DIY Gold Leaf Painted Acorns

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

Here in the Bay Area we’ve been experiencing disgustingly hot weather almost every day for weeks. I took advantage of the first day with temperatures in the 70s to cross my fingers that Fall might finally be on the way, and tackled a quick and easy craft project – gold leaf painted acorns!

For this project you’ll need:

  • Gold Leaf Paint (I bought mine at Michael’s craft store.)
  • Small paintbrush (foam ones work best, though I didn’t have any on hand and used a soft bristled brush.)
  • Acorn caps
  • Acorn nuts – either acorn nuts already attached .. or able to be re-attached to the caps, or polymer clay to make your own acorn nuts.
  • Protective gloves
  • Respirator mask (strongly recommended! The gold leaf paint is pretty potent, and even the bottle label is loaded with warnings about adequate ventilation.)
  • Something to cover your work surface, preferably plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  • Glue (to make sure your acorn nuts stay attached to the caps. I used two part epoxy because that’s what I had handy.)

This project is so easy that it probably doesn’t even need visuals, but if you’re anything like me, photos are always encouraged!

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com If you already have acorns with the cap and the nut attached, you can skip this part. The first thing I did was to make faux acorn nuts with polymer clay, as I’d only collected these cute little caps while out for a walk.

I used the Sculpey “lightweight” clay since it’s really soft easy to mold for this type of project. I baked the clay acorns according to the package directions and let them cool before moving forward.

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.comOnce cooled, I fitted a clay nut to each cap, to make sure I had a match for each one. They’re pretty cute as is, aren’t they? I debated leaving some white, but I can always  make more later if I feel the need to change up the decor.

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

Once I’d matched the nuts to the caps, I separated them – but kept the nut close to each cap – and then I got to work painting! I found it was easiest to start at the bottom of the clay nut, and then sort of “stick” it to the plastic while I painted the rest of it – from the bottom/widest part up towards the small point at the top. You can see here why the gloves are necessary for this! Some of them required a second coat/touch up after the first layer was dry.

If you have real acorns, make sure you’ve properly dried them out before using them for any craft projects. Acorns fresh off the ground will get moldy, and could also be harboring insects.

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

Here’s the group of painted clay acorns drying! They dry fairly quickly in low humidity. You could also paint and leave them outside to dry if you don’t have proper indoor ventilation.

Once the paint was dry, I mixed up my two-part epoxy glue and re-attached each cap. As mentioned earlier, you could use other types of glue, whatever your preference is. I like the epoxy because it has a really strong bond with most any material.

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

So pretty, and so very easy!

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

I haven’t yet decided what I’ll do with them, but I’m sure they’ll make a nice accent to my other Fall decor.

Happy Crafting!

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Homemade Vanilla Extract Wedding Favors Doubled as Place Cards

DIY-vanilla-extract-favors

I’ve realized I’m very far behind in adding the DIY/tutorials posts from our wedding, so I’m going to try to get some of those up for anyone working on their late spring/summer weddings!

One of the fun and easy projects we created combined two tasks in one – favors for our wedding guests and name cards/place cards (sometimes known as “escort cards”,) to help our guests find their seats. Many of our guests enjoy cooking and baking – or live with someone who does! – so we decided to make a big batch of vanilla extract and divide it among our guests as favors. We dispensed it into adorable little glass bottles, adorned with sticker labels indicating the guests’ names and seats. We also had children attending our wedding, so we filled their bottles with miniature M&M’s candies.

wedding favors

Homemade vanilla extract wedding favor

I designed the sticker labels to match our wedding invitations, which was a fun and easy way to tie in the existing design elements and color scheme. Each label had the guest’s name, followed by the table number they were to be seated at.  As a little extra, I made the simple little ‘chalkboard’ style sign in front.  Since I added this piece at the last minute, we didn’t have time to find any small chalkboards. I made a quick little 4×6″ graphic and inserted it into a photo frame from Michael’s craft store.

vanilla-extract-favors-seating-signIf you’d like to make the same favors/seating guide for your guests, feel free to use the sign! I took our initials out of the heart, so you may download the image, or download the file as a .pdf to print it at a higher resolution, available here:

Favors-Sign

For the bottles, I purchased the clear glass 1oz size from Container & Packaging Supply:

You can find those here. I used the corresponding small silver bottle tops to go with them, but I do believe they also have white, and possibly black, in the same size. When you view the product page, it shows you the other items that fit with the bottle.

For the labels on the bottle, I went with a 1-1/2 x 1-1/2″ square sticker labels. There are plenty of additional sizes as well as round labels if you prefer, but I liked the look of the square to go with our theme/designs. These are the ones I used:

You can find those here. One pack comes with a total of 600 square labels, which is a LOT! Plenty of extras for trial & error when you’re testing out your prints.

Last but not least, making your own vanilla extract is incredibly easy! This is the general guidelines I use, as follows:

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Ingredients for 8 oz of extract:

1 cup vodka

4-5 whole vanilla beans

glass jar with lid

Instructions:

Slice the vanilla beans open lengthwise with a sharp knife. Add the vanilla beans (the whole bean,) and vodka to the clear glass container. Give it a good shake, and store it in a cool dark place for at least 3 months. Every week or two, shake the container again. You’ll notice the little vanilla seed flecks floating around – this is perfectly fine, they are the bulk of the flavor!

Optional: Once the mixture has steeped and is a nice rich brown color (the darker the better,) remove the pods from the jar and pour the liquid into a separate vessel, if you so desire. Some people like to strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve, but I personally don’t do that. It’s entirely at your discretion.

A great source for vanilla beans is Vanilla Products on ebay. I’ve been buying from them for years.

———-

Even if you aren’t getting married, vanilla extract makes a great gift for your fellow bakers! Be sure to start steeping it well ahead of your event for gifting.

The wedding photographs in this post were taken by Sarah Jayne Photography.

Italian Pasta Night Dinner Party

When my husband and I got married, we decided to finally get some “grown up” dishware to replace the set I’d purchased when I was 18 and had been using ever since. (They were clear glass – not very exciting, but they didn’t conflict with any of the decor through my numerous moves and held up for over ten years!) We decided what better way to celebrate the new dishware – and silverware – than by hosting a little dinner party for some friends? Our theme was “Italian Pasta Night.” We had an enormous array of food, and everything was delicious.

Italian Pasta Night Dinner Party

Our menu included:

– Two kinds of homemade pasta (spaghetti and fettuccine)

– Two kinds of homemade pasta sauces (pesto, and a red marinara sauce)

– Garlic bread with a delicious herbed garlic butter

– Caesar salad with homemade Meyer lemon Caesar dressing

– Vanilla panna cotta topped with grated dark chocolate, accompanied by almond brittle

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Chocolate Shavings and Almond BrittleWhat would a dinner party be without the decor though, right? OK, maybe I get a little bit more excited about this kind of thing than other .. normal.. people do, but I really wanted an excuse to be fancy and try out some projects that were on my DIY list!

Italian Pasta Night Dinner Party 3I spent a little bit of time sourcing out different candle holders for the center grouping. I found some for .49cents each at Ikea, which conveniently can hold either a stick candle or a votive! I also went to our local thrift store and picked up a few other clear glass candle sticks in varying heights.

Italian Pasta Night Dinner Party 2

The blue goblets were already part of my collection. They are vintage “Kings Crown” style goblets, by Indiana Glass company. They were made somewhere around the 1960s-1970s. I loved them so much when I first got them, that I ended up buying the same ones in different colors for the head table at our wedding. (You can view those here!)

The silver colored chargers were on sale at Michael’s craft store, 2 for $3. They added a nice touch!

Italian Pasta Night Dinner Party - Rosemary Wreath Name Card Place Holders

I am quite obsessed with these place cards! Obviously they weren’t necessary for a small dinner party, but when I saw the idea, I just couldn’t resist. They were one of the easiest crafts I’ve ever done. You simply take a sprig of fresh rosemary and bend it into a circular shape, then secure it with a little piece of floral wire. Adorn it with a bow of your choice, and a name tag clipped from a piece of printed cardstock. My rosemary stalks were pretty sturdy, so I had to break them just a little bit in a few places as I formed the circle. It wasn’t noticeable at all, and it achieved the nice wreath shape for each of them. I used a little bit of kitchen twine for the bow. You could use colored ribbon or whatever you’d like!

DIY lemon leaf garlandOne of the biggest projects was the lemon leaf garland. I didn’t take too many in-progress photos, but have included one so you can get a better idea of what I did. I found a tutorial online, and it was actually a really simple project!

I used about 2 large bunches of fresh lemon leaves, which I purchased at a florist. I clipped off each leaf, leaving about 4-5 inches of stem below it. Cut a long length of twine and attach each leaf/stem to the twine by wrapping floral wire around it. Wrap the stem, lay the next branch over it, and wrap again. You will keep overlapping each branch with the new leaves until you get to the end. How close or far apart you wrap them is completely up to you. I ended up wrapping 2-3 at a time for a full look. The garland extended the entire length of the table!

I made this in advance, so I stored it in our guest shower, and misted it with a spray bottle of water 2x a day for 2-3 days. I wouldn’t advise making this more than 3 days in advance, or it will dry out. 1 or 2 days is preferred, or even same day if you have the time available.

To accent the garland, I simply placed fresh lemons around it on the table. So easy, and beautiful! As you can see, our dinner party looked really elegant without a whole lot of time or money spent to decorate the table.

Don’t worry, I am not leaving you without any recipes.. here’s the recipes for the vanilla panna cotta, and the almond brittle. Both are very simple and incredibly delicious.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings

This recipe was created by chef Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado. It’s part of a special menu he created for Epicurious’s Wine.Dine.Donate program.

Start this recipe a day before you plan to serve it. Both the pear jam and the panna cotta are best if chilled overnight.

Ingredients:

  • 4 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin from 2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

Directions:

In small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cream. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, in medium saucepan over moderate heat, whisk together milk and sugar. Scrape in seeds from vanilla beans; add beans. Heat, whisking occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cream mixture. Strain through fine-mesh sieve, discarding vanilla beans, then ladle mixture into 8 (4-ounce) ramekins. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

Unmold and serve:
Run thin sharp knife around inside edge of each ramekin to loosen. Dip bottom of 1 ramekin in bowl of very warm water 6 seconds. Put plate over ramekin, then invert panna cotta onto plate, gently lifting off ramekin. Repeat to unmold remaining panna cottas.  (Note: I poured my mixture right into a fancy glass serving dish, as shown in the image earlier in this post. I did not unmold it, and instead left it in the pretty dish. I topped it with grated dark chocolate.)

Almond Brittle

Yield: 13 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light-colored corn syrup
3/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds, toasted
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Directions:
Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Combine sugar and syrup in a 2-quart glass bowl. Microwave at HIGH 3 minutes (sugar mixture will be clear and bubbly). Stir in almonds. Microwave at HIGH 3 minutes or until mixture is a light caramel color, stirring every minute. Stir in butter, vanilla, and salt. Microwave at HIGH 1 1/2 minutes or until mixture is the color of peanut butter. Add baking soda, and stir until texture is foamy. Quickly pour mixture onto prepared pan. Spread to 1/4-inch thickness. Let stand 30 minutes. Break brittle into pieces, and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows and a Gift Packaging Template

It’s that time of year – peppermint season!

Okay..peppermint can be enjoyed year-round, but I personally associate it with wintertime. I’ve been so busy with work (for which I am grateful!) that I haven’t had much time to enjoy many holiday festivities, baking and candy making included.

The very first thing on my to-make list when I had a spare moment was marshmallows. Not just any marshmallows – peppermint marshmallows!

PeppermintMarshmallows01

If you haven’t tried your hand at homemade marshmallows, have no fear; they’re incredibly easy to make. The hardest part is the waiting! Last year I made regular vanilla marshmallows, and thought I would switch it up with peppermint. (Oh – I also made some pumpkin ones in October! Those were equally amazing!) I made a batch of these peppermint ones the other day, and shipped most of them off to various parts of the country as part of my Christmas packages to family and friends, but did keep a few to enjoy here at home.

PeppermintMarshmallows2

.. and as expected, they’re absolutely delicious in hot chocolate!

For whatever reason, inspiration struck when I was packaging these for gifts. I made some labels for the packages, and found some adorable red and white striped ribbon in my supply stash.

PeppermintMarshmallows3

It’s not too late to whip up a batch of these yourself for some last minute holiday gifts! To save some time, I thought that you might like to use these labels too..

PeppermintMarshmallowsLabel

You can right-click and save the above image (a .jpg) and print it as you wish, but I also made a high-res .pdf file that you can download and print (it has 6 labels per page.) Click the link to view and save or print the file: https://victoriaallison.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/peppermintmarshmallows-printout.pdf

And last but not least, here’s the recipe I used:

Homemade Marshmallows

Bon Appétit  | July 2008

by Molly Wizenberg

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (for the peppermint version, I used 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp peppermint extract.)
  • * Optional: 2-3 drops red food coloring
  • 1/2 cup potato starch**
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar**
** I use cornstarch.. I also use about 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup powdered sugar. It’s PLENTY!
Directions:

Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil.

Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray. Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.

Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over mediumlow heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240°F, about 8 minutes.

With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds longer.

*Optional: I added a couple of drops of red food coloring and gently stirred it into the marshmallows to create a light pink ‘swirl’ effect.

Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours.

Stir potato starch and powdered sugar in small bowl to blend. Sift generous dusting of starch-sugar mixture onto work surface, forming rectangle slightly larger than 13×9 inches. Turn marshmallow slab out onto starch-sugar mixture; peel off foil. Sift more starch-sugar mixture over marshmallow slab. Coat large sharp knife (or cookie cutters) with nonstick spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other shapes. Toss each in remaining starch-sugar mixture to coat. Transfer marshmallows to rack, shaking off excess mixture.

 

Enjoy!

Mother’s Day Edible Flower Lollipops

Image

Sometimes an introduction is best done with a photo rather than words, and this is one of those times!

I recently made these edible flower lollipops for my mom for Mother’s Day, as my mom has a green thumb and loves flowers! She lives 3,000 miles away, but thankfully with modern day technology I was able to watch her open them via video chat. Needless to say, they were a hit!

The recipe I used came from this blog post at Sprinkle Bakes. Since this recipe is so quick to put together (the candy heats quickly and the candy cools just as quickly!) I wasn’t able to get any tutorial photos of my own.. thankfully she has a step by step photo tutorial on her blog already, and I highly recommend it!

If you have someone to assist you in making these, I’d recommend it – FYI, this isn’t really a kid friendly recipe due to the high temperature of the candy, but feel free to invite a crafty friend to come help! I encountered a little bit of trouble making these..

I think my first problem is that I was using a kitchen thermometer instead of a candy thermometer (my candy one kicked the bucket) and I accidentally let the mixture heat up to a couple of degrees hotter than it needed to be.. My candy mixture ended up cooling REALLY quickly! I’m pretty sure that it cooled faster than it would have, had I heated it to the correct lower temperature to begin with. Hotter heat = quicker cool down? Possibly. I’m not sure. I might try these again sometime and heat them to the correct temperature and see how much longer I can work with the candy before it hardens. I only was able to make 8 before the mixture hardened around my spoon!

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The other problem, as you can see, is the air bubbles. When I stirred in my flavor oil and food coloring, the air bubbles did not all dissipate as the candy settled. I have a sneaky feeling that this was also due to the temperature of the mixture!

All things aside, I kind of prefer the organic shape of these pops versus a perfectly round circle, especially with the flower center.

Image

The flowers I used came from my grocery store. They had a small selection of edible flowers near the fresh herbs. I chose to use all pansies for these, but you can use any flower that’s edible and pesticide free. Some of the flowers were a little bit too squished to use whole, so I used some of the petals in a couple of the pops. I think they’re just as pretty!

Image

I packaged up the lollipops in tissue paper to match the card I was sending, and tied them up with one of the same purple ribbons used on the pops wrapping. The flower on top is a cardboard die-cut that I affixed with double stick tape. Pretty, no?

One of the great things about this recipe is that it all comes together fairly quickly, so you can make these in an afternoon and have them ready for gift-giving the next day! (Their cooling/hardening time will vary based on your climate. Mine were ready to handle within a few hours.)

Happy Mother’s Day!

Giant Samoa Girl Scout Cookie Birthday Cake

It’s that time of year again… my guy’s birthday! We sort of alternate between “boring” normal birthday cakes, and creative/challenging cakes. This year entailed the latter.

Choosing the cake was up to me this year – sometimes that’s dangerous, because I’ll always pick something I’ve never made before, and it usually requires literally hours’ worth of preparation. No matter, I’m always up for it! We’ve been on a Girl Scout Cookie kick this year (Samoas and Thin Mints, of COURSE) and I was inspired by this blog post about making a giant Samoa cake. She had a great idea, but I wanted to make some variations on her idea to include more “cookie” elements, and of course frosting.

The end result was this:

The bottom layer consists of shortbread cookie, topped with dark chocolate ganache and salted caramel sauce. Above that is vanilla/white cake, covered in caramel frosting, and coated with toasted coconut flakes, drizzled with melted dark chocolate. To say it was delicious would be an understatement!

I used a variety of recipes here – some online, some from actual cookbooks..yes, people still use those! I’ll do my best to include any actual recipe I used for this, but for some of the steps I just eyeballed it with no recipe or real measuring. (Sorry!) Here’s the step-by-step process I used to assemble, followed by some recipes:

Giant Girl Scout Cookie Cake

*Notes: I made this a two-day process since I had class on his actual birthday, and would need more time to finish the cake. The first day I made the shortbread crust, made the salted caramel sauce, and toasted the coconut. The second day I baked the cake, made the ganache, made the frosting, and assembled it all together. This seemed to work out fine, and you could do them all in one day, but you would need to leave adequate time for cooling each part (caramel especially) which can take some waiting time. I’m posting the photos in the order I prepared everything and assembled the cake.

I started by making a half batch of a shortbread recipe (from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook.) Knowing ahead of time that I wanted to have a hole in the center of my cake, I used a large round cookie cutter as a place-holder, and smoothed down the cookie batter around the cutter. I removed the cutter before baking, of course, since it's plastic.

 

You can see the "hole" here where I removed the cookie cutter. I used a tart pan for this, to make removal of the shortbread easier.. the tart pan also happened to be the same width as my bundt pan for the cake! This is the shortbread pre-baked.

 

While the shortbread was baking, I made the salted caramel sauce. (The recipe was for regular caramel sauce, but I added sea salt and homemade vanilla extract!) This needs to cool for at least a few hours -plan ahead!

 

Here's the flaked coconut I bought for the topping - it's HUGE! Doesn't it look delicious? I bought raw unsweetened coconut from the bulk bin at my favorite grocery store (Berkeley Bowl!) I think this was a good idea to use (if you can find it) versus the shredded kind, because it looks more to-scale with the "giant" theme of the cake. Giant cookie, giant flakes of coconut!

 

I placed the coconut on a sheet of parchment and baked it in the oven for the last 10 minutes left of the shortbread's baking time. (350-degrees F.) If you're using sweetened coconut, check on it frequently as it will brown faster because of the sugar content.

 

Toasted coconut, removed from the oven. Yum!

 

Here's the shortbread fresh out of the oven! I suppose you could use a sugar cookie for this as well, if you preferred.

 

After the shortbread and caramel had cooled, I made a small amount of ganache. I simmered some heavy cream (about 1/4 cup) over a double boiler, and stirred in about 1/3 Cup Ghirardelli 60% Cocoa chips into the cream until they had melted, stirring until smooth. I spread a layer of ganache over the cookie, then drizzled some of the caramel sauce on top of that. You know, for good measure. :)

 

Next I baked the cake! I used a small batch recipe for vanilla/white cake and baked it in a silicone bundt pan. (About halfway full.) Well, supposedly you don't need butter or non-stick spray on silicone bakeware, but I beg to differ. It definitely stuck to the pan! Not to worry, the cake would be covered in frosting and coconut, so I really didn't care much about the appearance.

 

There were a LOT of crumbs in the process of removing the cake from the pan! Tasty crumbs.. :)

 

Once the cake was cool, I made the frosting. Okay, I didn't measure here. I tossed in one stick of softened butter (1/2 cup) and beat it with a whisk attachment until fluffy. Then I poured in some caramel.. probably about 3/4 cup, and blended them together. Then I added confectioner's sugar until it reached the consistency I wanted. I think it was somewhere around 2 cups, but add however much you like depending on how thick or thin you want the frosting to be. I also didn't want to lose too much of the caramel flavor by adding too much sugar, so I didn't go beyond 2 1/2 cups.

 

Mixing the caramel and the butter.. yummy. I would eat this as-is!

 

Checking frosting consistency.. this looked about right to me. Not too sugary or stiff.. good consistency for sticking coconut to it!

 

Yep.. another frosting shot.. can't resist!

 

Okay, time for assembly.. I used a GIANT spatula to lift the cake and place it on top of the cookie section. Did I mention how absolutely perfect the cake and cookie fit together?! I guess it pays to have a lot of bakeware!

 

.. checking the alignment of the hole. Yep, it matches up. :)

 

Frosting time! I coated the whole cake in caramel frosting, and then drizzled some extra caramel on top.. just because I can.

 

Okay, this part is messy. Just embrace it! I literally took handfuls of toasted coconut and pressed them against the cake, gently patting down to help them stick to the frosting. Don't be shy.. make sure you cover all edges inside and out!

 

Last step.. melted chocolate, drizzled across the top. (I used the 60% Cocoa Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips for this, too. They're my favorite, and they melt beautifully!)

 

The completed cake! I used TWO giant spatulas (one in each hand!) to move the cake off of the waxed paper and onto the cake plate. Thankfully this was made somewhat easier because of the cookie crust bottom, but I still wanted to be careful so that the crust wouldn't crack. Ta-da! I placed the whole cake in the refrigerator to help it set up properly, since it was a bit warm in here. Probably a good idea to do if you also have a slightly warm kitchen.

 

Here’s the recipes I used:

 

Shortbread

from Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook 1980 ed.

Minutes to Cook: 35

Number of Servings: 18

 

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons sugar

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

– in large bowl beat 1st 6 ingredients until well mixed, occasionally scraping the bowl

– pat down into 9 in round cake pan and with fork, prick well

– with spoon, sprinkle sugar over dough

Bake 30-35 minutes

– cut into wedges while warm, cool on wire rack, separate cookies

Serving Size: 18

 

***I used HALF of the shortbread recipe, since I just wanted a crust. I did not sprinkle with sugar, and I did not cut it into wedges.***

Caramel Sauce

Bon Appétit | April 2006

Mary Cech

Yield: Makes about 1 1/3 cupsIngredients

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup whipping cream

Preparation

Combine sugar, 1/2 cup water, and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully add cream (you may want to stand back — mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir sauce over low heat until any caramel bits dissolve and sauce is smooth. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat just until pourable, then let caramel sauce cool to room temperature.)

***After adding the cream and mixing the sauce, I removed it from the heat and stirred in about 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract and a dash of sea salt.***

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Toasted Coconut:

No recipe, but I wanted to mention I used unsweetened coconut, spread out on parchment over a cookie sheet.. baked it for about 10 mins at 350-F. Carefully watch and/or use less toasting time if you’re using sweetened coconut, as it burns faster than unsweetened.

—-

Dark Chocolate Ganache:

No recipe for this either, but I heated 1/4 Cup heavy cream over a double boiler, removed it from the heat and then stirred in about 1/3 Cup chocolate chips (Ghirardelli 60% cocoa) until they were melted and the mixture was smooth.

—-

Vanilla Cake:

Simple White Cake

by: SCOTTOSMAN (Allrecipes.com)

Prep Time:
20 Min

Cook Time:
30 Min

Ready In:
50 Min

Servings

Original Recipe Yield 12 cupcakes or 1- 9×9 inch pan

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×9 inch pan or line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.

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Salted Caramel Frosting:

No real recipe for this either.. I softened 1 stick (1/2 Cup) unsalted butter, then beat it with the whisk attachment on my mixture until fluffy. Next I mixed in about 3/4 Cup of the salted caramel sauce until smooth. Then I gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until the desired consistency. (About 2 1/2-cups. You may want more if you like a thicker frosting. I didn’t want the caramel taste overpowered by the sugar, so I kept it on the “less sugar” side.)

—-

And there you have it! The end result was a delicious combo of cookie and cake. I wouldn’t change a single thing! This is definitely not a healthy cake , and is best intended for special occasions.. like birthdays. :)

DIY Easter Chick Necklace

Victoria Camp Designs - Easter Chick Tutorial

Now that Valentine’s Day is over, Easter inspiration will be popping up everywhere you look. I’ve decided to join in on the fun and offer a DIY tutorial on how to make your very own Easter chick necklace! The original little marshmallow treat these are inspired by are quite popular here in the United States – typically most people either love them or hate them. If you’re in the “love” group, you’re sure to enjoy the following tutorial! These instructions are for a necklace, but you can create the chick for any use (bracelet, earrings, or just to put on your desk!)

DIY Easter Chick Tutorial

Materials needed:

– Yellow Polymer Clay

-Brown Polymer Clay

– Flat end head pin

– Finished necklace chain

– Pliers (round nose and flat nose recommended)

– Waxed paper (for keeping your work surface clean)

– Aluminum foil (for baking the clay in the oven)

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Step 1: Gather your materials (listed above.) As you can see, I like the Sculpey brand clay. I think it’s softer to work with than some of the other brands, but any brand of polymer clay will work!

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Step 2: Break off a small piece of yellow polymer clay, and begin to knead and soften the clay. This is called “conditioning” the clay.

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Step 3: Once the clay has been conditioned, roll it into a ball.

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Step 4: Hold the clay in one hand, and use your other hand to gently make an “edge” around the entire perimeter of the bottom of the ball.

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Step 5: You can see the “edge” along the bottom of the ball here. Make the edge a little longer on one end of the ball. This will be the “tail” of the chick.

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Step 6: Working on the longer end of the edge, pinch the clay together to form a soft point. (The “tail”.)

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Step 7: Working towards the tail end, gently pinch the clay upward from the round dome/top section (this will be the head.)

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Step 8: Working with the head area you just formed, gently pinch the tip of it and fold it towards the front of the chick (to form the beak.)

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Step 9: Keep pinching the “beak” section until it has formed a small point. You can then gently push the beak downward a little bit, if you so desire.

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Step 10: Now it’s time for the eyeballs! Using a pin (or the pointed end of the headpin) press a small dot onto each side of the head where you’ll be placing the eyes.

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Step 11: Using a VERY small piece of brown clay (smaller than you think you’ll need! Smaller than showing here!) make a teeny tiny round dot of clay for each eyeball.

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Step 12: This is where the eyeball placement comes in handy. Gently press the tiny piece of brown clay eyeball into each side of the head. You can use your fingers, or the tip of the headpin to put the clay in place. Gently press down on the clay with your finger to set it in place and flatten it slightly.

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Close-up of the completed chick (with eyes!)

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Step 13: Starting from the underside of the chick, gently push the headpin through the clay, making sure the flat part is on the bottom. I like to angle the pin so it exits out behind the chick’s head, although you can certainly angle it any way you choose.

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Step 14: Bake the clay in your oven according to package instructions. (Mine went in for 15 minutes at 275F. Your temp/times will vary based on the brand of clay and size of your chick.)

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Step 15: Once the clay has baked and cooled, you’ll want to form a wire wrapped loop with the end of the head pin. Here’s an easy tutorial from Artbeads if you aren’t sure how to do that part already: http://www.artbeads.com/howtomawrlo.html

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Step 16: Attach the chick onto your necklace chain/ribbon/etc. (I had pre-made my chain already. You can make your own chain, or buy a pre-made chain. You could also slip the charm onto a ribbon.)

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Ta-da! Here’s the finished necklace!

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You can make these in any color of clay you choose, and for any type of jewelry. This photo is an example of various colors I had made for earrings.

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial! I’ve been working with polymer clay for over 15 years. It’s really very fun, and those with any level of skill can create something! You can browse some of my other clay creations in my Etsy shop, Victoria Camp Designs.