Monday, November 26, 2012

Tis The Season!

This is "it" - the decorating of the house officially starts my holiday baking dreams.  I know I can't possible make everything I imagine, but oh the JOY of imagining!

This little vintage Santa usually winds up on the basement bar each year, but I swiped him for the kitchen to stand guard over my KitchenAid & Recipe Box.  Somehow his warm glow is inspiring visions of goodies the likes of which I could not possibly pull off even if I stayed up day and night. 

I think I'll be starting off with my traditionals and see what I can do from there.  Speaking of traditionals...what about YOU?  Are there holiday sweets that you enjoy every year?  The ones that just top off your season?  I REALLY want to know - what kind of goodies are traditional in your family?

Please share!  Tis the Season!  Comment on this post with your favorites and spread the Sweet Joy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving: Marzipan Marathon

When you gain a new skill, you are either thankful you mastered it (and hope you never have to do it again) or you find your eyes wide, thankful for the inspiration and totally addicted.

My name is Heather.  I have a blog called Sweet Teeth.  And, I am addicted to Marzipan.

After this post  in July, my sister and I agreed to go in halfsies on a seven pound can of almond paste and at least fifty bucks in tools, petal dusts, and brushes.  We intended to freeze the paste and envisioned endless available hours to practice and hone our newly acquired skills.  We received our first "commission" and spent a day modeling and shaping, shading and cooing.  But we still had six and a half POUNDS of almond paste in the freezer.

I've neglected this blog too long.  Although this is not a new recipe, I hope that you will be cheered to see what my beautiful sister and I came up with when we planned a two-day marzipan marathon for Thanksgiving.

Roughly the size of a golf ball!  Cutie Patootie!
This is the sort of event that tells you what you're made of.  Endurance.  Stamina.  Attention to detail.  Restraint.  (Have you ever tasted these little treats filled with figs, nuts, chocolate, and bourbon?)

I'm going to let the photos do the talking.
I'm thankful for my sister.  She's thankful for her food processor.
We were both thankful for a light filled studio and homemade pumpkin spice lattes*.
W.I.P.  (Works In Progress.)
 We listened to music, taking turns playing D.J. and chatting about nothing important.  We giggled quite a bit.  There is something giddy about making things in miniature ~ something that makes you say everything is Itteh bitteh.  Our fingers cramped up a bit, our backs were sore, but there was a nice 2006 Cloudline pinot noir waiting for us at the end of night one, and a night's rest to recharge. 

Thankful, thankful, thankful!

The creativity and enjoyment of making these dandies make me wonder how to get a job doing this - because I cannot think of a more giddy way to get paid.  I know after about 200 pieces the shine might be off the apple, but still...

I could have done this alone, but I'm so thankful I didn't.  I am thankful I have parents who would take my threenager for two days and one night, giving me the opportunity to focus on anything.  I'm thankful for my hubby who cooked us the BEST burgers on night one to replenish our energies.  I'm eternally thankful for my sister, who not only took the class with me in the first place, but continues to be dragged (er, well, rather willingly) into Marzipan Marathons.  I fear that if we had more time, there would have been Marzipan Mischief, as well. 

But, we still have four and a half POUNDS of almond paste in the freezer, guys...

Without further ado, here is a sample of our Thanksgiving Bounty.  And a recipe for the homemade pumpkin spice lattes that kept us going!

Filled with a mixture of figs, dates, walnuts, pecans, citron, chocolate, cinnamon, and bourbon.

D'Anjou?  We do!

My (er) Lemons and Her Darlin' Clementines

Jamie and the Bartletts.  A new band?
The T-Birds got NOTHIN on these Pink Ladies.

Wee lil' mushrooms.  The only kind we'll eat.

Apricots: also filled with the fruit/nut mixture.  Sassy!
Not even Queen Anne was as pretty as these cherries.

Itteh. Bitteh.  Cherreh.  Pahhhh.  I couldn't help but try this.
I hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving.  I'm thankful for every person who reads my little blog posts! 

Crock Pot Pumpkin Spice Lattes
from Good Morning America

*I doubled this for the size of my crock pot.  It made four HUGE (2 cup) mugs when doubled.

1/2 cup brewed espresso or 3/4 cup strong coffee
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin (plain, not pie filling)
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice OR (1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. ground cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg and a pinch of ginger.)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Whipped cream for topping.

In a slow cooker, add coffee and milk.  Whisk in pumpkin, spices, sugar, and vanilla. Cover, cook on high two hours.  Whisk again (or use an immersion blender like I did to give you some great froth) and ladle into mugs.  Top with whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon.  These do not replicate the drink of the same name from a place that gets Fivebucks for them, but I think these were delish in their own way!

Sis, I think we should have tried to make the Indian corn...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Turkey Cookies

The past few months have been frightfully hectic and a bit strained, and I've been woefully missing my kitchen and butter and sugar and flour...

But this time of year is about being thankful and I was reminded how blessed we are when I received a sweet package in the mail, perfectly timed and brimming with cheer.  Autumn Sprinkles, a heartfelt note, and an awesome children's book.  I truly found my eyes brimming and was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Thank You, Friend!  XO
My wheels were turning now, because when I receive a gift of this sprinkletude, I feel compelled to really show my thanks to the giver, and prove that her kindness was appreciated to the utmost.

About the same time, my daughter's preschool class asked me to bring in cookies for her class Thanksgiving Party.  (They don't know about me and my hobby yet.  Tee hee.)   I knew right away.  The expression of thanks represented by a young person, age three?

You Know Where We're Going, Don't You?
My Little One and I got to work right away.  We traced her hand to make a template, and I mixed up some sturdy sugar cookie dough.  I baked off 10 kid-sized hand cookies using only half the dough, leaving another disc in the fridge to repeat a little closer to Turkey Day, when our family gathers. 

Thanks to my dear sprinkly friend, we had some embellishing to do.  And embellish we did!  Melting a few handfuls of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave and coating the cookie fingers for "feathers", it became the perfect palate to receive the gifted autumn sprinkles.

Intense, Sprinkly Concentration.

Candycorn Beaks.  What Turkey Wouldn't Want a Candycorn Beak?
The project was a tremendous success, with Little One repeating quite often that she "looooves chocolate" and she "knows just what to do with the sprinkles that fall under the rack."

Satisfaction Meter?  5,000!
"Can I Eat One Now PLEEEAAASE?"
We have so much to be thankful for here, I'm sometimes overwhelmed.  The random acts of kindness that find us are deeply felt and are another reminder that GIVING is a big part of THANKS.  It feels so nice to receive, and even better when you pass the kindness and give forward.

Gobble Gobble!
I know there will be some thankful three year olds in preschool tomorrow with chocolaty mouths and sprinkly cheeks.  Thank you, Sugar Sister!  You got us back into the kitchen and we hope we made you proud!

Basic Sugar Cookies
From The Dessert Bible by Christopher Kimball

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg *(I probably used 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated)
20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still firm
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 2 minutes at medium speed.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined, about 30 seconds.  Add the dry ingredients and beat until combined, about 30 seconds more, or until the dough just starts to come together.  Press dough together with your hands to form a ball and then divide in half, shaping each piece into a 6-inch disk.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.  (Can be made up to 2 days ahead of time or frozen!  If frozen, let thaw in the fridge and sit on the counter 10 minutes.)  The dough should be firm but not hard for the best results.

Adjust the rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment.  Working on a lightly floured surface, roll half the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness.  (Keep the other half cool during this period.)  Cut to desired shapes and move to the cookie sheet with a spatula, leaving about 1 inch between cookies.  Bake until golden on the edges and very lightly browned on top, about 8 minutes.  Turn the sheet halfway through baking time.  When cookies are done, cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack using a spatula. 

Gather scraps and re-roll, cut and bake as directed above.  Store cookies in an airtight container.

For Chocolate Turkey "Feathers"

Melt 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute.  Stir well, as the chips will soften with stirring.  Continue microwaving at 10 second intervals until smooth. 

Using a spoon or small offset spatula, smooth chocolate onto the four fingers of the hand cookie, spreading and smoothing between the fingers and over the tips to coat.  While still warm, sprinkle and embellish with glee.   Place a dot of warm chocolate on the thumb of the cookie hand, and place a candycorn into the dot, pressing gently to adhere.