Valentine’s Day Cookies: Take 2! Check out what I’m learning this week…

Valentine’s Day Cookies: Take 2!

I love the look of Valentine’s Day cookies with hearts and red, pink, and white. It’s probably the #2 holiday for decorated cookies, right after Christmas (of course!). I’ve been checking out Pinterest for some non-traditional colors for cookies and I found some beautifully decorated cookies in black and grey, blues, and teals. They are all stunning. Cookie goals!

I’ve decided to try to keep my cookies to 3 main colors. After all, I am The Simple Cookie! I love simplicity and see beauty in clean lines. My first batch of cookies for Valentine’s Day were red, pink, and white with some black accents. I really liked how most of them came out and tried out some new techniques. I’m always so hard on myself when it comes to how my cookies turn out, especially when I’m trying something I haven’t done before. I want it to be perfect the first time! Anyone else like me? I may have to do it a few times to get it right but there is usually some improvement by the end of the batch.

Brush embroidery was the new technique for the first batch and I really enjoyed the end result after a few tries. I’ve seen a lot of cookies decorated with this style and it’s so pretty. It’s something I want to continue to work on and improve. I received the brush set I used for Christmas from my Hubby, the Wilton set made specifically for decorating. I was really happy with them and excited to use them again! You can find them here.

Valentine's Day Cookies
Part of my first batch of Valentine’s Cookies.

For the new batch, the goal is to make at least 3 identically decorated cookies for photographing. When I decorate, I usually never make the same identical cookie. I get so excited about the potential of the next cookie I don’t want to do the same one twice. I also want to try all the cool things I’ve seen other bloggers do and end up jumping from one thing to the next. This time the plan is to actually make a plan and figure out what colors and icing consistencies to make before I start. Then I’m going to stick to my plan! I’m sure there will be a few extras I can experiment with at the end.

I’ll be posting pictures of the fruits of my labor tomorrow so come back and see how I did!

 

 

Essential Baking Tools for Beginners

Essential Baking for beginners

Essential Baking Tools for Beginners

Have you ever scrolled through Pinterest and dreamed of actually making one of those jaw-dropping desserts? Then you wake up and think, “Wow, I have no idea where to even begin, and I don’t have any fancy baking tools!” The right tools can make all the difference, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money or go to those fancy kitchen stores to get them. You probably already have most of them in your kitchen!

The tools I list here are just the bare essentials for getting you started. Some baked goods like cakes, popovers, or muffins need their own pans, but things like cookies, biscuits, and scones can all be made on regular sheet pans.

I love kitchen gadgets, especially baking equipment. I’ve added to my baking tool arsenal over the past 10+ years since college, but I didn’t start out with a huge mixer and 10 sets of measuring spoons. Don’t think you need to have the giant professional mixer when you first get started.

A Clean Pair of Hands

Yep, that’s first on my list of essential tools for beginners. Ask any professional chef or baker what his favorite tools are in the kitchen, and I’m guessing they will say clean hands. And of course I can’t emphasize enough the clean part! The CDC lays it all out for hand washing procedures on their website here.

hands kneading dough

Pans

I’ve tried lots of different pans for cookies and other baked goods and my pick is the plain aluminum baking half sheet. I picked mine up at Costco and I think they were around $11 for 2 of them. I found that 4 was a good number for just starting out. A good pan is going to be sturdy and not bend after it’s put in the oven.

You can check out aluminum baking sheets here.

aluminum half sheet pans

Parchment Paper

I love the pre-cut squares of parchment paper that lay flat in the pan. Rolls of parchment are fine and cheaper, but it takes some time to cut them and they do have a tendency to roll back up after you lay them on the pan. For the home baker, Reynold’s has some great parchment pan liners and you can find them here.

 

Heavy Rolling Pin

I received my rolling pin as a wedding gift and have really enjoyed it. It’s a Kitchen Aid non-stick rolling pin with red handles.  You can find rolling pins here . rolling pin

 Flour Sifter

This sifter is something I don’t know how I lived without for so long! My mother-in-law gave this to me several years ago and it sat on my shelf without use. It’s perfect for laying down a fine layer of flour or powdered sugar wherever it’s needed, like a work surface for rolling out dough.

Flour sifters can be found here.  Sifter

Food Scale

If you’ve ever made a recipe that called for flour and it turned out dry and crumbly, a food scale could have prevented that! Measuring dry ingredients is so much easier with a food scale, and it’s so key to getting consistent results in baking. Most can measure in grams or lbs. and oz.

Find food scales herefood scale

 

Mixing Bowls, Measuring Spoons, Whisks, and Spatulas

I’m lumping these together because most people have at least some of these items in their kitchens. I recommend having at least 1 set of measuring cups, 1 set of measuring spoons, and 1 liquid measuring cup (the glass ones). If you don’t mind washing while you work, you can also get by with 1 mixing bowl in most cases.

You can find mixing bowls here and measuring equipment here. I also love the glass measuring cups for liquid found here.

measuring cups spoons and spatulawhisk

Just the basics!

The items on this list will get you started on your baking journey. I didn’t include things like muffin or cake pans, or any decorating tools. Coming up soon, I’ll be doing a beginner decorating tool list.

I would love to hear what some of your favorite tools that have made your baking life easier. Leave a comment and share your faves!

Thanks for reading,

Leah

Time to Make the Cookies! Here’s the recipe I use.

 

Time to make the cookies
As I began my search for the perfect (for me) sugar cookies, there were a few criteria I wanted this recipe to meet. First, I wanted a dough that tastes     UH-mazing! I wanted a dough that held its shape during baking, and produced a soft cookie. Probably most important to me was a dough that didn’t need to be chilled before it was rolled out. Really, who wants to wait for dough to chill? I can barely wait for the oven to pre-heat much less an hour for dough to chill in the fridge!

Where I found my basic recipe

There were a couple of recipe flops before I discovered The One. My go-to cookie blog and one of my big inspirations, The Adventures of Sweet Sugar Belle, has a basic sugar cookie recipe you can find here.

My Tweaks

Oval cut

After making the recipe a few times I tweaked it a little so I can get the cookie results I’m looking for. Instead of using 2 tsp of baking powder, it’s cut down to 1 1/2 tsp. I found they don’t spread as much. I also use 1 1/2 tsp of almond flavoring. The first time I made the recipe I used 2 1/2 tsp of almond flavor and then wished I hadn’t. Have you ever heard the saying Too much of a good thing is no good? Well, that was probably said about almond flavoring in cookies. Maybe not, but it certainly applies.

Sweet Sugar Belle’s recipe calls for 2 1/2 – 2 3/4 cups of flour. I think I’ve used  2 3/4 cup every time. Converting all my dry ingredients into weight measurements gives me better control over the outcome of my product. A scale isn’t something everyone has in their kitchen, but it’s worth getting if you want consistent results for any baking. You can find the food scale I use here.  Scale

 

My Results

After making the recipe ‘mine’ I’m really happy with my results. I get nicely shaped cookies that are soft and flat. They freeze well and the recipe doubles easily. My favorite part of course, they are delicious!

Round oval square
This is a double batch of round, oval, and square cookies.

My next post I’ll be going over supplies I love and can’t bake without.

I would love to hear your go-to recipe story!

Thanks for reading,

Leah

 

 

Preparing for the BLOG WORLD!

Here is a real life picture, messy table and all. Oh, and there’s the camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I did more research to prepare for my blog, specifically about cookie decorating, I immediately became overwhelmed. The more I researched the more I realized how completely ignorant I am of all things blogging. Not only that, but I felt really small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Realizing the only way to get over my overwhelmment (I think I made that word up) was to get prepared and buy some stuff.

I still hadn’t jumped into blog world yet, but here are a few things I did:
1. I bought more decorating supplies
2. I made a new batch of cookies with those supplies
3. I tried new techniques with those cookies
4. I took pictures with my new fancy camera of said cookies
5. Sent cookies to hubby’s work so I wouldn’t eat them all

After doing the cookie things, I did a little blogging research and that’s when I got totally overwhelmed. A Pinterest search on beginner blogging, then reading about 50 “mistakes new bloggers make’ posts was all it took to realize I’m going to have to make my own mistakes and just jump in head first. That’s what I did and here we are!

Maybe next year I’ll write my own “10 mistakes I made as a new blogger” 🙂

The camera my husband and I purchased this year is a Nikon 3400. We got the kit from Costco and so far are really happy with it. Although we’ve only had it for a couple of weeks and I haven’t gotten a chance to really do much with it, it’s a really nice camera and I’m excited abou it! The pictures I took of those valentine cookies were before I watched the “getting familiar with your new camera” video so they aren’t so great, BUT I did watch the video and I can already see an improvement!

Are you thinking about starting a blog? What things have you done to get prepared?

My next post I’ll be giving the cookie recipe I use, come back and check it out!

Everyone starts somewhere, right?

new blog

Awww, Look at that Baby Blog…

Everyone starts somewhere, right? I have wanted to blog for a long time. Literally it’s been years I have thought about starting one but just never had the inspiration to get it going. I had my AHA! moment a few weeks ago as I was reading several of my favorite blogs and all but one are about baking, mainly cookies. My Facebook feed is mostly taken up with videos and pictures of cakes and cookies. As an aspiring cookie decorator and baker, I decided this was my niche! About 3 weeks ago I started preparing. I got the fancy camera that I’d always wanted, started to learn how to use it ( beginner there too!) bought a few more decorating supplies, and finally took the big leap and created my blog.

Are you my reader?

The ideal reader for this blog would be someone who is pinning hundreds of decorated cookies, maybe cakes too, and dreaming of decorating those adorable penguin cookies, or piping that sparkly unicorn cake. My hope for this blog is to inspire you to jump in and learn with me!  As of right now, I can’t do those things either, but I hope to soon! Check out my ‘A little About Me’ page to see what makes me tick, I’m guessing we’ve got a few things in common. Thank you for reading, I hope you are as excited about this new adventure as I am!