Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Party

I used to have an annual Christmas cocktail party every December 22nd (actually the first year it was the 23rd, but the hangover on Christmas Eve proved to be something I did not want to repeat year after year). Last year, for various reasons, I didn't end up having the party. This year, I wanted to reincarnate the party in a much smaller, tamer version.

Mini vanilla cupcakes

Even though the party was smaller, that does not mean that I held back on the desserts or food. As I was setting up the table with cookies and cupcakes before any guests had arrived, I realized I had made enough food for 4 times the amount of guests I was expecting.

Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter

I had prepared my cookie doughs the week before and stored them in the fridge. Whenever I had time in the week leading up to the party, I would throw a couple batches of cookies in the oven and store them in Tupperware.

Sugar cookies

This year I made a few of my favorite "classic" Christmas cookies: chocolate chip (perfected over many, many tested recipes), oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, and the sugar cookies I wrote about in the last post. I also made mini vanilla cupcakes in festive liners from left over batter I had from an order last week.

It wouldn't be a party with just desserts (ok...maybe it would be) so I also made a Christmas punch (a blend of pomegranate juice, cranberry juice, pineapple vodka, and seltzer) and some assorted hors d'oeurves. The biggest hit seemed to be cocktail hotdogs wrapped in bacon and baked in dark brown sugar. It sounds weird, but it was really, really good.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Finally - a Cookie Success!

The first time I attempted to make iced sugar cookies, it was a total disaster. I quickly got frustrated and abandoned the whole project. I've been admiring these beautiful sugar cookies on blogs like My Sweet and Saucy and A Dozen Eggs, and mine looked like a preschool arts & crafts project.

Bit of a flooding issue

That was over the summer. Cookies have always been a challenge for me, and with this holiday season, I've been determined to produce beautiful and great tasting cookies. After trying countless chocolate chip cookie recipes (and forcing the results on my coworkers), I've finally found a recipe that produces my idea of the perfect chocolate chip cookie - soft, chewy and thick.

Christmas Trees

After I worked out that battle, the next challenge was to revisit the sugar cookies. I decided to go into it with a plan, drawing out each of the 3 cookie designs I wanted to make, and accepted that it was going to be a very time-consuming project that required a lot of patience. Overall, it went pretty smoothly. Except when on my first batch, the gingerbread people, the brown royal icing flooded out of the top of my pastry bag, all over my counter and floor. Two gingerbread men were lost in the process...

Pretty snowflake

Aside from that initial hiccup, the rest, although really time-consuming, came out really nice. I plan on serving these cookies for my holiday party I'm hosting on Friday, and I think I'm going to make a second batch when I go home for Christmas.

I took these pictures with my iPhone, so while the quality is great for a phone camera, overall it is a bit lacking. Have I mentioned how much I love my new phone my brother gave me for my birthday? I downloaded the Epicurious app and browse recipes on the bus ride home from work - it's really perfect.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bridal Shower Cupcakes

Last weekend, I was asked to make the cupcakes for my friend Lauren's cousin's bridal shower. Melissa, the bride-to-be, is also the one who ordered the space-themed cupcakes the other week for her fiance.

I made three dozen cupcakes in chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet. All of the cupcakes were frosted in vanilla buttercream. The colors on the shower invitation were sage green and cream. For the chocolate and vanilla, I dyed the frosting sage green, but I didn't think the green looked good on the red cupcakes so I kept it cream-colored.

For the top of each cupcake, I made gold blossom flowers and gold hearts that had the monogram 'M' inside them. I thought the overall look was understated, yet elegant - perfect for a bridal shower.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thanksgiving - A Bit Delayed

It now feels like we're close to Christmas and Thanksgiving is well in the past, but I had some pictures from the desserts I made that I wanted to share. The dessert menu started off even more ambitious, but when I realized we were only having nine people for dinner, I scaled it back so that everyone didn't have to eat two whole pies each.

The whiskey apple pie

On the menu was apple pie (my favorite recipe from the Baked cookbook), salted caramel ice cream, and pumpkin cupcakes. Apple pie is my favorite type of pie (and apparently my father's least favorite). This was the very first time I made my own pie crust, and I'm not sure why I haven't tried it sooner. As long as you have a food processor, it's so easy. The Baked pie recipe calls for a tablespoon of whiskey, so on the morning of Thanksgiving, I had the bottle of Scotch out on the counter. Every single person who came down the stairs felt the need to question me whether that was what I was drinking for breakfast.

Salted caramel with salted caramel ice cream

I almost tossed the ice cream after I cooked the custard on the stove. It seemed lumpy and like it was not going to turn into a good finished product. My mom convinced me to just strain it one more time and put it in
the ice cream machine (one of my favorite impulse purchases we've ever made). Moms are so smart. After coming out of the machine, it was a really beautiful texture - very smooth and rich. I made it with a salted caramel I had made the day before (also from the Baked cookbook). There was extra caramel sauce left, and everyone ended up pouring it over all of the desserts.

Pumpkin cupcakes

The pumpkin cupcakes were as delicious a
s they always are. I had really wanted to make all the desserts for Thanksgiving. At one point, I was even talking about making the chocolates that we serve with fruit course, but that plan had to be scrapped when I realized there was just not enough time to do everything, especially since I was going out to the bars Wednesday night. My dad apparently didn't know the plan was for me to make everything, and he ordered a cheesecake from someone who was selling them at his work. All throughout the dinner, I talked trash about the cheesecake. By the time dessert came, no one would touch it, I think out of fear that I would throw a fit at the table. I ended up feeling bad that the only person who ate a slice was my dad, but fortunately my mom was able to reserve it a couple nights later at a holiday gathering she had. Sorry, Dad! For Christmas don't be ordering any outsider cakes!!

My sister with a cupcake - Meliss, you finally made the blog!
(Eric, hold your comments)

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