Saturday, February 13, 2010

Putting the Heart in Cranberry Cookies

cranberry cookies
(click through if you see a photo error -- lesson learned, don't replace the flickr photo *after* having blogged it, confuses rss readers... :)

I saw these on CRAFT and couldn't resist trying them for Valentine's Day (mmm, cranberry orange...)

Cranberry Cookies

I have to say, the Instructable is spot-on -- I almost never leave a recipe alone, but I followed this one as written, and it was perfect. I liked the suggestion of making the cookies heart-shaped, and being the geek that I am, had to try two different methods for that to see what worked best.

Once the cookies are rolled up in wax paper, I made the top dent in the heart by placing a chopstick (or two, overlapping the narrow ends) along the center of the roll, and left it in place. (I also considered a wooden spatula handle.) Then:

For Batch 1: I rolled the whole thing (chopsticks, wax paper, and all) in some heavy duty aluminum foil, which was strong enough to hold the shape of the smooshy cookie roll (technical term :). Then, with the chopsticks on the bottom, I pinched to form the pointy part of the heart.

For Batch 2: I pinched a bit to form the heart point, then dropped the point into the corner of an empty cling wrap box. Wiggled a bit to be sure the point was where it should be, then placed the box in the freezer at a 45 degree angle.

After slicing, you can adjust the shape a little bit as needed.

Batch 1 (photo left) is taller and pointier. Batch 2 (photo right) is shorter and more rounded. Take your pick!

To turn these into Valentine's for our friends today, I decided they needed a bit of support. I cut cardboard squares (from a pizza box lid -- hey it was still clean!) and wrapped them in a bit of aluminum foil. I secured the cookie with some cling wrap (hey where's the box with the cutter strip? ah yes, it was recently in the freezer...) and a bit of tape to hold it all in place.

I think these cookies are great, but not sure I'd make them for a non-occasion since they require a bit more work than I usually put into a cookie. I was thinking you could do simple balls, make a dent with your thumb, and drop in a dollop of filling... not nearly so cute, but I want to eat them again, so compromises might need to be made!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Valentine's Day Gingerbread House

valentine gingerbread house

This year the girls and I decided to make gingerbread houses. Well, the holidays can sort of sneak up on a person, so we didn't make them until after Christmas. That got me thinking, why is gingerbread mostly for Christmas? I left off the green, went crazy with red and white, and viola, a cute little house we can leave up until February.

To get the shape, I free-handed the curvy end piece (the narrow wall of the house) on paper, then used that as a stencil (flipping it over for the second piece). I measured the length of the curve for each side (they're different) and used that to determine the height of the wider side pieces. (The roof was the same process, but simple, because there are no curves.)

valentine gingerbread

I baked the gingerbread, then while those side pieces were still warm, propped them up with crumpled aluminum foil (and all manner of things, really... spice jars and whatever was handy). There's no way to get it perfect, but I just held up the paper stencil so that I could match the curve, and adjusted as needed. During assembly, all is forgiven, because I put the narrow walls to the *outside* of the curved side pieces, and any discrepancies were masked by icing and later, candy decorations.

topsy-turvy gingerbread house

Candy ideas: white smarties, red spree, red hots (these bleed a lot into the royal icing though), candy canes, peppermint candies (whole or halved), pep-o-mint life savers (whole or crushed), licorice ropes, sliced red/white gumdrops.

The best find of all was this weird stuff called licorice "rips" in strawberry. It comes in sheets of 1 mm wide ropes stuck together, so you can tear it to the size you need. Individual ropes worked well for my little curlicues above the windows and doors, and even for the heart outline within the crushed life saver mosaic.


I almost forgot! The windows -- hard to see (because I forgot to place the lights inside before assembling the walls, oops) but there are candy windows in place. Cut the windows before baking the panels, then before removing from the foil, fill the openings with crushed butterscotch hard candies and return to the oven until melted. Allow to cool, the peel away from foil.

I've always found great tips, tricks, recipes, patterns, etc at, so give that a try if you're looking for help or inspiration.

St. Patrick's Day green gingerbread house? Pastel spring/Easter house? Why not...

I'm back ... (?)

Hmm... I sort of disappeared for, oh, a year there. Oops. Life gets in the way (some good things, some not so good, but all requiring time and energy). I've hesitated to post for the past few months because I was waiting until I was sure I could post more than sporadically. Well, sporadic it might be, but it's time to just jump back in.

So, we're back. I'm not sure if anyone is still out there, but off we go... For those of you who have hung on, thanks! Let's see what I've been up to.