Brownies Part I – Cookies and More Cookies

Brownies – Conquering my Fear!

Brownies Plain

 

I’m still hoping some bakers might join my little expedition into historical baking! Buy the book here!

My first journey into Cookies and More Cookies (here on out known as CMC) was my aforementioned nemesis, BROWNIES!

Why do I have such a difficult time with brownies? The only thing I can come up with is…well, they are BROWN! I always over-bake them. I’m afraid they are under cooked so I leave them in for another minute, then one more minute… then presto! They are crispy and taste terrible 🙁

As I am determined to overcome my fear, I will do my best to make some amazing brownies from some 80+ year-old recipes! Maybe not such a great idea, but here goes.

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Baking through “Cookies and More Cookies” – A Baking Journey back in Cookie Time.

Cookies and more Cookies

A Baking Journey back in Cookie Time

My father-in-law recently gifted me a cook book. He knows I love to bake, especially cookies, and snatched this one up for me at a church work day. They were cleaning out the church library and getting rid of all non-essential books and this little gem was one of them. It was a conditional gift, as I had to promise to save him some of the recipes I make from it 🙂 (more…)

Welsh Cakes Tutorial- Cookies from Around the World

 

traditional Welsh Cakes

Have you ever eaten a cookie ‘baked’ on the stove? I haven’t until now! This Welsh Cakes recipe was graciously given to me by my friend Anna who lives in Wales. Since she is not a Welsh Native, Anna was able to find a real Welsh ‘cookie’ recipe from her friend, Shirley Llewellyn, who is a Welsh native, so these are about as authentic as it comes! Thank you for your Welsh Cakes recipe, Shirley! I hope I can do them justice 🙂

Anna and her husband Kevin are doing mission work in Wales. They have an adorable little family that has grown by adoption, something they are very passionate about. Check out their website here and follow them on Facebook to see their work in progress. I’ve learned quite a bit about the area and the difficult Welsh language by just following them on Facebook.

Anna is also quite the photographer and posts beautiful pictures of her family, mission work, and the beautiful area where they live.

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Easter Eggs and Bunnies – Easter Cookies

Eggs and Bunnies

Easter Eggs and Bunnies

I’ve been busy this week working on Easter eggs and bunnies! I didn’t make any last year so I was excited to try my hand at some eggs and bunnies, and would prefer to do some with writing on them like “He is Risen” but I’m still practicing for that.

I flooded all my cookies with white royal icing, then used a couple of different techniques for the designs.

Wet on Wet and Piping Details

I designed these cookies using lines of colored icing close together, then dragged my scribe tool through the lines in opposite directions. I left a space here and there to make some hearts. Wet on wet is still my favorite technique and I really enjoyed decorating these.

Eggs and Bunnieseggs and bunnies (more…)

SPRINKLES! How to Make your own Sprinkles!

sprinklesSPRINKLES! Who doesn’t want to learn how to make your own? When I realized how easy it was, I was super excited to do it!

In addition to it being so easy, it’s a great way to use up that extra royal icing you really don’t want to throw out. Sprinkles have become very trendy for cookies and other desserts, and can include everything from snowflakes to large shiny balls. We aren’t going that crazy, but simple sprinkles are fun to make and easy.

Here is a step by step tutorial with lots of pictures so you can make your own! (more…)

Essential Decorating Tools for Beginner Cookie Decorators and how to get them on the Cheap

essential decorating tools

Everyone starts somewhere, and that includes aspiring cookie decorators! We don’t all begin with handheld projectors and airbursh systems, but we can get a good start with some essential decorating tools. These will give you a great start to create beautiful cookies while you learn the tricks of the trade and decide if it’s something you want to do long term. You can easily fill your amazon cart with all these tools to save time and get them all at once, or you can find most of them at your local big box store.

Don’t have a large cookie decorating budget? No problem! I’ll be giving some tips and tricks to find some items on the cheap (I LOVE a bargain!). (more…)

St. Patrick’s Day Cookies with Royal Icing Transfers

St. Patrick's Day St. Patrick’s Day Celebration!

Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Our family usually does and this year is no exception. I usually make the corned beef and cabbage but this year I’m bowing out for the meat and stepping in for the cookies… and the Irish soda bread which I’m buying from the store (Shhh! Don’t tell!)

I’ve never done St. Patrick’s Day cookies and was pretty excited at all the possibilities of green, rainbows, and pots of gold. The only problem is that I have a baby shower I’m making cookies for this week as well and really didn’t have a lot of time to put into these. I’m using these as a learning experience 🙂 (more…)

How to make Berliner Kranser Cookies

Berliner Kranser

Ya, You Betcha!

Living in Minnesota for the majority of the past 17 years, I’ve learned a little bit about Scandinavian culture. Minnesota and Wisconsin have sister cities in many Scandinavian countries and the Minnesota State Fair is filled with tasty treats like Lingonberry ice cream and Lefse (a potato-type pancake…thing). In honor of all things Scandinavian and Minnesotan, I have decided to make Berliner Kranser cookies for my first installment of Cookies from Around the World. They are also called Norwegian Wreaths or Butter Knots.

I made Berliner Kranser cookies with my friend as a teenager and they stuck with me! (more…)

Vanilla 2.0: It’s good to try new things!

Vanilla 2.0 Recipe Review

Vanilla 2.0: A New Recipe Tried

Vanilla 2.0 is a recipe from LilaLoa, a blogger and cookier who’s pretty amazing. I’ve read so many good things about Vanilla 2.0 I decided to give it a try. The hope of this new recipe was to have even, flat tops and retain the shape as closely as possible, and of course, amazing flavor. Were those hopes realized in the recipe? Well, yes and no.

My Results

vanilla 2.0  vanilla 2.0

A post is in the works to do a comparison of 3 different popular cookie recipes. This recipe is one of the three so the complete results won’t be included here. The great cookie comparison is something that I’m really excited about! I cannot wait to share my results with you and I’ll be going into much more detail about each recipe and the cookies it produced in it.

To briefly state it, the cookies tasted good, but not as good as my original recipe. The texture and mouth feel were completely different. Not bad, just different. The same cookie recipe has been made in this house for the past year and a half; it’s a big change!

The cookies were perfect for decorating which was a huge plus. The tops were even and flat, and the cookies were almost the exact same shape as when they were put in the oven.

This recipe calls for 2 types of sugar, one of them being brown. Because of this, the cookies are darker than I normally would like because I only had dark brown sugar on hand. I made this recipe on a whim which goes against two of my rules of baking –

  • Never start a recipe until you have read the recipe at least twice
  • Never start a recipe until all ingredients are in stock.

I should listen to myself more often!

Here are the cookies before and after decorating

My dear Mother’s birthday was just yesterday and I wanted to make her some cookies. They decorated so nicely! I baked and decorated in the same day and I really don NOT recommend doing that. The cookie decorating here looks sloppy to me and I didn’t use my own creation, the Cookie Design Worksheet (being made available as soon as I can figure out how to do so). That helps my MS brain simplify my process and organize my thoughts before they can slip away. It’s really hand and I’m excited to share it with you!

vanilla 2.0  

 

The final results…

I enjoyed trying a new recipe and think it was a very good thing to do something new. Sometimes we get into our comfort zones and have a hard time getting out!

Will I make the Vanilla 2.0 again? That’s a definite yes, but of course I’ll follow all my baking rules. I’ll also add a few more minutes to the timer when I’m baking to see if that helps with the textures. The cookies are super dense and I think a few more minutes in the oven would have fixed that. I’m realizing I want to have several recipes in my arsenal to use for different occasions.

The best part is that my mom loved her cookies and I even had a few to share with some ladies at my church.

Have you tried a new recipe lately? Drop a comment and let me know what it was!

Thanks for reading

Leah

 

 


Multiple Sclerosis: Time to Get Real

Multiple Sclerosis. There, I said it.

If you’ve read my “A Little About Me” page, you probably saw that I have Multiple Sclerosis. I was officially diagnosed when I was 30, but had symptoms of it since around 21 (can’t remember exactly when it started). I’m not really upset about it as it’s pretty much the norm now, but it can get really bothersome.

In all honesty, I can say I’m thankful. It’s been pretty mild and I don’t need assistance for walking or daily living. If you saw me out and about you would never know I had a debilitating disease; I don’t ‘look’ sick. I have an amazing doctor and team of nurses at the Schapiro Center for MS, a 100% supportive and loving husband, and a helpful extended family. There is so much to be thankful for and I take nothing for granted.

What Exactly IS Multiple Sclerosis?

In the years I’ve had MS, I’ve realized the average person doesn’t actually know what it is or how it affects the body. I’ll give a very quick and simplified explanation of it (since I like things to be simple :).

  1. In extremely simplified terms, Multiple Sclerosis is when the immune system attacks the lining around the nerves in the central nervous system (CNS-brain, brain stem, and spinal cord). It’s one of many autoimmune diseases- a disease that causes the body to attack itself.
  2. Symptoms start popping up when the lining around the nerves is worn away and the signals sent from the brain are delayed and is eventually lost.
  3. The body is affected wherever Multiple Sclerosis is attacking the CNS. No 2 people with MS have the exact same symptoms. It is very hard to diagnose and can take years, although things are improving in that area.
  4. There is no known cause. Certain criteria have been established for people who are likely to get MS, and I happened to meet every single one.
  5. There is no cure for MS

How Multiple Sclerosis Affects ME

In spite of the ‘mildness’ of it, I do have my own set of annoying symptoms and live with the fact that I have an incurable disease. Things could change very quickly and my health could decline with little to no notice. On my bad days I have trouble walking, can’t remember where I put my keys (or kids-yikes!), weakness on my right side, and terrible fatigue.

When the word fatigue is mentioned, the majority of people say, “Oh yeah, I get tired, too.” In spite of trying to sympathize, they don’t understand so I’ll explain a little further. This kind of fatigue stops you in your tracks, fills your pants with concrete, drops you on the couch, and finishes you for the rest of the day. No amount of will-power or caffeine can bring you back from it. Believe me, I’ve tried the caffeine thing and it didn’t work. Have I mentioned I LOVE coffee?

On a daily basis I deal with the loss of sensation and tingling/numbness on my right side. I have to stay out of extreme temperatures and make sure I don’t over-exert myself physically. Stress is a huge factor and I avoid it like the plague. I’ve learned to say NO and mean it, and eliminate a lot of things in my life that were stress triggers.

I Thought this was a Cookie Blog?

So why a post on a cookie blog about Multiple Sclerosis?

2 reasons:

First: Any time I can raise awareness of this terrible disease I will. March is MS awareness month and I like to do my part… so be aware!

Second: I’ve realized I’m limited in what I can do for decorating. Multiple Sclerosis affects me on my right side… I’m right handed… see where this is going? I can’t pipe perfect lines, do a lot of free handing, or tiny details. I just can’t do it. My wrist and hand gets shaky and I end up becoming very frustrated. That cookie that looked so easy to do on Pinterest is impossible for me.

A Can-do Attitude

In writing this post, I almost feel like I’m able to admit this to myself and accept my limitations.

Instead of focusing on what I cannot do, I am determined to do and improve on what I can.

  • Can I bake some mean cookies that taste amazing? Absolutely!
  • Can I still decorate beautiful cookies? Yes!
  • Can I learn new techniques? Of course!
  • Can I learn all I can about blogging and food photography? As we say in Minnesota, You Betcha!

The difference now is I’m not going to beat myself up over cookie outlines that aren’t straight. When I can’t do that intricate lace detail or piping border I’ll be ok with it and try something else that looks just as good.

Multiple Sclerosis is part of who I am but it is not my entire being. Living a full life to its extent and doing things I love is high on my priority list and I won’t let MS get in my way.

To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis, click here.

I’m sure there are some readers out there facing obstacles. It might not be MS, it could be anything, so what do you feel gets in the way of your dreams? How can you overcome it?