Friday, December 30, 2011

Lovin' Spoonfuls: A few of our Favorite Gingerbread Houses 2011

As small as a typewriter, as big as a house... really, a house!
Fit for a president or wrought for a cause,
Here's a photo & video round-up of a few my favorite gingerbread homes

Big: The Incredible Edible Gingerbread House at the Brunswick Centre, in Bloomsbury London created to raise money for the Great Ormond Street hospital.

A typewriter! Baked Ideas made this gorgeous super colorful and nostalgic, completely edible gingerbread typewriter (like a house for stories) to benefit City Harvest. It's displayed at NYC's Parker Meridien Hotel. The Gingerbread Wonderland is located in the 56th Street atrium of the lobby:
December 1st – January 6th created by local restaurants & bakeries:

Gingerbread the White House: weighing in at over 150 pounds of gingerbread dough and 250 lbs of white chocolate and an amazing attention to detail:

How to: I came across this wonderful Gingerbread Brownstone through a tweet from my friend Elisa Strauss. Its from Kitchen Table
Check out their Build a Gingerbread Brownstone post for really great photos and details on how to build your own brownstone & Gingerbread house basics:

Behind the scenes: with our friends at Cake Alchemy building their Penguin House. Here's my question: How did they get the amazing and beautiful pulled sugar to hold up? Lauri?

On display at the New York Botanical Gardens through January 16, 2012

On Location: our Dog Gingerbread house for the NYBG.
Click here: to see how we made it.

Lastly, a perennial favorite: Baked Ideas tiny houses, too small for even a mouse:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gingerbread Dog House: (three bedrooms, no baths)

It's that time again♡---friends and neighbors are smiling and commenting on the smell of cinnamon and ginger in the halls. We're well stocked on molasses and brown sugar, and we are ready to build.

(above: let it snow)
Every year right around this time we make a Gingerbread house for the New York Botanic Garden. Not surprisingly, all of my houses revolve around things my son is interested in that year. One year it was a train station, then a rocket, a dinosaur, the three pigs, and the Nutcracker Suite (which admittedly was a bit of a stretch, since he'd never heard of the Nutcracker Suite, but the Nutcracker-soldier dueling with the evil mouse-king seemed to seal the deal).
Step by step: how to build a super-delicious dog.
We promised him that he could have a dog when he's nine, and at seven, he seems to be spending a lot of time thinking about and preparing to be part of that A-Boy-and-his-Dog thing, so this year we've made a dog house.
Not a house for a dog (see, it's a joke), it's a house shaped like a dog. Like a road-side stand you might find on route 66, or like a fantasy house in the imagination of a child. It has parts to climb, and parts to swing on, and lots of important amenities like a rooftop garden and a satellite dish so we can get ALL of the football games.

And kids. Tiny sugar & spice kids to live in it and enjoy it was essential, (I was told by my inside source), to the completion of the project.

(above: homework)
The Gingerbread Adventures exhibit can be found in the Everett Children's Adventure Garden and is part of the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show which runs from Saturday, November 19th through Monday, January 16th.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

JuSt fOr FuN! Cakes Dressed as Everyday Objects: BlackBerry Cake, Purse Cake, Record Player Cake, Wine Cake.

Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, but more often than not these days, its actually a cake, trying to pass itself off as a cigar, or a blackberry or a lovely purple purse.

60's Record Player Cake (A Portable Imperial Party Time, Solid State...)

Here's a little behind the scenes, like the original "real" record player, and some bits and pieces of the decorating stages:
Cynthia and Alejandra!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cookie "Costumes": #1 Bride & Groom

My amazing niece Tara is all grown-up, and getting married. She wanted something little, and especially fun for photographs of her bridal party.

The first time mustache cookies came onto my radar was through my friend Liz and her Eat Cake Be Merry blog, and it really made me smile.

Watching my son play with them made me think we need to make some more variations on this theme for fun cookie dress-up photos...

*To make sure the skewers didn't burn or spin around later, I soaked them in water before baking. Before putting the cookies in the oven, I also added an extra little piece of cookie dough over the part of the cookie where the skewer was inserted for extra strength.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

BAKER-BOT: the Future of Kitchen Gadgets?

Fab@Home: imagine this- "the sun rises and the alarm clock chimes, you roll out of bed to be greeted by a freshly printed breakfast from the dining app that syncs with your alarm clock"

I was really looking forward to seeing my first 3D printer up close and in person at the NY Maker Faire this year. What we found was a whole "3D printer village"!
As we marveled at 3D objects being reproduced, layer upon layer right before our eyes, the silicone streaming out of the printer's tubes reminded me of icing being piped. Sure enough, tucked away in a corner of the show we stumbled across this printer, syringe filled with chocolate and fabricating these little chocolate turtles:

"The Fab@Home syringe tools have the unique ability to make objects out of multiple materials. They are compatible with a wide array of materials including silicone, cement, stainless steel, cake frosting, and cheese. Some of our finished products include a battery, a flashlight, a bicycle sprocket, toy parts, and various food products."

The video below is a little long... but fast forward to where the printer is piping icing onto a cookie, its pretty cool to imagine what the applications can become:

If a Maker Faire comes to your town, I say run, don't walk to check it out.

Here's another exhibit we loved: A game-controller-operated Gigantic Slingshot. (Hmmm, we're going to need a backyard.)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Attack of the Lego Minifigure Cake!

I've been making cakes for Aidan's family since he was three. Now he's seven. I love that age. They seem like they're all legs, like foals, and growing so fast that they're tripping over their own now a-full-size-bigger-than-thee-months-ago feet. Their imaginations are huge, and their super powers are at their best.

The 12 sculpted characters on the cake are formed out of a combination of fondant and sugar-paste. It took about three days to make them. Many disappeared within seconds, and clearly, a few were taken prisoner:

While I wouldn't say, "just try this cake at home", I would totally recommend the LEGO Minifig Popsicle mold (below). We used it to start off the basic pieces & shapes of our figures. With these iconic shaped molds, you can make a quick homemade super cool popscle with a big pay-off. An Orange-Banana Smoothie popsicle is just the right kind of yellow of the classic minifigure. (My personal favorite is Watermelon-Chocolate Chip: puree Watermelon, fold in chocolate chips, pour into molds, and freeze.)

The Red Lego "Brick" cake measures 12 X 16 X 5". Its chocolate cake filled with layers of caramel buttercream and chocolate-caramel buttercream.

This one goes out to all the 7 year-olds:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Homemade S'mores

Part 1: Making the Graham Crackers
Here's a good basic
recipe with easy to find ingredients that draws on kids' natural affinity for measuring, pouring, and mixing. And who doesn't love to play with different textures like soft silky flour, coarse brown sugar, creamy milk, or syrupy honey?

graham cracker tips: let the kids know that the dough needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours, OR overnight before baking, and then chilled again for a bit once it's rolled out. (And have a few interim activities waiting in the wings.)
If you don't have a food processor (we didn't), a blender is a good way to start it off, but it doesn't quite do the job properly. We started with a blender and finished by hand, a little clunky, but OK.

Graham Cracker recipe
*adapted from Nancy Silverton's Pastries from the La Brea Bakery
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (176 grams) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt (4 grams)
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon squares ✳ and frozen
1/3 cup (114 grams) mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons (77 grams) milk, full-fat is best
2 tablespoons (27 grams) pure vanilla extract

for topping: 2 tablespoons (43 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) ground cinnamon

Measure out and combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and pulse on low to incorporate. *if using a blender instead, please see "tips" above.
Add the cut and frozen tablespoons of butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla extract and honey. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and form into a square about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. To prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, and set aside.
Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator.
Sprinkle an even layer of flour onto a sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough onto parchment paper, into a square about 1/8 inch thick. The dough is sticky, so flour as necessary.
Cut into shapes about 2 1/2" square-ish.
Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove from refrigerator and place the crackers about 1/2" to 1" apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping.
Using a fork, toothpick or skewer, form dotted rows in the dough.
Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.
Yield: 10-12 large crackers

I love homemade versions of foods that we usually get from boxes and bags
We burnt the first batch just a little, but given that a couple disappeared even before I could snap this picture, I think they were a success.

Above: Our graham cracker-making was a rainy day activity on vacation. The rain didn't let up and we had to cancel our campfire. So on to plan B: store-bought marshmallows, a bar of chocolate, our homemade graham crackers and a microwave. (Rave reviews!)

Part 2 Making the Marshmallows
We made shapes based on one of our favorite books, Cloud Boy by Rhode Montijo, and the clouds that we saw that day.

The recipe for the piped marshmallow is from Martha
Piped Marshmallow tips: ✵ You'll need a candy thermometer for this recipe.
✵ I think it's fascinating to watch boiled sugar go from a glassy liquid to a white fluffy cloud, but obviously boiling sugar is definitely not a kids activity.

Step #1: adults only. ✵Once its white and fluffy and ready to be piped, it's all good!
✵Tie the end of the piping bag with a twist-tie or rubber band to keep the marshmallow from coming out the other end.
✵We used a plastic coupler as our piping tip because we didn't have a tip large enough to pipe the shapes we wanted. You could also use a large zip baggie and snip a corner off for the tip.

click here for recipe.