Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turkey Crazy: Funny Thanksgiving Cookies

While browsing Pinterest the other night, I saw an eCard that literally made me laugh out loud. The caption: If you think you're having a bad month, just be glad you're not a turkey. So true.

When I began thinking of Thanksgiving cookie ideas, I knew I wanted to create turkeys, but not serious-looking turkeys, turkeys with a personality. When I saw this clip art collection from Sarah Bailey, I knew I need to make these turkeys into cookies. 
I just love the way they look. Their expression totally reminds me of the eCard, too.

Hope you have a great Thanksgiving that's just the right amount of crazy!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Happy Fall! Leaves, Pumpkins, and Monsters

Driving through upstate New York last week brought such pretty pictures of peak fall foliage, inspiring me to make some easy leaf cookies. I've made these before, but love how they look when the colors are mixed together, just like in nature. 
I did make a few Halloween cookies to take to school, but forgot to get out my good camera to take pictures. I did manage a few shots of some monster action and wrapped up jack-o-lanterns. 
Simplicity was the name of the game, as I tried to keep things simple, yet cute. I love the way these little monsters turned out.
And, of course, what would Halloween be without pumpkins? I tried texturing the orange icing to mimic the effect of a pumpkin's ridges. My phone pictures aren't doing the texturing justice.
Hope you've had a great fall! I can't believe it's November already and that Christmas will be here soon! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Dwelling in Possibility: Emily Dickinson Cookies

I spent last week in Amherst, Massachusetts, enjoying all things Emily Dickinson as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities Landmark Workshop. It was great to immerse myself in poetry and place for a week with other like-minded folk. As part of the workshop, we spent time at Dickinson's house and in the archives examining her manuscripts and things (English teacher fun!).
One of the things I found interesting was Dickinson's own affinity for baking. We saw a poem written on the back of a recipe and another on a the back of a chocolate wrapper, shown below. Amazing.
I bought a cookbook of Dickinson's recipes at the museum gift shop, and can't wait to try out her gingerbread and coconut cake recipes. 

I knew before the weeklong workshop was over that I had to make Emily Dickinson cookies and send them program coordinator. Having been to a lot of workshops as a teacher, this was easily the most organized and well-thought-out program. Invigorating and organizing things for 40 teachers is not an easy task, and I was amazed at how seamlessly the week progressed. 

I found clip art online of Ms. Emily and drew from my own experience in viewing her original pictures to inspire these cookies (shown at top). I also created some plaque cookies with the phrase "dwell in possibility," taken from one of Dickinson's poems.
I used a chevron stencil and silver food color spray to make the background. I like the extra dimension it gives the cookies. 

Here's the poem that inspired these cookies (and the workshop, too!):

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise – 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Happy Summer! Mini Butterfly Cookies

I made these mini butterflies at the end of the school year, but forgot to post them. Aren't they cute?
I love the bright colors and their perfect one-bite size. 
Hope you're having a great summer!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Literary Bake-Off 2014 Edition

It seems like a really long time ago that I had this year's Literary Bake-Off with my AP English students. I guess that's a good because next thing you know Labor Day will be here and I'll be back in school. 

The kids rose to the challenge for this year's bake-off, creating some really amazing baked goods. The assignment asked students to bake something reflecting a work of literature read during high school. The baked good could be a literal or figurative interpretation of the text. Each student had to bring their item on the last day of school and present it to the class before sampling.

For my entry, I baked hibiscus cookies to represent the symbol of the purple hibiscus in Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche's novel, Purple Hibiscus. Her novel was one of the best things I've read in a long time and added itself to my list of favorite books. 

Let's take a look at what my students created, shall we?
Any guesses as to what this cake represents? This student braved playing with fondant to create the Weird Sisters from Macbeth. I love the details she used in making the witches and the cauldron. 

Here's another entry representing Macbeth. The red icing on the nails represented the blood on Lady Macbeth's hands that she tried to wash off during her sleepwalking scene.

Frankenstein Rice Krispy Treats anyone? 

This cake represented the sledding accident in Edith Wharton's novel, Ethan Frome. I loved the detail used for the hill and the sled's tracks. 

Most of my seniors said The Catcher in the Rye was one of their favorite books read in high school. This student created a cake, with a broken record on top to symbolize the Little Shirley Beans record that Holden buys for his sister and then later drops. 
Another favorite was The Great Gatsby, which we read junior year. This cake was make to represent the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckelburg, with green icing symbolizing Gatsby's green light.

My co-teacher also made a Gatsby-related entry with his Green Light Pistachio-Cranberry Cookies. They were amazing and I loved the use of the symbolism. Apparently the green color of the cookies came from the use of pistachio pudding, which was added to the batter.

With 22 students each bringing in their baked goods, my classroom smelled and looked like a bakery (not a bad thing at all!). Several of my co-workers stopped by to help judge and to try some of the creations. I think my class ended up providing half of the school with cake and other goodies once the contest was over. In the midst of trying to keep the classroom sort of clean and taking pictures, I forgot to tally the judges slips. I ended up telling the class it was a 22-way first place tie. It was a great way to have an end-of-the-year party with an academic slant.

For more information on how I run the bake-off, get my handouts and rubric here. You can also see last year's entires and entries from the first year I organized the bake-off. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Grover Birthday Cookies

 I learned something about cookie decorating while making these cookies for my friend's birthday -- making character cookies is hard work! At first glance, Grover appears to be rather simple -- only five icing colors and no crazy small spaces to decorate. But, as I learned, getting all the facial features just right takes skill and a lot of patience.

I did the facial features first, letting them dry before adding Grover's blue fur. I did let the pink nose dry before adding the black of his mouth to prevent bleeding. 
The blue icing and sanding sugar covered up my non-straight lines and gave Grover a bit more definition. I tried to outline the eyes and mouth in black once again after the fur dried, but decided I didn't like the look. My friend said he looked more like Kardashian Grover with the black lining around the eyes. I also tried other blue sprinkles, and while they were okay, they were more difficult to work with than the sanding sugar. 

Overall, I'm happy with how these cookies turned out and they were a nice surprise for my friend, who loves Grover. 


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Easy Hibiscus Flower Cookies

At 85 degrees today, it certainly felt like August with the high humidity. Luckily though, it didn't smell like August in NYC.

Summer reminds me of vacation, which reminds me of the beach, which reminds me of the tropics, which reminds me of the Hibiscus flower. It's like Six Degrees of Separation for cookie ideas. 

These cookies were super easy to decorate and I was able to use up some leftover icing colors from earlier projects. 
I made a custom Hibiscus cookie cutter on my 3D printer, but you can purchase a standard Hibiscus cutter or use a large shamrock cookie cutter instead. I outlined and flooded the cookies with the desired color, being careful not to over fill.
I then added white flood icing in the shape of a starburst to the center of the cookie. With a toothpick, I dragged the white icing to the edges, creating the detailed petals. 
Once the base was fully dry, I added a yellow stamen with piping icing. 

These are some of the easiest cookies I've made in awhile and I love how summery they look. These cookies also gave me a good idea for what to bake for my AP English class's Literary Bake-Off Final Exam.

Stay tuned for more!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cupcake Cuties: Mini Cupcake Cookies

Truth be told, I haven't baked cookies since Valentine's Day. Well, actually, I did bake cookies for St. Patrick's Day and Easter, but when it came time to decorate them I was too busy and stressed out to use a piping bag. 

But when my mom called last week asking for some cookies for a friend's daughter's bridal shower, I couldn't say no. And I didn't want to -- it had be far too long since I mixed up a batch of icing!

While I forgot to take pictures of the cute little flower cookies I sent, I was able to make these mini cupcake cookies using extra dough and leftover icing.  Aren't they cute? Each cookie is about and inch and a half high, making for one sweet bite.
These cookies will be going to school with me tomorrow for some sweet teacher friends of mine. With school winding down for summer, I look forward to baking and posting more. Stay tuned for more cute cookies!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cleveland Browns Brownie the Elf Cookies and Custom 3D Cookie Cutter

The last time I made Cleveland Browns cookies, my Dad challenged me to make a cookie in the shape of their throwback mascot, Brownie the Elf. I delayed for a long while -- too much detail on the face, too many small parts that would be hard to decorate. But, since I now have access to a 3D printer, I thought it would be time to try and tackle the elf.

The first thing I did was find a good image of Brownie the elf on Google, like the one below.
I then used the site cookiecaster.com to help create the custom cookie cutter. By uploading the elf image, I was able to use the site's auto trace feature, which created the outline for me. The whole process took no more than 5 minutes and generated a pretty cool cookie cutter.
Since there are a lot of narrow spaces on Brownie, I opted to make the cookie cutter 5", so cutting the dough wouldn't be too difficult. I also set the cutter's blade thickness to extra thin to produce a cleaner cut. From here, I downloaded the 3D file and opened it in Makerware to print on my Makerbot Replicator 2. Makerware is Makerbot's printing software, which you download to the computer connected to the 3D printer. 

I forgot to take pictures of the printing process, but it took about an hour to produce a single cookie cutter. I printed the cutter on the low setting with an infill of 80 percent. 

Using the cookie cutter was surprisingly as easy as using other metal or copper cutters, and I had no problems with the narrow spaces breaking.

While the cookie only uses four colors, the amount of detail on the face and body made for a bit of a challenge. I outlined the entire cookie in black icing, using my KopyKake. I then filled the rest of the cookie with the coordinating colors using flood icing.
For some of the cookies, I used piping icing for the face and body details, but when my hand got tired, I switched to an edible food color marker, which worked just as well. Since I was sending these cookies off to my Dad and brother, the food marker was a safer bet. In my early cookie baking days, I made cookies for my grandmother's 80th birthday with detailed black icing that got smashed during shipping and resulted in some pretty ugly cookies. I've since learned how to properly package cookies (lots of bubble wrap), but you can never be too safe.

I have a feeling I'll be baking more of these cookies for my Uncle John and some other Browns fans. My Dad now says he refuses to eat the cookies because they're too perfect. Maybe they'll serve as the Cleveland Browns' good luck charm this season.

If you'd like access to the Brownie 3D file to print your own cookie cutter (or have one printed for you at Shapeways), you can download it here on Cookie Caster.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The LOVE Monster Attacks! Valentine's Day Cookies

Are you ready for some love? Valentine's Day is right around the corner, which calls for some cookies! These Love Monster cookies are perhaps my favorite of this year's designs. So easy and yet so cute. 
I designed the cookie shape myself and printed a cookie cutter on a 3D printer. Decorating the cookie was simple, with some sanding sugar for fur and a royal icing eye and heart.
I love this little blue guy. He reminds me of Mike from Monsters, Inc. 
Of course, Ms. Pink is cute, too! 

Sending you lots of love this Valentine's Day!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cake Cookies for a Happy Birthday

A dear friend of mine is turning 21 this weekend, certainly calls for some cookies! These cookies were super fun to decorate and I love the color combination.
Aren't the little candles too cute? Oh to be 21 again with the whole word in front of you! 
Happy Birthday, C! Hope you have an amazing day!

P.S. - Excuse the darkness of the photos... My SLR camera's battery was dead, so these were taken on my iPhone.