You’d think they’re one and the same, don’t you? But, I don’t think that way. At least, when it comes to cookies.
Today I helped Mario Bosquez celebrate his 3rd anniversary on Martha Stewart Living Radio’s “Living Today” program. Now I’ve been on the show a few times now, and I always made a special design for Mario. Like the parrot cookies I made for him because he has African Greys. And ruby red slipper cookies because Mario finally met an actor who played a Munchkin in”The Wizard of Oz”, a favorite movie of his. Or the pencil cookie I gave Mario during my last visit to help him with writing his new play.
THOSE are personal cookies.
Oh sure, I could have made it easy on myself and just decorated a few tiered cake cookies that said “Happy 3rd Anniversay, Mario!” They’d be appropriate, certainly. And, they’d be personalized. But they wouldn’t be personal or memorable. At least they wouldn’t have stuck in my memory. And that’s just not good enough for One Tough Cookie, Inc.
The mantra I’ve followed since I hung out my virtual shingle is ‘it starts with you, a picture, a phrase, a memory, a wish, a notion….”. That hasn’t changed since I began. When a new project lands in my lap, I analyze it. I dissect it. I explore all those little nuances that spark something in my brain. Then I’m ready for the hunt. Hunting for an image that wordlessly illustrates the occasion or the sentiment.
Does it take more time? Absolutely. Is it worth it? I think so. But, that’s a personal opinion.
Would you like to hear what we talked about today on the radio?
Here you go: 1.24.11 Gail on MSL RadioRead More »
We all love Hollywood’s annual awards season, don’t we? Who’s nominated, who’s slighted? Who’s wearing whom, who’s saying what….we all love to ruminate on this entertainment gossip at this time of year. It helps to lift us out of the winter doldrums so we can soldier on to the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Grammy Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards and of course, the granddaddy of them all, the Oscars.
What you may not know is that I was privileged to be a part of another equally prestigious awards ceremony this past week; the pre-kickoff kickoff, if you will.
On Thursday evening, January 13, 2011, the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia 2011 National Sales Meeting was held in downtown Manhattan. I am proud to have created what I affectionately refer to as “The Golden Martha”.
It made no difference to me that I wasn’t privy to the awards categories. As far as I was concerned, I was the biggest winner of them all, since I was charged with baking and decorating the prize. My prize was their prize! I lovingly crafted 15 special cookies in the image of ”her”. Two extras were included to be specially delivered to my Martha.
I’m getting so close to meeting my Martha, yet still so far. I’ve been a guest the Sirius radio show “Living Today” with Mario Bosquez more than a few times, my cake was on the “Slumber Party” show, I’ve been in the TV audience twice, too. And now this gig brought me one step closer to meeting my Martha up close and in person. A wave of excitement just coursed through my veins as I typed that last sentence.
As you can see, my rendition of Martha is rather, well, cartoony. I could tell you this was done intentionally, as it would be blasphemy to exact a perfect likeness of my idol in sugar. But, you know the truth. Cartoony suits my cookie personality.
There’s an extra cookie over here. I think I’ll nibble at it a bit while digesting the rest of the gossip from Sunday’s show.Read More »
Dry cake should be against the law. Maybe even exact a fine, too, for the perpetrator.
But, it’s not, so this crime against confectionary just goes on and on.
Why do I care so much, you ask? It’s only cake. To that I say, cake is more than just the ending to a celebratory meal. Cake seals a fate. What? You don’t believe me? Think about the couples you know who are divorcing. Now, think back to their weddings. Dry wedding cake, right? I knew it.
Children’s birthday cakes. Your child’s birthday cake. How can you live with yourself knowing that underneath the cloud of billowy frosting is a cake that’s more like particle board patched together with buttercream. This is the cake that holds the candles your sweet, trusting child is wishing upon. What kind of mother are you?
You don’t have to live like this; making dry cake or worse yet, buying a round of sugary sawdust from your local bakery. I’ll let you in on my secret to moist cake. And, no, I’m not drenching the layers in a flavored simple syrup to fool you into thinking the cake is moist. All you get from that is a fraction of an inch’s worth of soggy cake. Blech.
Bake your cake. Remove it from the oven after it’s done. Don’t over bake it, either, please.
Let it sit on a rack til you can touch the pan without dropping it like it’s hot.
Now, tap it on the counter top to loosen it from the bottom of the pan. Run a knife around the edge if you must. Turn it onto the rack, bottom up. Place your cardboard cake round on top and flip the cake right side up. You can trim the top of the cake now, or later. I trim quickly now.
The cake will still be warm. Very warm.
Now, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. It’s counter-intuitive, I know. Just do as I say.
Then wrap it in aluminum foil* and put it in the freezer. Don’t wait til it cools. Do it now.
Moisture from hermetically sealing the cake rains down, literally, on the cake, providing extra protection from a normally de-hydrating freezer stay. Just move it from the freezer to the refrigerator the the night before you want to frost. A slow thaw is a good thaw. And, we all know a cool cake is a much easier cake to frost, too.
Now that you know my little secret, you’ll never cause another republic to fall again because the coronation cake was dry.
* I save the aluminum foil and use it at least twice before discarding.Read More »
Sometimes I do things the hard way. Especially when I decorate cookies.
The usual process is:
- Outline cookie
- Fill cookie
- Let cookie dry
- Worry and agonize
This is what the worry and agonize part looks like:
Believe it or not, I piped a line between those colors. One single blue line. And, I waited a bit for the blue to set up before I added the white. Those icings completely ignored the barrier I put between them, and co-mingled in a way that didn’t make me happy.
Normally, I’d let these cookies dry completely, then overpipe the detail and pray my fix would work.
A couple of months ago, I worked on a challenging cookie design. From the get-go, they made nervous. They were art-y. They were black and white. There were lots of them. They were for my college roommate. I had to be clever about these to avoid the worry and agony portion of the process playing out in my stomach.
And, it came to me. The double line. I’d make it impossible for those colors to jump the barrier and cling to each other.
Here, I’ll show you.
For a smoother transition from color to color, I’d use a #1 tip to make the line. And, don’t forget to let the darker color set up for a few hours, at least.
A little bit of preliminary precaution made this cookie project pretty seamless.
Oh, and those straight lines that I piped?
They’re easy, too!Read More »
You don’t need to shield your eyes from this post, delete it, or, heaven forbid, cancel your RSS feed.
This little missive has nothing to do with a New Year’s diet. Or health food. Or eliminating unwanted belly fat.
I’m sharing with you the secret to keeping a beautiful cut flower arrangement for at least 1 week, if not longer.
Today is Sunday, January 2. We picked these flowers up from the florist on Friday, December 24. Still beautiful, right?
Here’s the secret.
Sleeping in the refrigerator.
Keep the flowers out for enjoying their beauty. When they’re not being gazed at adoringly, make room in the ‘fridge for them. This cold rest stop will slow down the aging process that robs flowers of their beauty and hastens an early demise.
In winter, one can play the New York city apartment dwellers’ game, “My apartment is SO HOT that [fill in the blanks].” The dry, overheated air in many of our homes is the culprit of sinus troubles, dry skin and parched potted plants.
So, when we were at a friend’s apartment the other night, and stripping our sweaters off as fast as we could because of the unbearable heat, we were chatting about flowers. One woman said she’s forbade her husband from buying her flowers from the neighborhood florist since they only last about three days at most. That’s when it hit me. If my friend Carol didn’t know this trick, many of you probably don’t either.
I can’t take credit for inventing this technique, or scouring botanical how-tos for advice. Flowers in the ‘fridge belongs to Jackie. Actually, Jackie’s mother Midge. Jackie has memories of being a child and opening the refrigerator in the morning to get her orange juice. Little bud vases of snap dragons, sweet peas, lilies of the valley had to be carefully negotiated to get to the actual edibles. I, too, can visualize Midge’s beautiful arrangements of her sweet flowers on her kitchen table. And, they always emerged from the refrigerator as pretty and fresh as the day she picked them from her garden.
Hhhmmm….maybe I should think about sleeping in the ‘fridge, too?