The Big Chocolate Show

big-chocoalte-showAlways wanted to know how to make our amazing chocolate chip cookies?  Want to take them over the top?  Fill them with cookie butter and make a sandwich cookie.

big-chocoalte-show-2On this past Saturday afternoon I showed lucky attendees of the brand new Big Chocolate Show all my tips and tricks for making what I think are the perfect chocolate chip cookies.  And here is the recipe for you to  make them at home.
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What is my idea of the perfect chocolate chip cookie?  For me its substantial, crunchy and chewy and most importantly packed with a whole lot of great chocolate.  For  this one we used Valrhona Caraibe, a 66% dark chocolate.  I use the pieces whole, so that when the cookie bakes I get shards of chocolate spread throughout.

Its very important to chill the dough fully before baking, mostly to control spread, but there is also a bit of flavor melding going on there that really improves the overall taste.  You can scoop them, chill and bake immediately, or you you can resist, you can freeze the raw scooped dough and bake them whenever you want fresh cookies.  (or sometimes sneak the raw cookie dough to snack on)

You’ll also want to make sure the butter is melted and cooled.  Hot butter added to the sugar will change the spread too.  Baking from frozen will take longer than from chilled so don’t be surprised if yours take a bit longer than the estimated times.  big-chocoalte-show-3

After the cookies have cooled, I make the cookie butter and pipe mounds of it onto an upturned cookie, and top with another.  We use a meringue buttercream at the shop, but the recipe below is for an American Buttercream.  Either way will be great, but the American version will be a bit sweeter.

Its a good idea to chill them a bit to set, but them bring them back to room temperature to enjoy.

Happy Baking!

Sugar Couture’s   Chocolate Chip Cookie   

Yield 20 1 oz cookies

 

Ingredients:

¾ cup (6 oz) white sugar

¾ cup (4.5 oz) brown sugar

6 oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 1/5 cups (11 oz) All purpose flour

¾ tst salt

½ tsp baking powder

½ t baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1 yolk

1 cup (5 oz) high quality chocolate pieces or chips

 

Instructions:

 

  1. Melt butter and set aside to cool down.
  2. Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, cream cooled butter with white and brown sugar
  4. Add egg and then yolk to the creamed butter and sugar.   Add vanilla and mix to combine
  5. Stop the machine and add half the flour mixture. Mix to combine.   Repeat with the remaining flour mixture.
  6. Stir in chocolate pieces by hand.
  7. Scoop cookies with one ounce pastry scoop. Alternately you can use a table spoon to portion or roll into a log, chill and cut even 1/3” rounds.
  8. Its best to refrigerate the portioned cookies overnight. You can also freeze them at this stage in a single layer on a sheet tray. Once fully frozen you can place them in a zip lock bag and keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to bake them.
  9. TO BAKE: Pre heat oven to 325 degrees. Place cookies on parchment lined cookie sheets with at least 3 inches between them. Place in preheated oven and bake for 16-20 minutes, until cookies are golden brown around the edges and still a little soft in the centers. Move to a rack to cool.

 

 

 

Buttercream

3/4 pound soft butter

1 pound powdered sugar

2Tbs heavy cream

1 t vanilla

 

  1. Beat soft butter in the bowl of standing mixer until homogenous.
  2. Turn mixer off and add powdered sugar.
  3. Add cream and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy, about 8 minutes.

 

Cookie Butter Buttercream

5 freshly baked chocolate chip cookies

3 T canola oil
1 recipe buttercream

 

  1. Process cookies in a food processor or blender until crumbly. Add enough oil to form a paste. If necessary warm water can be added in 1tbs increments to form a paste.
  2. Mix into buttercream
  3. Pipe into the center of baked and cooled cookie and top with a second cookie.
  4. Chill to set. Remove to room temperature to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun with Conversation Hearts

Inspired by a request from Tasting Table for a Valentine’s Day piece, we came up with these super fun ways to use those conversation hearts in new creative ways to spice up sugar cookies.

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The heart flower cookies are inspired by a little image my mom used to draw everywhere, a small delicate flower comprised of 4 connected hearts which formed the petals.  Four smaller hearts made up the centers and single leaf.   I translated this into a cookie and though it would be fun to use the Sweetheart candies as the smaller center hearts and leaf.    There are two other versions as well, a heart and a lip version.

Chocolate Chili Sugar Cookies

2 cups all purpose flour

1.3 cup cocoa powder

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp chili powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs brown sugar

10 Tbs unsalted butter

3 egg yolks

1 Tbs Vanilla extract

The extra punch of the chili powder really brings the chocolate alive.  If you’re making them for kids, it can be easily omitted or replaced with cinnamon.

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder baking powder, chili powder and salt.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, place the butter, brown sugar and powder sugar.  Cream with a paddle on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Mix in the yolks one at a time.  Mix in the vanilla.

Add flour/coco mix in two additions, mixing on low speed just to combine.  Divide the dough in half and place each half between two pieces of parchment.  Roll the dough between the parchment to about ¼” thick.  Repeat with the remaining half.  Refrigerate or freeze until firm.

Using a template and xacto knife or a cookie cutter,  cut cookies from the chilled dough and place them on parchment lined cookie sheets with about a 1/2” of space between the cookies.  Bake for approximately 12 minutes until the tops are no longer shiny.   Cool completely.

Makes 15 large cookies or 20 medium ones.

 

Royal Icing

1 pound confectioners sugar

3 egg whites

1 tsp lemon juice

Beat egg whites with whisk attachment on medium speed in a standing mixer until soft peaks form.

Change to the paddle attachment, and add the sifted sugar in small amounts at low speed, until incorporated.

Add lemon juice and beat on medium sped until icing holds its shape. Cover with plastic wrap at all times until ready to use.

TO DECORATE THEM:

Heart Flowers

After your cookie dough has been rolled and chilled, use the template to cut out the cookies.  Print the template out and with scissors, cut about 1/4” around the entire shape.  Cut the chilled dough with an Xacto knife or sharp pearing knife.

Bake the cold cookies in a 350 degree oven for approximately 12 minutes, turning the sheet tray once during the bake time.

While the cookies are cooling, Make the royal icing with a flood consistency.  Color as desired.  I used a super light baby pink and a for the stem, I mixed some leaf green and brown colors to get a more interesting green.  Place the icing in a piping bag with a number 1 or 2 tip.

Reprint the template and cut out one of the heart petals.   Lying it on the cooled cookie, trace the outline with a number 2 pencil.  With the pink icing, trace the outline you just made, holding the tip about 1/2” above the surface of the cookie.  Allow this to dry while outlining the remaining cookies.

Pour the Sweetheart candies onto a tray with the text facing up so it will be easier to select your favorites.

Using the same, or a larger piping tip fill in the centers of the petals with royal icing. Use the piping tip or toothpick to push the icing into the form.

Place the candies, text up in the center of each petal, with the point facing the center.

Pipe a single green line from the petal, to the bottom of the stem of the cookie.  Place one green Sweetheart in the middle to form the  leaf.

Allow cookies to dry completely for at least 3 hours up to overnight.
Using a lip cutter, or  template, cut the cookies from the rolled and chilled dough.

Bake the cold cookies in a 350 degree oven for approximately 12 minutes, turning the sheet tray once during the bake time.

While the cookies are cooling, make the royal icing with a flood consistency.  Color as desired.  I used a very dark red .  Place the icing in a piping bag with a number 1 or 2 tip.

Pipe an outline of the lips, including the middle line and let this dry to set about 7 minutes, or while you’re piping the rest of the cookies.

With the same or larger sized tip, pipe icing in between the form you’ve piped to fill it. Use the piping tip or toothpick to push the icing into the form.

While the icing is still wet, sprinkle the  red sanding sugar over the cookie, and place the single Sweetheart candy in place.

Allow cookies to dry completely for at least 3 hours up to overnight.

Autism Speaks Celebrity Chef Gala

It was beyond flattering to be asked to participate in this years Autism Speaks Celebrity Chef Gala at the beautiful Cipriani Wall Street.

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The level of talent gathered in this room was enough to make anyone chef star struck. Each team of chef and pastry chef cooked for one table of 10 guests, donating their time, talent and ingredients to make a one of a kind dining experience and raise a lot of cash for a great cause.  Look really close and you’ll see Ted Allen, the evening’s host at the first table, Chef Morimoto making sushi at the second…

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Crazy how I ended up front and center in the class photo!

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The dining room was lined with guest tables, prep tables and 52 ovens all going at once to create a one of a kind event, with chefs cooking table side just for you.

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I was paired with Chef Andrew Zimmerman  of Sepia in Chicago.  The smell in the air was amazing.  He cooked, we waited….

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And finally, I was up…  plating my Pumpkin Fig Cheesecake, adorned with 24K gold leaves.  There may or may not have been a request for second helpings…. can a chef ever ask for a better compliment?

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And never wanting to send people away empty handed, we made these beautiful gift boxes filled with Concorde grape chocolates, macerated figs chocolates, smoked peanut butter cookies, pecan pralines and orange sugar cookies so the sweetness could last and last.

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And I couldn’t have done it without the support and talent of my lovely friend and fellow chef Anina Schulman!

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Looking forward to 2015, and dreaming of what I’ll make then…

3 Day Cake class in New York City

Just announced today! Come and play with sugar with me and 5 brilliant cake artists and instructors at this three day, three cake class, April 10, 11 and 12, 2015, hosted by the NYC Cake Decorators Meetup.

Instructors are paired in teams of two, Patti Paige of Baked Ideas & Kate Sullivan of Cake Power, Ron Ben-Israel & Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes and Toba Garret and Me, to teach three fun New York City themed cake projects. Students will spend one day with each set of instructors and complete a total of three cake projects during that time.

Register now for your chance to learn from the best cake talents New York City has to offer and have a blast doing it. Contact nyccakedecorators@hotmail.com for more info and to register. See you there!NYCCDM A NY State of Mind1

Fashion inspired wedding cake…

Some brides know exactly what they want, (and in some cases what they don’t) and sometimes they throw out a few key words that help guide you to the new place.   Both are good, but the latter requires a few more smart questions.

That’s one of the reasons I love Pinterest.  I gather all kinds of beautiful images knowing one day I’ll need a new place to start.  Pinterest creatively rescues me.  I don’t look at other’s cakes though.  That’s the rule.  All the inspiration has to come from a totally different mediums.  Fashion is a never ending supply of pretty.

I’m in love with this dress.  I wish I could wear it to work, but flour would really ruin the sparkle.  Maybe I should get a new job…

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Based on all this loveliness, I created a three tier  wedding cake for a celebration at the Ace Hotel.  Delicate gold flouncy flowers, edible gold glitter and sequins, which in the wrong combination could be way over the top, but here, placing them in the center and softening from the center out, they created a soft, glamorous focal point.  evy (7 of 12)

Extravagant Wedding Cakes

Tara and Travis were married last summer.  As a long time client of mine, it was a privilege to get to make their wedding cake.  They are an amazing couple and they had a celebration that suited them to a T.   No ordinary wedding cake would do…   their showstopper featured their dog Piko.

Because not everyone likes to cut into their best furry friend, we set him on a “leather” bed cake.  And he had to be dressed for the occasion, only a black smoking jacket would do. A pipe completed his ensemble.   As a final personal touch to the couple, the board held two 45 records representing music that holds meaning for them and their relationship.  It was a fun cake to make, and one I’m super proud of.  I thought it was pretty terrific when their wedding and cake were featured on the Green Wedding Shoes blog, but this past Sunday, the cake was featured in the Style section of the New York Times, in an article that heralds the return of the extravagant wedding cake.

Piko is rather well travelled…brooklyn-wedding-17

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photography: Matt Miller from Our Labor of Love

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Charles James, the Met Gala and Vogue…

Vogue called and asked me to play Barbie!

In honor of the Met Gala’s tribute to the iconic designer Charles James, Vogue asked me and 5 other amazing cake designers to dress Barbie in some of his most stunning couture gowns. They assigned me his Clover Gown.  It was perfect for cake.  And such a fun project I couldn’t wait to dive in.

To start, I did some research on the clover dress and found additional images of front, back and close ups of the bodice that I used to make templates.  Barbie is 11.5 inches, so that was the sizing I used to make the templates.

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The Ultra Rich Butter cake was baked and filled with layers passion fruit buttercream and chilled until firm.

 

carvedI covered Barbie in plastic wrap to keep her clean through the cake carving, and inserted her into the middle of the chilled cake.  Using the templates and Barbie’s shape as guidelines, I carved the cake into the basic shape of the dress.  Three layers of buttercream were added, chilling the cake to set in between until I had a smooth surface.

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Using the original templates I made patterns for the dress.  I mixed half fondant and half gumpaste  to give the fondant enough strength to be lifted and applied to the cake without pulling out of shape.  I colored that an ivory to match the photos of the gown.  Using the patterns, I cut out 4 pieces to make up the skirt and applied them at the seam points.  At this time, once the buttercream was covered with the fondant/gumpaste mixture, I cut off the protective plastic wrap that covered Barbie from the waste up.
without black I cut out the back and front of the bodice and applied them directly to the body of the doll, joining it at the seams with the skirt.

 

I then painted the entire dress with luster dust to give it the shimmer of the original fabric.  Again, using the original templates as patterns, I cut out the black focal detail and applied them on top of the skirt.  Barbie was dressed and could finally put her arms down!  Being a model is tough work!

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Click here to see the finished piece, and here to visit vogue.com for the full story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nintendo AND Disney AND Cake

I’ve adored all things Disney since my first trip to Orlando in 1975. So when the lovely Jarita from Nintendo World called about a cake for a Disney event, I was honored to get to bring them both to life in cake. I’ve worked with Nintendo world before on Luigi’s 30th birthday cake and Zelda’s anniversary shield.  They are such fun projects to create based on much adored characters and images.  The special event this past weekend was the launch of Disney Magical World.  The game is set around a castle, not unlike Cinderella’s castle in Disney World, so of course the cake had to be a castle!  I couldn’t wait to get started.

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Two weeks went into creating this castle cake that sat 27″ tall at the highest spire, and 22 inches wide at the base.

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Spires were made from cereal treats and the rest of this baby was all cake.  And we even managed to get a hidden Mickey in there.

I’m not usually around for the ceremony, but thought it would be fun to come back to help them cut the cake for the hundreds of fans that waited in line from 10am.  When we arrived, we were so excited to see that G Hannelius from the Disney show Dog with a Blog was there to cut the cake!

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And after building it up for so carefully for so long, we took it down piece by piece… without a moment of sadness or regret.  Our cakes are delicious and made to be eaten.

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Can’t wait to see what’s next from Nintendo.

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The Art of Floral Wedding Cakes

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I was introduced to sugar flowers on a Food Network special more than a dozen years ago.  This was before pastry school, before cakes and Sugar Couture, back in a time when I would bounce from creative project to creative project.  My patient husband Jay recalls this time by how it affected him, like for example that time when I was making glass mosaics and he had tiny shards of glass stuck in his socks for months.

After I saw that program, I thought what I usually do… “I can do that”, and immediately ran out to buy my first sugar flower making supplies at the only place I knew of at the time, New York Cake and Bake.  Armed with more a brochure than book, I started to teach myself how to make beautiful flowers out of gumpaste, a sugar dough that dries firm.  I then promptly put them down and didn’t return to them until pastry school.    But then I was hooked.  As Sugar Couture grew, I had more and more requests for these fragile beauties.  People were impressed with their lifelike quality, delicate petals, and their impressive statement on the wedding cakes I made.

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Sugar flowers are some of the most time consuming things I make for my cakes.  The centers are made and dried for days.  The gumpaste is rolled out and each petal is individually cut out, sometimes veined for texture, attached, and left to dry. Depending on the amount of petals and flower form, this can take days, with drying in between.  When they are set, they are dusted with color to give them depth and life, and that color is set with steam.  And then when they are complete, they are terrifyingly delicate.  They can break and chip at the gentlest touch.  They are subject to the weather and have to be kept humidity and heat free to stay beautiful.  This might explain a bit about the price points of of these works of art.

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From time to time I’ll have a client consider real flowers, mostly for budgetary reasons.  I do understand this, but real flowers are rarely a way to go.  Many flowers are toxic, and because of that should not be placed on food. And for the flowers that are not toxic, they can be grown with pesticides that are not used for food, so if you’re going to go that route, organic is the only way.

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There are some flowers that are actually edible, roses, pansies, violets, and these are fine, but you’re limited in the design and use of them because you should never stick a flower stem into a cake. And last but not least, flowers need water to stay beautiful for long periods of time.  Water is the nemesis of cake.  So those flowers that were beautiful when they were first put on, will wilt and slump and when you’re ready for the cake’s photo op, the flowers are long past their prime.  I’ve heard stories from photographer friends who’ve seen the real flowers wilt over the progression of the celebration, their weight tearing the fondant down with them, and ruining the entire cake.    This is the reason the art of sugar flowers was born,  to  solve all these issues and more.  And even better, if you’re the kind of person that likes to keep mementos, the flowers can be removed from the cake, stored and arranged on floral foam with a little desiccant (those packets that come with new shoes), under glass, to keep them beautiful indefinitely.

If budget is a factor, consider a few smaller bunches rather than full on drape or wrap.  Or a single large statement bloom can be all you need to keep all eyes on your cake, and all your guests talking about it for months to come.

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Never Say Never; Birthday Cake Edition

When I made this cake, I spent more than 8 hours painting all the little gray boxes on the side of the trunk cake.  After that, while nursing my sore wrists, I swore I’d never do it again.  Two weeks later I had a new order for another version of it.  Lesson of the day…  Never Say Never.

pink trunk cake detailsThe first cake was for a 40th birthday  of a mother of 3.  It featured her passions, family, home and of course shopping!   This latest one would be a Sweet 16 cake.  Vanessa loves all things pink, gold, elegant and sparkly.  Couldn’t agree more on the sparkly part.    The Cakestory we told  honored her dual heritage and put her on the  over of Vogue.     Details included all kinds of make up and brushes, Beats by Dr Dre, a pink purse, golden mirror, sparkly gold shoes and a blown sugar perfume bottle with her logo on it, all made from different kinds of sugar, and all completely edible.

pink trunk cake shoesLuckily for me, I figured out a better technique for painting those squares on the designer trunk cake.  This time around it only took me 3 1/2 hours.  So there’s that.

Any cake can be reimagined with someone new in mind.   Change the colors, a few of the details, and while it is essentially the same, its completely different and tells an entirely new story. And for me, telling stories is what cake is all about.
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