They call it the Polar Vortex. Basically, the North Pole and the South Pole are duking it out and the North Pole is winning by sending bitter arctic air over the region. We’re talking frigidly cold here in Northeast Ohio. Brutal. We haven’t seen temps over 25 in days. As I type this, it is 19 degrees with a “feels like” 10. According to my weather app, we may get to 30 degrees on February 20th. It’s only the 8th. When you add in the pandemic and lack of opportunity most days to pretty much go anywhere or do anything outside of our house or neighborhood bubble, you have some seriously stir crazy people in my house. While I am super grateful my family and I are warm and fed and relatively healthy, I just miss the old days when we could go visit people regularly, dine out, have normal date nights, or even just take the kid to the freakin’ McDonalds playland to burn some energy. I cook. And clean. And wash dishes. And repeat the cycle multiple times a day. I wash so many dishes my hands are numb and cracked and it seems like my dishwasher always needs emptying. I know others have it worse and I’m not trying to compare or say somehow that my life is so challenging. I know it’s not, but is it ok to admit I’m just plain burned out?
K is back at school – thank God – so at least I have some breathing room to do things for myself like write this blog post. I’m also trying to get into the practice of writing more frequently because honestly, you can’t be a writer if you never sit down and actually write. I have had a goal of writing a book for some time, but never really could get it together to do the work. For me, I have so many ideas but no discipline so this has been good for me. Additionally, I have given myself permission to write freely about whatever I want. Right now, it’s not important if I don’t have a specific book or idea in mind. It’s ok to explore all of those ideas. I believe at some point something will start to evolve and I’ll have an AHA! moment and something organically will start to evolve. Or I’ll just end up with a bunch of “rando shit”, but what else am I doing?
Oh wait – I’m painting. And staining. And I have all these home projects to work on. And CLEANING. And then there’s baking. And keto. Did I mention I was trying to eat more keto style/low carb for health and weight loss? That has put a damper on my cookies and cakes and bread making. I’m still getting it it here and there. So much to do, how could I possibly be bored or complaining about going stir crazy? What can I say — I’m a first-world, whiny human being.
But now back to baking since this blog is supposed to be about that. I have done some baking since Halloween – cookies, a pie, a cake – and this week I have challenged myself to working on Sonic the Hedgehog sugar cookies for a very special little boy’s upcoming 5th birthday. That is proving to be involved, but I love it and so far things are working as planned. Let me just go through each project.
Thanksgiving. I made a pumpkin pie. My daughter professed to loving pumpkin pie but apparently she only loves pumpkin pie if it’s the frozen variety that you put in the oven and voila – done. She did not love mine. Oh well. It was your standard Libby variety from the back of the can. I did make the crust and took some extra time cutting out leaves for decoration. Oh, and I made some rolls, too.
Ah Christmas. Last year, pre-Rona, I hosted a cookie making party at our new house and the ladies in my family came over to make several varieties of cookies. It was really fun and I was looking forward to hosting the second annual cookie making party but nooooooo, the damn Rona had to ruin that. I still wanted to make cookies so I decided to make them for family and neighbors. Who doesn’t love cookies? I challenged myself to make snowflake sugar cookies with a specific pattern and then duplicate the design on each subsequent cookie. I really loved how they came out.
A gingerbread house was definitely on the agenda. My daughter drew a picture and we tried to make it happen. To me it looks more Southwestern than castle, but we had a good time decorating. My husband wanted to participate, but I was a bit too type A for him. I had an idea in mind and I didn’t need help executing. Except I really did. I must play better next year so we are all involved and it becomes an annual family event.
My husband also had a birthday at the end of December so I tried my hand at an anti-gravity cake. This is a type of cake where it looks like part of it is defying gravity. I went with the M&Ms flowing out of a bag concept. That was totally fun although way too much sugar. I mean candy on top of cake is just delicious but so over the top sweet. Still looked super cool. The trick is a straw/dowel inserted into the cake and covered in frosting. I loved the Kit Kat border. And for extra fun I colored the icing on the inside to match the colors of the M&Ms. The cake was a total hit!
Oh yeah, and those Sonic cookies. A neighbor’s son is turning 5 in a week or so and the birthday theme is Sonic the Hedgehog. She priced custom cookies and the cost was a bit on the high side. She jokingly asked if I thought we could pull it off and I said ummmm, not sure, maybe…totally! Ok, I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I remember reading about a reverse transfer method on a baking site and then I realized I could probably modify the process to make the cookies she wanted. I am halfway there. The cookie dough is chilling out in the fridge and tomorrow I will execute. I can update this post then with my final “Nailed It” cookies, but in the meantime I’d like to share my process on a high level. First, I took a screenshot of the Sonic cookie I was trying to copy. I copied that image several more times and put four images into an application (Picstitch) so I could have four images on a page. I then took that image into my word processing app and duplicated it so there were eight images on a page. That was my template. I put parchment paper over the template page and taped it down on my counter. Using edible markers, I traced over the image until I had the number I needed. I then mixed up the royal icing, colored it, and left it overnight to develop. If you did not know, the color takes a while to reach optimal color or darken in intensity, especially deep colors like royal blue or black. These colors are tricky to get right as they often look lighter than the desired effect. The next day, I added a little more gel color to the icing because the blue and black were looking more regular blue and gray. I then piped the outlines of each image and later filled them in. This is where I left it. I think they look pretty good and while there’s still some work to do, it should come all together. It may not be perfectly “nailed it”, but it will do nicely. And also I’d like to point out if you haven’t figured it out yet that this has been quite a labor-intensive project. No wonder cookie bakers charge so much. My husband told me they do make machines that you can buy (cost a pretty penny) where you enter the design you want and then it prints out edible images which you then simply put on the cookies or it stamps them – I can’t remember right this second. This would be different from simply an edible printer. He thinks I should get one. I think not. I like doing things by hand. I am not sure I want to get into the cookie business anyway – there is so much competition in this area. Anyhoo, check out these pictures of my process thus far. I’m pretty happy with things so far.
There you have some of what I have been doing baking wise. I would say I’m still not ready to make this a side hustle, but I probably should really consider it even with all the competition around. We could use some extra dough (get it?) now that we are only a single income family. That’s it for now. Toodles.
UPDATE – Final cookie pics as promised. Not as neat as I’d like and I see all the flaws, but I still am super jazzed with how they came out.