Sweet Leaf

Finding Beauty through Baking ~by Susan Baxter-Peace

Homemade Oreos April 22, 2016

After the Power Ranger cake last week I had some fondant leftover. Last time I had leftovers I made some little fondant-covered two-bite brownies. We were about to host a party at our place and I didn’t think those would be the right fit, so instead I decided to try and make some imitation Oreos and use the fondant for the filling.

I looked up some recipes and settled on a chocolate sugar cookie. It was pretty straightforward, cutting out all the chocolate cookies, and then cutting out the fondant to match.

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The fondant was quite smooth, so I knew it wouldn’t stick to the cookies very well on its own. I was also making some empire cookies, so I just put a dab of royal icing on each side of the cookie to stick the sandwich together. It worked out pretty well, and because I had two colours of fondant leftover, we had two colours of cookies: white and hot pink. They were pretty tasty little guys, I will definitely be doing them again if I have leftover fondant!

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Halloween Treats November 8, 2015

This year we did quite a few treats in addition to the door-to-door trick-or-treating. I know, why would you intentionally add more treats to an event based around getting treats? But it’s just so fun, and the kids get so excited!

First, with the daycare kids, I made some ghost sugar cookies. I kept it pretty simple, using only ghosts so I could just use white royal icing, and then I got a bunch of Halloween themed sprinkles that they could use for decorating. With this crew I found it easiest to set a little container of sprinkles in front of each of them around the table, then I would ice a cookie and pass it to each child to decorate. It worked out well, and they even did a good job at decorating a few before diving in for the sample! Well, all except my youngest; he ate the cookie without even putting sprinkles on, then proceeded to eat the sprinkles straight from the container!

Our next treat was just for us. My daughter had brought a library book home from school a few weeks ago all about Halloween. One of the pages described the different treats you might find at a Halloween party, which included candy apples. I love candy apples, and I can remember my mom making them with me when i was a kid, so we decided to give it a go this year. I chose to make caramel covered ones rather than the hard candy coating, with the kids being the age they are I thought it would work better. They were very excited, and needed lots patience to wait while the caramel cooked to the right temperature, and also lots of reminders to stay back as it got really hot. They may have been a bit young to help with it this year, but it will get easier as they get older and understand the consequences of heat a little better! And none of it mattered once we got to have them for dessert that night! So yummy!

And although this wasn’t a treat to eat, I have a little tip to pass on that I discovered this year. As I was scooping out the innards for our jack-o-lanterns, I was thinking about what might make it easier. I discovered that my little bowl scraper does an amazing job at scraping out all those straggly bits of pumpkin, so I suggest investing in one for next year’s pumpkins, it made it so much easier!

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Flooding Cookies May 24, 2015

I often admire the bright, clean look of cookies that have been decorated with royal icing. They are so attractive that you almost don’t want to eat them and mess up their perfect appearance. I have been wanting to try and make them for a while now, but I actually don’t often bake sweets unless there is a specific purpose; for example, a special event. Well, this weekend I had my chance. My husband and I were going to attend a party to celebrate life – most notably celebrating people who have survived breast and other forms of cancer, people who are still fighting cancer, and just the amazingness of life in general.

I decided to make some simple sugar cookies and use the flooding method to make pink ribbons as decoration. I looked up flood icing, which is basically royal icing that has some extra water to make it more runny to ‘flood’ an iced outline.

I made a dark pink icing for the outline, with the thought that it would look better to see the definition of the ribbon crossing itself. Then I made a lighter pink icing for flooding. When I first made the icing in the morning it seemed to be a good consistency; not too thick for a small piping tip. But when I went to use it in the evening it seemed to be thicker. I had already loaded the piping tool by the time I discovered this and decided to do the best I could with what I had, because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of taking it all out again. I had made the lighter pink icing runnier than the dark pink to begin with, but even so, it too was a bit thick for the purpose of flooding. It wasn’t a flood so much as a sploosh that needed a bit of spreading to reach the edges. The perils of not testing things in advance!

It ended up taking quite a bit longer than I anticipated, and my outlines didn’t have the super smooth look that I like so much, but I enjoyed the challenge and feel that I’ve learned something for the next time I try it. Practice makes perfect, so I just need to find a few more events to attend! Or I could just bite the bullet and make them for fun, I’m sure my family wouldn’t mind!

 

Playing with Food: Bringing Fairy Tales to Life April 30, 2015

20150328_171337My daughter has been really into the story The Gingerbread Man lately. You know the old Golden Book classic, “Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man!” She has a pretty high attention to detail, so after reading the story many times she finally said we should make a gingerbread man, “with raisins for eyes, a currant for nose, and a pink sugar candy waistcoat.” She did also say that she wanted a girl gingerbread, but we ended up making some of both 🙂

So one Saturday morning we made the gingerbread cookies together; I helped with the rolling, but she did most of the cookie cutting herself. They cooled during rest time, and I set to work getting all the decorating requirements lined up, with a few additions just for fun. I had almost forgotten the most important piece, but when I went up to check on my daughter mid-rest (I don’t think she actually rested at all!), she reminded me with great excitement “raisins for eyes, a currant for nose and a pink sugar candy waistcoat.” I had about 20 minutes to produce some pink sugar candy waistcoats!

I threw together a mini-batch of fondant by melting some marshmallows in the microwave, mixing in icing sugar, then colouring it pink. It came out perfectly, and there was just enough for the number of cookies we had.

She didn’t seem to mind that we didn’t have any currants for noses, and was pretty happy with chocolate chips and gold dragees as substitutions. Even the raisins only made it on the first one she decorated! But she was very focused and spent about an hour meticulously decorating each gingerbread cookie, making each one unique from the last. And at the end she eagerly picked her favourite one to eat.

On the last page of the story (spoiler alert) a fox eats the gingerbread man, and it reads “that is exactly what should happen to all gingerbread men.” I couldn’t agree more, and I think my daughter does too!

 

Toddler Baking: Part…I’ve Lost Count April 2, 2015

As I’m sure you can guess, my time is pretty occupied these days with our kids. Although I am an avid baker, my day job is not only looking after my own kids, but a couple others who come to my in-home daycare. Needless to say it is a busy household!

Over the last few months I have done some fun baking and food activities with them all and thought I would share some of them here. Some involve baking, and some don’t, but they all involve eating yummy things, so I decided to include them anyway!

To start with, my kids love my flour bin. It’s an excellent sensory experience to feel the flour on their fingers, and I’m in constant awe of just how far that flour can travel!

Now let’s go back a bit and do this in chronological order. I’ll start with Valentine’s day. My daughter helped me make some heart cookies, and my sister-in-law helped me cut a ton of tiny little heart and star shapes out of fondant to use as decorations. With some royal icing in hand the kids did some awesome decorating. The rule was that they had to finish decorating their set amount of cookies before they could pick one to eat. They showed surprising restraint, only needing reminders a couple times, and then thoroughly enjoyed the fruit of their labour!

This winter was particularly snowy and cold, which meant we spent a lot of time inside. One day we set a bowl out in the falling snow, and once we had caught enough clean snow we made some snow cream to eat. So simple: snow, sugar, milk and vanilla. It seemed a lot colder than regular ice cream, and was like a super sweet snow cone. Needless to say they slurped it up in no time!

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Also, because we were indoors a lot this winter, we tried several sensory activities. Finger painting is always a favourite, but my 17 month old son still eats everything he can get his hands on. I found a recipe for edible finger paint online which was literally some plain yogurt and food colouring. My son was super excited to be doing something that looked like what the bigger kids were doing. And when he discovered what it actually was he was super excited about eating it…and he ate it ALL!

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And lastly, for now, we did some more cookie decorating for St. Patrick’s day. My daughter and son helped me bake the cookies, and then everyone participated in the decorating. What fun to be able to do all this with such an eager group of kids! An awesome reason to make and decorate cookies for any season!

 

Christmas Cookie Tradition December 27, 2014

For the last couple years I have hosted gingerbread cookie decorating for my family during the Christmas holidays. We moved this year, too far for my family to come over for a cookie decorating afternoon, but I really wanted to keep up the tradition. So we decided to try and use it as an opportunity to get to know some new people in our neighbourhood.

We weren’t sure just how many people would come, but I wanted to have plenty of cookies, so I spent several evenings making sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies in various Christmas shapes – trees, snowflakes and gingerbread persons.

I got lots of little candies for decorating, and made some royal icing (which my daughter kept calling the ‘glue’). I also got some disposable piping bags, as I thought that would be slightly less messy, and possibly safer for kids, than spreading icing with a knife.

We had several families come and had a great time, plenty of sugary Christmas spirit enjoyed by all. But we had A LOT of everything left over. I knew we would never use it all ourselves, having already received a lot of holiday baking from other people. My sister-in-law works part time at a women’s shelter, and I decided to ask if they might appreciate having the extras. She took it all in a few days before Christmas, and I was so glad that all those cookies and treats would be enjoyed by some very courageous people. I hope that these will be traditions we can continue for many Christmases to come!

 

Teddy Bear Cookies – More Toddler Baking June 9, 2014

Filed under: Baking - Cookies — sweetleafsusie @ 7:00 am
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We had another gloomy cloudy day last week, so we decided to break out the cookie book again and tackle another cookie recipe. My daughter chose the teddy bear cookies. I’d been avoiding these ones because they looked complicated, but once we got going on them they were actually quite simple.

We had to make two batches of dough, a light one and a dark one, so it was double the activity to keep her busy. She enjoyed pouring in the ingredients after I measured them, rolling out the dough, cutting the shapes, and constructing the bear faces on the baking sheet. The recipe said to put the chocolate chip eyes on once the cookies came out of the oven, and they would melt in place, which worked until we went to move them. They didn’t stick on very well, so if we were to do it again we might use some icing for the eyes instead, or try to bake them right on.

It was a fun choice of cookie, and they made great snacks for a couple picnics once the weather got nicer!

 

 
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