Author Archives: Errol Crary

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.

Butternut Squash Soup with Jalapeno

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This summer, one of the vegetables I raised was Butternut Squash. It did very well. As I wrote my different relatives, I got over 12 squash that weighed at least 4 pounds each. My sister said she had been able to taste a Butternut Squash soup that was good, and sent me a pointer to the recipe.

This year, I am finding many Butternut Squash Soup recipes. There are several things they all seem to have in common; they use fresh ginger, and coconut milk. And they add capsicum heat. That is the burn from hot peppers. Caprial Pense’s recipe (Curry Winter Squash Soup) gets it heat from the peppers in the curry powder, while this recipe goes straight for the hot pepper by adding a Jalapeno. Finally, they all seem to use a cream product as a garnish- sour cream, cremefraiche, … And as a result, all the photos of the different soups look exactly alike!

Butternut Squash Soup with Jalapeno

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 16 oz. chicken broth
  • 12 oz. evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 Tbs granulated sugar
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • sour cream for garnish when serving

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat; stir in the onion, ginger and jalapeno pepper; cook until the onion turns transparent.
  2. Add the squash and broth and raise the heat to high to bring the pot to a boil.
  3. reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and simmer until the squash is tender- about 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the evaporated and coconut milks, and sugar; cook for another 5 minutes. Puree the soup** (see below)
  5. Add salt and black pepper to taste, and stir well into the pureed soup.
  6. Ladle the pureed soup into bowls and garnish with a large spoon of sour cream to serve.

**To puree the soup, if possible, use a stick/immersion blender. If not, then do the soup in batches in a blender as follows:

  • ladle some soup into the blender, do not fill the blender more than half full.
  • hold the lid on the blender with a towel so you don’t get burned; then pulse the blender a few times to break up the chunks before turning it onto Puree.
  • Pour the pureed soup into a clean pot, and continue to puree the soup in batches until it is smooth.

When I seed a squash, I always save the seeds and roast them. That is so easy, and they are a good snack.

Since I also grew my own Jalapenos this year, I was finishing my last harvest of the jalapenos and saved two out for making this soup. So I added extra heat by using both the jalapenos instead of just one. It was okay, and the sour cream garnish gives you a chance to cool your mouth from the heat if necessary.

Halloween Cookies and Cupcakes

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This Halloween, beside the cake pops that I made, I also made the witch cupcakes again, and spider cookies. The cupcakes were to test if I had learned anything from last year; I think I did. The cookies are because both daughters sent me pointers to them, so I felt I should try them. Interesting enough, the article does not specify a cookie, but only the decorations- use any cookie.

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The biggest problem I seemed to have last year with the witch cupcakes was I thought the buttercream frosting sagged, and the witch face went into the cupcake. So I took an idea from the Christmas Tree cupcakes, and made the buttercream frosting much thicker so that it wouldn’t sag. I added 3/4 cup extra powdered sugar for 1 pound of powdered sugar in the recipe for The Decorette Shop’s Butter Cream Frosting. I think that did the trick. In fact, the frosting was thick enough that I was able to make long noses on the witches.

And of course, now that I know where to buy eyes (The Decorette Shop), I gave my witches buggy eyes. The eyes have imperfections where the pupils are not always centered; this gives the witches a wandering eye look where sometimes the eyes don’t look in the same direction.

For a cupcake, I chose to use the Black and White Irish Cream Cupcake recipe but to make it all chocolate. The only difference was that I added 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate to the entire batter rather than dividing the batter in half and only adding 3 ounces to one half of the batter. And I didn’t have the problem of filling the cupcake papers since I wasn’t trying to keep the black and white theme.

I had leftover ganache from when I had made the original cupcakes, and so after cutting the cone out of the cupcake for the hat, I frosted the cupcakes with the ganache to minimize their drying out. Then I piped the extra stiff green Butter Cream Frosting into the hollow and let it build up to create the head. I gave the buttercream a 24 hour wait to allow it to dry and crust before I tried decorating it. Meanwhile, I made the witches’ hats, including piping the orange band to fill in around the edge of the cone. Both the orange band and the black mouth are colored Royal Icing made from the Decorette Shop recipe; I like working with the Royal Icing for decorations as it drys quickly and hard. I also used it as the glue for fastening the cone to the chocolate wafer, and later for fastening the hat to the head.

When I attached the hats to the heads, I needed to flatten a spot on top of the head so the hat had an area of contact. After piping the heads, the top was left most often as a point. It turned out easy to cut off a small amount of the green buttercream to make the flat spot.

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For the spider cookies, I started by making a batch of Ethel’s Sugar Cookies as cutout cookies, rolling the dough out and cutting it with a 2 3/4 inch biscuit cutter. I like the results of that recipe for keeping its shape with little spread. Then I used brown Royal Icing to pipe the spider’s legs.

While I was making certain the legs were drying, I unwrapped my Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and used the brown Royal Icing to attach the eyes. Then a little Royal Icing on the top of the peanut butter cup and invert it onto the center of the legs for the spider.

Here is The Decorette Shop’s Butter Cream Frosting recipe:

BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Hi-Ration Shortening (a Decorette Shop product)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 to 3 drops Butter FLavor (also available at the Decorette Shop)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp. vanila
  • 1/4 tsp. Almond Flavor
  • 1 Tbsp. meringue powder (also available at the Decorette Shop)
  • 1 lb. powder sugar

Directions

Put all ingredients in bowl and beat at medium speed for 10 minutes.

Pub Cookies

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My sister Ann sent me this recipe, and after a quick glance, I put it aside. It called for pretzels and I would have to put those on a shopping list and get them someday in the future. But a couple other things also caught my eye. 1) The full name of the cookies is Gelato di Superior Pub Cookies. 2) There are a lot of ingredients in the cookies. 3) The recipe calls for a ½ cup scoop size.

I made the cookies according to the recipe and you can see the enormous size of each. That plate is 7 ½ inches in diameter! I only got 4 cookies on my cookie sheet at a time, and this created a problem since the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 30 minutes; I had to use several of my other pans to be able to continue to process the cookie dough. So one thing I wanted to do is to reduce the scoop size; I found eating one cookie more than I liked and immediately cut all the rest of the finished cookies in half. So a scoop size of ¼ cup is probably adequate – that would be a #16. I have a #20 that I will use next time.

But let me go back to the name of the cookie, and its origin –Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. There is a historical area of the park that includes a row of bathhouses from back in the 1800s. One of those bathhouses –the northern most- is the Superior. It currently serves as a brewery and restaurant. The web site gives the cookie the identification of Superior Bathhouse Brewery & Distillery’s Gelato di Superior Pub Cookie. So you can see why the enormous cookie size; people probably stop in and buy a cookie to munch on as they do the tourist bit up and down Bathhouse Row road.

After I made my Halloween Cake Pops, I did have some left over pretzels, and so I made the cookies. When the recipe says to put the uncooked regular oats and next four ingredients in a large bowl, it really means a large bowl. I used a 4 quart bowl and almost couldn’t get everything combined. However, there may be an easier solution; almost everything in the recipe is either 1 cup, or 1 teaspoon, so I think the recipe could easily be divided in half making the 4 quart mixing bowl adequate.

My final suggestion is with regard to the crushed pretzels; I did not crush them greatly, and they ended up sticking out in several places. As always, I think it might be well to run a knife through them to make them about the size of the chocolate morsels and chopped sandwich cookies.

Below, there are two versions of the recipe – the original, and Errol’s half size version. Other than the amount of ingredients, and the scoop size, both recipes are the same and give a similar number of cookies – about 15.

Original Gelato di Superior Pub Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups uncooked regular oats
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup crushed pretzel sticks
  • 12 chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped
  • Parchment paper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Beat first 3 ingredients ar medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating just until blended.
  2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients in a bowl, gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Combine oats and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add cookie dough to oat mixture and blend using your hands.
  3. Roll about 1/2 cup dough into a ball. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Flatten ball to 1/2 inch thickness with the palm of your hand. Repeat procedure with remaining dough.
  4. Bake at 350 for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on pan on a wire rack (about 30 minutes). MAKES 15 SERVINGS.


After the first batch, I found that 18 minutes made the cookies more crisp than I like, and I cut the cooking time down to 16 minutes. Also, if you have two pans in the oven on the middle and lower shelf, you need to rotate the pans about half way through; the lower pan is shielded from the upper heating element, and will not be as cooked as the middle pan.

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Errol’s Version of Gelato di Superior Pub Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cups uncooked regular oats
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 3/4 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup crushed pretzel sticks
  • 6 chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped
  • Parchment paper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Beat first 3 ingredients ar medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add egg and vanilla, beating just until blended.
  2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients in a bowl, gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Combine oats and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add cookie dough to oat mixture and blend using your hands.
  3. Roll about 1/4 cup (#16 scoop- I used my #20) dough into a ball. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Flatten ball to 1/2 inch thickness with the palm of your hand. Repeat procedure with remaining dough.
  4. Bake at 350 for 16 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on pan on a wire rack (about 30 minutes). MAKES 15 SERVINGS.


The #20 scoop is slightly smaller than the 1/4 cup #16 scoop, but I don’t think it is enough to make any real difference. I got 8 cookies on my cookie sheet of this size, and they expand to about 4 inches in diameter. So you probably need to consider 5 inches placement center to center.

Halloween Cake Pops

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Having just finished the Decorette Shop‘s Cake Pops class, I had some candy melts that needed to be used. I also felt I had learned something from making the Minion Army after the class. So I dug out the cake crumbs I had frozen, and started making my Halloween treats. There were many more lessons to be learned!

As I have said before, I do not like dipping chocolates, and dipping cake pops is the same thing. By the time you get the excess dripped off, the rest has started to set. If I were lucky, all the excess would have dripped off but more likely, I still have some thick spots, and a bunch of tails where the drips have set before leaving the cake pop.

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In class, Linette the instructor had trouble getting the dipped pretzels for the skeleton to stay in place on the skeleton’s stick. I had thought about that and decided that I would try doing it in reverse order. I would dip the pretzels, let them dry, and then put them on the stick before even worrying about the skeleton’s head. The trick I saw was in mounting the stick horizontally so that the pretzels would hang down while the glue dried. After I did the bones, I worked on the heads. Here I learned that if you are going to use shapes for the cake pop, the shapes must be exaggerated. I shaped the heads so the chin area was narrower than the forehead, and then I poked holes for the eyes, nose and mouth. After gluing the heads to the sticks, and dipping the heads, I discovered that all the indentations had filled in and were lost. So the face got painted on standing out from the skeleton rather than embedded into the skull.

I used Royal Icing for all the extra design work on the cake pops, except for the bug eyes which I bought and glued on.

The other thing about the skeleton is that when I bought the pretzel, I just grabbed a bag. I think now that the pretzels are out of proportion to the skeleton. I should have looked for a smaller size pretzel which would have kept the ribs in closer to the body. Linette had said that we could also glue pretzel pieces onto the ribs to represent the arms. I gave it a try but decided it was going to be very difficult to hold the pieces in place while the candy melt set, so I skipped that step.

ghosts 002

While I had the white candy melt warm and working, I also decided to do a few ghosts. In this case, I took the ball with which all cake pops start, and tried to flair out the bottom to be like the flowing sheet that we all think of when we make our ghost. I think the ghosts look weak because a couple of the other cake pops have so much size. However, the ghosts are the correct size for cake pops. A cake pop should start with a small ball of dough, not bigger that about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. As it gets larger, the dough has trouble holding together through the dipping and tapping off the excess operations.

witch 001

The witch is also something I thought about how to engineer, and came up short in a couple ways. First, I made the hats. Here I rolled the ball of dough into a cone, and when it was coated I placed it on a wafer of an Oreo cookie. Notice I said when it was coated; I tried to dip the cones without a stick, and failed. The candy melt would set on the dipping fork and other implements I used before I could get the excess melt off the cone, then I couldn’t get the cone free from the dipping tool. So I ended up “painting” the candy melt down the sides of the cone using a spoon. When I finished covering the cone, I placed it on the Oreo wafer.

Having learned from the skeletons that any features had to be exaggerated, I ended up making the witch’s heads too large so that I could get a nose and sink the eyes. The original witches were at the top of the stick, and after dipping the head, I would place the hat on top of the head where it would glue to the fresh green candy melt. Unfortunately, the hat size was small compared to the head, and appears comically on top of the head. So I experimented. I drilled a small hole in the bottom of the Oreo wafer- 3/16 inch- and made the witch head smaller and moved it about 1/2 inch down the stick. After dipping the head, I slid the hat onto the top of the stick. It all looks much better in proportion.

pumpkins 001

Finally, I used all the rest of the cake crumb dough I had in making pumpkins. I had tried to use some shaping on the dough to give the vertical segmentation that is natural to the pumpkins, but like most of my shaping, it seems to disappear in the dipping and dripping. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the pumpkins is that I used broken pretzel pieces as stems.

At this point, I have completed my Halloween Cake Pops for this year. The photos all show how I decided to present my cake pops; I filled a clear plastic 12 ounce glass with M&M candies to give it weight, and then stuck the sticks of the cake pops into the glass. It works, and the receiver also has a lot of M&M candy after the cake pops are gone.

I need to get some answers to why my dipping experience is not what I think it should be. I hope this gives you some ideas if you are making cake pops for Halloween.

Cake Pops and More

practice 006

The title of this article is the same as a class I took at the Decorette Shop. Then, a couple days later, I decided to try my hand at home to help reinforce what I learned at the class. In this article, I will try to explain what I learned to do, and not to do. In addition, I have decided to put a lot of photos into this article; there are photos of other students work, photos of my work in the class, and finally photos of the work I have done after class to reinforce the ideas of the class. This first photo- my army of minions- is from the latter group; other photos in that group will show you the army coming together.

To start, I have to say that the class did impart a lot of information, but like all classes, it was hard to really practice; it just takes too much material and equipment to let everyone have their own space. The class started with each of us receiving a quarter of a layer of cake, and needing to convert it into crumbs in bowls that we brought using forks that we had also brought to class. Once we had the cake into crumbs, Linette (the instructor) poured some white ganache into our bowls and we stirred and cut the ganache in so that all the crumb would stick together. Once we reached that stage, we started taking some of the crumb and rolling it into balls.

The ganache is a very stiff version; it has a ratio of 1 to 4 – one part hot heavy cream to 4 parts chocolate. It needs to solidify in a short time to hold the cake shapes together. I also believe there should be a couple notes about the cake crumb, and the balls. First, the crumb must be uniform; I think a lot of the failures we saw at the class, and some I found repeating at home were because there were lumps in the crumb balls. And the balls themselves need to be tightly packed. They need to hold together through all the operations of inserting the stick, and dipping them.

At this point, we started sharing the pots of melted candy melts. The sticks need to be glued into the cake crumb – or other objects that are being dipped. So the end of the stick is dipped and then inserted into the cake crumb object. (we also had marshmallows, Rice Crispy treats, and Double Stuffed Oreos to dip and decorate). It was suggested to put the object on the stick into the styrofoam block we were using to hold the dipped objects. For the most part, I think this was a mistake; we were waiting for the glue on the stick to solidify and we still were trying to let the ganache solidify. So some student’s objects started falling down the stick, or falling apart. I laid my objects down to let the “glues” dry.

practice 001 In this photo, you can see the “glue” that was wiped off the stick when I inserted it into the sausage shape cake crumb objects I used for reinforcement practice.

While it might seem appropriate to put the cake crumb and stick into the refrigerator to cool and lock both the ganache and “glue” tighter, we were warned that this is a no-no. Cooling shrinks the ganache and crumb slightly, and then after it has been dipped and is at room temperature again, it expands, and will crack the candy melt coating.

Now we started the dipping process. I have never liked dipping chocolate centers, and I felt the same way about dipping the cake crumb shapes. Mostly things worked out fairly well. I had a failure with the Rice Crispy treat that I think I can understand now. The candy melt needs to not be too hot. My experience with chocolate said that I had the smoothest results with the temperature in the 90 degree area. When it gets over that into 100 degrees, I had problem. In the case of the class, the white melt did not have a temperature control. I think it got too hot, and then melted the marshmallow that was holding the Rice Crispy treat together. I noticed that a lot of the classes Rice Crispy treats were also failing; one that didn’t fail did not use the white melt.

Pops 003This is a photo from class; the red apple has been painted with disco powder after the red candy melt dried. Below, you can see a better picture of the orange pumpkin. The green marshmallow with black hair shows the artistic capability of the student- all their own idea. And finally in the back corner there is the start of a ghost that melted the glue and slid down the stick- probably as I said, the white candy melt was getting too hot.

Pops 003a

The candy melt is really a chocolate based product, and so it has to be treated like chocolate; not too hot and never get water in it. However, the best way to keep an even temperature is to use a water bath, so there is a real conflict. I used water in an electric fry pan as my constant temperature. The other thing is that the candy melt needs to be fairly deep so that it can cover the dipped object. For that reason, the shape of the container is important. Linette suggested using mugs, and as the picture below shows, I used a rather tall mug for my yellow candy melt in my practice session.

practice 002

Of course, the dipped object can not be laid down until the candy melt has dried and hardened. The easiest method of holding the sticks upright is to use styrofoam to hold the pops.

Pops 005This is another students work.

I tried using a couple drying racks to make a grid to hold the sticks upright, but the spacing was too loose. However, I did take a couple pictures that way, which are shown here.

PicMonkey CollageThings to notice- the pumpkin stem, the round green of the oreo, and the rib bones on the marshmallow skeleton.

Once the candy melt is dry, there are many ways to decorate it. Some of the pops show redipping in a second color. The pumpkin show using a piece of broken pretzel as a stem, and using the food marking pens to draw the face- also the face on my marshmallow skeleton. The oreo has a couple eyes glued on; there are many small pre-made items that one can buy for decorating such as the eyes. The ribs of the skeleton are pretzels that were dipped first, and after they dried they were “glued” to the stick.

practice 005For my minions, I glued an eye on each one, then used Royal Icing colored black to go around the eye and around the head to may the minion’s glass.

I think from my practice reinforcement session, I learned that you do not want to be making all sorts of pops in one session. You only want to have a few things active at a time. Of course, in a class where they are trying to give us ideas and all, there is a wild bunch of things going on at the same time.

I am also going to still look for some better way to hold the sticks upright. I keep finding small pieces of styrofoam that were broken off the block and of course, it does not like to be swept up and dumped in the trash- it holds on for dear life.

November 2016: I had occasion to make some cake pops this month, and found myself changing a few of the things I say in this article. I had one layer of a white cake in the freezer that I used. After breaking it into crumb (I used the food processor to get an even crumb), I added a 4 to 1 part white chocolate ganache. It was not strong enough to hold the crumb together when the globes of dough were dipped into the candy melts. I ended up adding more melted white chocolate so that the balls were very firm and tight. This worked very well. I’m sorry I don’t have measurements for how much total ganache I used or for what the final ration of white chocolate to cream was. Just be certain that the balls you make are very tight and tough.

The second thing I found was that the thickness of the melted candy into which the balls are dipped works best if it is very thin. I used the paramount crystals (2 Tbs) to help thin the melt to make dipping better. There are many ways to thin the melts to make them easier to use, but Paramount Crystals seem to be the best way; they add fat into the pot. Others have used shortening, and cocoa butter, and even paraffin wax to thin the melts, although most have side effects that are absent with the paramount crystals.

I find with both my molded chocolates and cake pops that the melt seems to thicken with time as I work, and I add some crystals every once in a while to keep the melt flowing nicely.

Seattle and the Wind Storm

A few months ago, the people of Seattle were getting concerned about the “Really Big One”, an earthquake that would wipe out everything west of Interstate 5. It had been an article in the New Yorker magazine. I tried to focus my daughter’s attention on the fact that most of the problem, if you survived the quake and tsunami, would be the loss of power and roadways; it would take days to restore each of those.

I made a quick trip to Seattle to help daughter Mindy celebrate her birthday. And while I was there- on her birthday no less, the wind blew and took the power out. It went out at about noon on Saturday and didn’t come back on until about 10 PM. After a couple hours in the dark, we went out driving and checked out the terrific wind damage. In one case, we were driving and actually saw a tree come down just a few hundred yards away. Of course, the traffic lights were all out, and many lanes of traffic were blocked by fallen trees, so driving wasn’t a lot of fun either. Going into Seattle later that afternoon, there had been a tree fallen onto the freeway and what was 4 lanes of traffic was reduced to a single lane while they cleaned up that tree.

Last Saturday was a small introduction to how the problems of a quick hitting natural disaster would play out. Once you lose power, you not only are in the dark, but you lose the traffic semiphores, street lamps, and gas pumps. And as a result traffic backs up at major intersections for miles.

I guess we were lucky that the power came on Saturday night; at the train station Monday morning I was hearing people say that their power hadn’t come on until that morning, like 2 AM Monday. Of course, the Comcast cable had also gone out and it hadn’t come back on when I left. (I left early Monday because Mindy had been summoned for Jury duty and had to report at 8 AM Monday).

Even though our weekend will be memorable for the power outage, we were still able to do our foodie thing and visit both some old favorites as well as some new places. Old favorites include Fat Hen for breakfast, and Molly Moon for the ice cream sundaes.

The new places we tried included Bluebird ice cream, where I would say you should try the snickerdoodle ice cream. This little parlor is listed among the 15 best ice cream places in the Seattle area. Actually there are a couple Bluebird parlors in the list, just as there are multiple Molly Moon parlors in the list. We visited the Bluebird that is on Greenwood at 74th.

Mindy likes to explore the various offerings of some chefs such as Tom Douglas and Ethan Stowell. So we visited Cantina Lena and Seatown in the Tom Douglas group, and Goldfinch Tavern in Ethan Stowell’s group. I think I said it more than once that with good restaurants, it is not the food directly that is good, but it is the way the food is seasoned that makes it so good. In all three of these restaurants, that was certainly the case. These restaurants probably are all considered downtown in location. Cantina Lena is on 5th Avenue under the monorail. Seatown is just off Pike and the Pike Market place, and Goldfinch Tavern is in the 4 Seasons hotel.

Finally, we had breakfast one morning at the Bakery Nouveau up on Capitol Hill. They advertise French café fare on the park. There is a second site over is West Seattle. All I can say is that you never knew so many ways to create a quiche or a croissant. I had a Spinach and Feta croissant, and then a Smoked Salmon croissant. I just looked at their web site to see if I could also name what Mindy had, but I didn’t find the names of her croissants. One was with scrambled eggs and bacon. I am certain that we will be returning for additional samplings of their fare.

Even though I made it a short trip so as to interfere neither with Mindy’s work or her call for Jury duty, we still had a good time doing our foodie bit. I also took her a dozen of her favorite Morning Buns, and tastes of several other cake products on which I had been experimenting and perfecting (see Ding Dongs, Black and White Irish Cream cupcakes, and Guinness Gingerbread cupcakes). And I also took her a birthday cake- the Italian Cream Cake– which she says is her favorite.

I’m sorry that I didn’t take photos at the new group of restaurants; I know Mindy did, and I think she places them on Instagram, but being a few generations older, I have no idea how one accesses them. In fact, this dinosaur doesn’t even have a “smart phone” yet so I can only give you Mindy’s link on Instagram.
“https://instagram.com/mindycrary/”

Itialian Cream Cake

coconut cake 004

This cake went all the way from my home in Beaverton, Oregon, to daughter Mindy’s place in north Seattle, Washington, in my luggage and on the train!! And the only damage was that it slid one inch on the 10 inch cardboard cake circle on which I had built it! Of course, I did take some extra care in packing it to go. As I was assembling the cake, I used some Royal Icing to cement the first layer to the cardboard. Then, after frosting it, I cut 5 bamboo skewers to 5 inches and stuck them through the cake to make certain that the individual layers didn’t move relative to each other. And finally, I put the cake in a 10 x 10 x 5 cake box for transporting; the cake box I placed in my duffle bag and hand carried the duffle keeping it flat. I forgot once, placed the duffle on top of my rolling suitcase and tilted the suitcase to roll; that is probably when the cake slid to the edge of the cake circle.

There is more to this story. I hadn’t planned on making and taking a cake with me. But I talk to Mindy every weekend, and the weekend before I was to go, she mentioned that she had almost bought a KitchenAid mixer so she could make the Coconut Cake- another name for the Italian Cream Cake. So I knew I had to make it for her. After all, I make everybody who asks locally a cake, so I needed to make her favorite cake for her birthday.

This is a darn good tasty cake. I think I have only made two cakes recently that I give those qualifications; the other is the Guinness Gingerbread cake, which I did as cupcakes. Both of these cakes are moist and can easily lead to a-second-piece syndrome. I took the photo in a hurry, and my colors were not quite right so the frosting appears more brown than in real life- it really is white with pieces of nut showing through. Here is the recipe.

Italian Cream Cake

(Coconut Cake — Margaret McBryde 1976)

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 egg – separated
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 1/2 oz. coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cake Directions

  1. Cream together until light and fluffy the butter, shortening and sugar.
  2. Add and mix well the egg yolks.
  3. Into a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add dry ingredients alternating with buttermilk. Mix all ingredients very well.
  5. Then add coconut flakes and walnuts.
  6. Beat the egg whites stiffly with the vanilla, then gently fold them in.
  7. Grease and flour 3 8-inch cake layer pans. Divide batter evenly between pans.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
  9. Cool pans on rack before removing the cake layers and icing the cake.

Icing

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 16 oz. (2 packages) cream cheese
  • 2 lbs. (2 boxes) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Mix butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla thoroughly.
  2. Add the chopped walnuts.

September 12, 2015, NOTE: When I first made this cake last month, I was confused about what size cake pans to use. Then I looked at Marlys’s old cake pans and discovered that the only set of 3 pans she had were the 8 inch pans with the old fashion piece that swivels around the middle of the bottom to loosen the cake bottom from the pan. They worked well, and all I had to do after swiveling that bottom piece around 360 degrees was use a knife around the vertical edges.
Since then, I talked to my friends at the Decorette Shop about using their Real Ease product to grease the pans. They said that because of its composition, it is not necessary to flour the pans after applying it. That will save a mess of bouncing flour all over the sink, so I will be trying it without flour this week.