Sticky USA – Hollywood, CA

Desserts and Sweets, Food Adventures, Los Angeles

On Sunday, we trekked up to the Hollywood & Highland Center, a side of town we rarely leave the Westside to explore. But we had a wonderful reason to visit the heart of Tinseltown tourism — the team at Sticky had invited us over for a candy-making session!

Sticky - right in the heart of Sweet!

Sticky – right in the heart of Sweet!

Sticky is an Australian candy company started by attorney-turned-confectioner David King. This Hollywood storefront, their first in the US, is situated in the middle of Sweet!, a full floor of the shopping center that’s completely dedicated to sugary treats. But skip those Hershey bars and kitschy Oscar statuettes and make a beeline for the entertaining live candy-making by the awesome team at Sticky… and possibly some newbie guests like us.

We were greeted by the friendly Candy Master himself who invited us behind the counter and handed us our aprons and kevlar gloves. We were very excited for some hands-on involvement in the candy-making process, but we had no idea that we would truly be following it through from start to finish! (PS: David’s wife Rachel kindly offered to take photos for us throughout the process, so we are very grateful for the excellent material we have to share below!)

Start at the beginning: the sugar

Start at the beginning: the sugar

Here we are right at the very beginning – boiling down water and pure glucose to a hard-crack stage. Craig of the Sticky team added in kiwi flavoring and this was when we were informed that we would be making the kiwi candies on their infamous fruit mix. I am certain my eyes widened with surprise, especially after David said that it would be a relatively easy design for first-timers. “Easy” was not the first word to come to mind…

The Cooling Table

The Cooling Table

As we waited for the sugar to be ready, David gave us a mini-tour of the long story short, pointing out the water-cooled table, then the heated warming table, and that was when we realized we would be working in front of the many visitors, shoppers, and candy lovers wandering by. No pressure.

Hot hot hot!

Hot hot hot!

The sugar is piping hot, around 300 degrees F. After David shared his story of a burn severe enough to warrant a skin graft, we were convinced that there is no messing around with this stuff.

Adding color

Adding color

At this point, it’s time to add the coloring that makes candy so attractive. We mixed in different sections – a large area for the brown kiwi “skin,” a sizable amount of green for the “fruit,” black for the “seeds,” and some clear/white for the center.

Separating the colors

Separating the colors

After a bit of blending, we used a pair of heavy duty scissors to separate the colored sections. (If the green looks a little sparkly to you, it’s likely because that part contains some citric acid powder gently mixed in.)

Making some white...

Making some white…

The clear sections were moved to the warming table to keep them pliable, but we had some work to do for the white and light green portions. What do you do to make clear candy turn opaque? You pull it!

.... and some green!

…. and some green!

Using those trick-of-the-trade hooks, we pulled the candy like pulling taffy. The process incorporates air bubbles and leaves us with an opaque candy mass with a satin-like sheen.

Sculpting the seeds!

Sculpting the seeds!

Now for the fun part – the sculpting. David described this art form as building a 3D sculpture to create a 2D image. So first, the seeds. A tube of black, some opaque green, and some clear green, assembled like so:

Looks like a hot dog

Seed #1 resembles a hot dog

So that’s one seed. Of 24. We have some work to do. Pull pull pull.

They're multiplying!

They’re multiplying!

Luckily, the designers of the kiwi candies had clever math skills. The one hot dog cut in half became two pieces that could be stacked side by side. Then pulling the new shape and cutting it in half would make 4, then 4 became 8.

One last stretch!

One last stretch!

This last layer, eight “seeds” wide, was stretched extra long, cut into thirds, and stacked again. Finally we have our 24 seeds!

The middles!

The middles!

Next we rolled out the white center for the candy. The “seeds” will wrap around this white tube.

Rollin' out the green

Rollin’ out the green

If you’re lucky, slicing open a kiwi will reveal more than just seeds… so good thing we reserved some opaque green for the “meat” of the fruit. Martin rolled it out to just the right size to fit around our work-in-progress.

Rollin' out the "skin"

Rollin’ out the “skin”

While Martin kept our kiwi burrito rolling (letting it settle too long on the warming table would yield a flat side), David rolled out the brown candy to be wrapped as the “skin” layer. The color looks great and very realistic – it’s only missing the fuzz!

The finished 26 lb monster

The finished 26 lb monster

Here’s the kiwi sculpture ready to be hand-pulled and cut into bite-sized pieces. Believe it or not, it weighs 26 pounds!

Martin happily rolling along

Martin happily rolling along

Martin was charged with two tasks – keeping the mass moving so that no side goes flat and hand-pulling from one end to size so it could move along to my station…

Cutting the pulled candy!

Cutting the pulled candy!

It was simple enough — periodically I took the spade and with a swift whack, separated the candy into long tubes. Craig kept them moving until they were sufficiently cool, again to prevent flat sides.

We switched

Then we switched places :3

Eventually we got the hang of it, but David stepped in to check on our consistency. He explained, as he deftly manipulated the sugar to just the right width, that working with sugar depends heavily on speed. Too slow and the sugar cools too quickly to work with.

The tubes - ready for cutting

The tubes – ready for cutting

Before we knew it, we had finished turning the 26 pound mass into these thin long tubes, ready for the next step – cutting into nom-ready pieces.

Chop chop!

Chop chop!

Using a bit of physics, David showed us the technique for cutting up the tubes. This part was probably the most difficult as the candy would shatter down the middle or the slices would end up too skinny or too thick. But not to worry, David came over and told me that the imperfections were the beauty of handmade products. That each candy-maker places his or her own style and flair into the confections.

Finally finished!

Finally finished!

David pointed to one of the pieces I had cut and asked me, “Do you think that is beautiful? Is that a piece that you would want to eat?” It was then that I really understood his passion for his art…. although I didn’t have the heart to say what I was really thinking – no, that piece is ugly; I need more practice.

The finished product

The finished product

The audience, adults and children alike, really seemed to enjoy watching the process and sampling the finished product. We certainly enjoyed participating and working alongside David and Craig. Although now in retrospect, I still cannot believe they consider the kiwi to be one of the easier designs!

The team at Sticky!

The team at Sticky!

We had such an incredible experience learning something new from people who are truly passionate about what they do. And they are not relegated to making fruit assortments every day… one of their main business lines is custom design orders. They do weddings, company logos, funny greetings, you name it!

If you’re in LA, be sure to swing by and check them out! In fact – you could even stop by one of their other global locations in Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. Funny story, long before we had even heard of Sticky, we tried their candy courtesy of a friend who had brought them back from Hong Kong. The style and intricacy of their designs is so iconic I’d recognize it anywhere!

And speaking of trying their candies, how would you like to skip the drive to Hollywood & Highland and sample some of these confections in your own home?

We are hosting our very first GIVEAWAY! (*insert fanfare*) Click to enter our Rafflecopter giveaway!

Sorry, no fancy widget… we’re working on that. We received a lot of goodies from Sticky and we would love to share some with one lucky reader (open to US residents only). We will announce the winner next Friday 5/31!
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Check out Sticky USA: stickyusa.com

6801 Hollywood Blvd, Ste 201
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Tip: They’re located in Sweet! alongside many other confectionery vendors.

See their Yelp reviews here!

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Sonya at And More Food. Cheers!

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Mommie’s Blueberry Muffins with Streusel

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

Yes, dear readers – the cat is out of the bag. I refer to my mother as Mommie. I had contemplated titling this post “Mom’s Blueberry Muffins” to avoid any potential embarrassment, but then I realized that there are a billion and one recipes out there called “Mom’s Blueberry Muffins.” So I figured, why not call it like it is?

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever... until we nom it. -- John Keats, sort of...

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever… until we nom it. — John Keats, sort of…

These moist and fluffy muffins are filled to the brim with blueberries, topped with a crispy crumble of streusel, and even better – they contain NO oil. Magical, right? A worthy adversary for Starbucks’ Bountiful Blueberry counterpart. And Starbucks Gold Card carrying Martin gives my muffins his seal of approval, so that’s a vote of confidence right there! We hope you’ll enjoy this sweet intermission from our Boston recap series.

Mommie’s Blueberry Muffins

adapted from AllRecipes.com. I made a few further adjustments as well.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (or vegetable oil, per typical recipes)

1 egg

1/3 cup milk, approximately – skim milk is OK

1 cup fresh blueberries (or frozen blueberries dusted in all-purpose flour)

Crumb Topping:

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup butter

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pro-tip: the water in the "spare" muffin cups helps to keep the oven moist, yielding yummier muffins!

Pro-tip: the water in the “spare” muffin cups helps to keep the oven moist, yielding yummier muffins!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a 12-muffin tray, line 8 muffin cups with paper liners and fill the remaining 4 with a bit of tap water (about 1/8 cup each). Set aside.

Frozen blueberries dusted in flour

Frozen blueberries dusted in flour

This is the mix-together-dry-ingredients step, but pause – are you using fresh blueberries or frozen? If frozen, reserve about 1-2 tablespoons of the flour in a small bowl. Use this reserved flour to dust the frozen blueberries; this small but important step will help keep the frozen little buggers from bleeding and exploding in your finished product.

Team Dry

Team Dry

Now combine the (remaining) flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a medium-sized bowl.

Team Liquid

Team Liquid

Time for the liquids! Take out a liquid measuring cup with capacity for at least 1 cup of fluid. Add the applesauce (or oil), egg, and enough milk to fill the cup to the 1 cup line, approximately 1/3 cup depending on the size of the egg. Beat well.

Crumb Topping (before)

Crumb Topping (before)

Take this opportunity to prepare the crumb topping. The wet and the dry ingredients can hang out separately but once you mix them, you’ll want to get the muffins into the oven as quickly as possible. Anyway, place the stick of butter in a small bowl and measure out the sugar, flour, and cinnamon.

Crumb Topping (after)

Crumb Topping (after)

Using a fork, break up the butter and work the streusel mixture until you end up with crumbs no larger than pea-sized.

Don't over-mix!

Don’t over-mix!

Now for the moment of truth. When combining the liquids with the dry ingredients, you will want to work quickly to avoid over-beating the batter. Pour the liquid mixture into a “well” in the center of the dry ingredients. Stir just enough to moisten and combine.

Fold fold fold

Fold fold fold

As the streaks of flour start to disappear, fold in blueberries. Now stop mixing!

Fill to the top, none of that silly 2/3rds or 3/4ths full like for cupcake recipes

Fill to the top, none of that silly 2/3rds or 3/4ths full like for cupcake recipes

Fill prepared muffin cups to the top.

Voila!

Ready for the oven!

Generously sprinkle the streusel crumb topping over muffins before baking.

Voila!

Voila~!

Bake for 20-22 minutes in the preheated oven. Transfer the finished muffins to a cooling rack and store in an airtight container. These will keep for about 3-5 days out on the counter (if they last that long!) but they can also be wrapped individually and kept in the freezer for a quick rainy day snack or breakfast. Simply microwave for 1 minute or so for that fresh-baked feeling!

Fresh blueberries - among the first of the season!

Fresh blueberries – among the first of the season! (Fun Fact: those blue baskets are called punnets.)

We just entered blueberry season and found these lovelies at our local farmer’s market. They make wonderful muffins as well, but I prefer to save them for non-baking applications that would benefit more from their freshness. That said, the muffins I whipped up with these were pretty darn tasty!

Same recipe as above, using fresh berries

Same recipe as above, using fresh berries

I think one of my all-time favorite kitchen substitutions has to be applesauce for oil in baking. Someone once told me, “Everything in moderation!” – so by using applesauce and skim milk for the muffin batter (leaving only the egg yolk to provide fat among 8 muffins), and then topping it with the decadent butter-laden streusel, I’d say we have a well-balanced breakfast… maybe. Humor me*.

*Disclaimer: I often write jokes that are probably funny only to me. Also, I am not a registered dietician. Please do not take this recipe and go rouge with some sort of Morning Blueberry Muffin Diet.

Enjoy~!

(Chocolate) Souffle Girl

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

Soufflé. French for “breathed” or “puffed,” this classic, notoriously difficult dish can send shivers through a chef’s spine. As our friend over at Bunny Eats Design puts it, it is the home cook’s nemesis.

I’ve always wanted to make a soufflé. After watching countless movies and TV shows, I wanted to be that person pulling a beautifully risen soufflé out of the oven. Not going to lie, the “Asylum of the Daleks” episode of Doctor Who with Jenna-Louise Coleman as Souffle Girl played a pretty big part in influencing that desire. So I set to work, combing the internet for recipes and diligently reading up on the eggs chapter of McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Coincidentally, Martin requested a soufflé for his birthday, so that was the deciding factor for me to pick up my whisk and carpe soufflé (hm, that combination of Latin and French worked better in my head…).

Voila! Chocolate souffle

Voila! Chocolate soufflé

Martin has a huge sweet tooth so it was an easy choice to make a chocolate soufflé. I also prepared a vanilla crème anglaise to accompany it. It was certainly ambitious, especially since, for want of a stand mixer, I did everything by hand. A lot of love went into whipping up those egg whites. But in that moment when I pulled the soufflés out of the oven and saw how tall they had risen, I felt so very proud of my accomplishment! (Martin enjoyed it too – he endearingly nicknamed it the Girlfriend Soufflé.)

Here's a shot that really shows the height of its rise.

Here’s a shot that really shows the height of its rise.

Though I consulted On Food and Cooking for most of the technique, I have to credit Food Network Kitchens for providing a starting point for figuring out the proportions of ingredients (although I did end up making some adjustments). Our kitchen just happened to be perfectly prepared to handle this daunting task, so read carefully, plan well, and take inventory of your equipment. This is going to be a long post, so please bear with me.

Soufflé Ingredients (listed in order of usage):

Butter and white sugar for prepping ramekins

3 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used most of a Ghirardelli 60% cacao baking bar)

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg yolks

1 1/2 tablespoons warm water

1 tablespoon white granulated sugar

6 egg whites, brought to room temperature

1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup white granulated sugar

Crème Anglaise Ingredients:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons white granulated sugar

Using these proportions, I was able to fill 2 smaller (4 oz-ish) ramekins and 2 standard 6 oz ramekins.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. According to On Food and Cooking, this will yield the quickest and most dramatic rise, but also a faster collapse. I opted for this because I prefer my soufflés lighter and more airy; low and slow will yield more of a lava cake consistency and a less dramatic rise.

Step 1: Prep Ramekins

Step 1: Prep Ramekins

1) Prepare the ramekins by buttering the base of the ramekin all the way up the sides. I used a scrap of paper towel and some softened butter that had been sitting on the counter. Coat the buttered ramekins with sugar. I read a trick online to minimize mess: add a spoonful or two of sugar to the ramekin. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and shake to get all of the sides evenly coated. Shake out the excess into the next ramekin and continue the process. Some recipes say to freeze or refrigerate these prepped ramekins. I left them out on the counter and achieved fine results.

Step 2a: Melt Chocolate

Step 2a: Melt Chocolate

2) Create a double-boiler by bringing about 1 inch of water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Place a heat resistant bowl (like a Pyrex) inside, making sure the bottom does not touch the water. Melt the chopped chocolate with the butter.A silicon spatula is helpful to stir and scrape down the sides of the bowl, ensuring the mixture blends smoothly.

Step 2b: Smooth, melted chocolate

Step 2b: Smooth, melted chocolate

When the mixture is completely smooth, take off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside for later.

Step 3: Egg Yolks and Water

Step 3: Egg Yolks and Water

3) Whisk the egg yolks with the warm water in a small bowl until frothy and pale yellow. Sprinkle in the 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue whisking until it reaches the “ribbon stage,” so named because a lifted whisk will cause the mixture to cascade down in a ribbon-like pattern. This will take about 5 minutes from the time you add in the sugar.

Step 4: Frothy yolks + melted chocolate

Step 4a: Frothy yolks + melted chocolate

4) Fold the egg yolk mixture into the melted chocolate, mixing gently. I drizzled the egg mixture into the chocolate rather than dumping it in all at once.

Step 4b: Fluffy chocolate

Step 4b: Fluffy chocolate

I think this helped to keep some of the yolk froth.

Step 5: Stiff but Glossy Peaks

Step 5: Stiff but Glossy Peaks

5) Time to foam! Take out your largest Pyrex (or other non-reactive) bowl; add the egg whites and lemon juice. Grab a NEW whisk or wash the first one very well. Any trace of egg yolk and the whites will not whisk up properly. Whisk away to get it started; then add in the sugar and continue whisking. I did this by hand, and it took about 10-15 minutes of vigorous whisking to get the stiff but glossy peaks that you’re looking for. Phew! What a workout.

Step 6: Gentle Folding

Step 6: Gentle Folding

6) Now it’s time for more folding. Some people say to work quickly but I heeded the advice of On Food and Cooking and worked gently instead. Spoon about 1/4 to 1/3 of the foam onto the chocolate mixture and gently fold to lighten. Add about half of the remaining foam and continue to fold, using as few strokes as possible. Then finish up the foam and fold. I’ve read that if you have to make the choice between white streaks and over-mixing, it’s OK to have white streaks. Too much or too vigorous mixing will lose a lot of your hard-earned voluminous foam.

Step 7: Spoon into Ramekins

Step 7: Spoon into Ramekins

7) Spoon the soufflé mixture into your prepared ramekins. Apparently, the cocoa strengthens the bubble walls so this souffle mixture, while it seems delicate, is actually quite resilient and could keep in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer indefinitely before its bubbly integrity deteriorates. I personally didn’t chance it. Place the ramekins onto a baking sheet and slide them onto a rack situated in the bottom 1/3 of the oven.

Step 8: Baking Time....

Step 8: Baking Time….

8) Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or just as the tops start to brown. Contrary to popular belief, you CAN open the oven without ruining the soufflé. It is the heat that causes the air bubbles to expand and loss of heat that causes the collapse. Still, I left well enough alone and was grateful for my glass doors through which I could keep a watchful eye.

Step 9: Crème Anglaise

Step 9: Crème Anglaise

9) If preparing a crème anglaise, you’ll have just enough time to do this now. Bring the cream and vanilla to a simmer. (If you have vanilla bean pods, this would be a great opportunity to use them instead of extract!) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until silky and not grainy. Add a bit of the cream to temper the yolks, whisking constantly or you may end up with scrambled eggs. Return the mixture to the pot and continue cooking until the consistency is substantial enough to cling to the back of a spoon. Set aside.

Step 10: The Finished Product

Step 10: The Finished Product

10) Serve immediately after removing from the oven. Like I mentioned earlier, this method yields a beautiful rise but also a very quick collapse. Break open the soufflé and drizzle in the crème anglaise.

DIG IN!

Dig in.

Drizzle. Serve.

Drizzle. Serve.

Bon appétit!

our-growing-edge-badgeThe soufflé has always been a bucket list item of mine, and in the kitchen, it happened to be a wonderful example of my own growing edge – the part of me that yearns to keep learning and trying new things and meeting new challenges. Just as I was basking in the glow of my soufflé accomplishment, I serendipitously received an email from Bunny Eats Design inviting us to participate in the monthly blogging event for Our Growing Edge. So I sat myself down and composed this post. I assure you this will not be my last soufflé, and I hope my post inspires you to try your first (Valentine’s day is just a few days away… hint hint)! Believe me, it can be done and oh, is it satisfying!

If you’re feeling apprehensive, I’m no expert but will gladly try to answer any questions you may have – just drop me a line. :3

Limoncello & Semolina Cookies

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

Ever since shortly after we graduated high school, my best friend and I have not lived on the same coast. Luckily we have this thing called the Internet, and in college, much of my extra spending money was saved up for the occasional jaunt to New York to visit and catch up. I know, what does this have to do with the cookies? I’m getting to it.

You can take the boy out of southern California but you can never really take southern California out of the boy. As he moved from cold-weather-state to cold-weather-state, I knew he missed home and the sunshine. One day, knowing of my love for limoncello and baking, he sent me this recipe that had been adapted from an Italian cookbook. In retrospect, I think he was also not-so-subtly hinting at me to send him a care package.

If you don’t have semolina on hand, I discovered that you can substitute Cream of Wheat, 1:1. I also found that being a bit more generous with the limoncello helps the cookies really sing with that lemony goodness. Not to mention that adding some extra lemon zest helps to yield cookies that are just like brilliant rays of sunshine bursting out of a USPS Medium Sized Flat Rate Box.

Fresh from the oven - golden drops of sunshine

Fresh from the oven – golden drops of sunshine

So here’s the recipe, with my tweaks, for the cookies that are so good that they have been requested for cross-country delivery. (And many thanks to Brian of Clinton Hill Foodie for sharing his recipe for a sweet treat that’s surely cheered up a homesick friend on many occasions.)

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

2 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of semolina (or Cream of Wheat, original flavor)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons olive oil (if you have it on hand, try the Meyer Lemon oil from Global Gardens!)
1 cup white (granulated) sugar, plus extra for rolling the balls of dough
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 lemon, zested and juiced (plus the zest of 1 more lemon, optional)
3 tablespoons limoncello
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Yields 60 small cookies if making 1-inch diameter spheres of dough

Dry Stuff

Dry Stuff

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, semolina, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Before

Before

After

After

Creamed butter

Creamed butter

In a large bowl, cream the softened butter with the sugar and olive oil. Forget to leave the butter out on the counter to soften? I do that all the time! I don’t have great foresight when it comes to baking. But after the croissant making class we took at Elle A Cooking, we learned a spiffy trick to get straight-out-of-the-fridge butter soft and ready to go. If you’re using the whole stick of butter (we are in this recipe), leave it in its wrapping and whack it a few times with a rolling pin. Alternatively, you can place the butter between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper and do the same thing. Pounding it out somehow softens it enough for creaming. Probably something to do with kinetic energy, like warming up before you work out. Shrug.

Spiffy Lemon Covers

You can use these Spiffy Lemon Covers to catch the seeds!

Now add your lemon juice, limoncello, vanilla, and zest. It will look liquidy and the butter may look globby. It’s OK. Just mix together as best you can.

See? Globby.

See? Globby.

Slowly add the dry ingredients, stirring to combine until you a ball of dough starts to form. Mix well to incorporate all of the lemony goodness into the dough.

Ready for the chill!

Ready for the chill!

Set up a sheet of plastic wrap and pour out the dough to form a disc. Cover with more plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (2-3 hours would be even better, especially if your kitchen and/or house is on the warm side).

Mmm sugar....

Mmm sugar….

One hour later… preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Set up a plate or shallow dish with granulated sugar. Break off pieces of the chilled dough and roll between your palms into cute approximately 1-inch diameter spheres. Roll each sphere in the sugar to coat and then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The sugar will help give the cookies a wonderful crisp and crackle on the outside. The cookies do spread a little so leave about 1.5-2 inches between them. This batch of dough yielded 4 trays of 15 cookies.

Cutest tray of cookies ever!

Cutest tray of cookies ever!

Once you fill up 2 trays, place them in the oven and set a timer for 7 minutes. At this halfway point, swap the trays so that the tray on the top rack is now on the bottom one and vice versa. Also rotate the trays so that the side that was closest to the back of the oven is now at the front. Set the timer for an additional 7 minutes for a total of 14 minutes bake time.

Couldn't resist snapping a quick picture!

Couldn’t resist snapping a quick picture!

I know, I know – who wants to expend the extra effort? I used to skip this step too and bake the cookies for the full 14 minutes in one shot, but for this last batch, I went the extra mile and every cookie was a beautiful, perfect golden brown on the bottom. Totally worth it, so just do it.

Eventually transferred these to a cooling rack instead..

Eventually transferred these to a cooling rack instead..

Take the cookies out of the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. I initially left them on the parchment and simply moved them to cool on our countertop, but the heat creates a steamy condensation on the bottoms and starts making them soggy. They taste great fresh out of the oven and keep well in an airtight container left at room temperature for a few days… if they survive that long!

PS: We were inspired to whip up a batch after finding some beautiful golden Eureka lemons from Gonzaga Farms (the same people who sell stone fruit from Tenerelli Orchards) at last week’s farmer’s market.

PPS: This is also the first post in a series of alcohol-inspired or infused desserts I’m working on. Stay tuned!

Snowberry Santa [Christmas 2012]

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

When we saw this adorable picture of anthropomorphized strawberries on Foodbeast.com which credited Claire K as the original creator, we just knew it would be the perfect dessert for a holiday gathering we hosted. Strawberries are pretty hard to find this time of year, so you can bet that come February, I’ll be whipping up a batch of these and celebrating Christmas all over again!

Snowberry Santa

Ho Ho Ho! says Snowberry Santa

Fear not if your strawberries are not uniform in size. There’s nothing wrong with a snowberry Santa that’s had a few more cookies in his bowl full of jelly than the rest. :] As far as the dish goes, the ingredients are easy, the preparation is quick, and the assembly is intuitive. We had our guests join in on the fun and show off their piping skillz at the party, and it was all a great hit!

Ingredients:

1 pint of strawberries, whole and washed

1 cup of heavy whipping cream, cold

2 tablespoons powdered (confectioners’) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sprinkles or sesame seeds (for eyes)

Place a large bowl and a whisk in the refrigerator or freezer to chill. Prep your strawberries by slicing off the leafy head, making a flat bottom for your Santa. Cut off the tip of the strawberry, about 1 centimeter from the top, to create a “hat.” We found it helpful to keep the “hats” next to their corresponding “bodies.”

Prepped and ready to go!

Prepped and ready to go!

In the chilled bowl, measure out the cream and beat vigorously with a whisk until soft peaks start to form. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until you end up with medium-to-firm peaks. Be sure not to beat past the firm peak stage or your whipped cream may start to curdle.

Whip whip whip!

Whip whip whip!

Scoop your beaten whipped cream into a pastry bag equipped with a star piping tip. On your serving dish, line up the bodies. Then pipe enough to cover the exposed cut edge, with a little peeking out for a “face.” Top with the “hat” portion.

Santa getting his pom pom on

The first Santa getting his pom pom on

When all of your Santas have heads, replace the piping tip with a smaller round one. Add details such as the pom pom on the hat and the buttons on the body. Use sprinkles for eyes (the inspiration photo used black sesame seeds).

Santa army!

Santa army – the invasion of cuteness!

Take many pictures of the Santa army. Sit back as your party guests ooh and ahh and squeal with delight. Bon appétit!

Voila!

Voila!

Until strawberry season officially hits southern California, I’ll be brainstorming ways to make Santa Claus appropriate for February (although what’s wrong with substituting this adorable Christmas icon for Cupid?).

We hope you all have a wonderful time counting down with your friends and family tonight. Be safe, smile lots, and be merry! May the new year bring great adventures for us all!