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Friday, December 24, 2010

Sugar Cookies

I had SO much FUN doing these.

 I used this book, and have officially changed to this sugar cookie recipe too. Tastes good, and once baked doesn't crumble as easily as the Betty Crocker recipe I used to use.

I baked a regular batch, and a chocolate batch, and used only a handful of cookie cutters. I've realized it's best to underestimate your baking skills.

It took me 8 hours to mix, bake and decorate these cookies.

Also, GET SQUEEZE BOTTLES! Piping bags are so messy when it comes to decorating with royal icing, especially when you need to flood the cookies. I had 4 on hand, but another 4 would have been perfect.

You really need to do some planning, and thinking. Which colours to use together, which ones need to be watered down, which ones should keep thick to pipe designs, etc. If I had more squeeze bottles, I could have had a piping and flooding version of each colour.

The techniques in the book are easy to follow and easy to achieve, so give it a try!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Tags

I needed some tags for gift wrapping and I get sick of all the store-bought cheesy designs. The best part about presents is wrapping them. I love to make them look nice and hand-made-crafty, so I almost always make my own tags. This year, I've been hung up on red, green & blue for Christmas colours, so that's what I went with.  I've made a PDF to share, so feel free to download them. Red/Green or Red/Blue. There are 17 tags, about 4cm x 8cm / 1-1/2" x 3" per sheet of A4. For 8.5" x 11" paper, simply scale the page to fit in the printer settings.

1. Print onto card stock, and cut out using an exacto knife (or scissors, if you're not a perfectionist). See Tip below.

2. Mod Podge, or use a glue stick, to adhere them onto store bought tags. (I use mod podge because it's strong, and doesn't warp paper like other glues.)

I found some great tags at Ikea (and they matched my scheme to boot!), otherwise, just look at the office supply store, or here in Australia, many newsagents have tags you can buy. These are formatted to fit a large tag, but scale the printing down if you want smaller ones.

 3. Tie a string through the tag, and embelish it if you want.

Tip: I've found the best way to cut out multiple items printed onto one piece of paper is to use an exacto knife with a steel ruler as a guide (if you use plastic, you end up cutting chunks out of the ruler). I always cut as long a cut as possible, without cutting through the sheet. Ie, I do as much cutting inside the paper boundaries as I can. This way you don't have to fiddle around as much cutting out each individual piece. Make sense...?

Here are a few tied onto some stocking stuffers I put together.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Paper Pom Poms

My sis-in-law sent me a Christmas card in the form of a paper pom pom last year, made with vintage wrapping papers. It was perfect to hang on the tree. So this year I decided to make some myself, and use them to decorate wrapped gifts. I created a simple PDF, and I'm trying something new by sharing it. You can download for free here. You could also use these for individual tags for addressing gifts, or print onto sticker paper, creating labels, and use instead of tape.

Here is what some of the pom poms look like that I did. You can go for a full look, using all 12 designs, like this:

Or make them with less circles, for a simpler look.

Using all 12 makes a nice full complete circle, but I think using less to top a gift makes more sense - you can see the designs better.'ll need some:
*card stock, size A4 or 8.5" x 11"
*scissors / circle punch
*hole punch
*ribbon or string
*glue / double sided tape (optional)

1. Print the PDF (which is formatted for size A4, but easily scaled to 8.5" x 11" in your printer settings), and either cut out by hand, or use a circle punch. I'm not lucky enough to have all the cool scrapbooking gadgets, so I cut by hand. The circles are about 57mm or 2-1/4" diameter.

2. Fold each circle in half, right sides together.

3. For gift toppers, hole punch a hole just above the fold line in the center of the circle. You don't want to cut the crease, or the ribbon will not thread through the circles.

4. Optional: (You don't have to do this, but it makes a nice sturdy pom pom.) Glue the wrong sides together with the other circles. I used mod podge applied with a paintbrush, since it's nice and thick, and won't make your paper warp like other glues. You could use double sided tape too.

5. Thread your ribbon through the hole punches, and tie onto your gift.

To make a hanging decoration, be sure to glue or tape the circles together, and also sandwich some string in between the paper circles. There is also no need to punch holes in the paper circles.

Here is another tutorial with downloads, and ideas for gift wrapping.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Squares

This recipe is divine. I didn't think it could be this good. I kind of shy away from cheesecakes, as they are always quite rich, and I don't always feel like something so heavy. This was exactly that, but was worth it! I got it from another Women's Weekly cookbook, this one called Easy Baking. I modified very little, except the cookie base. And this photo shows about the neatest I was able to cut the squares. Very thick and sticky...

1 package of cookies (about 24).
 (I used 1 pkg of Arnott's choc ripple cookies, but you can use plain choc chip too, or something else those chocolate waffer cookies too. I think an Oreo cookie or crumb crust would be so good with this as well. You could separate the cookies, and add the oreo icing to the cheesecake mixture, or layer cookies as-is, if you don't have Oreo crumbs like Australia).
1/2 cup cream
250g white chocolate
500g cream cheese, softened (2- 7 oz. blocks)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
Chocolate Ganache
200g dark, or semi-sweet chocolate
1/3 cup cream

1. Preheat oven to 150°C /  and grease a 20cm x 30cm rectangle pan. Line the base and sides with baking paper (not wax paper) and place cookies in a single layer inside of pan.
2. Melt white chocolate with cream in a double boiler until the mixture is smooth. Cool.
3. Beat cream cheese & sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add cooled white chocolate mixture and beat well.
4. Poor cream cheese over cookie base, and bake for 35-45 minutes. Cool with oven door slightly ajar. Refrigerate a few hours, or overnight, once cooled.
5. Make chocolate ganache for topping by melting the chocolate with the cream in a double boiler, or carefully over low heat, stirring constantly. Cool 10 minutes, and spread over cheesecake. Refrigerate until completely cooled.
6. Cut into bars, and enjoy!

This isn't on my 'Christmas squares' list, but I think a topping of crushed candy cane, or a mint chocolate ganache would be perfect to add that little bit more to the recipe.