Monday, August 31, 2009

Weekend Adventures in Pastry

It had been so long since I'd made something besides cookies that I decided to make dinner and dessert over the weekend. But, since this is a pastry blog, the dinner didn't make the cut.
Custards are one of my favorite things to make in the kitchen so I made creme caramel.

The difference between creme caramel custard and creme brulee custard is that the creme caramel contains egg whites so that it can stand on it's own when it's unmolded. However, I happen to like the texture of creme brulee and the caramel sauce on the creme caramel and, since I'm not in culinary school anymore, I'm allowed to break the rules so I didn't include the egg whites in this recipe. The finished product still stood on it's own and was incredibly creamy. While making the custard, after I separated the yolks from the whites, I removed the membrane that surrounds the yolks. It can get pretty messy but it ensures that the texture will be smooth throughout the custard.

I had about 1 cup of egg whites left over from the custard so I made these meringue cookies. I added chopped pistachios and vanilla extract.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Watercolor Cookies

I don't usually like to paint simply because I'm not that good at it. But, I was able to use what little skill I have (probably something I got from my mom, which you'll see if you visit her art blog), to make these "watercolor" cookies.

The inspiration for these cookies came from a drawer knob that I saw on display at the Home Depot. I painted the roses on by using edible shimmer dust mixed with alcohol (Bacardi 151). The mixture was thinner than usual so that I could get that watercolor look. I had to work quickly, though, because if the brush is left in one area for too long it will start to dissolve the icing.

Available in my Etsy shop. Don't forget to enter into the SweetAmbs Cookie giveaway at Fantabulously Frugal!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A customer of mine ordered these birdhouse cookies as a housewarming gift for a friend.

The birds are done by making the basic shape with a small piping tip (Wilton #1) then using a scribe tool to manipulate the icing to make the legs, tail, and beak.
I was using tooth picks for this kind of work but then switched to a scribe tool, which is much more environmentally friendly and economical since you don't have to throw it out when you're done.

The birds are finished by placing little blue eyes on their little faces with, of course, an edible ink marker (Foodoodler brand works very well for me).

Enter the giveaway at Fantabulously Frugal going on through Monday to win 6 of my Brush Embroidery Cookies in brown and pink.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cookie Giveaway

Fantabulously Frugal is giving away cookies from SweetAmbs!! Visit the Etsy Monday blog post and follow the instructions for a chance to win 6 of my Brush Embroidery Cookies in brown and pink.

Fantabulously Frugal is a blog where you can find bargains, coupons, free samples and more. Make sure to visit often for all kinds of great deals!

Monday, August 24, 2009

I made these cookies as a custom order for a baptism. Edible ink markers come in very handy when making the initials.

Check out my interview on Dollface Delights, a blog that chronicles the journey of starting a business.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Another great idea from one of my customers... Poker chip cookies!

My brush embroidery cookies are featured on the Junebug Weddings homepage this week.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tea Set Cookies

I've changed the style of my Tea Set Cookies since I first started making them so I thought I'd take some pictures of the updated version for my Etsy store.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brush Embroidery

 SweetAmbs has moved! Click here to visit the new site for cookie decorating tutorials.

These brush embroidery cookies (usually in blue) were a special request from a customer. I fell in love with the way the colors look on this design so I had to list them in my Etsy store.

Brush embroidery with icing is a simple process. It works on royal icing as well as on rolled fondant. To start, draw the outer layer of petals in stiff royal icing with a #2 or #3 Wilton tip. Make the lines a little squiggly to give it a ruffled effect.

Immediately after drawing your petals, take a small stiff brush and dip it into a dish of water. Wipe the excess water on a paper towel. On the inner edge of your icing line, brush the icing inward. Do this all the way around until all of the petals have been brushed. Pipe the next layer of petals and make sure to slightly overlap the first layer. Do the same brushing process on this layer.

My brush embroidery cookies are based loosely on a rose so I like to make a center to finish the flower that represents the petals that haven't opened yet. I also try to stick with the 7,5,3 rose rule (7 petals on the outside, 5 on the next layer, 3...)but sometimes I end up with 6 and 4. It's OK... it's still pretty.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bronze and Burgundy

I love this color combination. My favorite part of making these cookies is applying the edible shimmer dust at the end. If you've ever used dusting powders, you probably know that by mixing them with alcohol they can be used as a sort of paint.
When I first started decorating cookies I was mixing the shimmer dust with lemon extract but I was going through a whole bottle in about 5 minutes, which got pretty expensive. Then I switched to vodka. It was cheaper than the extract but the alcohol content was much lower so it was dissolving my icing before the "paint" had a chance to dry.

Then I found Bacardi 151 and it is by far the best liquid I've used with the shimmer dust. It dries quickly and you can get a lot more for your money than when you buy extracts. The easiest way to use it is to pour a small amount of the alcohol into a dish and, with an eyedropper, place a tiny bit on a palette with the shimmer dust and mix with a small paint brush. You will have to keep adding drops of alcohol since it evaporates rather quickly and make sure that you close the cap on the bottle when you're not pouring!
These monogrammed cookies are available in my Etsy shop.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What A Week!

After my cookies were featured on the Storque this week I've been busier than ever. I wish I could thank each one of my customers individually and in person! I truly feel like someone has been watching over me so I'm posting these angel cookies in honor of my eternal gratitude.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cookie Basics

It's not a usual occurrence to eat something that is elaborately decorated without ending up with a mouth full of something that is similar in flavor and texture to cardboard. When I started making SweetAmbs Cookies, my goal was to make sure that the cookies would not only be beautiful, but also delicious. I've found that people who try the cookies are pleasantly surprised that they taste as good as they look.

In the first stages of making these cookies, they came out rock hard and I knew I had some work to do. The cookies needed to be edible but they also needed to be able to withstand a trip across the country. This is when my culinary education comes in handy. Altering the ingredients in a recipe can be daunting since baking is an exact science, which is why it takes many trials and discarded batches of dough to get it just right. However, when you know the function of each ingredient in the recipe, it becomes much easier to change things around.

I'll address the ingredients that I use in my cookie recipe:

~Flour, the most prevalent ingredient, contains proteins, which form the gluten structure during mixing. Think of kneading bread dough when you want to form that "gluten window". This is why those recipes always say, "don't overmix!" lest you end up with one tough cookie.

~Sugar is not only a sweetener but also keeps the cookie moist because of its hygroscopic properties (absorbs moisture from the atmosphere). Sugar also contributes to the browning of the cookies because it caramelizes during baking.

~Butter or any type of fat is known as "shortening" in baking because of its ability to shorten those aforementioned gluten strands, which makes the cookie tender.

~Egg yolks contribute flavor and assist in browning while egg whites act as a binder and help give the cookie its structure.

~Salt enhances flavors both sweet and savory.

~Baking powder acts as a leavening agent by releasing air bubbles into the dough during baking but also weakens the structure of the cookie.

I'm sure that there are percentages and ratios that pertain to each ingredient in baking (in fact I think I have those numbers in an old notebook around here somewhere) but it's much more fun to know the functions of the ingredients and use trial and error until you get the recipe just the way you like.

Another factor to take into consideration when baking is your geographical location. The humidity and altitude will have an effect on the end product. When I moved from New York to Chicago I had to go through the process of changing my recipe all over again!

Creating the flavors of the cookie is the fun part. I use orange zest, vanilla beans, and cardamom, which are reminiscent of my childhood. Experiment with flavors and try something unconventional like lavender or lemon with basil until you find something that suits your taste.

And remember that sometimes the best ideas are born from mistakes. I’ve learned that by experience!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


These were a birthday gift for my friend who looooves unicorns. I made the design by drawing it on the cookie with an edible ink marker and then going over it with black icing using a very tiny piping tip (Wilton #1). The Wilton School of Cake Decorating in the Chicago suburbs teaches students to draw on dummy cakes with a pencil before piping the final design, which is great if you aren't actually going to eat the cake. If you have a talent for drawing or even if you want to trace a design, edible ink markers will be your best friend when it comes to decorating cookies or fondant covered cakes.

Black and white monogrammed cookies are now available in my Etsy shop.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pink Chandelier

My first version of the Chandelier Cookie had gold "lights" but I really like the way it looks with the white ones. It gives the cookie some contrast and more of a modern feel.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I came up with the idea to put my little edible works of art in this beautiful white frame for photos and I was very happy to find that these cookies (in lavender and juniper green) fit perfectly.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I was inspired to make these Pink and Black Monogrammed Cookies after seeing how stunning they looked in black and white (thank you to the bride who came up with that idea). Since then, I've made them in 4 other colors, which I'll post soon. It's just another example of how a new color can change the entire look of one design.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

These monograms were a special request for a wedding. They're a black and white version of the original Cookies Inspired by Wedgwood.