Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Can Egg Free, Nut Free and Dairy Free Taste and Look Good?

Some time ago a friend had asked me to see if I could come up with some cookies for her son's birthday today because with his nut, dairy and egg allergies, he never gets a birthday cake that looks like what other kids get.  This was a huge challenge for me, but I told her I would see what I could come up with.  Of course, I first looked to see if I could find a recipe that was already out there and proven.  But I didn't find anything.  So then I decided to start with a recipe that I like and make adjustments/substitutions as necessary.  I started with my favorite plain sugar cookie recipe from Lila Loa and changed a few things. I used vegan margarine from Earth Balance and after much research and discussion decided to substitute 1/4 cup apple sauce + 1/2 tsp baking powder for the eggs.

At first as I was mixing in ingredients, it looked really scary.  But as I started adding flour, it started coming together.  Usually when I use this regular recipe, I only use from 3.75 to 4.0 cups of flour for the correct consistency, but with the extra moisture from the apple sauce I ended up using 5 cups of flour and very, very lightly dusted my waxed paper as I rolled them out and cut them. I then baked them for 8-9 minutes at 350 degrees.  I had been concerned that they might spread, so I did as I normally do anyway and put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes before putting them in the oven, and they didn't spread and held their shapes fantastically.  Here's the recipe with the adjustments:

  • 1 cup slightly softened vegan buttery sticks (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce + 1tsp baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 cups of flour (or to correct consistency)
Now, I don't think I would choose these over the regular version, but considering the constraints upon them, I think they turned out pretty tasty.  They also had a nice, soft consistency. This recipe made over 5 dozen, of course, 18 of those were baseball bats, which are relatively small in the grand scheme of things.

I wasn't sure about using meringue powder since he had an egg allergy, so I used a glaze and substituted water for the 2 tsps of milk the recipe  I had called for.  Of course, I still had to add a lot more, just like when I used milk the first time around with the goat cookies.  The recipe used almond extract, so  I just used vanilla instead. It dried fine and worked well, once I got used to the difference in it and the RI I am used to using. Here's the amended glaze recipe:

    1 cup confectioners' sugar

    2 teaspoons water  (keep adding until the consistency is right - it is way, way too thick per recipe)

    2 teaspoons light corn syrup

    1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

    assorted food coloring

I didn't even have to haul out the big mixer for this - just quickly mixed it up with a fork in a bowl.

Here's how they turned out:

I didn't thicken the glaze enough for the stitching on the glove, but other than that, I think they turned out wonderfully.

These cookies were for a friend from my hometown, which is 1.75 hours away from me, and we were meeting halfway for her to get the cookies.  I was planning to do some cookies for my great nephew's second birthday this week and at the last minute decided I would do them in time to send them back to my hometown, where my great nephew now lives, with my friend as she was picking up the baseball cookies.  Because I found that the glaze was just as easy to work with as the Royal Icing I typically use, it mixes and colors super fast and it dries a lot faster, I decided to do his cookies using glaze as well.  I knocked these out in no time.  Although I had wanted to do sheriff's badges, too, I knew I wouldn't have time to get those done before I needed to leave, so I omitted them and just did these.  While they were dry to a light touch when I needed to leave, I wasn't comfortable stacking them just yet, so I used several containers and sent them in single layers because I know my sister-in-law will get my containers back to me.  Not bad for an hour's worth of decorating, huh?

I had become a bit of a Royal Icing snob over time, but after this experience, I think I'll use both Royal Icing and glaze from now on.  They each have their advantages over one another, but it is great to know that I have the option to choose depending on the circumstances and can achieve good results with both.  I will say, I do prefer the opaque finished look of Royal Icing to the somewhat translucent/shiny look of the glaze, but the speed of mixing and quick drying time of the glaze are really appealing to this person who has a tendency to wait until the last minute to do things!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Leg to Stand On? Flamingo Cookies

So I have this long-standing joke with my friend's mom. Back during August of the year we were awaiting our bar exam results, I went down to their hometown to visit and work in my friend's brother-in-law's office for a week.My friend's daughter and her hubby were living in her house at that time, so she was staying at her parents' house temporarily. So my accommodations for the week were out in their RV - so cool!

My friends 's mom has the most beautiful and immaculate yard. So much so that some local garden club, of which she wasn't even a member, had bestowed their "Yard of the Month" designation upon her yard, complete with their honorary yard sign. As I got to know her throughout the week, my wheels started turning. The day that I left, I ran to the party store and bought pink flamingos and put them flanking the garden club sign in her front yard, just after I left. They made it there for the next few hours, but she did discover them before night fell. Ever since, if I know I will be seeing her or my friend, I pick up some sort of little flamingo something to give/send to her. She recently sent word through my friend's sister that she far preferred cookies to flamingos, so of course, my wheels once again started turning. Here's what she got in the mail this week! 

They are more sort of coral than pink.  That's because I didn't want to waste icing I'd used on another project, which was orange-ish yellow, thus when I added the pink, it looked like this.  I decided I could live with it.  These cookies are sooooooo fragile.  My dough was a bit temperamental when cutting them, so I had to reattach the legs on almost every one of them before baking.  I feel certain that they arrived in the mail with the neck on every single one of them broken.  I broke a couple just putting them in cello bags and heat sealing them.  There was no way to wrap the sealed packs because they were so fragile, so I had to just place them individually into a box filled with packing peanuts.  Nothing has been said about their condition upon arrival, but my assumption is that my friends and their mom are just too polite to say anything.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tying One on for Father's Day (and Playing Around with Leftovers)

Just played around with a necktie cutter that was given to me as a gift and did about 18 ties for friends to give as Father's Day gifts.

And here are some that I did just playing around with leftover cookies and icing from when I had done the birthday butterflies.  Trying to learn to do a houndstooth design, because that will be huge around here come football season.  I really love how the kitty one turned out.  

Speaking of kitties, not sure if I shared my take on the kitty I found a home for who had been hanging around our house for a couple of months, that I gave to his new family, among other kitty cookies.  He was such a sweet kitty that I just knew he'd be perfect for someone.  Found out this week that he ran away from his new home only a week after being there.  His new home is an hour and a half away from me, so I don't think he'll ever find his way back to our house, although it would totally earn him a spot as an inside kitty if he did.

Hope you are safe Mr. Kitty

Friday, June 7, 2013

Birthday Butterflies

Got a message from a friend on Sunday asking if it would be possible for me to make some butterfly cookies for his girlfriend's birthday, which is on Saturday.  Problem was that he lives in Iowa and she in Kansas, and I am in Alabama.  I think the world of him and am so happy for him with his new relationship, so I decided that even if it meant staying up late, I would get them done and shipped out in time for her birthday.  I had a lot of fun with these, because he just let me run wild, instead of specifying how they should look.  I had to rein myself in and limit the colors I would use, otherwise I would still be working on these!  lol

He didn't tell me how many he wanted, so I decided to do a dozen butterflies and you cannot have butterflies without flowers, so I did a dozen flowers too.  Actually there were 14 butterflies and 12 flowers. 

I wanted to make sure these did well in shipping, so I bagged the cookies back-to-back in sets of two in little cello bags and for the first time heat sealed the bags.  I had wondered about this and found something online recently about using a curling iron or flat iron to close cello bags, so I went out and bought a new, cheap curling iron and used a med/low setting and it worked like a charm.  I then took the 13 cello bags and wrapped, wrapped and wrapped them some more in plastic wrap. After that I filled in the box with lots of plastic wrap and enclosed the box's contents with tissue paper and wrapped it up with some of my favorite paper I found at Big Lots years ago and bought every single roll they had.  Then I made a big poofy bow for it.  

I had planned to ship them through a friend's store who has a volume shipping account with UPS to keep the shipping costs down, but my schedule didn't allow me to get over there, so I had to go to the dreaded UPS retail store.  Have I ever mentioned just how much I dislike the UPS retail store near me?  If not, well, I do - mainly because I am so cheap and it costs an arm and a leg to ship with them.  And since I didn't have my own packing supplies and a shipping box, I had to buy those too.  All total the UPS store charged me $31.47 to ship and pack a 2.0 lb. package.  Fortunately, I am being reimbursed for the shipping cost, but even still, I like to be just as frugal with other people's money as I am my own, so it pained me greatly to pay that much!   

The package is scheduled for delivery today and I'm once again stalking the tracking page!  It is out for delivery, but we all know it could be as late as 7 pm before it is delivered.  I think I am more excited than he is about her getting these.  I even signed up for UPS text messages to alert me when it has been delivered.  I'll update when it has been delivered!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Rock On!!

Decided to try something completely different today with a lot of detail.  Of course there are things about them I don't like, but overall I am thrilled with them.  And the teenage guy they were for loved them and was amazed with all of the details.

I started by putting the center on them.  I printed a template I found online in the appropriate size and cut out the center section.  I then traced that onto the cookie with a food color marker.  Then outlined and flooded that section.  Then I outlined and filled the neck and then the rest of the body.  After everything had dried, I took the food color marker again and drew in all of the black details just doing a mental sort of gauge as to where everything should be.  Let those dry and then came the scary part - putting on the six strings.  I used my new 00 Ateco tip with piping consistency icing for those and was in pure amazement that they came out the way they did. At first draft of the green one, which was my test cookie, I didn't have the whammy bar on it, but decided that adding that just gave them that little extra something they needed.  These were pretty scary to me to tackle, but I approached it methodically over a series of hours - would work on them a bit, do something else and then come back to them - and am still alive to tell about it!  I laughed at my sister's facebook comment about them. She said, "Ok, now you are just showing out!"

Thanks to  Ellie's Bites Decorated Cookies for the tutorial on doing these. Not sure I could have done these without it!

I couldn't resist doing this with the pink ones before I delivered them!  I had to dig out my Barbie stuff from storage just for this shot!!! (Barbie - don't ask.  I have a small but cool collection of cool characters portrayed by Barbie - Bewitched Barbie, I Dream of Jeannie Barbie, Wonder Woman Barbie and Super Girl Barbie)