course is optional, I just really like it when the color represents the flavor you will be experiencing!

I adapted the orginal recipe slightly, the measurements below are the changes I have made.

Lime & Basil Filling:
1 stick (1/2 C butter)
1/2 C + 1/3 C powdered sugar
1 lime (zest and juice)
5 fresh basil leaves - finely chopped (give or take a few depending on flavor preference :)!)

Combine all ingredients except basil leaves in mixer until creamy, fold the chopped basil leaves into the mixture until combined.  I like to pipe my filling onto my macarons so edge is smooth and uniform...maybe a little type A personality (thanks mom:)!), but you can pipe or spread as much filling as you would like between the two cookies.  I have found that when using a reasonable amount of filling, one batch fills about two batches of the macaron recipe.  Trust me, you probably want to make two batches!!

I would love to hear your thoughts if any of you try these!  Enjoy!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

5th Grade Graduation Party - Purple and Gold!

Wow!  It seems so hard to believe that we officially have a middle schooler!  Though I am sure that it will sink in pretty quickly with Jacob reminding us frequently that he will be in sixth grade in the fall.  At dinner the other night "Wow!  My first burrito as a sixth grader!"...I am wondering if this is going to be happening all summer?!? 

Though he is most definitely your typical eleven year old boy, and I am quite certain after a night with him and his friends that teachers do not get paid enough, he is a wonderful young man and we enjoyed a great night with all of them!

It was a pretty small gathering and by no means fancy, but I really felt that it was important to celebrate the accomplishments that he (as well as he classmates) had made and the new step that they would be taking in the fall.  Dinner was pizza, chips, fruit kabobs (had to throw in something a little healthy for the night :)!) along with vitamin water in purple, yellow and white flavors.  The dessert buffet was stocked with mini cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, chocolate and vanilla cakepops, dipped marshmallows, 2011 sugar cookies, fudge dipped Oreos and the surprising favorite chocolate dipped Pringles!

I have to confess...I bought fudge dipped Oreos and made royal icing stars to put on the tops to customize them for the party.  I found these little boxes in the Dollar Section at Target and just filled them with the cookies.
One of my favorite parts of the table was using some of Jacob's books to both add some height as well as to personalize the table.  I went through his shelves and found books that had covers with colors that would coordinate and added a couple of stacks on the table!  This was so easy and free (love that!), since Jacob LOVES to read I really like the personalization it added.
The chocolate dipped Pringles were a big hit!
X-Large Campfire Marshmallows dipped in purple and yellow candy coating
I had seen homemade candy buttons on sandy toes & popcicles and thought that they would be great little favors for the party!  Check out her blog for a great tutorial as well as a template, they are super easy and look great in any color!

I looked for quite awhile to find a fabric or backdrop to use for the table.  I had already purchased the tissue paper daisies from Polka Dot Market, so I knew I had these to work with, finally about 2 days before the party I decided I would just hang sheets of different patterned scrapbook paper from the wall.  Looked pretty good for a last minute solution!  Here is a picture of the table in its entirety. 

Dessert Buffet

Thanks for stopping by!  Don't forget the printables from this are available here for your graduation parties!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

French Macarons - Updated Recipe

I have made so many changes to the way I have been baking my macarons I wanted to share with you in hopes that you will find some of these new tips helpful! I will be posting the amazing recipe for Lime and Basil Macarons shortly, be sure to check these out...the fresh flavor of them is amazing!

The recipe for the macarons can be found on Martha Stewart.  I have tried several different recipes and found that this is the best one to work from.  I have adapted this slightly (mostly on the preparation and the baking) with a whole lot of trial and error batches (this is updated greatly from the Pina Colada Macarons I posted earlier).  Since everyone's oven is different as well as many other factors including the humidty and possibly the mood of the ingredients, you may have to play with the oven temps and baking time a little until you find what is most successful for you.   

Ingredients: (changes are in parenthesis)
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup almond flour ( I buy blanched almonds and make my own flour, since the almonds are oily naturally, add a little powdered sugar when you are food processing them to help dry it out a little bit)
2 large egg whites, room temperature (some recipes say that older eggs are better, I have not really had any better luck when using older eggs...sometimes I have not thought well enough in advance and have taken my chance with just room temperature eggs and they work just fine!)
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup superfine sugar (not regular granulated sugar, this is baking sugar)

Directions: (changes are in parenthesis)

Pulse confectioners' sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture 2 times. (when making my own flour, I sift the almond flour once (this is kind of time consuming...I would recommend not using a traditional sifter for this, once again the almond oils come into play and it gets caked at the bottom of the sifter, I have the best luck with a very fine strainer and a pestle) and then pulse with confectioners' sugar and then sift both ingredients together)

Preheat oven to (310) degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add superfine sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny. ( I don't usually sift again into the mixture, I have done this both ways and neither way seems to be better than the other) ( I know that there are recipes that tell you how many folds you should do, I have tried them all and the best advice that I can give you about this is to fold it until it is smooth and falls from your spatula like a ribbon, the number never seems to be the same for me.  After it starts to get smooth and easier to fold I usually test it every couple of can't undo it if you fold it too much and just have to start good!!!!)

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks. ( This is probably the best tip that I can give you, take a couple of extra minutes and trace circles onto the back of your parchment paper, I have a small round cookie cutter that I use but anything about a 1in size would work fine.  This allows you to keep a much more consistent size and makes for easier matching of the macarons for filling) Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes (I leave mine for about 30 minutes, I haven't really varied this time in my batches). Bake 1 sheet at a time. 

From here on the directions are my own from my personal experiences.  I bake at 310 degrees (our oven runs a little cool)  I bake for 6 minutes with the oven door closed and then crack the oven door for another 6 minutes, rotating the pan after about 3 minutes.  This is what I have found to give the macarons the best feet.  Otherwise they seem to spread, they will still taste amazing though, so don't worry if this happens!

I leave my macarons on the parchment until they are pretty close to cool,  they should come off without a whole lot of trouble.  (I bought a silicon mat with the intention of using this for my macarons....NOT RECOMMENDED!  The entire batch had no feet and every single one stuck to the pan...think I will save that for other cookies!)

I match up the macarons next since there will be a little variation of their size.  I don't measure my filling, I fill my piping bag and pipe a small dollop onto the center of one side of the macaron.  Be sure not to pipe too much as the filling should stay inside the edges of the macarons...this is much better if you are packing these, if not I wouldn't worry about it too much!  I usually wrap mine in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge over night so that they can mature a little bit, though I almost always have a test one first :)!  They are also great to freeze, I have only frozen them already filled (I think you are supposed to freeze them w/o filling, but they were still great and defrost pretty quickly).