Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nectarine and Plum Hand Pie Critique

Hand Pies01

I know it sounds a little unconventional, but I only had nectarines and plums. I even squeezed a bit of orange in the mix and added a smidge of nutmeg. I love the idea of these hand pies, but my first try, although I'm pleased with how they look, are a little on the dry side. I need to add a bit less flour next time. I know why I did that. I am notorious for making reeeaaaalllyyy juicy apple pies. No matter what kind of apple I use, it turns out like soup, so it is natural that I would want to try to avoid that. I guess that nectarines don't yield as much liquid.

The process of making these is a bit time consuming. You have to let the crust chill for 30 minutes 3 different times, but I used the freezer for a shorter amount of time and they seemed fine. I might make the pies a little larger next time and rolled a little thinner as well. The amount of fruit to crust was too small. I want to figure out how to make them hold a bit more fruit. Maybe I'll try a different shape.

Hand Pies02

I am really happy with how they look, after all, presentation is important! I am very pleased with how the leaf looks and I sprinkled a little sugar and cinnamon. With just a little tweaking, these will be delicious!

I also tried my hand at making marshmallow fondant today. I was determined to find a way around buying it from the store. I just like being able to create my own and I plan on only using it sparingly, so I can make it only when I need it. This recipe was recommended by some Flickr bakers and I just had the best experience with it! It took hardly any time and costs next to nothing. It took 2 seconds to clean up and made great tasting fondant! I have nothing to compare it to, and I am only cutting out flowers, not covering a whole cake, but I think that I can safely say that it is a great product. There was no cracking and as long as you keep your surface lightly sugared, there is no sticking either. The recipe calls for mini marshmallows, but I used the regular sized - 16 for a half batch.

The third thing I tried today is this recipe for sugar cookies. I added orange zest and the juice from a piece of orange and they taste delicious. I really like the flavor and they were just moist enough. This is a 5 star recipe from AllRecipes and everyone raves about it. I will continue to use it.

I remember seeing Martha make a wedding favor of stacked sugar cookies in graded sizes. I want to try my hand at these. I think that they would make a pretty "wedding cake" shape. I'll post the results tomorrow after I ice them. I can't wait! I'll get to use my fondant flowers, too! Oh the possibilities... a tree out of stars, a square cake, maybe a snowman!

One more thing. I also gave another idea a try and I am pretty happy with the results. No pictures yet, but I'll describe. I thought, "What if I use cookie dough like clay and decorate a base cookie with ornaments?" I took a base cookie (unbaked) and placed another small flat flower cut out in the middle. I topped it off with a tiny ball in the center. I used the handle of a paintbrush to push in on the center. It attached everything together. Then I textured with dots. The patterns stayed well when it baked... better than I thought! I'll have to play some more!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Random Act of Kindness

It is amazing to me how the kindness of another person can make you feel so wonderful. Today, I was the recipient of a Random Act of Kindness! And I must admit that I feel giddy like a little girl! And better yet, it came on my birthday!

C. Gail Designs
Tiny Shinies hand forged by C. Gail Designs

A few years ago, I decided to introduce myself to a woman who seemed to have so much in common with me. Through her pictures, I could tell that we had so many of the same interests. We both create jewelry, we love flowers and family and knitting. We were both trying to grow our businesses and we both seemed to have the same insecurities as well! We became fast friends and have followed each other ever since. I am so grateful for her friendship and although I don't always leave messages on her blog, I always stay close to her writings about her experiences.

Thank you so much Candace, for thinking of me. I promise that I will pass this act on to someone who will appreciate it as much as I do! I have always been a great fan of Random Acts of Kindness and I wish more people would think this way. In fact, I challenge you all to participate. Think of someone who is in need of a smile and give them a reason. Come back and tell me what you did!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Must Have Icing Tool

I am the kind of person who LOVES to find tips and tricks to make being creative even more fun! I am always challenging myself to find the best way to accomplish a task.

icing tool
ICING TOOL!!!

Even though I am very new at this sugar cookie decorating, I came up with a tool that is fantastic! It is great to scoop out gel food coloring with. It is great to delicately spread icing with. And it has a little pointy fork on the other end that is perfect to coax tiny amounts of icing into those tiny spaces with! And I even used the fork end to slip under the little flowers that I was picking up! It is not disposable so you will always have it on hand. You'll use it all of the time - I promise!

I found this on line at the following link, but I saw it in my local supermarket, so be sure to check for it.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0000DE7OZ/ref=asc_df_B0000DE7OZ863170?smid=AGRO36SJYWHFN&tag=shopzilla_rev_1203-20&linkCode=asn

Are there any tools that you suggest? I'd love to hear about your ideas.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wilton The Rabbit!

Wilton 7-22-09

My kids named him Wilton. There is a significance to that name. It wasn't just pulled out of the air. A long time ago, when my 18 year old was in elementary school, he wrote a story about a raindrop. He named him Wilton. Since then, there has been Wilton the inchworm and now Wilton the bunny. And so it goes... I thought he looked like an Abbey! I guess I was wrong!

Wilton was in the street and couldn't hop up on the curb to join his sibling. We don't know where mommy is. The boys left Wilton for a few hours and came back to check on him, but he was alone and lonely.

They were supposed to be umpiring a baseball game, but I wasn't surprised when they came bounding in the door, full of glee, like little third grade boys. They had the cutest little bundle I have ever seen. I have to say. Pictures can't even capture the cute factor!

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Everyone kicked in getting a cage and water and rabbit food and hay. We made him a little home and called the vet to find out the details. Baby rabbits are very fragile, but if they make it, they are fine to keep. If we want, we can let him go in a few weeks and he'll be fine to adjust back into nature. There are no diseases to worry about and the boys saved his life by bringing him home. The vet doesn't think the mom was coming back. Whew!

We have spent countless hours staring and checking on him. He ate all of his carrot shavings and spilled his water twice. It is priceless the amount of joy this experience has brought us. I hope he makes it. We are already in love...

Wilton 7-22-09 - 07

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Black and White Cookies

Black and Whites

Black and Whites

I am so excited! I made Black and Whites! I grew up enjoying these deliciously spongy cookies. The big question is always how to enjoy them. Do you eat the vanilla and then the chocolate? Or do you eat your way down the center, enjoying the taste of both flavors at once? Me. I enjoy the vanilla the most, so I eat the chocolate first and save the best for last!

This recipe is almost the one. I need to tweak the icing a bit. I am not too thrilled with the chocolate yet. Does anyone have any suggestions? There are so many versions out there. I'll work until I find it. It is that important!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Should I Have A Giveaway?

How is everyone? I've been busily baking away! I've been enjoying trying new recipes and perfecting others to my liking. It's a difficult task, but someone's got to lick the spoon! I have also begun seeing a tiny bit of interest in my Etsy shop. I am so excited about the prospects! If you haven't, please stop by and check out my bakery! Tell me what you think!

I sure hope that people have followed me over from my other blog. I am giving it a little time. I realize that the summer is sporadic in blogland. I want to have a giveaway so that you can taste my cookies and not just look at them! Hmmm. What kind should I give? Why don't you give me some suggestions and I'll get an idea what your mouths are watering for!

Will it be these?

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
White Chocolate Macadamian Nut

Or these?

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Chocolate Cutout Sandwiches

Or maybe these?

PBchocswirl bar07
Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Bars

You tell me!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Some Piping Practice Today

Every time I get these feelings off my chest, I feel really stupid the next day. But I am going to chock it up to the hormones...and good ole stress.

I made sure to have a resourceful day today. I found a recipe for candy clay posted by Meaghan Mountford of The Decorated Cookie and played around with it. The clay is supposed to be a substitute for fondant so I gave it a try. The results weren't perfect. It dried out very quickly on me and tended to crack, but I am a beginner and I'm sure that with practice, it would be better. I cut out some flowers to start. Pardon the picture.

candy clay

I also began working on piping. I am just getting used to achieving the right consistency of icing. My black was too thick and I adjusted the other colors as I mixed them. I figure out a lot today so I feel good. I'll post pictures, but being the perfectionist that I am, it is difficult! Actually, I feel like there is hope. I need to practice my details though ;)

What do You think for the second time ever?!?

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767 - Copy (2)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Warning...My Head Is Spinning!

I have been feeling really happy and content lately, but that hasn't been the case for the past few days. I am struggling with my direction and I am a person who needs a definite plan. I have always followed my intuition, but lately, it took a vacation.

The problem is that I have tried so many different venues, so many paths. I am so feeling the need to be successful with something. Don't worry. I feel accomplished at my art, but until people actually want them, I don't feel successful. That is the truth. You can't be a successful business unless you share your wares with others.

I am having so much turmoil inside, because I know that I can't keep trying new things anymore. It has driven my family crazy. I think that they don't take anything seriously anymore. How can they when I don't know which way to go either? I am serious about my baking. I have worked so hard to hone my products. I am just dragging my feet because I don't really know the next step. When you don't have a shop, how do you get your name out there?

And now, I am obsessed with making decorated cookies. My husband doesn't think it is the way to go. He says to do what I know. He is usually right, but I so strongly feel that decorated cookies draw attention and I need something to draw attention. Desperately. I have a whole idea in my head and have only made one batch of very silly looking cookies. I have spent so much time in the past few weeks reading and reading and reading, that I feel like I know I can learn quickly. I already have the baking part down pat and I felt very comfortable with the icing. I just have to design properly for it all to look right. Is my head in the clouds again? Am I just ridiculous for trying yet another "idea"? Or do I follow my instincts? One part of me says that success only comes when you try enough, but another part is getting ashamed. I need to work. I need to contribute.

PBchocswirl bar05

PBchocswirl bar07

So much for my rant. On a brighter note, I baked these delicious Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl bars. They can be found, along with many other amazing varieties at my etsy shop. Take a look!

PBchocswirl bar09

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I've Moved Back!!!!!

Over time, I have branched out from creating jewelry to bridal jewelry, to knitting, to baking. Actually, I've always been very involved with all of these activities {passions}. But as my concentrations changed, so did the names of my shops and blog names. I've been aware of the need to simplify all of this. I hope that my friends and customers will update their links so that you will all pop in and say "hello". I know it is a bit unusual, but I am picking up with my original blog because the address is simply

lstonedesigns

Presently, I am concentrating on rebuilding my baking business. As I've said before, I have been baking and selling my cookies for 15 years. I put it on the back burner (pardon the pun!) to make a go with my jewelry. I am still very much selling my jewelry, but I am also very excited to be baking once again! My children are in celebration mode as well ;)

Please check out my shop on Etsy and I have one at 1000 Markets as well. Spread the word and check back for some free giveaways. I have my tried and true recipies, but am always adding to that list. As I experiment I will be asking for opinions and I am looking forward to sending out some goodies!