Cowboy Boots & Hats Sugar Cookies

I spent last week making an array of cookies and desserts for my best friend’s daughter’s graduation–Oreo Truffles and Walnut Pillows, to name a couple.With a festive event like graduation, I can’t let the opportunity slip by to try out some sugar cookie designs. Last year I made graduation cap sugar cookies for her oldest daughter’s graduation. This year, however, they chose a country theme for the party. Hence, I got to try a couple new designs: cowboy boots and cowboy hats (thank goodness for google images; I found tons of designs to inspire me).

I’m pleased with the way they came out, especially the tricolor design going on with the boots. I opted for the maroon to imitate her school colors. I think a lighter color would have created much more contrast with the boot’s swirly design, but it still works with the darker maroon.

Here are a few things I learned this time about making and designing sugar cookies:

  • Rolling the dough between plastic wrap makes it sooooooooooooooo much easier to roll–no mess, no dough sticking to the rolling pin, no flour everywhere… It even works if the dough isn’t as chilled as it needs to be.
  • Once the dough is rolled between plastic wrap, it does wonders to place it back in the fridge to chill before cutting out your cookies–plastic and all.
  • Rolled dough that has been placed in the freezer for a short time, like 10-15 minutes, cuts even more easily and lifts from plastic more easily than refrigerated dough.
  • Because I dip my cutters into flour before every cut, my cookies have excess flour all over them. A little dusting with a pastry brush before baking takes care of removing that in a snap (I know this is probably common sense, but I sometimes take awhile to find my common sense :  )
  • Americolor Gels are my number one choice for icing colors: lots of choices, richer colors, squirt spout…
  • When mixing icing, colors will darken overnight (so mix the icing ahead of time). That maroon color was looking extremely pinkish the night before, but it turned out that nice dark shade of maroon that I was aiming for by the next day.
  • A butter knife works far more efficiently to mix icing colors than a spoon does (again, that common sense thing is a little slow).

I used Americolor Chocolate Brown, Maroon, and Ivory for these cookies. Since the store only had a dark brown, the clerk suggested I used Ivory with a touch of the brown to achieve a light brown. I could have achieved that without the ivory, by the way (I tested). I also used a very small drop of Black to achieve the grey, which I also painted with a bit of silver luster dust to give it a subtle sparkle. Oh, and I used both  #1 and  #2 piping tips.

Please pretend I chose a boot cookie that had the icing design complete! Didn’t notice the incomplete zig zag (missing its zag!) design until cookies were long gone after party.

I took pics along the way to show you my steps. But first, here are links to my sugar cookie posts that will lead you to sources for sugar cookie recipes, royal icing how to’s, vanilla bean info, etc:

Okay, here are my steps. Please pardon the poor-quality photos; some of these were shot at night with my shaky hands.

  • Outline boots using #1 piping tip. I filled in heel since it was a tiny portion, but they all caved a bit when they dried. I should have used flood-consistency icing for that part.

    A bit more outlining to make multi-color boots. Flood the square at the top.

    After outlining has dried, about an hour, start flooding the icing within the outlined design. Use a toothpick to drag around and eliminate air bubbles.

    Flood boots with second color.

    After filling has dried overnight, use #1 piping tip to add designs and outline. I wasn’t going to outline again, but I really liked the way it looked on my tester boot.

    Add spurs and rivets, again using a #1 piping tip. When dry, paint on silver luster dust, if desired.

    Outline using a #2 piping tip. Allow an hour or so to dry before flooding.

    Outline in darker color; can use #1 or #2 tip, depending on how thick you want the outline. I meant to use #1 but used #2 on half and #1 on other half. Both looked fine.

    Outline band on hat in brown, then flood with maroon. Allow to dry overnight. Use #1 piping tip to pipe on design on band (notice I made it match boot design.)

Ice Cream Sunday: Macadamia Crunch Ice Cream

Hubby loves macadamia nuts, so as soon as I stumbled upon this recipe, I knew I would make it for him. He especially loves ice cream with nuggets of goodies in it, so making chunky ice cream with his favorite nut was an easy winner.

This recipe requires more than just tossing macadamia nuts into ice cream. You actually make a toffee with the nuts, so the flavor factor increases. Making toffee is easy, by the way, so don’t let that part of this recipe intimidate you at all.

Macadamia Crunch Ice Cream

Printer-Friendly Version

INGREDIENTS

Toffee

  • 2/3 cup roasted & salted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Ice Cream

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Toffee

  1. Butter a small rimmed baking sheet (or use a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet).
  2. If nuts aren’t pre-roasted, either roast them in a saucepan, stirring frequently until slightly browned and nutty smelling; or, place them in a shallow pan and roast in a 350 degree F oven for a few minutes, checking frequently so they don’t burn.
  3. Combine roasted nuts and baking soda in a small bowl.
  4. Stir sugar, water, and butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and boil until mixture is a dark amber color, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes (it actually took 5-7 minutes for me; FYI: mixture gets very foamy while boiling and progressing toward amber color).
  5. Mix in nuts and immediately pour onto buttered sheet, spreading it as much as possible. Cool completely, then chop with a sharp knife into small pieces.

Ice Cream Base

  1. Bring cream, milk, and salt to a simmer in a large, heavy saucepan.
  2. Whisk sugar and egg yolks in a medium bowl.
  3. Gradually whisk hot cream mixture into yolk mixture.
  4. Return mixture to same saucepan; stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of a spoon when a finger is drawn across–do not boil.
  5. Pass custard through a sieve into a medium bowl; stir in vanilla. Cover tightly and refrigerate until very cold, 3-4 hours but preferably overnight.
  6. Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  7. Add toffee during the last 5 minutes of churning. Transfer ice cream to freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze until firm.

SOURCE: Technicolor Kitchen via Bon Appetit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful

Yeasted Waffles

Yep, you read that correctly: Yeasted Waffles.

Like yeast you use to make breads? Yep.

Why?

Well, it creates a super light yet tender waffle. Totally crispy on the outside; ultra airy on the inside as well as soft and buttery (the recipe calls for one stick of butter, so it better taste buttery!).

I liked these, especially the ease of making them. It takes 5 minutes to mix it together the night before, then you let the yeast batter ferment all night. In the morning, mix in the eggs and baking soda, and you are set. Easy peasy.

Although I didn’t take a picture of it, I tossed a handful of blueberries into each waffle well before closing the top of the waffle iron, creating waffles with bursts of blueberry sweetness in every bite. I highly recommend this practice :  )

Be aware that this batter is extremely thin, so don’t be surprised by that. It still cooked up fine and filled us up plenty considering they are so light.

Although I think I prefer a waffle with a denser bite, these were definitely an experience with their airiness sandwiched between a crispy exterior. And I certainly wouldn’t be averse to making them again someday. I can envision enhancing the flavor by adding some orange zest to the batter…

I also recommend reading Molly’s post on her Orangette blog about these waffles, for she goes into great detail about her comparison taste testing of this waffle recipe and another one (which I intend to try as well someday).

P.S. After I finished this post and began cleaning up from the photo shoot, I took a bite of that waffle sprinkled in powdered sugar. Then another bite. And another. Until I polished off a shameful amount. It was yummy cooled off, too, even though it had lost its crispness. Chomping on the leftovers with the powdered sugar, I realized that when hot and crispy, these taste a lot like funnel cakes. Ever had those at county fairs? Sinfully scrumptious. Well, just sprinkle those hot off the iron waffles with some confectioner’s powder and you have a sort-of-funnel-cake!

Yeasted Waffles

Printer-Friendly Version

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 pkg. (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast (not instant, rapid rise yeast)
  • 2 cups whole milk, warmed
  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the water and yeast in a large mixing bowl, for the batter will double in volume due to the yeast. Allow the yeast 5 minutes to dissolve and foam before proceeding.
  2. Add the warmed milk (I microwaved mine), melted & cooled butter, salt, sugar, and flour to the bowl; whisk until well-blended and smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.
  3. When you are ready to make the waffles, preheat the waffle iron.
  4. Just before cooking the waffles, whisk the lightly beaten eggs and the baking soda into the batter until smooth (the batter will be very thin).
  5. Fill waffle wells and cook according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Yield: I used a Belgian waffle maker and got 9 waffles out of this batch; feel free to halve the recipe if you don’t need/want that many waffles.

SOURCE: Orangette, originally from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham (as of this posting, amazon.com had several copies for a couple bucks!)

Triple Berry Pie with Crumble Topping

My love of tart food hails back to my very youthful days. My mom would set up a miniature table in the kitchen for me and my older brother, then she would serve us a plate of freshly cut lemon wedges along with a plate full of sugar for dipping the wedges into (yum). I relished those days, for I loved the combo of tartness and sweetness. My brother and I would make a game to see who could suck on the lemons without making those pucker-lipped faces that tartness engenders.

So, all things tart tickle my palate–both literally and figuratively. That includes not only citrus fruits but also rhubarb, green apples, berries… If it’s tart, it’s got hold of my heart. Sorry, couldn’t resist that silly little rhyme.

Which finally brings me to the recipe for this post: Triple Berry Pie. Whenever I eat at a pie restaurant, like Marie Calendar’s, I always order the mixed berry pie. Love it, love it, love it. The melding of sweet berries and tart undertones and buttery flaky pie crust…mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ! ! ! Makes me drool.

Last summer, I saved a couple of berry pie recipes. However, with my shaky history of pie making combined with the high prices of berries here in Southern California, I kept putting off attempting any of them. Finally, though, I spotted a great sale on berries. It was time to venture into triple berry pie territory.

Happy to report that I whipped up my best-looking and best-tasting pie to date—yippee!!

Now, I combined a couple of recipes for this one. I loved the crumble topping from  The Italian Dish–and she has a super easy pie crust–so I used both of those. The crumble topping turns this recipe into a combo pie and berry crisp. The oats in the crumble give an extra depth and slightly nutty flavor as well as an additional texture to play with your palate.

The pie filling I followed travels back to the folks at America’s Test Kitchen, who produce the fabulous magazine Cooks Illustrated along with numerous cookbooks. Anyhow, they discovered that a grated green apple both enhances the flavor of the pie as well as helps maintain the stability of the filling, so I tried it. Fantastic results. You can’t taste the apple in there, but I love that the filling holds its shape. You MUST WAIT a few hours—like at least 4—for the filling to set, though. Any sooner and you will have runny berries all over your plate (I know, for I was impatient).

Since I made this pie just for the heck of it and I could have eaten every last crumb but my waistline really, really doesn’t need that, I thought I would try slicing it up and freezing the slices. Freezing works beautifully. That means I can have slices of berry pie at a moment’s notice…well, with a bit of defrosting. But it works! Just wrap each slice in plastic wrap, place them in a baggie, and freeze.

And finally, this recipe worked out so well that I just might splurge once in a while on pricey Southern California berries to make more of this delectable pie.

Triple Berry Pie with Crumble Topping 

(makes one 9-inch deep dish pie)

Printer-Friendly Version

INGREDIENTS

One Minute Pie Dough from the blog The Italian Dish (food processor required)

Makes dough for one single pie crust; can easily be doubled for a two-crust pie

  • 1 3/4 cups flour (about 9 ounces)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tbsp.), cut into slices
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (omit salt if using salted butter)
  • 1/4 cup ice water (approximately)

Pie Filling

  • 2 cups fresh raspberries (each cup is about a 6-ounce container of berries from the market)
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 tsp. juice from one lemon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca, ground
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • pinch table salt

Crumble Topping

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into slices
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats

DIRECTIONS

Pie Dough

  1. Place flour, sugar, and salt in food processor. Pulse.
  2. Add about half of the butter. Pulse.
  3. Add the remaining butter. Pulse until mixture turns into coarse crumbs.
  4. Through the feed tube, slowly add the ice water and pulse until the dough gathers into a ball. It if doesn’t form a ball after a few seconds, add a few more drops of ice water until it does.
  5. Take the dough and flatten it into a disc and place it on a sheet of floured plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  7. When dough has chilled, roll it out between two sheets of plastic wrap (a little trick that will make pie dough rolling much easier!) until it is a little larger than your pie dish. Transfer the flattened dough to the pie dish by gently rolling up the sheet of dough around the rolling pin and transferring the rolling pin to the pie plate and unrolling the dough. Gently press the dough down into the pie plate. Crimp the edges decoratively, either by pressing with the tines of a fork or by pinching the dough to make crinkles. Dock the bottom of the dough with a fork (that means poke the dough with holes) to minimize air bubbles when baking.
  8. Line the pie plate with a sheet of tin foil. Either place pie weights or dried beans on the foil. First, this will also minimize air bubbles. Second, be aware that you will not be able to cook these beans. I keep my “pie” beans in a container labeled pie “weights.”
  9. Bake for 15 minutes (this is called “blind bake,” a process which partially cooks the dough, thereby preventing it from becoming soggy when the filling is added).
  10. Take the pie crust out of the oven and carefully remove the sheet of foil with the pie weights. Place the pie crust back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Check the pie dough, and if you see any large bubbles forming, spear them with a skewer.
  11. Remove crust from oven and add filling.

Pie Filling

  1. Place 1 cup of raspberries, 1 cup blackberries, and 1 cup blueberries in a medium saucepan; set over medium heat. Using a potato masher, mash berries to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of the berries have broken down and the mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cook slightly.
  2. Place grated apple in a clean kitchen towel and wring dry.
  3. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups of uncooked berries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine.
  4. Transfer mixture to the blind-baked pie crust.
  5. For the crumble topping, combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until blended. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the filling.
  6. Place a pie ring shield over the crust (or you can use strips of foil around the edges of the crust). This will prevent over-browning while the pie bakes.
  7. Place pie on an aluminum-foil covered baking sheet to catch any bubbling over of the filling (this helps prevent oven messes). Bake for about 1 hour, until crumble topping is golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for about 4 hours in order for filling to properly set.
  9. When adequately cooled, cut into wedges and serve as is or with ice cream or whipped cream.

Pie freezes well. Just wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then either place in Ziploc bag or wrap foil over the plastic wrap. When ready to eat, thaw in refrigerator or on counter, and microwave if you want to eat it warm.

SOURCES: adapted from Sweet Peas Kitchen and The Italian Dish

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Yes, I could have easily bought buns to sandwich our pulled pork, but what fun is that? How much more satisfying to know I baked these myself. And aren’t they just gorgeous with that shiny golden brown top speckled with sesame seeds?

I’ve baked with yeasted doughs a few times, and this is definitely the most pliable, easy-to-handle dough I’ve encountered yet. It was a bit tacky initially, but once the dough finished the first rise, it was smooth as can be to handle.

This particular recipe uses potato flour–not something I stock regularly in the pantry, so it did require a special trip to the store. However, I do list an alternative in the recipe below. I learned that the potato flour, though, helps keep moisture in the bread.

It also uses nonfat milk, another item I don’t regularly stock. I have seen it in small packets at the store, though, so you don’t have to buy a big bulky box of it.

This ended up being a fairly easy recipe, so I plan to continue making sandwich buns for us, keeping extras in the freezer to use as needed.

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Printer-Friendly Recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast (also called rapid rise yeast) or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast   (.25 ounce packet) (see yeast tutorial to learn about the two types)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. white granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup potato flour (alternative: grind mashed potato flakes in a food processor)
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp. lukewarm water
  • 1 extra large egg

For the egg wash

  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • sesame seeds or poppy seeds, optional

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, melted butter, dry milk, potato flour, water, and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes. Adjust the dough’s consistency with additional flour or water as needed, but remember that the more flour you add, the heavier and drier your buns will be.
  2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball.
  3. Lightly spray the inside of a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place the dough into the bowl; loosely cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and place in a draft-free space to rise until doubled in size, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Gently deflate the dough and divide into 8 equal portions. Roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball and flatten into a   3 1/2-inch disc. Transfer discs to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them       2 1/2 inches apart. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel and allow to rise for 1 – 1 1/2 hours in a warm, draft-free space.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining egg and 1 tbsp. water. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, if desired.
  6. Bake the buns until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 8 buns

SOURCE: The Galley Gourmet

Sweet & Tangy Cole Slaw

Since slaw is traditionally served with pulled pork sandwiches, I whipped us up a sweet and tangy slaw salad to accompany the pulled pork I made last weekend. I added a few more ingredients than called for to increase the festivity of colors as well as add more crunch.

I like this slaw because its dressing isn’t mayo based. Instead, it uses vinegar to pack a tang while the sugar creates the sweetness. It also adds a few other spices to enhance the overall flavor.

You can chop everything yourself, or you can make it super duper easy by buying the pre-cut, pre-packaged slaw mix. Whichever you choose, this makes a refreshing summer side dish to accompany a barbecue or to take to a party.

Sweet and Tangy Cole Slaw

Printer-Friendly Version

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 head green cabbage, thinly sliced (I used the slicer on my food processor)
  • 1/4 head purple cabbage, thinly sliced
  • OR 1 (16-oz) bags pre-cut cole slaw
  • 1 cup slightly packed grated carrots
  • 1 cup slightly packed grated jicama
  • 8+ radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup distilled vinegar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. celery salt
  • 1 tsp. granulated (powdered) onion
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground (powdered) mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
  • juice of one lemon

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine sugar, vinegars, salt, pepper, other spices, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add the slaw and other vegetables; fold to coat it all.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for 3-6 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.

SOURCE: Patio Daddio BBQ