Friday, March 29, 2013


It's Easter weekend and I'm making....  gingersnaps?  Sure, why not.  They're tasty, they're fun, and they're a prelude to my "First on the First" entry.  Come along for the ride.


1-1/2 c. Fancy Flour Blend OR
1/4 c. millet flour
1/2 c. white rice flour
1/4 c. sweet rice flour
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch

1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp molasses
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp milk

Granulated sugar for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and spices.  Stir to combine and set aside.
Cream together butter, sugar, and molasses.
Add egg white and vanilla.  Beat thoroughly.  With mixer running on low, add flour gradually.  Beat until well combined.  Gradually add milk until batter reaches a pipable consistency.  It might take a bit more or less.
Place batter in a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip.  Pipe batter into small "coins" on the parchment paper (about 1-1.2 inches or so in diameter). Sprinkle with a bit of granulated sugar.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, until set.  Cool on cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes, then slide the parchment paper onto a wire rack to cool cookies.
The cookies are very soft right out of the oven, slightly soft when warm, and get crispier as they cool.
These are also great for making "sandwiches" - put a slice of banana between two cookies, then roll in colored sprinkles!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pickin' Up Chicks

I spent part of the day today cruising Pinterest, looking for cute Easter cupcakes.  If you have a Pinterest account, you know exactly how easy it is to fall down that rabbit hole - and not get anything else done.  There are LOTS of cute cupcakes out there.  But it didn't take long to discover that an awful lot of them required candies that I don't have in the house at the moment.  So I took a quick inventory of what I DID have and decided to pipe them instead.

Now, I've noticed from time to time that an awful lot of people who are pretty comfortable with cake decorating are absolutely traumatized by parchment paper triangles.  Up to and including professionals.  This just confuses me.  I'm not the best sugar artist by any stretch, but folding a parchment paper cone is one of those things I can do without really even paying attention.  Sort of like geometry, I even have trouble "showing my work" if someone asks me to demonstrate.  Blame my mother.  This is one of those little things I absorbed from her as easily as breathing.  (Though, if I think about it, I'd bet her perspective is entirely different.  Teaching me this skill, much like some of the other things she taught me, was likely more like pulling teeth for her.  With a spoon.)

On to the cupcakes!!

 I thought they turned out cute.  Without a trip to the store for candies.

The recipe uses Rose Levy Berenbaum's method from "The Cake Bible", and results in a very soft, fluffy cupcake that is almost undetectable as being gluten-free.  It can pretty easily be made dairy-free as well, by substituting shortening for the butter and almond or soy milk for the whole milk.

Super Soft Gluten Free White Cupcakes

3 c. Fancy Flour Blend  OR
1/2 c. millet flour
1 c. white rice flour
1/2 c. sweet rice flour
3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch
1-1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp King Arthur Cake Improver (optional)
1-1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp sugar
5 egg whites
1 c. whole milk
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 Tbsp canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 standard cupcake pans with paper liners.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine dry ingredients.  Turn the mixer on low for just a few seconds to combine.

Place the egg whites, extracts, and 1/4 c. of the milk in a bowl and beat lightly with a fork.  Set aside.

Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature and in easy reach:

Turn your mixer back on at it's lowest setting.  Add the butter, coconut oil, canola oil, and remaining 3/4 c. milk.  Mix until ingredients start to come together slightly:

Now add the egg mixture in three separate additions, beating for around 20-30 seconds each time.  When all the ingredients are combined thoroughly, turn the speed up to medium and beat thoroughly for 3-5 minutes.  The batter will be very smooth and silky:

Portion the batter into the cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool completely.

Now, to decorate these darlings, I simply made a batch of basic decorator icing.

1/4 c. butter (salted)
3/4 c. shortening
3 lbs. powdered sugar
1/3-1/2 c. milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream together butter and shortening.  Beat in 2 c. of the powdered sugar.  Add extracts.  Alternate additions of milk and powdered sugar until all sugar is incorporated and icing is a pipable consistency.

I removed 4 small portions of about 1/3 c. each (which ended up being more than necessary, but you'll have plenty).  I tinted the majority of the icing pale yellow.  One portion of white went into a piping cone with a #2 tip.  I tinted two more portions blue and pink, and placed them both in piping cones with #5 tips.  The final portion was tinted orange and placed into a piping cone with a leaf tip.  The eyes are large blue dots with a tiny white dot as a highlight.  The cheeks are large pink dots.  And the beaks are just vertically piped leaves.

In the next few posts, I'll show you how to riff on this basic recipe to create a variety of flavors.

Friday, March 1, 2013

First on the First - Cake Decorating

Yes, gentle readers, I'm back.  The not-so-brief hiatus was the result of a ded computer.  And my finding that it's very nearly impossible to blog via iPad.  At least for me.  However, computer issues are now resolved and I look forward to sharing more goodies with you as we move into Spring.  (It's nearly Spring, right?  In spite of the 4 foot mounds of snow at the end of my driveway.)

I must confess that I'm not really new to cake decorating.  My mother is a consummate cake artist.  Not of the Food Network Challenge variety, but more of the old school style.  She made my wedding cake, which I like to think of as "not that long ago."

 Granted, not the best shot of the cake itself, but you get the idea.  Decorator icing and I aren't exactly strangers.

I've done Hello!Kitty in ColorFlo, Nemo in decorator icing, and baby chicks in Royal Icing.  I even once got suckered into a set of Wedding Cakes (of a very simple and informal variety).  I'm planning some Irish Dance dresses for The Princess's Irish Dance class on St. Patrick's Day.  So I was also feeling a little bit lazy.

One thing I have NOT done is attempt to pipe anything much in real buttercream.  Those of you who've been with me for a while probably know where this is going.  Yes, that's right The Brave Tart's German Buttercream.  It's my favorite buttercream for a lot of reasons - taste, handling, ease of use.

In this particular instance, I separated two portions of a 1/2 batch of icing and tinted one with a tiny bit of Americolor Electric Green and the other with a little (too much?) Americolor Rose Pink.  Then I striped each tinted icing up opposing sides of a large vinyl piping bag fitted with at 2D drop flower tip, then filled in the rest of the untinted icing.  It was the work of just a few minutes to cover the tops of a batch of cupcakes with quick drop flowers and make hydrangea cupcakes.

I rather like them.  They'd be nice for a bridal shower.  In fact, it might be fun, next time to make one piping bag striped with just pink, and another with just the pale green, and pipe a whole cake - moving from one color on one side to the other on the opposite.

I promise to share the seriously vanilla cupcake recipe with you in a little bit.  Honest!