Monthly Archives: November 2015

2015 Decorative Turkeys

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I made more of the Decorative Thanksgiving Turkeys this year, but with a couple differences. The external differences are that I added eyes and a wattle. The other difference is that I used chocolate candy melt for my glue, as opposed to just a regular chocolate. Again, it only took about 4 ounces of the candy melt disks to do 30 turkeys. (I limited myself to 30 because that was the number of double stuffed Oreo cookies in the package).

Before I discuss the making of the wattle, I think I need to create a recipe. Last year’s article on the Decorative Turkeys did not give you an ingredient list and that was a mistake.

Decorative Turkeys

Ingredients

  • 1 package Double Stuffed Oreo cookies
  • 30 Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups
  • 30 Chocolate Malt Balls
  • 180 pieces of Candy Corn
  • 12 pieces of soft red candy (I used Swedish Fish) (optional)
  • 15 additional Oreo cookies (for the stands)
  • 4 ounces of chocolate to use as glue
  • 60 eye candies (optional)

Directions

  1. To start, insert 5 pieces of candy corn into the filling of the double stuffed Oreo cookies. This takes some care as the corn grows in thickness and will cause the Oreo wafers to separate if pressed in too far. And if you hold the cookie too tightly and press the corn in, it can even cause the cookie wafer to break.After inserting the tail feathers, I find it best to lay the cookies down and proceed with the cookie flat.
  2. Unwrap the peanut butter cups and take the paper off the candy.
  3. Now you need your glue. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 20 seconds, and then remove it, stir it and check its consistency. Repeat the microwaving and checking until there is enough melted chocolate to cover any remaining pieces. This time when you stir it the remaining pieces will melt and you have your glue. It took me a total of three iterations to get the melted glue made. Be careful not to exceed the 20 second rule; the chocolate can easily burn on the bottom of the dish.
  4. Dip the top of the peanut butter cup in the glue, and place it on the Oreo cookie with the candy corn tail feathers. Place it toward the bottom edge, away from the feathers.
  5. Dip the Malt Ball in the glue, and place it above the peanut butter cup against the Oreo cookie. This is the head of the turkey.
  6. Next, we cut the pointed end off the remaining candy corn to be the turkey’s beak. You can be the judge of how long you want the beak. I like to make the beak have just a tinge of the orange at its base. Once you have the beaks, glue it onto the front of the head. I use a toothpick to spread the glue on the back of the beak, and all the rest of the small parts- no more dipping.
  7. We will leave the turkeys for a moment- let the glue dry more. And we will prepare the optional wattle if you care to have that on the turkeys. Take a soft red candy, and roll it out with a rolling pin or piece of dowel to flatten it. Once it is flat and thin, cut it into small pieces- don’t try to be perfect but I think you should aim for about 1/8 x 3/8 inches. You need 30 of these pieces, so keep rolling and cutting.
  8. We are ready to put the optional characteristics on our turkeys. (You will probably need to heat the glue pot for 20 seconds in the microwave so it is liquid again.) I glued the wattle to the peanut butter cup, but positioned it to start just under the beak. And the eyes I glue just above and to the side of the beak.
  9. Finally, we are ready to put the turkeys on their stands. Separate the additional Oreo cookies. There are a couple ways to do this; one is to use a knife to keep as much filling as possible on one wafer, and eat the other wafer. The second way is the unscrew the two wafers from each other and have part of the filling on each wafer. I used the first method in 2014 and the second method in 2015. Now, dip the bottom of the turkey in the glue and stand it on one of the split Oreo halves; I would place it toward the back so the body of the turkey is still over the stand. (I said there would be no more dipping up above- sorry, my bad). In just a couple seconds the chocolate glue will be solid enough that it will hold the turkey upright.

And there you have your decorative turkeys.

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While others use more of the standard Oreo cookies for the turkeys’ stands, and the turkeys are then standing in snow, I decided last year that I would stand my turkeys on grass, so I bought a package of Mint stuffed Oreo cookies just for the stands. You could also make fewer turkeys by making a turkey stand from a double stuffed Oreo each time you make a candy corn stuffed tail section or two- depending on how you split the stand Oreo. Of course, then you would have to eat the extra peanut butter cups and malt balls ;^)

I placed the steps for putting the wattle and eyes down as optional; last years turkeys had neither, and still were cute. The reason I added these characteristics this year are because I have learned some things about decorating. First, I learned that the bake shop – Decorette Shop– sells the candy eyes. Unfortunately, I don’t find them on the web site and have to walk in to get them. I just googled “candy eyes” and found them listed at a lot of places- places that carry Wilton products like Walmart, Michael’s, and Jo-Ann Fabric; even Party City. The one thing I don’t find is how to determine the size, or even if you can order different sizes; I know that the Decorette shop does have different sizes, and the ones I am using are about 1/4 inch in diameter. Anyway, if you check back to my exploration of cake pops, you will see that I started using them at that time, and I used a larger size on the Minion.

The second learning came from a book my sister Ann sent me- Hello, Cupcake by Karen Tack & Alan Richardson. It has some pretty wild cupcake designs, but more importantly, Karen shows how to roll out soft candies so that you can cut designs out of them. While Giada and others pipe frosting onto their turkeys to add characteristics, I felt that it would be better to use candy and cookie parts as much as possible. And this was an opportunity to experiment with the idea of rolling out candy.

Finally, the candy melt chocolate versus maybe semi-sweet chocolate chips as glue. I think you should use whatever is easiest for you. They are treated the same as far as melting and using. I happened to have the candy melt left over from my cake pop activity, but last year I did use regular old semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Individual Cheesecakes

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Allison wanted her birthday cake to be cheesecake. And as always, I had to do something special. Since different folks like different tastes, I decided to make individual cheesecakes with a smorgasbord of sauces. Each cheesecake is about the size of a cupcake, and is complete in itself. And then there are the toppings with which each person can choose and complement their cheesecake. All the recipes are in this article, even if some have appeared earlier in other articles.

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For toppings, I made a ganache, a caramel, a praline sauce, lemon curd, strawberries, blueberries, and pumpkin. The latter is because this year we celebrate Alli’s birthday on Halloween, and Halloween goes well with pumpkin cheesecake.

I obviously made way too many, and too much toppings. I was surprised to find that the lemon curd and the strawberries were probably the favorites, with the caramel running third. The ganache was not a favorite; as daughter Mindy told me later- who wants chocolate with cheesecake? Cheesecake is almost the anti-chocolate food.- She also said that she felt pumpkin mousse was not a topping for cheesecake, but if you want a pumpkin cheesecake, you should put the pumpkin in the cheese layer.

Individual Cheesecakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 3 pkg (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 cups Sour Cream at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract

The above Ingredient list is broken into 3 parts- bottom crust, middle filling, and topping.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Put cupcake papers into the bottom of 18 muffin cups
  3. For the crust, mix the graham crumbs, 2 Tablespoons sugar and butter until well blended, and press into the bottoms of the cupcake papers.
  4. For the filling, beat the cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 3/4 cup sugar until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Spoon over the crusts.
  5. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the centers are almost set.
  6. For the topping, combine the sour cream, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a small bowl. Spread over the surface of the warm cupcakes. Return the cupcakes to the oven and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or over night.
  7. Remove the cupcake papers and arrange the individual cheesecakes for serving.


Since I made the seven toppings, I will give you recipes for each of them although you should probably only focus on a couple or three for your serving.

Ganache is a mixture of heavy cream and chocolate. I have used several of these in the past and am providing you with a pointer to some of those recipes as well as giving you a recipe herein. Perhaps the best previous recipe was with the home-made Ding Dongs. In that case, We wanted the ganache to set since it was an outside coating, and we wanted it to be shiny. So the amount of chocolate was more than the amount of cream, and we added fat (butter) for the gloss. Likewise, for holding cake pops together, we use a ganache. The recipe in the cake pop article is not strong enough compared to the recipe for white chocolate ganache in the Icings, Frostings and Glazes article; you really need a 4 to 1 ratio of chocolate to cream for cake pops. Here, we want a fairly liquid ganache, and use a 1 to 1 ratio.

Ganache

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. Chocolate Pieces (any flavor or type, including white)
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream

Directions

  1. Place the chocolate in a microwave proof bowl
  2. Heat the cream in a sauce pan until small bubbles start to appear around the edges (just to a boil but not boiling!)
  3. Remove from the heat, and pour over the chocolate.
  4. Let the mixture sit undisturbed for 5 minutes
  5. Stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth

An alternative approach is to place the ingredients in a double boiler over simmering water and cook, stirring until it is smooth and all the chocolate is melted. Since the chocolate is in a heat proof bowl, and the sauce pan is out, this should be an easy change from heating the cream separately and waiting for the chocolate to melt.

Caramel is a mixture of heavy cream and sugar. Most of the caramel I have used I have made from salted caramel chips, and used a ganache recipe; it works. However, if you want a straight caramel without salt, then the recipe I have in the Guinness Gingerbread Cupcakes article does a nice job.

Caramel

Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool it to room temperature and refrigerate it in a covered container. Reheat over low heat until smooth and spreadable.

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a sauce pan.
  2. Add the brown sugar and cream. Stir with a whisk until the sauce bubbles and gets sticky, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the vanilla and salt.

If ganache is Chocolate and Cream, and Caramel is Sugar and Cream, then I would say that Praline is Sugar and Sugar; it is a very sweet sauce, and this recipe adds chopped pecans to give it more of that Southern flavor.

Praline Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespooons cornstarch
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a small heavy sauce pan, stir together the brown sugar and cornstarch
  2. Stir in the corn syrup and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the nuts and vanilla.
  4. Cool slightly, and serve.


I tried many recipes for a lemon sauce, and found I didn’t like any of them. Then I found this recipe for Lemon Curd, and the way the people at the party liked it, I think it is a real winner. As one person said, “I can’t wait to have my toast with lemon curd in the morning”.

Lemon Curd

Ingredients

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks in addition
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions

  1. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating each into the mixture. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look lumpy but will smooth out in the next step as it is cooked.
  2. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, cook the mixture over low heat until it smooths out. The lumpy appearance disappears as the butter in the mixture melts. Increase the heat to medium and continue to cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. The thickened mixture should leave a path on the back of a spoon, and will read 170 degrees F on a thermometer. Don’t let the mixture go beyond 170 degrees, or boil.
  3. Remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming. Chill the curd in the refrigerator; it will thicken as it cools.

The curd will keep in the refrigerator for a couple weeks, and can be frozen for a couple months.

For the strawberries, I made the Strawberry Sauce recipe that is macerated strawberries. Again, I had tried several different recipes to get a good strawberry sauce, and finally settle on this one; it is juicy and sweet.

Strawberries

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

  1. Mix the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Taste the resulting sauce, and if not sweet enough, add more sugar. Some recipes go to 1/2 cup of sugar, while others start with only 2 Tablespoons of sugar.

I started with the idea that I would macerate the blueberries, but then, who would want smashed blueberries. They really would not be very appetizing. So I left the blueberries whole; maceration seems to need the fruit to be cut, or opened such that its juices can flow.

Blueberries

For this “sauce” I added a couple tablespoons of sugar and some lemon zest to the blueberries, but next time, nothing but the berries. I think the zest turned people off; blueberry lovers want the simple pure fruit!

So finally, here is the pumpkin mousse that Mindy said was not proper for a cheesecake; she said the pumpkin should be cooked into the cheese layer of the cheesecake and not painted on top. However, this mousse would make an excellent filling for a simple pie- say graham cracker crust. And it would require no cooking- ready in a jiffy!

Pumpkin mousse

Ingredients

  • 2 small boxes of instant vanilla pudding (sugar free is okay)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 -15 oz. can pure pumpkin/pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp clove

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the vanilla pudding mix, milk, pumpkin and spices.
  2. Whisk until smooth


That is all there is too making the mousse. Use it as you like.

Spider Eggs for Halloween

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Last year, Brandy showed me her deviled eggs with ripe olive spiders on top. I knew at that time that I wanted to try this idea for Halloween this year. There is quite a bit of work in making these; Brandy said that her twin 11 year old daughters had helped her, so maybe this is a good project at the family level.

I tried to make them on Halloween morning for a party that afternoon, and got myself into a little bit of trouble without realizing it. The hard cooked eggs didn’t peel cleanly; pieces of egg white stuck to the shell causing pits in the egg whites. So after Halloween, I decided to review and research what I knew and didn’t know about making hard cooked eggs. What I learned is that you should not try to peel the eggs as soon as they are cool, but should wait for a couple hours, or even overnight. I guess the egg white shrinks a little and pulls away from the shell. As a result, I have updated my original article concerning deviled eggs-Green Eggs and Ham- Deviled Eggs– to reflect the need to wait longer between cooking and cooling the eggs, and shelling them. (I notice that I left the wait time down at 15 minutes, but I think that is still pushing it, and would go with a couple hours minimum).

In the Green Eggs article, I suggest pushing the egg yolk mixture through a sieve to eliminate any tough pieces. I was going to try to skip that step, but when I saw what I had, I felt I had to sieve the mixture.

The spider is made by cutting a ripe olive in half length-wise, and then cutting one half into 6 legs; I used two cross cuts, and then cut each of those three pieces in half. You could go for 8 legs, but I felt the work of getting 6 small pieces on the deviled egg was enough. (There is one spider in the photo with 8 legs- second one in on the third row).

So plan a few spider eggs for next year. Between Spider Cookies, and Spider Eggs you have both an appetizer and a dessert for that Halloween party.