The Salty Truth About Making Callye’s Cookies

Alrighty folks! Here we go. It’s taken me a week to recover since my adventure in making cookies. You may recall my intent to recreate the famous sugar cookie recipe from The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle. Well, it’s time to ‘fess up about the outcome.

Note to Readers: I love cookies and making them, but I make only two recipes, both from my Grandmother Betty and lacking any decorating component other than a basic sweet, lemon glaze or some red and green cherries. As you also may know, I am much more comfortable making and decorating cake, a hobby I picked up when my sister was planning her wedding. Okay. Back to business.

The Truth Comes Out

The truth is that my adventure was not so much sweet, as it was salty. Yep…I said, SALTY.

Everything started out great, the dough felt and looked good. I was really happy with the action as I rolled it out and my handmade cookie cutters sure were working great. SCOREBOARD TEXAS! Because my oven cooks hot, I was switching out pans about every four minutes, ensuring that the edges weren’t browning. I was in the swing of things. Vintage signs, hearts and squares, oh my!

The first sign of trouble didn’t come until I excitedly prepared to take the first bite of my culinary handiwork, testing my prowess in the crossover from cakes to cookies. Prepare for applause…

Crrrrunch!

What tha??? I grabbed cookies of every shape, as if that had something to do with texture.

Vintage sign shape? Crunch.

Heart? Crunchskys!

Square? Crunch, crunch, CUH-RRRRUNCH!

Even the next bite and then the next three after that confirmed my worst fears. I had stupidly used the large crystal, organic sea salt instead of regular salt. Massive fail.

Thank goodness, it was only Tuesday. Three dozen trash bound cookies later, a new batch of perfectly baked, sweet and savory balanced specimens were laid out for review and approval. Ahhh, the aroma lingered with my first bite. Hallelujah! The recipe was great and the leavening had given the cookies just the right amount of chewy spring. Back to winning! On to the icing!

Further Follies

I would like to say that I learned a good lesson, ironed out the kinks in my attention span and had smooth sailing going forward. The truth is that this time last week, I was furiously blowing on leaky cookies and mopping up confectionery sugar glaze from my breakfast counter. You must be wondering, “And why might this be?” or  “Didn’t you follow the timelines that Callye gave?”  Well, I tried. Here’s the skinny.

Never one to follow rules and encouraged by Sugarbelle’s admonition to find what works best for me {All roads leads to Rome}, I decided that I would not use her Royal Icing recipe, but would go with a well-rated Food.com recipe from Alton Brown. This was partly because Good Eats came on while I was researching {AB is my chef/scientist idol} and partly because I kept seeing hard, royal icing cookies in bags at the Dollar Store cash register. Those dusty cookies at the store were screaming “broken tooth” and looked like they could compete in that McDonalds food aging experiment. For some weird reason, I had associated meringue powder with that “hardness” and just assumed AB’s fresh egg white recipe would taste and feel better. I knew how beautiful the Sugarbelle cookies were and that 5,000 cookie fans couldn’t be wrong, but I just couldn’t do it. Not for the bestie’s bridal shower! Ah, hindsight…

Well, Alton’s recipe never thickened, so I ended up adding an additional two or three cups of powdered sugar per recipe. {It wasn’t until much later that I would realize that All Whites egg whites from the carton will not turn into a good meringue}. I burnt out the motor in my hand mixer. But hey, there’s always the Kitchen Aid giveaway. Surely, I would win, not that many people could have entered anyways. Heh, heh, heh.

Using all of Sugarbelle’s tips on piping and flooding, I finally got my colors mixed and bagged correctly. It was so gratifying to outline each shape and then flood ’em once dry. I kept hearing her sweet Southern tutorial voice in my head. “Outline it like this…” .

She sure was right about making changes quickly. Boy…my flooding technique took quite awhile to sink in–to both the cookies and my thick skull. Not sure if it was the extra THREE CUPS of sugar or what, but my flood icing was hardening really quickly and I found myself using my finger to spread it out. Wait! Finger?? Yep! Another few cookies in the trash.

Because I was also making a three-layer dark chocolate cake with milk chocolate European buttercream, decorating it and making petit-fours shaped like mini wedding cakes at the same time as this flooding crisis arose, I was thrilled when I suddenly remembered the greatest tip Sugarbelle ever learned about decorating icing…the SPRAY BOTTLE!

Okay, so she said to spray the icing to thin it before you bagged it, not spray the icing after its on the cookies.

“You sprayed the cookies?”

Yes.

Sigh. The scatterbrained kicked in.

I…sprayed…my…cookies…with water.

Pressing forward, not to be outdone by sweet treats, I covered the soggy mistakes as best I could with fresh icing. I got the cookies, still drying with the cover-up icing and loaded them gingerly onto cooling racks in this nifty getup I created out of big Rubbermaid storage bins. I figured that the extra thirty minutes during the drive to the bridal shower was absolutely necessary if I wanted to produce the highest quality work and be truly proud of my first round of decorated cookies. {Insert snicker.}

Little did I know that on the way, a very polite gentleman would choose to brake in the middle of the highway, with no rhyme or reason. This, of course, resulted in emergency braking on our part and TA DA! –cookies stuck to the inside walls of Rubbermaid containers. Hey! I had a cake in my lap! What could I do?

Long story a lil’ bit longer…we got there. I was able to peel them off the walls of the container just fine. Thankfully, I had disinfected the entire thing well before using it. They were super smudged, but there were only a few casualties. {Cookies, not people.} I didn’t even cry. I think the champagne bar + all-niter gave me a kind of shell-shocked euphoria….

So, as you can see, there was a lot to stomach about this endeavor. I really couldn’t laugh and consequently blog about it until now. Despite the challenges and screwy mistakes, the recipe tasted AMAZING and I got some very sweet compliments from the guests. {Luckily, I didn’t have a salty cookie to show them my true talents}.

The biggest and best laugh of all came when the bride-to-be said that she liked the cookies better than my cake! I bagged them with a little pink ribbon as “thank you” favors and the remainder went home with the bride, so she could enjoy them for Valentine’s Day. Until I accidentally grabbed the basket and took it home myself, that is.

Moral of the Story

Maybe these are really apparent to you, but I made a few notes for myself.

  • Keep the Sea Salt on a different shelf than the regular salt.
  • If you try a recipe, stick to the complementary recipe {one that accompanies it} for best results on a multiple-recipe final product.
  • Fingers off!
  • Never spray baked goods with water!!
  • Research best practices for transporting your baked goods to an event well before departure.
  • Be able to laugh at your mistakes and humbly share with others.

So Sugarbelle, thank you for your inspiration and creative genius. I will never stray from it again, as I make these cookies in the future.

Yes! I will be making them again because after eating a leftover Thank-You bag of cookies every day, I’m hooked on these suckers! South Beach be darned!

Besides, my son has been selling them, like a slick entrepreneurial moonshiner, out of his lunchbox at school for quarters to spend on after-school doughnuts.

We are in business, baby!

You are reading , The Salty Truth About Making Callye’s Cookies originally posted on PollySentrick. If you’ve enjoyed this post, join us and check out PollySentrick on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.

Lovely and Low-Key: Design Elements For a DIY Bridal Shower

This past weekend, I was honored to have the opportunity to co-host a bridal shower for my best friend, Stephanie. Showering the future Mrs. Agosto with love was almost as fun as planning it. {Am I the only weirdo that likes planning events more than attending them?}

Anyway, I received some really sweet compliments on some of the planning aspects of the celebration and so I decided to share a few snippets here.

The Invitation

Stationary is one my true passions in life. Not just because you can write words on it or because good paper feels rich and luxe, but because personalized stationary has always made me feel special, ever since I was a little girl. I know that others don’t share my love of pen & paper, but I have an aversion to purchasing invitations of any kind. These DIY pink bridal shower invitations incorporated an elegant monogram and delicate, lace doily that matched the feminine, pretty-in-pink theme.

Elegant DIY Pink Bridal Shower Invitation

Decadent Dark Chocolate Cake

When I first discovered fondant, I fell in love with decorating cakes. I have recently begun a similar love affair with fresh buttercream icing.  I made a three-layer dark chocolate, Devil’s Food cake with milk chocolate buttercream icing in between the layers and European Buttercream frosting on the outside. I also used one of the cookies as a cake topper.

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Tip – Add the cake topper after arriving at the venue. The moisture from the frosting broke my cookie in half and I had to replace with a back-up while setting up. {Note-To-Self & Others:  Always bring extra icing in a decorating bag. No matter how many times I say this, I always forget.}Bridal Shower Cake with Cookie Topper

Girly Cookies

You may have read my previous post outlining most beautiful cookies in the world and what inspired me to incorporate cookies into my normal cake lady existence.  Personally, the cookies were my favorite part of the bridal shower and they were a big hit with guests. You can get the recipes and ingredients that I used as well as some tips and tricks I learned in my first cookie decorating escapade.

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Brunch Munchies

Last month, I stared making the South Beach “egg muffins” and freezing them for easy use in the morning. I thought it would be nice to balance all of the sweets with something a little more savory.  So, I tweaked the low-carb recipe by adding some herbs. In addition to the savory egg cupcakes, I made bacon bowties that I scored from my super amazing writer, artist, Southern-turned-Midwest friend, Ebonee.  {We also had a great gourmet bagel spread, delicious muffins and a fresh fruit salad from Tia Gisella}.

Tip– Be sure to use a warming plate for the egg cupcakes. Not to be dampened by clammy, cold eggs, we were microwaving ours individually as we served them.

Herb Planter Gift

What do you give the girl who qualifies as the most thoughtful person alive? Especially when a part of your ongoing personal action plan is to reach the levels of thoughtfulness that she shows almost effortlessly??  While the bride is known to have a less-than-green thumb and reports indicate that she may have even killed a cactus, I know how much Stephanie loves trying new recipes and using fresh ingredients. {This is the lady who makes her own roasted vegetable puree and can make spaghetti squash taste like a fine Italian pasta.} So, I knew that fresh herbs would be a great gift if we could find a way to keep them alive. Hopefully, this small token of affection will complement the delicious healthy dishes she creates as a wife!

You are reading , Lovely & Low-Key: Design Elements For a DIY Bridal Shower originally posted on PollySentrick. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please be sure to follow PollySentrick on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.

DIY Pink Bridal Shower Invitations

When hosting any event, the key is always quality, not quantity. This is something that I still struggle to master. Because I’m really great at gathering inspiration and having another new “great idea”, but it never seems to be executed exactly as I planned. Usually because my energies are focused on too many things at once. But…that is a separate post all together. {What’s that saying about aiming for the moon and ending up amidst the stars? I count the stars as my constant company, but I have never chatted up the moon.}

An elegant invitation is the first impression guests will have of their host or hostess and will set the tone for a thoughtful and well-organized event. A DIY invitation can be just as beautiful as a professionally printed invitation, especially for an intimate, champagne brunch bridal shower like the one we hosted for my best friend, Stephanie.  I spent a lot of hours looking for the perfect invitation template and then customized it myself, to get the exact look I wanted.

For this elegant, pink, bridal shower invitation, I downloaded a gorgeous free font called Freebooter. I also printed out the template sheet for the font so that I could use it as a calligraphy guide for addressing the homemade envelopes later.wpid-20130131_135537.jpg

I used watercolor paper as card stock for the invitation by cutting it down to 8×10 size and then loading it into my photo printer. My laser printer would not accept the watercolor paper so I used my photo printer. Make sure you have fresh {or at least backup} ink on hand.

The invite design was based on a template from the always lovely Wedding Chicks website and printed four to a sheet, which I cut apart very carefully. Its best to use a paper cutter if you don”t have a steady hand, otherwise use sharp scissors.

Because I wanted a border and varying text lines, I used this template as a base and customized it in Powerpoint to get the exact look I wanted. But I want to be sure that I give full credit for the emblem and original design to the ladies at Wedding Chicks. The monogram could easily be replaced by a handcrafted rubber stamp to capture more of the couple’s  personal style.

I got the inspiration for a doily envelope liner from Memento Designs on Pinterest and tweaked it so that I created an elegant sleeve for the invitation card that would stand alone. Use a gluestick to secure the bottom two corners and create a pocket. Let it dry for about 10 minutes before working on it further. Use your finger to gently pry apart any parts that stuck together incorrectly. Also, the doily is very delicate so be careful when you insert the card, as the corners can snag and rip the paper lace and force you to start over.Custom Doily Liner

Elegant DIY Pink Bridal Shower Invitation Next, I added a recipe card {also from Wedding Chicks} for guests to bring with them on the morning of this love-themed, February bridal shower. I loved this idea and see a future project in the works…Personalized Recipe Cards?!?! Heck, yeah!

A small card describing the recipe tradition was layered on top.  Its basically just a border with elegant font and I pulled the emblem from the invitation design to keep things consistent. You could also use a poem or phrase to remind guests how meaningful a recipe can be when shared between loved ones.  To save time, you can download the card template here – Recipe Insert Message. It prints eight cards to a page and will require that you cut it apart. Recipe Card Insert Request

Finish the bundle by securing it with a thin, pink ribbon. If you don’t have an extra hand, try this tip for holding the bundled cards secure while you tie the ribbon in a small bow. You only need two large paperclips.wpid-20130131_135824.jpg

20130210_172231 Insert the finished bundle into a beautiful, homemade envelope brandishing handwritten guest names and using the printed font sheet as a calligraphy guide.  Be sure to send the invitations as early as possible. A good time frame is four to six weeks before the event. If you are a planning a more impromptu event and can’t give guests the preferred planning time, be sure to call them and provide a verbal invitation and explain that you will be following up with a formal invitation.

Online event invites {like the one I love to use on Facebook} are really reliable and fun, but should really be used to coordinate your RSVPs and never as a substitute for a formal invitation. I have learned these lessons the hard way. Thanks to our guests for being so gracious!

Thanks to my Pinterest peeps who led me to the templates I used. You can see the inspiration I got for this invitation and other shower design elements on my Bridal Shower Board. Hopefully these little tips will help you organize a fun celebration and let you spend more time enjoying the special day with your loved ones!

Goin’ Back to Callye…For Cookies That Is!

I have been really excited to start blogging again. Recently, through a series of unfortunate events, I have found myself job hunting and it has been a bumpy ride to put it mildly. Or…just lie. Writing keeps me sane and so I welcome the chance to pen my thoughts whether anyone actually reads them or not! Hi, Mama!

I was going to blog about the bridal shower I’m hosting on Saturday and specifically, show my attempt at a cute cookie idea I saw on Pinterest. (I am known for spending days on a cake, so I thought it would be fun to try something new.) Well, I’m not gonna do that. Here’s why. I found a blog that impressed me so much, whether it was about making pretty things or not, it wouldn’t matter, because I am hooked!

The past three days I have been feverishly clicking through the articles on this creative blog, dying to see what else I could learn from the master. “So”, you ask, “what’s it about again?”

COOKIES!!! Yep! Pretty, sweet yummies! Adorable, classy, flashy, cute, colorful cookies.

At The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle, you will find engaging content, witty humor, well-crafted tutorials and a raw freshness that makes you want to keep coming back for more. I doubt Callye Alvarado realized that she was destined for blog greatness when she started out by sharing her escapades in icing online and chronicling her late night baking blitzes with fans. But, she has certainly made a splash.

Who knows? Maybe she will let me interview her for a spotlight piece on my upcoming featured artist series. Hint, hint…

Callye’s (okay can I just call her Sugarbelle?) tutorials are succint and simple. The breadth of information that she provides on royal icing, cookie decorating and then regarding being a part of an online community is impressive. Then, as if that wasn’t enough reason to like ‘er, in ADDITION to all that cool stuff she’s got going on, she is ridiculously humble and constantly gives other artists props.

So, I’ll be back tomorrow with my first installment of my “go” on what I heard her (nope, make that READ) she cleverly calls a “cookie crush”.

In the meantime, if you are looking for some best practices to apply to your own digital adventure in brand awareness or you just want to see some dang awesome cookies (and how to make them… )then RUN, (don’t walk) over to her page and definitely don’t miss her on Facebook and Pinterest!

From one “Belle” to another- “Thanks for the inspiration!”

You are reading , Goin’ Back to Callye…For Cookies That Is! originally posted on PollySentrick. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please be sure to follow PollySentrick on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.