Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Adventures in Cookie Glaze

I love using cookie glaze (vs. royal icing) but consistently run into two problems: spotting (random white spots appearing in the icing as they dry) and bleeding. I've tried switching color brand (from Wilton to Americolor), allowing lots of drying time, letting the cookies rest a day between baking and decorating, and using a fan to dry them. Using milk helps with the bleeding, but is more prone to spotting, using water helps with the spotting, but makes the colors almost always bleed. It's so frustrating because of the randomness of these things happening!! I've had cookie orders totally messed up because of bleeding or spotting. Most decorating blogs that I follow use royal icing, and the one decorator I've contacted who uses glaze (with gorgeous results) says that yes, spotting sometimes happens (and she's done her own experimenting, too!) 

When starting this order for palette cookies, I was very nervous about all those bright colors on white, bleeding and looking awful. I did another search for solutions (as I do from time to time) and came across this recommendation for "frankenfrosting" which is a hybrid between royal and glaze. However, this solution involves making both kinds of icing and combining them … got no time for that. But, it gave me an idea … what would happen if I just threw some meringue powder into my glaze recipe? Yes, I know that an actual order should not have been the time to experiment, but I was too excited about the idea, I had to try it right away. 

I used two tablespoons of meringue powder. First thing I noticed was that I couldn't get the shiny smooth consistency that glaze provides, but it was easier to work with than straight up royal icing. And, it still stayed soft after drying, another something I like better about glaze.

Final results on this new icing? Pros: NO bleeding. NO spotting. Cons: Less smooth, less shiny. However … I am absolutely willing to give up smooth and shiny for colors that stay true! I am so excited to try this again! 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Brushes With Celebrity!

I have a good friend who is a tv writer (and most recently: comic books) who put the creator of Being Human in touch with me last year to do artwork for a t-shirt that was to be a gift for the writing staff. This year, she asked me to do another illustration that was printed on hoodies. 

I hadn't noticed this guy in previous seasons, but he's apparently always been hanging around the set. He had a few big cameos this year, and Jeff and I got a kick out of seeing him show up on a couple of episodes. I also got a kick out of this tweet:

… which was taken at the series finale viewing party. Nora and Aidan! Wearing my hoodies! So cool! Also? Great series finale. I was not expecting such a happy ending from a show that regularly featured so much blood. 

The second story is of my own doing … between gardening and taking Penny for walks, I was listening to a lot of audiobooks last summer. Kevin Smith's book directed me to the podcast he does with Jason Mewes, then to Tell 'Em Steve Dave, which he would reference all the time. I started with episode one in January and was caught up by March. It started out as something I'd listen to on dog walks then eventually listen to for hours, wearing earbuds around the house like a teenager. During this long, cold, miserable, grey winter, TESD was something I looked forward to every day. 

I don't know what it was that kept me so engaged … Bry dealing with his depression, Walt's rare sweet stories about his kids, Q's overall bravado … or maybe how their time-filling activity turned into something more exciting, and then into a tv show. I find it inspiring, because I'm constantly struggling with "what should I be DOING with my life?" 

(Also? True story: for the last twenty years, every single time I check a dozen eggs at the store, I think about the Egg Man. It makes me smile to think that I now hear him tell stories every week on a podcast. Crazy!)

I can't even say why I wanted to send them something, but I really did! Which is so odd, because I haven't done fan art since middle school (mostly comics of my friend Amy and I meeting Duran Duran and going on crazy adventures). My first thought was an illustration, but then decided on my other favorite time killer, cross stitch. This pattern was the base (if you've seen my Facebook page, it's also the one I used for our family portrait) and turned it into Bry, Walt and Q (and also Mr. Whiskers Benjamin Cat). I stitched it over a couple of evenings, then sent it off to NJ. Two days later, this showed up on Twitter:

… and was grinning like a goofball. Ming Chen tweeted my work! I showed it to Jeff, prefacing the reveal with "Please don't make fun of me, but …" It's very silly how happy this makes me, but I also need a little silly right now. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Baking Monday – Peanut Butter Cupcakes

The last ones were not great, so I was determined to try again. This recipe from Epicurious is right on. No notes on the recipe … I used 1% milk instead of whole because that's what we have at home. I also frosted these with leftover icing from the fridge (most likely Hershey's Perfect Chocolate Frosting, because that's my favorite).

These may have come out of the oven a few minutes early, because I was worried about over baking them like last time. They were just slightly soft in the center, but no worries – still delicious. These are the pb cupcakes to make! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Baking Monday – Caramel Gooey Bars

It's all in the name … how could I NOT want to try these bars? Not much to report on the baking process … I followed the recipe exactly and followed all the tips especially lining the pan with parchment and allowing lots of time for these to cool.

Cut into small squares … these are super rich and delicious! They were even better the next day. Enjoy!