Sunday, March 28, 2010

More Zig Zags and Polka Dots

I realize that I have already posted pictures of Easter eggs.  But I don't think you realize how much I love them.  So, let me tell you - I love them. 
You see, all through school, especially the last years of my college experience, I occupied my time in class with doodling.  (I wasn't the best student.  I now know it's because I was going to school for the wrong thing.  If I could go back and do it over, I would have totally gone to culinary school.  Unfortunately, I discovered this after 5 1/2 years of under-grad and 1 1/2 years of post-grad schooling.  You live and learn.)  I might not remember much from Theatre History, but I know I did some darn good doodling in that class. 
My Easter eggs look like a page out of my Microeconomics notebook.  (Without the random "supply and demand curve" - that isn't a curve at all.  It's a line, people, a S&D line.)  I can remember wanting to show my doodles off, but didn't really have any sort of outlet to do that with.  So, I would just share them with my younger sister, Betty.  Betty doodled a lot, too, so she appreciated them.  She would show me her cool doodles that she did in class, too.  (She's not much of a student, either.  We're a lot alike, in some ways.) 
Well, I now have an outlet to share my doodles and I couldn't be happier!  I did 62 egg cookies this week and loved every single one of them.  I think this is the first style of cookie that I'm excited that I get to do more of them this week!  (Usually, after staying up 'til midnight decorating cookies, I don't want to do that particular shape for a while.  But not with these!)
These are more like "working" pictures than "studio" pictures.  I loved the way the sun was coming in, so I didn't get my lamp out to suppliment the lighting.

There were no 2 eggs alike. (I like variety, can you tell?)
You might have also noticed that I don't like pastels.  My sister, Bonnie, said something about me not using "traditional" Easter egg colors, which I'm assuming she meant pastels.  I asked her if she expected me to use "traditional" anything.  She said I had a point.

For this one-
You see that lumpy cookie in the middle?

Here's a closer look -
Oh, she's lumpy alright.  (Don't worry.  No one pays for this cookie.)  She's a designated pok'er cookie.  I poke her (pok'er) to see if the icing is anywhere close to being hard.  It takes quite some time - anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.
(Don't worry, it doesn't hurt her.  She's still tasty, just ask my brother-in-law.)

In addition to the eggs, I did some birthday cookies.
So, happy birthday, Amy!

And now for more shout-outs -
My lil sis and her mate.

My friend in Tifton - Surprise!  These are coming with your iced whites!!

And of course - my brother and his crew -
I even made up a basket for them!

Well, I hope I make it through the next 2 weeks - I'm booked solid!!  So, if you don't hear from me, it's because I'm being suffocated by flour!!  (It's the way I'd want to go!)
Let's get baking!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

“That’s a Good Cookie” – The Secret Revealed

I’m going out on a limb here and writing a post not centered on any pictures. But hopefully, it will be worth it for you.

My niece, CA, was eating one of my cookies the other day (I tend to ice a spare cookie and put her name on it, like any good aunt would). On this particular day, she looked at me in between bites and said, “NiNi, you put your secret in here, didn’t you?” I just love some of the things that come out of her mouth. This happens to be a perfect example. It just made me smile. I’ve never told her that my cookies have a “secret” ingredient. She just assumed that because she loved it so much, it must have a secret ingredient.

I used to think the taste of my cookies wasn’t the most impressive part about my cookies, even though my dad has always said that they’re the best cookies in the world. Of course, I just thought he was saying that because, well, he’s my dad. The rest of my family raved about them too, but once again, they’re my family, they’re just being nice, right?

Well, now that my cookies are getting around, I feel like I’m getting some unbiased feedback. I’ve had basically the same comment from two different people – who aren’t related to me – say that they loved my cookies and they’re not “easily impressed”. My dad gave a cookie to a friend of his who is a hobby chef (not sure that’s a real phrase, but you get my drift). After every bite, he said “That’s a good cookie” with a growing intensity. I have several people not in my family who are a bit fanatical about them. I promise I don’t put any addictive drugs in them, as I’ve been accused. Although, at times I have felt a bit like a dealer. My friend, who we’ll just call “J”, placed two cookie orders and at the end of discussing what she wanted them to look like she said, in a hushed tone, “And can you make me like, 6 extra? I don’t care what they look like.” And if you saw the way my brother-in-law rummages around looking for any extra cookies or witness his reaction to when I don’t have any to spare, you might call him a junkie.

Honestly, my cookies don’t have a secret ingredient. It is one of the most basic cookie recipes I’ve ever come across. I have tried more complicated sugar cookie recipes - Martha’s, Betty Crocker’s, but they weren’t any better, in my opinion. So, I stuck with the simpler one. It just contains the basics – butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. The only thing that I can think of that would make them extra special is that I use good quality ingredients, especially the vanilla. As for the icing, I use the royal icing recipe that comes with the Wilton meringue powder – confectioner’s sugar, meringue powder (essentially dried egg whites) and water. Pretty basic. 
Well, the point of this post was not just to take a bite off my own cookie but to make an announcement. My friend, Kari, made the suggestion that I offer my iced cookies that aren’t decorated fancy at a lower price - for those who want some Sweet B’s cookies, but don’t necessarily have an occasion to celebrate. She might be on to something. I think I’ll take her up on that suggestion. So, I’m now offering what I call Iced Whites. A baker’s dozen iced white medallions (that’s a fancy word for circle) for $10. I need about 3 days to make them – it’s still a process, you know. And I’m thinking from time to time, I’ll offer an Iced White Sale – where I have several dozen to sell, first come, first serve. As for those of you who are going to ask about shipping – I can try doing the priority mail thing for $5 plus the cost of the box and cushioning. I usually use UPS, because I know exactly when it will get to you, and I feel like they take better care of my packages. But I’m willing to give USPS a shot with the Iced Whites.

So, to those of you that were hoping to learn my “secret”, I hope you’re not disappointed that you didn’t get any real answers. I’m sure I didn’t disappoint any of my addicts, who can’t wait to get there hands on some Iced Whites!! Now that Iced Whites are out of the bag, I should probably go stock up on dough… happy mixing to me!

Just so you'll know how plain the are -
But feel free to dress them up yourself!
You didn’t really think I would post without any pictures, did you?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

C is for...Caterpiller?

To those of you that thought I might say C is for cookie (that's good enough for me) or even C is for cake, here's a surprise.  Around here, when I'm icing a cake, C is for caterpiller.  Just ask any of my nieces or nephews and they'll tell you what that means.  It actually all started when I was decorating the cake for the FBE.  I was at my brother's house with 3 of my beautiful nieces and 1 of my 2 handsome nephews.  If you've decorated a cake around kids, you know they swarm you like vultures - mouth's just-a-waterin'.  Now, I don't mind you tasting whatever I've got going on, but one of my BIGGEST pet peeves is double dipping in my icing.  Makes my skin crawl just thinking of it.  It's not because I mind eating after my family that much, because I don't.  It's the fact that whoever is eating the cake is now eating after you too.  And if they're a paying customer, I'm gonna yell at you because you've just ruined my cake. 
Back to my story - the vultures were circling and I knew if I didn't give them some icing willingly, they would try to swipe some while I wasn't looking.  So, instead of them sticking their finger in my icing bowl, I made them stick their finger out and I drew a "caterpillar" on their finger with my bag of icing. 
Oh, they loved it.  And I didn't mind them coming back for seconds because their slimy hand wasn't touching my icing bowl.  (Of course, their mom might have protested seconds...had we asked her.  Have I mentioned that I love being an aunt?)
Well, I had to share the novelty of caterpillers with the rest of my family.  So, anytime I'm icing a cake in this house, my sweet princess of a niece asks for a caterpillar.
And how can I refuse?  Especially to watch how much she loves it.
Down to the last bit!
Love her!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cookies, Cookies, and oh yeah, Some More Cookies!

Well, I already showed you pictures of my shamrock cookies.  I did about 7 dozen of those, and am in process of 20 more (not 20 more dozen, just 20 cookies).  I literally have a green thumb right now.  You see, icing colors tend to stain my hands - I think I just have color-sensitive hands.  Eventually it wears off after several, several hand washings.  It might be easier if I wore gloves, but I refuse to wear them.  (I have an irrational phobia.  I fully admit it's irrational, but I still adamantly refuse.  I have almost quit a job over it.  Some people are afraid of spiders or heights.  I hate plastic/latex gloves.  I would rather wash my hand 30 times a day than put those awful things on and off.)  Enough about me, back to the cookies.
In addition to the shamrocks, I did...

...2 sets of birthday cookies...
(The other set was for Kristen, who is one of my biggest fans and all she wanted for her birthday was some Sweet B's cookies!  But I didn't get any good pictures of hers!!  I tried snapping some this morning at 7:15 before I sent them with Bonnie to work, but apparently the photographer in me doesn't wake up that early because the pictures were blurry!  Sorry, Kristen!)

... 20 baby cookies...

(I can never decide what design I like best.  I asked Bonnie which designs were her favorite and she said, " I really like that one...and that one...and that one.  I like all of them!"  That didn't help me at all, which most of the time, she's extremely helpful!!
So, which one do YOU like?  Leave me a comment and let me know!)

...4 dozen cookies for Julie at Minuteman Press...
(I'm getting new business cards with the logo I designed.  And I'm using Minutemen Press in Newnan, GA.  Can't wait to show you my logo and the cards!)

...camo cookies for almost 8 year-old Alex...

 AND 120 cookies for an event my dad's church was hosting
(although I forgot to take pictures of those - sometimes my brain can only handle so much). 

This week doesn't look like it's going to be as busy (for now) which means I need to spend some time and energy prepping for Masters week!!  (It's just 2 weeks away!)
So, happy baking to me!

Zig Zags and Polka Dots

Moving on to the next holiday...

My sister Bonnie and I found the porcelain egg crate at Williams Sonoma.  I immediately started thinking of how I could use it.  It's perfect for mini-cupcakes!  And of course, the cupcakes had to look like Easter eggs.  I used royal icing to spell out "Easter".  Before she saw the pictures, Bonnie couldn't figure out how it was going to look like the word and not just a bunch of letters.  Sometimes when I explain my ideas to her, she has a hard time visualizing them - I just say, "Trust me." 
They really are mini-cupcakes - see?
I think this would make a cute gift.

And now, for the cookies I've been waiting to do for years -
Easter Eggs.
I was born to do these cookies.
I have been doodling like this since high school.
And I always thought it would look good on an Easter egg.
I was right. 
Well, it looks good on an Easter egg cookie
And cookies are so much yummier than eggs anyway!
These really are my favorite - hence all the pictures, just couldn't help myself.
(I think it somehow justifies the hours I spent bored in lecture classes.)
You can order some for your Easter baskets.  
6 cookie minimum.
Just have your Easter bunny call me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Peace, Love and Cookies

So, my baking-frenzy week started off by mailing cookies to a friend of mine who had a baby a month ago.  I'm just now getting the "Wow, you had a baby" cookies to her - sorry for the lateness.  I got to use one of my new, beautiful, copper cookie cutters (try saying those 3 words 5 times fast).  It's a 3"x5" rectangle.  (That's one big cookie!)  I call it my message cookie because that's what it's for - to send messages, cookie-style.  I love it. 

See - it's big enough to write "congratulations" on it.  That's a big word to put on a cookie.  Trust me, I didn't know if I was going to get all the letters on there.  But I succeeded! 
My next order was for Stanton.  No, this isn't a recycled picture from Valentine's.  I did hearts again.  I didn't swear them off after making hundreds of them.  But this time the heart was accompanied by peace and happiness.  Stanton's mom received a Bits of Love Valentine at her supper club. She said they were "SO good" and wanted to give them as favors for Stanton's birthday party. She wanted peace signs, and I suggested doing the whole "Peace, Love and Happiness."  She also wanted me to do a 12" cake for her.  I had the perfect design in my head to match the flower-child theme.  I made her cake, stacked it, crumb-coated it (a thin layer of icing to set all the crumbs), and iced it a beautiful color of green.  I got that sucker sooo smooth.  I was so proud of how smooth it looked.  The next morning, I went to start decorating it.  I got the ruler out to figure out how big I needed to make the flowers.  I laid the ruler down gently on the top of the cake.  The cake measured 11".  Wait a second.  That means, without the icing, it's a 10" cake.  *@#%!&$*#^*  (Don't worry, Mom.  I didn't really say any bad words.)  I asked myself - whaddya mean I made a 10" cake?!  My brain started spinning.  I didn't know if I had enough time to re-make the whole thing - there are parts of the baking process you can't rush through.  Not to mention I had already made this one so pretty.  I was stressin'.  But then, the rational juice started flowing through the brain (I'm not sure where it came from, but I was glad to feel it!)  I decided that it was much more reasonable for me to supplement with matching cupcakes than to make a whole other cake.  I emailed Stanton's mom, apologizing for being a space cadet, and she graciously accepted my alternative.  I still feel like such a ditz.  Anyways, the cake turned out beautifully.  I hope Stanton had a groovy party!
The next order I did was for one of my sister's co-workers.  She was going to an out-of-town wedding and they were having a small shower/bachelorette party for the bride.  So, we did an elegant 6" cake and fun cookies to go with it.

It was my first time trying out the coffee cup cutter (another tongue twister).  Of course - I love it. 
Then, for my last order of the week, a simple birthday cake.  It was simple because I barely got 24 hours notice. Lucky for Polly, I wasn't running behind on any of my other orders so she got to enjoy a cake from Sweet B's! 

So, as you can see, I was super busy last week.  The good news - this week looks just as busy!! 
Let's get baking!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

If You're Lucky Enough to get a Sweet B's cookie...

Then you're lucky enough. 
I have a new love of holidays.  It means that I get to make festive cookies to go along with the holiday.  I worked on some Easter sweets this weekend (that I can't wait to share), only to realize that I skipped over St. Patrick's Day.  I hope that doesn't bring me bad luck!  So, in order to redeem my Irish luck, I gathered my butter and sugar to make some shamrocks to share.  Maybe you'll want to share some too!  There's a dozen order minimum.  The shamrocks are about 2" big and the message cookie is 3" x 5" (you can personalize it with your own message).
I know a dear friend of mine that would love for me to share these with her.  I think her heart is in the shape of a shamrock.  And if she doesn't get some of these, I might never live it down. 
And yes, those are tiny easels just for cookies.  I've been looking for something to prop my cookies up so I wouldn't have to try using paper towels every time and failing every time.  Lo and behold, they make such things.
I made some taster cookies to send with my sister and brother-in-law to their workplaces to promote the sharing of Sweet B's cookies.
They look like buttons - the kind you push and expect something to happen.

Each jar has about 120 bite-size cookies.  Stevo said they'll last about a minute at his work. 
Well, regardless of how long they last, I hope they enjoy them!