Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pumpkin whoopie pies

I wanted to try whoopie pies for Thanksgiving, and what better flavor for the season than pumpkin?  I spent a fair amount of time trying to find a recipe that doesn't use Crisco; I knew that would be unacceptable to Sister Sara and I'm also generally grossed out by it.

Here they are--pretty good for a first run.

I adapted the recipe from one I found on

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies:
  For the cookie portion:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups of packed pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat the sugar and butter until fluffy, then add the eggs by incorporating them one at a time.  Then the pumpkin and vanilla.  Once that is all well combined, add the sifted dry ingredients.

Bake at 350 on parchment paper lined cookie sheets for about 10-12 minutes. I used a little cookie dough scoop to try to keep them about the same size.

I covered them since I made them a day ahead and filled them on Thanksgiving day with cream cheese frosting. I covered them tightly and would not be so rigid about that the next time--they were a bit sticky the next day.

Since I really don't like pumpkin and Thanksgiving is a day that I absolutely want my sweets, I had to bring a couple of stand-by desserts in case there were others who would not be interested in that flavor.

I set up a dessert bar that consisted of the pumpkin whoopie pies, Reese's peanut butter cup brownies, chocolate cupcakes with raspberry buttercream frosting, red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and a triple chocolate cheesecake.

So now it's back to the regular routine of work and school around our house...we are all looking forward to more holiday family time in December!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Oxidizing without toxic chemicals

This technique isn't new, but it's the first time I've tried it.  I generally use a liver of sulfer solution to oxidize my silver pieces and give the darker dimension to recessed areas.  I apply it with a small brush, wait a while, then polish the high spots on the piece with a cloth.

This weekend I finished up a few stamped silver charms I've been working on and decided to give the alternative method a try.  It's ridiculously easy:
  1. Boil an egg.
  2. Put the hard boiled egg in a plastic bag, shell and all.
  3. Smash the egg.  (I just gave it a quick punch on the counter...quite satisfying, actually.)
  4. Add the metal pieces to oxidize.
I could see a change in the sterling within a couple of seconds of adding the pieces to the bag.  I left them there for a few hours and they got nice and dark with relatively no mess or worry about chemicals.  I just fished them out and tossed the egg bag away. 

Sure, the sterling is ugly right out of the bag, but the polishing cloth takes care of that quickly.  A couple of these charms became part of a mother's necklace for a friend who just had her second baby.  I waited to put it together because I wanted to add crystal accents in the birthstone color for each child and you never know until the baby shows up which birthstone color to add!  Good thing I waited...the little guy was supposed to make an entrance in mid November but was born in late October.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hybrid cupcakes

Hally has mentioned a couple of times (or about a thousand, maybe) that when she was in grade school, she wanted a very specific birthday cupcake for her school party.  Since her birthday falls between Halloween and Thanksgiving, she wanted cupcakes made in a Halloween wrapper that looked like a turkey on top.  It sounds like she got a part of that order, but not all put together the way she envisioned.

So this year for her birthday, I made her the cupcakes she wanted when she was eight.

First, the turkey toppers.  I made them using Bakerella's cake pop method...and every time I make those things, I swear I won't make them again.  They just take for. ev. er.  But there are times when a situation calls for cake pops, and this was one of them.

I used chocolate cake and cream cheese frosting for the base of the cake pop and covered it in chocolate.  Then I attached the embellishments with melted chocolate.  I really like how....alarmed they all look.

I got Halloween-y cupcake wrappers and picks on clearance and used those to make the other half of Hally's vision come true.

Hally's boyfriend planned a little surprise birthday party for her at the bowling alley where she works.  We had the place all to ourselves and had a great time--happy birthday, Hal!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Halloween wrap up: Mummy cookies and the costume

Last weekend was sort of a blur.  We had Ben's birthday party (small, but an affair nonetheless), pumpkin carving, baking, and trick or treating on the agenda.

I made these cookies to give to neighbors and family members on our trick or treating route.  If they are going to dump a mountain of sweets at my house to tempt me for the week after Halloween, I figure I can return the favor.

  • Nutter Butter cookies
  • Almond bark or chocolate melts
  • Reese's Pieces baking bits--the little guys
First, I dunked the Nutter Butters in the melted chocolate.  (I tinted mine a light orange, but I have also made these with a sort of sickly looking green and that looked good too.)

Then I added Reese's Pieces eyes, using a little bit of melted chocolate for glue.

I dragged lines of white chocolate across the coated cookies to mummify them
and let them set up on the counter for about half an hour before packaging.

I used my Foodsaver to heat seal the cello bags that became their new home and added these little labels I found a couple of months ago. (Hobby Lobby?  I can't remember, sorry.)

Once the treats were ready, we turned our attention to getting costumed up to go out.

A couple of months ago, Ben announced his intent to be a Despicable Me Minion for Halloween--a one-eyed Minion, to be specific.  One of these guys, from the movie:

I looked around for the costumes that were available online and they left a lot to be desired, IMO.  So I decided to make one for him.

Now, when I sew things, I don't follow patterns.  I wave them off like I don't need them.  But the truth is, I can't make sense of them.  If I try to use patterns, I get frustrated and cranky and sometimes end up balling up all of the materials and dumping them in the trash in a fit of rage.  My strategy is generally to buy about three times as much fabric as something is supposed to take and feel fortunate if I can pull it together on the second or third try.  The whole process is very touch and go and I don't ever really know until I'm done if it will work out.  So in the back of my mind, I was prepared to go out last minute and find some other costume if needed.

Here is what we ended up with--not professional quality, but it definitely did the trick.  People seemed to know what Ben was supposed to be (ok, my brother thought he was supposed to be some sort of doctor, but in my defense, I don't think he has seen the movie!) and he loved it.  We had a great evening--the weather was perfect and Ben got quite a stash of candy to share.