Pages

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bites (not the scary kind)


So I was making these little Oreo bites this weekend and I remembered a few steps in that I should be taking pictures to blog it. So please forgive the fact that I don't have pictures for the first part.

First of all, this happened because I had two bags of orange Candy Melts that I needed to use up (I don't remember why I had them in the first place, I blame one of those trips to Joann's when I wasn't supervised), and I was hoping to get rid of them with a Halloween-themed idea of some sort. (Sorry Emily!.... Though, you never elaborated on why you hate Halloween, so I really think you need to do that in your next post since Sheila and I are going crazy with it over here.)

So anyway, I had been thinking about cake pops because they are perfect little bite-sized things, but I didn't have the pop sticks, nor did I have the patience. In case you didn't know (I didn't, but I did look it up), cake pops typically mean you bake a cake, then crumble it all up and mix it with icing, then shape little balls out of it and then coat them with candy melts or melted chocolate, etc. I didn't feel like baking a whole cake, so instead I made some no-bake Oreo cookie bites, which had the advantage of using up a bunch of Oreos that I didn't need to eat anyway. Also, this recipe has only 3 ingredients (two if you don't coat them with anything) and I always have cream cheese on hand because ... well, I am having an extended illicit love affair with cream cheese that needs to come to an end. This way, I get a bunch of things out of my house and into other people's stomachs, under the guise of being a nice, neighborly baker. (.....does it count as being a baker if you use a no-bake recipe?... I'm going to say "yes.")


Ingredients:
  • 1 standard package Oreo cookies
  • 1 8-oz container of cream cheese, softened to room temp
  • Candy melts or some type of dip-and-harden chocolate, candy bark, etc

This is a very simple recipe if you have a food processor. You just grind up the Oreas (middles and all) until they are fine crumbs. (If you do not have a food processor, put 'em in a plastic bag and bash the heck out of them until they're all crumb-y. Think graham-cracker crust.)

Then, add cream cheese and mix together. (I recommend just rolling your sleeves up and doing it with your hands, because it's nearly impossible to mix entirely with a spoon or spatula. I know. I tried.)
 
Once you have a nice dough, then shape it into little balls and  place them on waxed paper on a cookie sheet. (I used my cookie scoop thingy to measure the amounts so they'd be close to the same size. Otherwise, if you're like me, the little balls end up getting larger and larger throughout the process. ... Um, I got stuck on an inappropriate joke here, so I'll move on.)


Then, since these are going to be pumpkins, press your finger onto the top of each one, squashing it slightly and making it more pumpkin-shaped. Put in the fridge for 10 minutes minimum to let them set.


While they are setting, melt the Candy Melts or whatever coating per its directions in the microwave. (This step involves a lot of 30-seconds-and-stir, which makes me a little crazy but you gotta wait for the dough  to set in the fridge so you might as well hover next to the microwave for awhile.) If the coating seems thick even after microwaving, you can usually add some vegetable shortening to thin it out.


Now comes the logistical step. You must take each Oreo bite and coat it. If you were making cake pops, you could hold them by the pop stick and all would be well. Since I was skipping that, I ended up sticking a toothpick into each one, then swirling it in the bowl of melts and then plopping it onto another cookie sheet of waxed paper. This method was somewhat hit-or-miss, since sometimes the cake bite fell off the toothpick as I was twirling it, and sometimes it wouldn't let go over the wax paper no matter what I did. However, it got easier as I went along so it's just a matter of practice, I think. (You can see the first ones I did on the far right in the picture below. I got better.)


I had some that did not leak into little puddles under them and some that did. It's hard to tell how much candy coating they have on there when you are trying to move quickly. Again, practice.

Anyway, after they are all coated, set the tray aside and let them dry.

Now I had a bunch of orange blobs, but I wanted Jack-o-Lanterns. I first tried drawing on there with my edible ink pens, but the ink would not stick to the candy melt coating. I still had some royal icing from piping cookies last weekend (I made footballs last weekend that I forgot to document and then we ate them... sorry), so I used the dark brown to pipe little faces on each pumpkin.


Then I piped little green bits on their tops (I piped one blob, let it dry, then added a second blob) for the stems.

Voila! Seasonal Oreo bites!


They are very yummy, though rich as anything, which is why it works best to be in little bites. Aren't they so cute? I sent a bunch with Alex for the clerks, and then brought the rest to work with me. They went pretty fast, since they are tiny servings.

Sheila, what do you guys usually serve at your Halloween party? Are you all themed for that? I want to see more pictures of decorations, I know you are going all-out over there!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Halloween: Awkwardly Timed

First -- Emily, LOVE the "No Pie" picture. I think it is perfect and we should adopt it immediately. Also, I now want a shirt with it on there. Because, you know, I need more shirts with obscure references that only I get. :)

So, Sheila, I really enjoyed looking at your kids' costumes (and by "kids" I also mean "your dog and husband"). And did you make that Peter Pan hat?? ...I am a little jealous that I don't have tiny people to dress up at my whims, but I can live without that for awhile longer yet. And also, Halloween is one of my most favorite holidays ever. I find it a very accepting holiday. I mean, when else can you pump gas dressed as Wonder Woman and nobody bats an eye? (Ok, I am a little judgmental about the "Sexy ____" costumes, but that's more because they lack imagination than the fact that they're sleazy.)

Sadly, this year I will not be celebrating Halloween, because my friend Vycki is getting married that weekend, so the only dressing up I will be doing will be formal-wear appropriate. But fun in its own ways! :)

In lieu of ideas for this year,  here are a couple of the costumes I've done in the past (as you will notice, I like to drag everyone else in there with me when I can, too. I should've gone into theater set design or something....):

So I had been wanting to be the Princess from the Super Mario Brother for FOREVER, but obviously in order to distinguish exactly which princess you ARE, you have to have the rest of the crew. Imagine my happiness when Alex's friend Ben told me he was going to be in town for Halloween a couple of years ago -- he's tall and lanky and brunette, and my first thought was: LUIGI! So I convinced Alex this was a great idea (see above), and then roped in our friend Charlie to be the little mushroom guy (who has a name but I can't remember it right now).



It turned out PERfectly. I even made Charlie the coolest mushroom hat, out of those spiral-wire Halloween goody baskets, and used a T-shirt that I stuffed with pillow stuffing. People kept trying to steal it all night at the bar, which I guess equals success. Also, Ben was a good sport about it -- see below, where he was "morphing down the pipe" a la video game:


 Two years ago, I think, the boys wanted to go as gladiators (I don't know), so I made some quick togas for myself, Marie and Kristina so we could match. (That's Marie's fiancee and her soon-to-be brother-in-law)


 And several years ago when I was still in Northwest Arkansas (Alex was in law school there, it was not my top choice of locales, shall we say), I did my favorite costume EVER: Wonder Woman! I even got several of the other girls at the sign shop I worked at to be other super heroines as well (you can see She-Ra, among others).



I miss working somewhere I can wear short-shorts with spangles. (Although, note to anyone DIY-ing yourself some spangled shorts: Be judicious when sewing the stars on the bottom area. Those suckers are POINTY when you sit down!)

I was hunting for the picture of the year Alex and I were Marge and Homer Simpson, which I JUST saw a picture of, but I can't find it for some reason. If I do, I'll put it up here, because the hair was a feat in itself. (Lots of styrofoam. Also, I ran into things the whole night, suddenly being like a foot taller.)

UPDATE: Found it! (Thanks Marie!)

Anyway, Sheila, I want to see your ideas for Scooby-Doo -- you will have my undying respect if you can pull that off in a DIY way! :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Halloweenie

Em- I love the pic!  I have to admit it took me a few minutes to see it...at first I was like "What is she talking about?" but I'm on the boat now. 

So???? What's everyone been up to?  It is October...and you know what that means!  HALLOWEEN!  I love these next three months more than life itself.  Not so much the raking leaves or crazy weather changes, but the holidays with friends and family and the beautiful moments spent with my little ones.

So whatcha gonna be for Halloween?

This is a much talked about topic in our house.  As of right now (which will definitely change before the big day) Revel wants to be a ninja and Ollie wants to be..................wait for it..................wait for it............SCOOBIE DOO!  I don't know where she comes up with this stuff...HONESTLY!  But like I said, I'm sure it will all changes. 

On top of my children's costume, we hosted an adult costume party last year and we are making a second annual run at it.  Last year I was a robot (we had just moved and I had TONS of boxes) and my husband...bless his little heart....was the Ultimate Warrior (google it, I didn't know who he was either).  But I'm kind of at a loss for costumes this year.  Talk of the cast of Jersey Shore has ben thrown around a few times but we'll see.  So here are some pics from the past few years of Halloween.

These are from last year (no he's not modest...lol).  And Ollie is the tooth fairy and Revel is Cpt America (DUH!).

This is Ollie's first Halloween...Peter Pan and Tinkerbell (poor kid...look at that hair, she really didn't have any until she turned 2.)  And of course Trouble, he hates me for this....but I do it every year....GET USED TO IT TROUBLE!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Our new header???

This is totally not a real post. I just happened to be checking my Facebook page and one of my friends from high school posted this picture and I realized it could totally be our new header.

What do you think? Funny, right?


Monday, October 3, 2011

Baking Challenged!

Hi, my name is Sheila Baker and I don't bake...lol.  Did everyone check out Alyda's cookies?  If not, catch them here.  Don't get me wrong I LOVE to cook, and never shy away from a new recipe...but desserts aren't something I'm even interested in trying.  HOWEVER...don't you worry...we're not going without here at the Baker Casa, my husband Josh is the resident pastry chef.  He is a true "Baker".  He whips up a pie or something sweet every now and again.

I love that you say you just "whipped" up some cupcakes and it was no big deal to make some icing....those kinds of things definitely don't happen in our house.  You may just be my baking hero.  My favorites are the teeny ones...who doesn't love a teeny cookie...cmon people! 

So Mrs. Alyda...kudos to you for your baking powers, if you ever need some extra practice, I'll message you my address for taste testing!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Just Desserts

So I intended to do much more visibly productive things this weekend, but then Alex asked me to make the clerks at the courthouse where he works some cupcakes. (I do this sometimes for him since they are very nice women who work really hard at a very under-appreciated job, and really they only get noticed when something gets screwed up, which isn’t fun for anyone.) It is one of the clerk’s birthdays tomorrow, too, and I wanted to do something extra-special. 
 
 
Enter: My recent obsession with trying out iced and flooded cookies. This is all the fault of that time-suck vortex phenomenon that happens when you are reading one blog and they reference another blog, so you go there, and THEY reference ANOTHER blog, so you go THERE, and so on … and suddenly you have eleventy-billion new things you want to do. Anyway, I got sucked into Sweet Sugarbelle’s amazing world of cookies and since I already do cakes now and again in my spare (ha!) time, I had all the equipment, not to mention a 7-pound bag of powdered sugar. (Pretty sure I didn’t have the skills, but I did have a LOT of sugar so I figured that gave me room to maneuver.)

Disclosure: I don’t really like cookies. (I KNOW, but hear me out first!) I like cookies when they are warm and gooey and just out of an oven (a la the quintessential chocolate chip cookie). Cookies in real life, however, are usually so hard they’ll break your teeth and then they crumble into a bajillion pieces when you do bite into them. I find this less than desirable.

However, on Sugarbelle’s blog, she’d mentioned a chocolate cookie recipe from a friend that was fabulous and amazing and impossible to screw up, that was also SOFT AND CHEWY yet you could decorate on them, and I was SOLD! (They are from LilaLoa’s blog here, and yes, the recipe is exactly as advertised, possibly more so. I may now make chocolate cookies all the time, for every event in the foreseeable future.)

So, here we go. First, I got all my stuff together for LilaLoa’s “The End-all for Chocolate Cookies Recipe” --  I realized later I forgot to get the flour out for my nice staged photo, but I swear I actually did use it, as specified by the recipe. Kindly ignore the omission.


 So I am fortunate enough to have gotten a KitchenAid stand mixer as a wedding gift (thanks Aunt Sallie!!), and I tend to make almost everything in it because, as previously mentioned, I am lazy. Two minutes with a hand mixer seems like FOREVER now, and I can’t go back. This recipe did not specify, so I used the stand mixer til the end and then pulled the dough out and shaped it up by hand into the nice ball, shown below.



 
Did the typical roll-out-the-dough, cut with cookie cutters (I was doing autumn leaves since it is finally fall-ish in Atlanta, which mainly means the temperature got below 65), and baked according to the recipe. I did three sheets of cookies, because that’s how much dough it made and also because I had 3 different kinds of cookie cutters to try out (large, medium and teensy).


 
While they were all cooling, I made the icing. I used Sweet Sugarbelle’s recipe (here), since I was following her instructions for the piping and flooding bit. She has a really, really nice walk-through with excellent videos and pictures of consistency for each step, so I highly recommend checking her out.

Here is where I really recommend a stand mixer, because it takes like 10-12 minutes of solid mixing to make the icing, and it is unbelievably wonderful to be able to turn it on and let it mix while you do something else. Also, my arm might fall off if I had to mix for 12 minutes. Just sayin’.


 
After that, I colored the icing. I’d like to note here that this step alone took me more than an hour, because it makes sense to go ahead and mix all your colors at one time and just bottle them all (bottles sold at cake stores, craft stores and also Wal-Mart). I used Americolor to tint mostly, since that’s what I have a ton of for the cake-making stuff (the picture here is of the top lift-out shelf from my giant tackle box that I keep much of my cake supplies in).


 
So, following Sweet Sugarbelle’s detailed instructions, I first piped the outline on all of my cookies:


I let that dry about half an hour, and then went back in with the flood icing (which is a more watered-down consistency and does exactly what it sounds like when you put it on a cookie – it floods). I also decided here that the teensy cookies were too small to outline, so I used a slightly thicker flood icing to just flood each one.


 
Now, here is the only issue I have with piped and flooded cookies: WAITING. After you flood them, you have to wait like, overnight, for the things to dry before you can do the next step. So I had to set these out with a little fan to make them dry evenly, and walk away.

ARGH.

However, this morning I got up to a huge bunch of wonderful cookies, and right away I got to pipe in the details on the teensy cookies, so that was very satisfying.



Shameless plug: I am also going to briefly digress here and mention that I did this using my spinning cake stand (like a lazy susan, really). If you don’t have one, I highly recommend it. It makes decorating many things much, much easier when you can just spin it to get to the other side. I stuck the whole pan of cookies on it and spun it while I sat to decorate them. They aren’t expensive, and it’s incredible what you can end up using it for once you have it. End of shameless plug.



So anyway, THIS is what I ended up with:


 
Yay! The flood icing isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than I thought it would be, and I think that’s just a matter of practice with the consistency of the icing.

And then I decided the teensy cookies really needed to go on something. Like cupcakes. Which is what Alex had asked for originally. So I whipped up some basic chocolate cupcakes, and then did the fancy-looking-but-very-easy Wilton 1M Swirl trick to top them when they’d cooled. (It seems like an extra step to get an icing bag out, but I promise it ends up being WAY quicker than icing them all with a knife.)


 Then, I just stuck the cute teensy cookies on top! How cute is that??



Now they are all boxed and ready for Alex to take in to the clerks in the morning. Cookies AND cupcakes! I feel like a productive wife. :)



Also, when I told Emily and Sheila that I was attempting piped and flooded cookies, Emily said she made some for her husband once when they were dating long-distance, but she used Martha Stewart’s recipe and it was tedious. Emily, I’m not surprised – Martha has a way of making EVERYTHING harder than it should be. I like Sweet Sugarbelle because she takes shortcuts like I do, so I know that I’m not doing any unnecessary steps (which makes me less likely to skip them….). What did you send Reid when you made him cookies? And Shelia, have you done these before? What has your experience been like?