How To Smooth Buttercream Icing

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I learned a really great tip this week. I learned how to get my buttercream frosting smooth - so smooth that it gives fondant a run for its money.  Almost. Smile

What is the trick you say?

Viva.

Yes, you heard me right. Viva – as in the paper towel. It has to be a smooth, pattern-free paper towel like Viva.


Here’s the plan:

1. Give your cake a crumb coat, then a final coat. Smooth the icing as best you can with a knife or spatula.

2. Now leave it alone for 15 minutes. This will give your frosting time to crust. You want crust. Smile You should be able to touch the icing without any coming off on your finger.

3. Take a clean Viva paper towel and place it over the top of your cake.  Now either use a fondant smoother, or the palm of your hand to GENTLY glide over the paper towel – smoothing the surface of the cake. This is the same concept as placing a towel over a delicate garment to iron it. You are basically ironing the wrinkles out of your frostingSmile

Move the paper towel to the sides of the cake, and use the same method to glide over the paper towel and smooth the icing out. You may need to slightly angle your fondant smoother at times, to properly get all the creases out.  Remember to be gentle, you don’t want to move the icing around, just barely smooth the surface.  Work on one small area at a time, smoothing until your surface is perfect – or almost perfect.  I used the method on this birthday cake that I made for a friend this week. I didn’t worry about getting the icing on my cake super perfect, but it’s almost there.

I really like this technique, and I love how I can achieve a smooth, fondant-like surface, while keeping the taste of buttercream.  The best of both worlds!

Here is a great video tutorial to show you the method.

Enjoy, and have a great holiday weekend!

Amber

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Roasted Asparagus Soup

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I’ve been trying to incorporate more vegetables in my diet lately, so when I saw some fresh green bundles of asparagus at the store, I decided that asparagus soup sounded really good.  I’m one of those people who (with good intentions) buys multiple bags of veggies - making other shoppers think, “Wow, they must really like vegetables” – then lets the veggies rot in the fridge for weeks.

Oh,  I may eat a carrot or two here, a little bit of spinach in a salad there, but once I get the little vitamin packed guys home, I am at a loss of what to do with it all.

There’s only so many salads a girl can eat, or carrot sticks. That’s where soups and roasted veggies come into play.  I love asparagus soup, and I thought that roasting it first would really add to the flavor.  I was right.  This soup was sooo good, I’ll be enjoying the leftovers while they last.

Roasted Asparagus Soupasparagus-soup
Yield: 4 servings       Printable Recipe

2 lbs asparagus
1 large yellow onion, peeled and halved (with ends cut off)
4 cloves garlic, not peeled and left whole
7-8 small red potatoes (optional)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4-5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup half and half  
1 Tbsp. dry vermouth (or dry white wine)
squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. Cut the ends off the asparagus, then arrange the asparagus, potatoes, onion halves and garlic cloves on the baking sheet. Brush with olive oil, then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Bake the vegetables for about 45 minutes. Turn the onions if they start getting too dark on the bottom. Check on the garlic as well, once the cloves are golden and soft, remove them from the oven.

3. When the asparagus is done, peel the garlic and chop the asparagus and potatoes into smaller pieces. Reserve some of the asparagus heads for garnish. Place the asparagus, potatoes, onions, and garlic into a medium-sized saucepan, add 4-5 cups of chicken broth, depending on how thick you want the soup.

4. Now puree the soup. I used my immersion blender, but you can use a regular blender or food processor. If using a regular blender, work in batches, taking a few cups of soup at a time and blend until smooth.

5. Once the soup is pureed, return the saucepan to the stove and bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat to medium, and stir in half and half (if using) and vermouth.  Season with additional salt and pepper, and a dash of lemon juice if wanted. Garnish with asparagus heads.

Note: If you're wanting a healthier option, this soups tastes great without the cream/half and half too!

Crockpot Conversion: This can easily be made in your crock-pot. After roasting the vegetables, place them and your liquid in the crock-pot. Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. Cook on low until ready to eat .Enjoy!
Amber

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Source: (Adapted from Gourmet)


Peanut Butter Oaties

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I've had a crazy house lately, which has left little time for baking and posting.  My parents visited one last time before they fly back to Wales.  My son - on a sneaky four year old stealth mission – decided to infiltrate my bathroom, confiscate a jar of red nail polish, and paint his building blocks. As you can imagine, the less than perfect motor skills of a preschooler resulted in red nail polish – ALL OVER his bedroom carpet.

My attempts to scrub the bejeezus out of his carpet, hoping to remove the evil stain, proved fruitless. So, the ruined carpet led us on a trip to Home Depot, to pick out some (cheap) laminate for his bedroom. No more carpet = no more stains.

That is what we will be doing this weekend, and with little time for a weekend post, I whipped up these tasty cookies to fill in the gap.  Peanut butter is a favorite around our house, as is oatmeal, so when you put them together, you've got a batch of cookies that lasts about…4 minutes.  Yum!

Peanut Butter Oaties  peanut-butter-oaties-03-for-web
  • 1 cup  (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup quick oats
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl cream together the sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the peanut butter and mix until combined.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and oats. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture, and mix until combined.

3. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a greased or lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-13 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned. If you want a softer cookie, bake for the lesser amount of time, for a crispier cookie bake for the full 13 minutes. Note: If you want your cookies to be flatter, and not puffy, use the palm of your hand to gently press the cookies a little flatter.

Eat a couple of these with a cold glass of milk, and you’ve got a great afternoon snack. My son loves to munch on these, grabbing handfuls when I’m not looking:)  Enjoy!

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Amber


Triple Berry Orange Shortbread

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I feel like I haven’t posted in waaay too long (jury duty and a photography workshop have kept me busy), but as promised here is a new recipe that brightened my (very rainy) day today.  I think it has rained about every day this entire last month, and while it doesn’t bother me – to the mind and wiggly body of a 4 year old, it is pure torture.

And when he gets bored, I get hopelessly sucked into the imaginative world of a little boy- a boy with no siblings and no neighborhood kids to play with. This means endless hours of getting in touch with my manly side.

The side that only deals in superheroes, race cars, dirt and worms.

The side that gets a laugh out of certain bodily functions and chasing the dog and cat around until they are running for any kind of cover.

After putting one too many “bad guys” in jail, and cleaning up the bathroom which looked like a fire hydrant had exploded in it, I was ready for a break.  A suggestion to make cookies was met with a hearty, “awesome!”, and that’s where these cookies come in.  I decided to throw some chopped up dried berries and orange zest in shortbread, and then drizzle an orange glaze over them.

A couple of these and a cold glass of milk later, I feel much better.

Triple Berry Orange Shortbread
(prep: 15 mins; bake: 20 mins; yield: 15 cookies)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tsp finely grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried berries (I used a mix of cherries, blueberries, cranberries)
Preheat oven to 325F. In a small bowl combine the sugar and orange zest, rubbing the zest into the sugar with your fingers. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and sugar mixture. Cut in the butter with a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs and starts to cling. Stir in the chopped berries. Using your hands, shape the mixture into a ball, kneading until smooth. Don’t worry if it looks like a crumbly mess at first, the longer you work it, it will form into a smooth ball.

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On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough until 1/2 inch thick. Use a 1 1/2 inch round cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles. Reroll scraps as necessary. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bottoms just begin to brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar with 1 tbsp orange juice, drizzle glaze over cookies. Eat and enjoy!

Amber

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