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Archive for the ‘Birthday’ Category

As part of the ‘big package’ that I sold to my son, I mentioned that we could do football (soccer) t-shirts. He’s very much interested in the French Ligue 1 football championships and knows all the teams and their t-shirts. Needless to say this was an easy sell as it combined his two favorite things for the moment, football and cookies.

Being the perfectionist that I am 🙂 I started a few days early because I of course as any other mother wanted things to be flawless. Dorie Greenspan’s Sugar Cookies were made and the frosting prepared for them however Alex on accident knocked over the box that was holding over 4dozen cookies, he was heartbroken when he realized so back to square one 🙂 His party was on Saturday so I finished baking a new set of cookies the  Friday afternoon and my hubby and I stayed up until 2am decorating the cookies.
 

T-Shirt Cookies
T-Shirt Cookies

The cookies went into the party bags that we gave out to the kids, I’m not a fan of the sugary candy that they put into the bags and instead wanted to share something that was personalized and homemade.

Goody Bags with T-Shirt and Number 4 cookies
Cookie Goody Bags

 

GRANDMA’S ALL-OCCASION SUGAR COOKIES
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s – Baking From My Home to Yours

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Makes about 50 cookies (depending on diameter)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons; 5 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Sugar or cinnamon-sugar, for dusting (optional)

Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together and keep close by.

Working in a mixer with the paddle attachment, if you have one, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute or so, until it is smooth. Still beating, add the sugar and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the butter is light and pale. Add the egg and the yolk and beat another minute or two. Reduce the mixer speed to low and steadily add the flour mixture, mixing only until it has been incorporated. In fact, because this dough is best when worked least, you might want to stop the mixer before all the flour is thoroughly blended into the dough and finish the job with a rubber spatula. When mixed, the dough will be soft, creamy and appealingly malleable.

Turn the dough out onto a counter and divide it in half. If you want to make roll-out cookies, shape each half into a disk and wrap in plastic. If you want to make slice-and-bake cookies, shape each half into a chubby sausage (the diameter of the sausage is up to you – I usually like cookies that are about 2 inches or more across) and wrap in plastic. Whether you’re going to roll or slice the dough, the packets must be chilled for at least 2 hours. (Well wrapped, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

Getting ready to bake the cookies: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Have two lined baking sheets (page 000) at the ready. For these, I prefer to bake a single sheet at a time. You can fill both sheets and keep one sheet covered in the refrigerator while you bake the other.

If you are making slice-and-bake cookies, use a ruler to mark off 1/4-inch intervals on each roll of dough. With a sharp thin-bladed knife, slice the dough into rounds and place the rounds on one of the baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between each cookie.

If you are making roll-out cookies, work with one packet of dough at a time and roll the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to a thickness of 1/4 inch, lifting the plastic or paper and turning the dough over often so that it rolls evenly. Lift off the top sheet of plastic or paper and cut the cookies – I like a 2-inch round cookie cutter for these. Pull away the excess dough, saving the scraps for re-rolling, and carefully lift the rounds onto the baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between each cookie. (This is a soft dough and you might have trouble peeling away the excess or lifting the cut outs. If so, cover the dough, chill it for about 15 minutes and try again.) After you’ve rolled and cut the second packet of dough, you can form the scraps into a disk, chill, roll, cut and bake them.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheet at the mid-point. The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much if at all. Remove the pan from the oven and dust the cookies with sugar or cinnamon-sugar, if you’d like. Let them rest 1 minute before carefully lifting them onto a rack to cool to room temperature.

Storing: The cookies will keep at room temperature in a tin for up to 1 week. Wrapped well, they can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Royal Icing by Brown Eyed Baker

4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
6 tablespoons water
 ***I usually add 1/2 tsp of lemon juice to the icing as I find that the Meringue powder slightly changes the taste***

Mix all ingredients on low speed for approx 10 minutes. Add more water if depending on the consistency that you are looking for.
A great step by step tutorial can be found here: Brown Eyed Baker’s Tutorial for Shaped Cookies

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Heavy title I know, but my son recently celebrated his 4th birthday with his first real party where he invited his friends. His original theme was Toy Story but the new Wilton pan was not coming out in time for his big day and because he’s such a big football (soccer) fan I decided to sell him on the Football theme – football field for the cake, t-shirt cookies etc.

Birthday Football Cake
Football (Soccer) Birthday Cake



The cake base was simple, two rectangular cakes using the recipe Perfect All American Chocolate Butter Cake Recipe from the Cake Bible –  Rose Levy Beranbaum   . I have to admit that this particular chocolate cake has become THE recipe for chocolate cakes around here. Its very light with a rich chocolate taste that literally melts in your mouth.The cake itself stays moist for a week after baking and the recipe itself is very easy to assemble.

For the filling and frosting I decided to try a Swiss Meringue butter cream for the frosting as it is not as sweet as a traditional butter cream  and for frosting it holds peaks and shapes beautifully.The recipe came from Martha Stewart and it was everything it said it would be and more. The one ‘hic’ that I had with this was that it did not (at least with me) take the gel coloring very well and even though I added a fair amount of green it remained a light green as opposed to the dark grass green that I was looking for. Perfectionist mom was slightly disappointed (Ok a lot if you ask my hubby) even when my son was screaming look it a football field how cool :). I used the same butter cream to fill the layers and honestly apart from the color hitch that I had I was blown over by this frosting.


Last cake related hitch of the day ? I had ordered two sets of goal posts and candles for the cake, only one came in the delivery so the cake looks slightly unbalanced.


Perfectionist mom (which should be the title of this blog) was a little deflated but after remembering that cakes like this are not the norm in France I knew that I would still “look good” , the kids and parents were all pleased with the cake and most importantly of all – Alex was thrilled with his cake which was the aim 🙂
 
Perfect All American Chocolate Butter Cake by Rose Levy Beranbaum
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Serves 12
1/2cup + 3 tablespoons or 63 grams – Unsweetened cocoa (dutch processed)  *** I use Valhorna cocoa
1 cup or 236 grams – Boiling water
3 large eggs or 150grams (weighed without shell)
2 1/4tsp or 9 grams of vanilla
2 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons or 235 grams of sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups or 300 grams sugar
1 tablespoon or 15 grams baking powder
3/4 tsp salt or 5 grams
1 cup or 227 grams unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350F or 180 C

In a medium bowl whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
In another bowl lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture, and vanilla.
In a large mixing bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30seconds to blend.
Add the butter and remaining cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if you
are using a hand held mixture) and beat for 1 1/2minutes to aerate and develop the cake structure. Scrape down the sides.
Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.


Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. The pans will be about 1/2 full. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out
clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.


Let the cakes cook in the pans on the racks for 10minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto  greased wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert so that the tops are up
and cool completely.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes

Makes 5 cups

Ingredients

5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 sticks of butter or 453 grams unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand
until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips)

2. Attach a bowl to the mixture fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed (if using a hand held mixer beat on
high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom
of the bowl – about 10 minutes)

3.With mixture on medium- low speed (medium high if using hand held), add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing  well after each addition. Once all butter
has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to a paddle attachment (a hand held mixer works fine as well) and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

4. (Optional) To tint buttercream, reserve some for toning down the color, if necessary. Add the gel-paste food color, a drop at a time. Blend after each addition until desired shade is achieved.

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The first 12 months

Birthday Cupcake

Happy 1st Birthday to our Happy Baby ! 
Last Tuesday our youngest turned 1 a big cap for the 4 of us if I do say so myself. Our oldest was quite happy to participate in the festivities and of course like any soon to be 4yr old is now very inquisitive as to when it will be his turn to celebrate.
I of course started planning her birthday a few months ago but like any good procrastinator actually did everything the night before into the yearly morning hours of her birthday. Instead of doing a traditional number 1 cake I decided to highlight her first 12months. The idea each cupcake would represent 1 month of her life and show a picture of her at that stage. I had it all planned out to go to the craft store and get new supplies to make the toppers, but of course this did not happen and had to dig into my scrapbook supplies (good thing I never kept up with it) 
It also did not help that I started the toppers at nearly 11pm at night and well making 12 unique toppers  had me finishing at around 2am. 
I tried a Martha Stewart recipe for the cupcakes and frosting and was remarkably surprised at how moist the cupcakes were (one week later we are still eating them). I should have made chocolate as it seems that the birthday girl preferred this but there’s always next year 🙂 

I will post the recipe for the cupcakes  later on as its from her Cupcakes book and believe it or not she does not have the same ingredients listed on the website. However I’m listing the ingredients for the butter cream below.

Classic Butter Cream

Makes about 4 cups via Martha Stewart

  • 12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Beat butter with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to medium. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition, about 5 minutes. (After every 2 additions, increase speed to high, and beat for 10 seconds, then reduce speed to medium-high). Add vanilla, and beat until butter cream is smooth. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (Bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth before using.)

I have to admit that I did have fun making this cake and seeing her growth in pictures. Highly recommend doing this for any first birthday’s that you may have in your entourage.


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Celebration Dinner

Scallops with red potatoes and asparagus

Whose celebration dinner ? My daughter turned 1 on Tuesday and as tradition will have it we had a special meal that night. For now we choose the menu but in a few years she will be choosing it and if she’s like my 3yr old it will comprise of pizza or fries so for now we enjoy the fact that we have right of choice.

Another tradition (yes, we have several) is that for all of our special occasions the champagne of choice is Veuve Cliquot. For both kids their birth was celebrated by a bottle of 1996 Veuve Cliquot Grande Dame (a special millésime champagne that is only made from select years). Our meal this year was accompanied by the yellow label (ordinary if you can call it that). We had canapés as an appetizer and then for the main course we had pan seared scallops (noix saint jacques) served with garlic red potatoes and  asparagus. After having made her birthday cake and the decorations that went with it, I sought comfort in an easy dish and of course where possible integrating the fresh spring produce.

I have to say I was quite pleased with it as was the 3yr old and the hubby however I think the drink that was served with it helped improve any flavors that may have been off 🙂

If you are interested in making it here’s the receipe

For 4 servings
Preparation time 15 mins
Active time :10 mins

  • 20 scallops (noix saint jacques)
  • 6 medium sized red potatoes 
  • 1 box of green asparagus
  • 2 cloves garlic- minced finely
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt & pepper
  • fleur de sel (if not regular salt will do)

Wash potatoes and pat dry, slice into think rounds and place in a steamer for about 20mins (depending on size). I like to slice it before as the skins are easier to peel off and the potatoes hold their shape better.

Prepare asparagus by cutting off ends and with a vegetable peeler trim the stems so that the tough outer green shell is gone.
Again, I prefer to steam my asparagus as opposed to boiling as the steaming holds in that bright green color. I steam for 5-8mins as we like them al dente.

The asparagus and potatoes can be done earlier in the day and put aside.

The scallops need to be done right before serving. I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure that the scallops are dry and that there is little or no humidity on them, this is what gives you that golden crust any water left on the scallops will end up steaming them instead. I use a non stick pan but a cast iron will work beautifully as well ( just be careful of the hot spots). I don’t salt and pepper the scallops before as the salt will draw out water from the scallops.

For this dish you either use very low heat and cook for a longer period of time or you use very high heat and in that case the cooking time is literally 3-5mins. Place 1tablespoon of butter in skillet and once it starts to bubble add the scallops, be careful not to overcrowd the pan. I choose to cook mine over high heat so once that starts to cook I start on the rest of the dish.

In a separate pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter and once it bubbles add the garlic and sauté until fragrant ( I think this has to be one of my favorite smells), at that point add the potatoes to the pan and cook until heated through (if you cooked them earlier) if not just cook them enough to absorb the garlic butter, at this point add salt and pepper to taste.

Now should be time to turn the scallops, notice that how there is no liquid in the pan ? This is what you are looking for. Turn the scallops over and you’ll see their perfect golden crusts. Now add the asparagus to the potatoes and cook until heated and coated with the garlic butter. Turn the heat off the scallops as you complete the rest of the dish. Add the cream to the potatoes and asparagus and cook 1 minute remove from heat.

How you plate this dish is up to you, however I like to place the potatoes first and then add the asparagus after followed by the scallops (as seen in the photo). Notice how I did not add any salt to the scallops ? Once you plate the dish, sprinkle the scallops with fleur de sel or freshly ground Himalayan salt ( I happened to have on hand).

Serve immediately ! We served the dish with  Champagne, but a dry Riesling or a Bourgogne would work really well.

If you do make it, let me know how it came out.

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