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January 31, 2018

Swiss Buttercream for Flowers Tips | Flowers Cupcakes

With the unveiling of the Valentine's Collection, I shared the flower adorned chocolate heart cake (below).  As promised, here is a post devoted to the Swiss Buttercream I used.  

We used the same tips and the same buttercream to make these Peony inspired Cupcakes, too.

I used these new Flowers Tips to create the flowers.  Just one little squeeze creates an entire flower - amazing.  They were so easy to use, almost magical.  Emma and I had so much fun with them.  We created the cake and cupcakes.

Large Leaf Tip

18" Disposable Pastry Bag

I used these flowers as color inspiration, but they also remind me of Peonies - especially the tip with the dots in the middle!  I love the soft peachy, pink tone.  Also, I love the muted olive green of the bay leaf I used.  You could also make a deep navy blue to mimic the privet berries, but we used the real ones to garnish.  Actual blueberries would look darling, too.

 These cupcakes were made entirely by Emma!

Swiss Buttercream Recipe

4 egg whites
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
4 sticks of butter, room temp
1 cup of powdered sugar
food coloring

Create a double boiler by placing a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Add sugar and egg whites.  Whisk constantly over the simmering water until the sugar has melted.  It will feel smooth between fingers, when sugar granules have dissolved.

Pour egg white mixture in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Whisk on high for 5-8 minutes until it creates a glossy meringue and has cooled completely.  Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time.  Slowly mix in powdered sugar until smooth.  Add vanilla and food coloring.

Double Boiler made with glass bowl over a pan of simmering water.

The egg mixture is whirling around, turning into gloriously glossy meringue.

In case you've never made meringue - this is it!

Emma adding room temperature butter into the meringue, a little at a time.

The butter transforms the meringue into swiss buttercream.  

To color the butter cream, I started with these flowers for inspiration.

1) I started with a small bowl of about 1/4 of the butter cream.

2) I added a touch of red and a half touch of yellow to make the pinkish peach.  This is the darkest pink.

3) In another bowl, I put 1/3 of the buttercream and added a little of the pink mixture - this created the palest pink.  Now, you can add more white to the deepest pink if you'd like to lighten it up.

4) For the green, I used a lot more yellow than blue to make it the deep olive tone.  You'll need a lot of food coloring to get this deep of a color.

For the cake, we piped our flowers onto a parchment lined baking sheet, then put them in the fridge to chill.  It only takes 10 minutes or so.  Then we transferred them onto the cake.  For the cupcakes, we piped right on them - but this is a little riskier, as they don't all turn out perfectly.

For step-by-step tips for piping the flowers for the Heart Cake, read the blog post, here.

Small Sheet Pan

Parchment Paper (it helped to tape it to the pan)

Products Used : 

Large Leaf Tip

18" Disposable Pastry Bag

Small Sheet Pan

Parchment Paper (it helped to tape it to the pan)

For decorating tips and creating the heart cake, see this post with a step-by-step video.

January 25, 2018

Love you to Pieces | Cashew Brittle Valentine's Gift

I came across this idea for the holidays (after seeing inspiration in an old Martha Stewart), bought the mini hammers for the store, then thought of the phrase "love you to pieces" and knew I had to save it for a Valentines idea.  I think it is a completely darling idea.

I'm note an experienced candy maker, but have made this twice and it came out easily each time.  Try it!  It is also fun to actually break up and give in cello bags with the same tag.  If you're making it to enjoy at home - we like to crumble ours over banana cream or chocolate pie.  Yum.

Cashew Brittle

2 cups of sugar
1 cup of light corn syrup
1/2 cup of water
2 sticks of butter
2 cups of nuts (cashews)
1 teaspoon of baking soda

In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a full boil (8 to 12 minutes).

Add butter; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until candy thermometer reaches 280°F or small amount of mixture dropped into ice water forms a hard but pliable strand (30 to 40 minutes).

Stir in cashews.  Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until candy thermometer reaches 305°F or small amount of mixture dropped into ice water forms a hard brittle strand (15 to 17 minutes).

Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. Immediately pour mixture onto the parchment baking sheet; spread evenly - work quickly. Cool.

It hardens so quickly.

I wrapped it in plastic seran wrap first - very tightly with the seams on the bottom so the top stayed pretty and smooth.

I used the 1 1/2" Papaya Satin Ribbon + Heart Tags for packaging.

Let me know if you decide to make this!  I think it would be the perfect thing to bring to a party or to the office - fun conversion starter... and aggression relief : )

"love" Script Chocolate Glazed Cupcakes

I love the idea of taking basic, simple ingredients or supplies and transforming them into something special.  These cupcakes are the perfect example.  Chocolate Cupcakes (recipe link below) with. simple chocolate glaze are transformed with a little white icing.  

(I found this idea from, of course.)

When those "love" script cupcakes are put in a pink bakery box, lined with fun floral print napkins, they're beyond.  So special and cute, from the most humble ingredients.

I practiced writing the script on the parchment paper before I tried it on the cupcakes.  Of course, you can do names of your loves, also.

Products used : 

I used the Barefoot Contessa's Chocolate Ganache Cupcake Recipe along with my Milk Chocolate Glaze Recipe.  Both recipes are included in the post below.

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Glaze Recipe

Ina's Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes are out of this world.  They are made with a can of Hershey's Syrup...

To line the box, I used Floral Print Napkins.

I used two patterns, overlapping - I think it has a sweet, collected feel.  I love the scallop detail, too.

Products used : 

January 22, 2018

Family Dinner Goals : This Week's Menu & Forcing Spring Bulbs Inside

Happy Monday : )  It feels like a Monday - in the best way.  It is slightly warmer than usual outside (but getting colder by the minute), grey and misting.  The warm, wet weather over the weekend made it feel like Spring should be just around the corner, but I know it isn't.  In the meantime, I am bringing some spring inside.  I finally got all of my paper whites cleaned out over the weekend - they were definitely on their last leg.  I replaced them with some spring bulbs.  I so enjoy growing something inside during the holidays months (paper whites and amaryllis), that I like to keep it going until spring.

These, on our dining table, are muscari.  On our baking counter I have a large urn planter filled with daffodils and a small terra-cotta planter with tulips.   I have a couple of more terra-cotta pots on my office bench with more tulips.

Emma and I also cleaned out my dead boxwoods in the windowboxes (DIY link) over the weekend (insert eyeroll).  I did it again.  I did not water properly through the fall and did not plant them in the ground before winter and now they are dead.  Again!  Two years in a row.  Twelve small boxwoods, gone.  Ugh!  I'm going to install a watering system to the boxes as soon as it thaws this spring.

Instead of boxwoods this year, we filled our window box planters with tulip and daffodil bulbs.  All of these bulbs, that we're forcing inside and in the windowboxes, have been chilling in our garage for the last two months.  As in, I bought them to plant in the yard this fall, never got around to it, so they've been in the garage - cold and dark.  Bulbs require 6 weeks of dark, cold space before they'll be ready to bloom.  

And on a fun note, and completely uncharacteristic of me, Emma and I picked a crazy assortment of every different type of tulip and daffodil bulbs.  So, we'll be surprised when they bloom - she's excited to see what they are!  We should have lots of different colors, shapes and varieties.   Normally, I would have picked a mass of the same, but I got a wild hair this year, I guess.   I'll transplant them into the ground after they bloom this spring, so I'm sure I'll sort them out when they go in their permanent places.

So, our family dinners will be around these bulbs for the next month or so.  I think they'll be a fun centerpiece and conversation piece each night as we watch them grow... and I think they'll be easy to keep moist, since we'll be staring at them at least once a day.  I'm going to guess that they will be watered by Emma's leftover water each night at dinner.

I like having seasonal, low-maintanance centerpieces on our dinner table.  It makes our family dinners feel like more of an occasion, without them feeling fancy or stuffy.  I love a casual, comfy table.  Here are some other easy centerpiece ideas :

Potted Herbs

Potted Violet (super low-maintanance)

Bowl of Oranges, Lemons or Cuties

Taper Candles (these are 6")

Forcing Bulbs Tips :

Chilled Bulbs : Buy chilled bulbs, or chill them yourself in a paper bag in a cold, dark spot.

Pea Gravel : I put a plastic container in the base of the pot (you want it to be able to hold water), then fill it with pea gravel.  Place the bottoms (where the roots are) of the bulbs in the gravel, then cover with moss.

Water : Add enough water to be just below the bottoms of the bulbs.  You don't want them to sit in water or they will rot.  You want to keep the water accessible for the roots to grow down and reach it.  The moist moss helps wake up the bulbs.

Sun : Place them in a sunny window and keep the water level just until the base of the bowl.  Really watering once a week or so it usually fine.

Alleluia, Mike is home all week!  For the last two months, he's been traveling a lot for work, usually 2-3 nights a week.  It feels like such a treat for him to be here for the entire week... which means I need to step up my dinner menu.  

Tonight, we're having pasta.  At least one night a week, I need a big bowl of pasta.  It is a rainy day, so today is the day.  This Penne All Vodka (plus shrimp) is a house favorite.  Lick your plate good and quick and easy.
I don't know why, but every January this comes into rotation.  It makes a ton, it reheats for easy lunches and dinners and is the perfect thing to make early in the week for busy nights.

Beef Drip Sandwiches
I can't get enough citrus lately.  I'm going to make this tomorrow during the day and have it ready to go after Emma's busy after school activities tomorrow night.  Yum, those roasted lemons....

Tessa's Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup

This is one of those comforting dinners that has a lighter, more springy feel.  The rosemary broth is out of this world.   More of a Sunday night supper recipe... on our docket for the weekend.

Rosemary Braised Pork

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