Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mom and Baby Cookie Party

Last week some of my running mom friends and their little ones came over to my house to do some cookie decorating.  I had offered to teach them how to decorate cookies after bringing some cookies to our coach's baby shower.  It was a lot of fun (especially watching the little ones interact with each other), but I did forget just how much work it is to prepare to decorate cookies.  

I learned how to decorate from taking classes at All in One Bake Shop (now Make It Sweet) whose classes I would highly recommend to anyone in the Austin area.  One of the great things about their classes is they do a lot of the prep work for you, and the parts that we do in class they seem to have down to a science how to do it most efficiently.  I'm learning more each time I do them, and after this time I found some more tips online that  I think will make it faster.  Also, I really wanted to show everyone how to make the royal icing and flood icing (thinned out royal icing) and put it in bags, but next time I would probably do that myself so there's more time for decorating.  Some tips I have are:
  • Simplify! Just choose a few colors and styles rather than several.
  • Use glass measuring cups to mix each color.  Then put half of the color in the piping bag and thin out the rest to pour into the bottles.
  • If you have a lot of cookies to decorate and are pressed for time do all of the outlines of one color first that way you don't have to worry about the icing in the tip drying.  If you have a bit of an assembly line of cookies it goes faster.  
  • I have some piping tip covers that seem to help a little, but one tip I read online afterwards is to put a damp paper towel in the bottom of a glass and put your tip in there.

There were a couple of little ones in our group who were at the point where I thought they might enjoy decorating, but I figured that holding a piping bag was probably beyond their level.  I have some paint brushes that I use cake decorating so I gave them each a brush and put some of the flood icing (thinned out royal icing) in bowls.  That seemed to work pretty well, and thanks to their moms it actually wasn't a huge mess!

My 10 month old wasn't super cooperative with my decorating efforts so I think I only managed to decorate a few cookies during the party.  I was trying to figure out afterwards why I was having such a hard time piping (besides the fact that he kept trying to help), and then I remembered that I normally use my left hand to help guide a little bit.  I ended up decorating some more later that night, but I still had a lot left the next day that I wanted to finish.  I knew that the icing in the piping bags would be fine with the exception of what had hardened in tip (which can easily be taken care of with a toothpick), but the flood icing in the bottles separates overnight.  I did a little research and determined that I should be able to remix it.  I got out a liquid measuring cup so I could hopefully just pour it back in afterwards, poured the separated icing in, and just stirred it with a spoon.  I have two different types of bottles - one with a wide opening and one with a narrow one.  I was able to just pour the icing into the wide bottles, and for the others I had to use a funnel.  I think I might need to get more of the wide neck bottles and more liquid measuring cups sometime before I do another big cookie project.  It was so nice to sit down and finish the cookies while Lucas napped!

I really loved getting together with my friends to decorate cookies, and I hope we get to do it again sometime!  Holiday cookies?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer Squash Trail Mix Cupcakes

I haven't posted in quite a while.  When I quit my job to stay home with my baby for some reason I thought I would have a lot more time than I did before, but really I only have a little more time for stuff like blogging and a lot more time with my son.  But, that's fine.  So, while I like blogging I don't guarantee that I will do it regularly, but I imagine that as he gets older and naps become more predictable that I will find more time to do it.  I have found more time for baking than I was in the early months of his life, but it typically isn't anything that requires a lot of work though I have done a couple of fancy cakes and decorated cookies.

So, I do still get a CSA share every other week, and I decided this time I would do a better job about using everything before I get the next share.  Only problem is I found out last night that they had me scheduled to get another share this week even though I shouldn't be getting one until next week.  I think something got messed when I went on vacation and pushed out one of my pick up dates.  Rather than dealing with trying to call them I changed my pick up day of the week to Saturday rather than Wednesday to give me the rest of the week to finish what I had.  I decided I needed to use up some of the squash by baking.

I had made Martha Stewart's Zucchini Spice Cupcakes before using half zucchini and half summer squash so I decided to try all summer squash this time.  My son fell asleep for his morning nap and actually let me lay him down so I got busy getting ingredients out.  I soon realized I would have to improvise quite a bit as I didn't have vegetable oil or walnuts.  I ended up using a mixture of safflower, canola, and olive oil because that's all I had.  I've tried cake with olive oil in it before that I liked so I figured  it was worth a try.  I had a bag of trail mix with walnuts, almonds, raisins, cranberries, and dates.  At first, I thought about pulling out all of the walnuts, but then I decided I would just chop it all up and see how it works.

When they came out of the oven I thought they looked a bit more like muffins than cupcakes, but the inside is soft like cake.  They turned out delicious!  I think I still prefer them with just walnuts, but I would say this was a nice substitute!

These are great without the icing as a little snacking cake, but they're even better with a bit of cream cheese icing.  I mixed up some with half butter, half cream cheese, vanilla splash of milk, and powdered sugar to the consistency I want for piping.  I frost a few for the next couple days and then freeze the rest so they taste fresher.  It doesn't take long for them to defrost in the fridge.

I set one out on the plate to take a picture, but I had to go change my baby's clothes as he has decided that the dog water bowl is a fun place to play.  When I came back I saw my cat licking her lips and part of the icing missing from one side, but you'd never know that by looking at the picture above!