Woodland Creatures Cookies and Tree Trunk Packaging

A couple of months ago, my friend Nikki asked me to come up with a concept. She wanted to make gifts to give to her children’s teachers at the end of the year as a thank you gift. What made this request really interesting is that Nikki is a genius with biscuits, royal icing, cake and fondant and I’ve been dying for an opportunity to pick her brains and to work on a project together, so this was the perfect excuse!

We also both have little ones very similar in age, so with this project we had crafternoons and play-dates all rolled into one! Admittedly it wasn’t easy, Munchkin and her friend O liked to keep us on our toes! But after quite a few catch ups and some work alone once the little ones went to bed of an evening, we got them done.

Woodland animal cookies
Woodland animal cookies

When it comes to icing and piping work, I’ve not touched a piping bag in… years! And so when coming up with concepts my mind instantly went to things I felt I could help with. Then I remembered these amazing cookies I’d pinned a few years ago. I love the idea of using the cookie dough to create the image and then adding just a little icing for the details.

Detailed cutting and splicing I can do!

This is what I came up with. A series of woodland creatures including a fox, owl, hedgehog, squirrel and bear. All to be packaged up peeking out of a ‘tree trunk’.

Layout

Nikki mixed up a batch of each her (I’m told) delicious chocolate and vanilla doughs at home so as to avoid accidentally poisoning me with gluten, I was just very careful to wash my hands after handling the dough and definitely didn’t taste test it!

To make the cookies, we rolled the dough out using rolling pin guide strips so as to ensure all the dough was the same thickness, then put the dough in the freezer to harden up. Using templates created out of wax proof paper we’d traced, we then cut the hardened dough using a scalpel to get a nice clean finish (an X-acto knife would work just as well, just make sure you’ve given it a good clean first).

As fate would have it, we made these on the hottest days we’ve had this Summer! So we had dough cycling in and out of of my freezer making sure it all kept hard enough to assemble. We then spliced the pieces together, gently used our fingers to join the edges and baked them.

Unfortunately I had my hands so full of dough and babies that I didn’t get many photos taken during this process. But I’m going to re-create it with some gluten-free recipes and another template I’ve made to create a tutorial in the coming weeks.

This is what the owls looked like just before we baked them.

Woodland animal cookies

And this is what they looked like afterwards

Woodland animal cookies

Flash forward a few days, after we’d both completed cookies on our own (once the little ones had gone to bed) and we were ready to add the icing details! Nikki, whipped up some royal icing and after laying the templates underneath wax paper, traced the features in royal icing. It is a fabulous method I can’t wait to try myself, particularly as it allows you to keep going until you’ve created one you’re happy with before you apply it to the biscuit! Here’s some information on royal icing transfers.

Woodland animal cookies
Woodland animal cookies

We glued the eyes, beaks and noses down with some more royal icing.

Woodland animal cookies

The limit of my piping on this project consisted of using royal icing to glue toasted slivered almonds onto the hedgehog to give him spikes, and piping on the hedgehogs noses.

Woodland animal cookies
Woodland animal cookies

I think they turned out really cute.

Woodland animal cookies
Woodland animal cookies
Woodland animal cookies

Then I got to work making the packaging! I wanted to display them standing up and so made a box within a box. I glued the biscuits in using royal icing which allowed them to be transported without fear of them falling out of their peepholes. But if you wanted to you could add some acetate or clear plastic to the inside of the box to ensure your cookie is safe.

Woodland animal cookies
Woodland animal cookies

I’ve included all the templates in a PDF file at the bottom of the post if you want to try and make your own!

Here are the steps to put the packaging together.
You’ll need an x-acto knife, adhesive (I used a Pritt Stick) and 3 pieces of A3 card stock about 160 gsm or as thick as you can get through your printer.

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I then used a little bit of tape to hold the lid in place. But a clear sticker or double sided tape works well too.

Here’s the finished packaging.

And here they all are just before they went to school to be given to some lovely teachers!

I had a fantastic time working with Nikki on this project. I can’t wait until we get to do another one

Woodland animal cookies
Woodland animal cookies
Woodland animal cookies
Woodland animal cookies
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Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

There were a few things I gave up on finding when I found out I couldn’t eat gluten anymore. One of them was profiteroles and a good choux pastry. But a trip to my favourite bakery assured me that a gluten-free choux pastry is very possible. They make the most amazing gluten-free eclairs!

So when the latest issue of Delicious magazine graced my letterbox with a Better Cook Challenge on choux pastry I was determined to try and make a gluten-free profiterole. We had some friends and their gorgeous offspring coming for lunch last Friday, so I seized the second wind I got on Thursday night after putting Munchkin to bed, and tried.

And it worked! *cue cheer and happy dance*

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Honestly I can’t really remember exactly what the glutenous version tastes like, but both of my friends and my husband assured me that my version were delicious. And my husband advising that I could make them again very soon convinced me of it.

As per usual I used Schaer patisserie mix C as it’s the best commercially bought flour mix I’ve come across for pastries and cakes (and Sonja in Cully wouldn’t divulge her amazing recipe ;))

I finished them with a drizzle of salted caramel sauce rather than the chocolate one in the magazine. I’ll write up the caramel recipe for next weeks gluten-free recipe post.

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Profiteroles with Vanilla Crème Pâtissière‎

Ingredients for the choux pastry
  • 100ml of cold water
  • 45 grams of unsalted butter
  • 60 grams of Schaer patisserie mix C or your preferred gluten-free flour mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon of guar gum
  • 2 medium eggs

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Ingredients for the Crème Pâtissière
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 10 grams of Schaer patisserie mix C or your preferred gluten-free flour mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cornflour
  • 35 grams of caster sugar
  • 150 ml of whole milk
  • half a vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 100ml of double cream

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Method for the choux pastry
  • Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees celsius (180 fan forced) and line two baking trays with baking paper.
  • Put the water and butter in a saucepan and bring to the boil, ensuring that the butter is melted and combined.
  • Remove from the heat, and immediately stir in all of the flour and guar gum. Stir quickly until the mixture thickens and starts to come away from the side of the saucepan.
  • Place back on the heat and cook whilst stirring for a little longer, just to dry the mix out a little. A minute or two should do it.
  • Put the pastry into a large mixing bowl. Leave for 2 minutes to cool. This ensures that when you add the egg it doesn’t cook immediately.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, and stir in quickly with a whisk until well combined.
  • Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fit with a 1cm plain nozzle.
  • Pipe the mixture onto the baking paper. In the photographs I made large profiteroles, and so piped them about the size of a large walnut. Pipe them about 4 cm apart.
  • Using a finger, wet with a little water, push the spikes down so that the top of your profiterole is smooth and not peaked.
  • Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 200 degrees celsius (180 fan forced) and then turn down to 140 degrees celsius (120 fan forced) for another 20-25 minutes to dry them out.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool on trays.

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Method for the Crème Pâtissière
  • Place the egg yolks, flour, cornflour and sugar in a bowl and whisk until combined
  • Put the milk and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  • Pour the milk mixture over the egg mixture and whisk to combine.
  • Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and put back on a gentle heat, stirring continuously until very thick.
  • Take off heat, place in a bowl, discard the vanilla pod, cover with cling wrap and allow to cool.
  • Whip the double cream until you get soft peaks.
  • Fold in the cooled custard mixture and push through a sieve to get rid of any lumps.
  • Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm plain nozzle.
  • To fill the choux buns, make a small hole in the bottom of each cooled profiterole and insert the piping nozzle. Gently squeeze in filling.
  • Serve on a plate or platter with your choice of sauce. I used a salted caramel sauce (recipe in next weeks blog).

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Recipe adapted from May 2014 issue of Delicious Magazine.

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

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Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Because sometimes you need to cheat

Brownie Cake

Hello lovely ladies and gents! I had intended this blog post to go live in time for Mother’s Day, so that all of you out there who wanted something a little more tasty than burnt toast for breakfast could stock up on ingredients, print out this post or email it to your partners and suggest that they make this with the kids.

Why? Because it’s insanely easy, looks good and is delicious! But life (or in this case a still teething Munchkin) managed to get in the way of my best laid plans.

So here it is post Mother’s Day. Maybe you can put in an order for one for your birthday? ;)

Brownie Cake

The main ingredient for this cake?

A cake mix.

Yup, this lady has changed her tune after rather a lot of burnt caramel and cakes that resemble pancakes because the Munchkin decided to curtail her nap and/ or to take up lung exercises right at an essential moment. So whilst I thought that hell would freeze over and be coated in frosting before I’d use a packet, I’ve found myself resorting to using cake mixes in emergencies. I’ve found a couple of fabulous gluten-free ones. But you could use any you find at the grocery or whole-foods.

For this one I used a packet of Ma Vie Sans Gluten Gateau au chocolat, manufactured by Primeal, it’s available at pharmacies and health food stores. But you can use any good gluten-free mix you like.

After following the instructions on the packet to make up the batter, I added half a cup of chopped walnuts and half a cup of chopped dark fleur de sel chocolate. And poured it into a large slice tin before baking at the temperature suggested on the packet. Just keep a good eye on it as it will bake a lot quicker due to it being put in a larger tin.

Brownie Cake

This meant that I ended up with a ‘brownie’ type cake. I cut it in half, trimmed it so the edges looked neat and layered it with chopped strawberries and whipped cream.

Brownie Cake

I then covered it with a light dusting of good quality cocoa powder. I use a tea strainer for this as it gives me loads more control and creates less of a cocoa powder cloud in my kitchen. It’s also a really handy thing to give your kids when they’re “helping”.

Brownie Cake

And finally, I added a sprinkle of some of my favourite decorations… dried flowers/ petals. I bought these from a market here in Lausanne, they’re organic and oh so pretty! But you could probably find them at a local delicatessen or specialty shop.

Brownie Cake

If all else fails, just attack with your favourite sugary decoration ;)

Brownie Cake

And voilà! An exceedingly quick (I had this done in one very short Munchkin nap), delicious and pretty cake to serve your friend who is coming for tea. And a really easy cake for you (or your husband *hint hint*) to whip up with your kids for your next Mother’s Day or birthday.

Brownie Cake
Brownie Cake

In Print…

 

Cupcake Heaven Autumn 2013

 

Why is it that every time I start to wonder what I’m doing with my life and start to consider returning to a ‘normal’ profession something turns up to make me change my mind? In this case, the latest issue of Cupcake Heaven turned up in my letterbox.

The recipe and photography for my Gluten-free apple, custard & almond praline cupcakes has been included! It’s also out there in the big wide world in the Danish, German and Dutch editions of the magazine. Oh and it’s available for download via their iPad app.

 

Cupcake Heaven Autumn 2013

 

Food Heaven have also recently released a magazine for celiacs! So if you’re newly diagnosed or have a family member with gluten allergies, it may come in very handy.

 

First attempt at quilting and pikelets

 

Sewing

 

I’m now 34 weeks pregnant and I’m feeling it! I look like I’ve eaten ALL THE CAKES and I’m now getting tired a lot earlier than usual. My social calendar has taken another hit as I find I’m needing more and more down time. But the Doctors say this is all normal and that Munchkin is perfectly healthy. So I’m slowly but surely working through the remains of my to-do list before Munchkin arrives.

 

Quilting

 

This week I’m making her a cot quilt and trying to get the design for her birth announcements done. As I’ve never quilted before, I enlisted the aid of the lovely Lynne who is quite possibly the most prolific and fabulous quilter I’ve ever encountered. Under her expert tutelage I’m making fairly good progress and currently have only had to unpick about half a dozen triangles. I’ll keep you updated as to it’s progress and shall blog the finished product.

 

Pikelet Gluten Free

 

I’m also discovering that I get fairly strange cravings. After a horrendous night wherein Munchkin ensured I slept less than I thought was humanly possible, I found I was craving carbs and sugar. In particular I found myself feeling rather partial to one of my childhood favourites, pikelets, and so quickly whipped up a batch. They’re delicious! I used the recipe from the Common Sense Cookery book and substituted gluten-free flour for the normal flour. Voilà! Deliciousness on a plate! They’re perfect covered in jam and cream or slathered in salty butter. I’ve had to promise DM that I’ll make him some soon as I ate the remainder of them this morning for breakfast. For those of you who want to try them, I’ve put the recipe at the bottom of this post.

 

P1060371

 

It was around about this point in time that my trusty old Brother sewing machine started spitting out small parts at me. Literally.

A little investigation revealed that these are in fact the pieces that turn the lights and power to my machine on and off. I can’t complain. The machine was my mothers before it was mine. And I know for a fact she inherited it from someone else. So it’s definitely seen it’s fair share of work and has travelled halfway around the world without grumbling, until now. The machine still works, I just have to power it on and off at the wall. And on the plus side it looks like I’ll be getting a new machine for my birthday! Any recommendations?

 

Gluten Free Pikelet Recipe
  • 150 grams of gluten-free flour
  • 2 teaspoons of gluten-free baking powder
  • Pinch Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon bi carb of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of sour milk or fresh milk plus 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of melted butter

 

Method

Sift flour, salt and soda

Place egg, milk, sugar and butter in centre of flour

Beat until smooth and a thick pouring consistency

Place a dessertspoonful into a teflon coated pan – cook until they brown, turn over and cook other side.

Serve with jam and cream.

 

Watermelonade

Watermelonade

 

One of my favourite foods is in season! I’m currently addicted to watermelon and have found myself enabled by our local grocery as they’ve been selling deliciously sweet, organic, mini melons. I’ve been eating my fair share (possibly more)! I’ve also found I can’t get enough lemonade so when I saw a recipe for something called Watermelonade the other day, I had to try my hand at making up a version. I love it! It’s just the right combination of sweet/ sour and utterly refreshing.

But I’m now out of watermelon… I need to make another trip to the store!

 

Watermelonade

 

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Chocolatey decadence. Gluten-free brownies

 

Gluten-fre Brownies

 

Gluten-free brownies are awesome. No. Seriously. They are.

Why? Because they’re basically all chocolatey deliciousness and there’s not much in the way of flour. I made two batches over the last week. One to take to a friends birthday picnic and then another for DM to take into the office. According to DM the batch for the office lasted about 5 minutes. I’m assuming that’s a good thing.

For the picnic brownies, I used milk chocolate and about 100 grams of shaved almonds. But for the office brownies, I used a 48% dark chocolate and 200 grams of slivered almonds.

The difference is quite strong. The milk chocolate brownies taste sweeter, whereas the dark chocolate had a bit more crunch due to the slivered almonds and were a little more ‘adult’ in flavour . They would be perfect with a scoop of homemade ice-cream as a dessert, maybe with a dribble of salted caramel sauce? *drools a little and heads off to make another batch*

Both types were delicious. It just depends on your own personal taste. Using good quality butter, chocolate and cocoa powder makes a big difference with this recipe. Buy the best you can afford and you wont regret it! Both batches were perfectly moist in the center and a little crunchy along the edge with a really nice thin ‘crust’ on top.

They’re really quick and easy to make, so perfect if you’ve last minute guests or are craving a chocolate hit. Enjoy!

Nicx

 

Gluten-fre Brownies

 

Ingredients
  • 250 grams of unsalted butter
  • 300 grams of sugar (I used whole sugar much like this) but use whatever you prefer
  • 250 grams of good quality milk or dark chocolate
  • 4 eggs
  • 100 grams of gluten-free flour mix. I use Schar Patisserie Mix C Gluten Free flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of guar gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 200 grams of slivered almonds or other prefered nuts
  • 70 grams of cocoa powder

 

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a 35 x 25 cm tray with baking paper

Place butter, sugar and chocolate in a saucepan or double boiler over a low heat until all the chocolate and butter has melted and combined

Take the chocolate mix off the heat and stir in the eggs

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, guar gum and baking powder together and stir into the chocolate mix with a wooden spoon until well combined

Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until it has firmed up a little and a few crumbs stick to a skewer when inserted

Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack. The brownies will continue to firm up as they cool

Makes about 25 brownies

 

 

Making a herb terrarium

Terrarium

 

DM and I love fresh herbs. We buy some almost every week from the grocery store, even in Winter, when they’re stupidly expensive and turn into green slime almost quicker than we can get them home. So we decided to attempt a terrarium filled with a few of our favourites to be kept inside. We live in a Minergie rated apartment in Lausanne, meaning that it has fabulous insulation and under-floor heating and so stays a fairly constant temperature indoors all year round. That should give us half a chance of keeping them alive!

This is what I’ve created! We’re hoping to get it happily settled so that we can keep it going through the Winter months. Here is how I did it… Read more

Nespresso Iced Coffee

This will be my last iced-coffee post this year. Promise!
Nespresso Iced Coffee

 

I know I wrote all about how I love cold brewed iced coffee a couple of weeks ago. But I also want to share with you my instant go-to iced coffee for when I’ve run out of coffee syrup and I don’t want to have to wait 12 to 15 hours for my caffeine hit! I go to the trusty Nespresso machine. Almost everyone has a pod coffee machine of some sort in Switzerland. The simple question “Would you like a coffee?” has become quite a lengthy process since the introduction of the Nespresso machine! It’s now “what colour would you like?”, “long or short?”, “frothy milk?”, “sugar?”… and now “hot or iced?”. I have one wicked friend who frequently answers “yes” to all of the questions. One day I’m going to work out how to combine all of the above into one coffee!

 

Nespresso Iced Coffee

 

Making iced coffee with your Nespresso machine is actually really simple to do. Just take your favourite coffee flavour (I’ve still got a hefty stash of the limited edition nut flavours that came out a while ago, but I’ve been told the new vanilla, caramel and chocolate limited flavours are fabulous in iced coffee too!) and put a shot or two into a cocktail shaker or jar. Add sugar if you wish, quickly stirring a little to dissolve it and then throw in a handful of ice. Read more

Gluten-free white chocolate chunk and macadamia nut cookies

 

The other week I was craving white chocolate and macadamia nuts. I used to be able to get gluten-free white chocolate chunk and macadamia nut cookies at my local cafe in Sydney. And when combined with a good quality coffee and a magazine to peruse for an hour or so, they were a real treat. I’ve not yet been able to replicate the thick, crumbly texture of those cookies. But these are just as good, if not better!

Depending on how long you cook them, they’re either soft and slightly chewy or when cooked for a little longer they’re crunchy and crisp.

These biscuits are addictive! Just the right combination of good quality white chocolate and chopped macadamia nuts (ie. loads!) make these cookies hard to stop eating. Which is why I sent them all to my husbands office the next day. I’m not sure if his colleagues like me at the moment… those on diets probably don’t!

 

White Chocolate Chunk and macadamia nut cookies

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