Archive for the ‘Gift Ideas’ Category
By now we have certainly reached the point where we have to bid farewell to the cherry blossom season. But even though we can’t gawk at the pretty trees blooming in pink anymore, we can still bake cherry blossom cookies! You won’t even need to buy a new cookie cutter. A regular circle one works just as fine after a little tampering.
These cookies owe their bright pink colour and intense strawberry aroma to a special natural ingredient: freeze-dried red berries! You might remember my instructions for making delicious pink berry chocolate with this ingredient from this post. Your local supermarket may sell freeze-dried berries (such as Coop in Switzerland), otherwise try looking for them in specialty stores or simply buy a box of cereals that contain freeze-dried berries and pick them out by hand :-D
I suggest serving the cherry blossom cookies with a cup of hot vanilla-scented black tea, for example Twinings’ Vanilla Black Tea. Enjoy!
Recipe for Pink Cherry Blossom Cookies with Strawberry Yoghurt Flavour
(makes 2 baking trays full of cookies)
Based on this recipe for Coffe Glazed Yoghurt Cookies
- 125g butter, room temperature
- 100g sugar
- 1 egg
- 4 Tbs strawberry yoghurt
- about 30g whole freeze-dried berries or 20g freeze-dried berry powder (I used a mixture of strawberry, raspberry and red currant sold at Coop)
- 300g all-purpose flour
- 25g cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- a round cookie cutter squished to an almond shape
- Preheat oven to 150°C.
- First, beat butter and sugar. Then add the egg and yoghurt and beat well.
- If you are using whole freeze-dried berries, grind them and sieve the powder to remove the seeds.
- Combine freeze-dried berry powder, flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt and sift everything into the butter mixture. Knead well. At this point you’re supposed to notice a fruity fragrance. Divide the dough in tw0 and refrigerate for about an hour.
- Roll the dough to a thickness of 0.5cm.
- Cut out cherry blossom petals with your cookie cutter by overlapping the pattern like shown in the pictures.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Voilà, pink cherry blossom cookies! Let them cool down before serving.
Have a nice tea party.
How about baking your muffins, mini cakes or other dessert creations in these parchment bunny cubes? Not only are they substituting the plain old muffin paper cup, but they also serve as a cute and convenient wrapping. You can give them away as a gift, include them in a packed lunch or hide them outside in the garden at Easter for children to find. The bunny cubes are easy to fold and inexpensive. Why not make one right now? I’m sure you have parchment paper and basic muffin ingredients at hand.
You can try the recipe for the fluffy and moist cream cheese muffins provided in this post to fill the bunnies, but I guess other muffin or cake mixtures should work fine as well, as long as they don’t expand too much. Since the parchment paper is kind of acting like a seal, you might want to lessen the amount of liquid ingredients.
Let me give you some insight on how the idea of the bunny muffin was born. Not long ago, I wanted to Coinstar fees make a square cake. I didn’t have a square cake pan and buying one was not an option after looking at some price tags. Then it came to my mind that I could simply fold a parchment paper box. It’s simple, inexpensive, and I can even adjust the size. I skimmed through my origami books (origami: traditional Japanese folk art of paper folding) in search for box folding instructions, and that was when I stumbled upon the bunny cube balloon. The idea to bake muffins in these bunny balloons hit me immediately. Since Easter is approaching, it was perfect.
Oh and by the way, I did bake a square cake in a suitable parchment paper origami box (that even included handles!) but that’s another story.
How to make the Paper Bunny Cube
You need square pieces of parchment paper. For the large bunnies, I used 21×21 cm, for medium 16×16 cm and for the small ones 12×12 cm.
I’ve found the instructions for folding the bunny in the book 親子で遊ぶかんたんおりがみ (oyako de asobu kantan origami) which is aimed at children, so don’t nag about it being too difficult :-D
I’m rather bad at explaining origami steps, but luckily I’ve found this comprehensible diagram at origami-club.com. Check out their other tutorials if you’re interested in origami, they’re very easy to understand and even accompanied by animations.
Here’s the link to the animation of the bunny balloon folding on origami-club.com. Have a look at it if the diagram alone leaves you puzzled.
Thinking that you later use the bunny to serve food in, I must admit that the part where you have to blow up the balloon by mouth might appear a bit unhygienic. Maybe you can find other measures to inflate it. Or just try to firmly believe that the oven temperature will kill off the bacteria.
How to make Cream Cheese Muffins baked in Bunny Cubes
The recipe for the cream cheese muffins is from Harumi Kurihara’s book Harumi’s Japanese Cooking. Originally, the muffins are meant to be heated in the microwave. Since I didn’t have access to a microwave, I had to adapt the recipe.
Makes 3 L, 3 M and 3 S size bunnies
- 40g cream cheese
- 1/2 Tbs white wine
- 1 Tbs cream
- 1 Tbs vegetable oil
- vanilla essence
- 2 medium sized eggs
- 50g sugar
- 50g flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- Whisk cream cheese and white wine together until creamy in a bowl that you placed into another bowl filled with hot tap water.
- Mix in cream, oil and vanilla essence.
- Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and whisk together with the sugar until the mixture thickens.
- Mix in flour and baking powder, then add the cream cheese white wine mixture.
- I then filled the mixture into an empty condiment container. You can also use a piping bag or an empty plastic ketchup bottle – anything that’s squeezable and has a tip should work.
- Squeeze the mixture into the bunny cubes until they’re a bit less than half full. It’s like bottle-feeding the bunny :-). Be careful not to make a mess. Stains on the parchment paper will later become dark and clearly visible.
- Bake in the preheated oven at 160°C. Approximately, the small bunnies will take 15, the medium bunnies 20 and the large bunnies 25 minutes.
Do you know of any other (origami) parchment paper folding techniques that can be used for baking?
Are you looking for Easter dishes that are easy and fun to make? If yes, then these “newly hatched chicks” made from hard-boiled eggs are perfect for you (along with chicken mommy, of course). You can offer them as a snack or use them to garnish a salad. Or how about an Easter picnic? Simply pack them in the egg carton you bought them in. Safe transportation and a cute way to serve.
Easter is approaching soon so it’s about time to present some Easter recipes. I like this chick egg very much because it’s so simple. And it totally makes sense to reshape boiled eggs so they look like hatched chicks. No wait, that’s actually kind of creepy. Nevermind, they do look cute after all :-)
I’ve encountered the basic idea of this chick egg on lots of bento blogs (or here on Flickr), so its origin remains unclear. Everyone has their own way of styling the faces. I attempted to come up with a personal variation, too. And I tried to find a way to make it that is as quick and easy as possible. Have fun!
How to make a Chicken Family from Hard-Boiled Eggs
- carrot slices
- thin red pepper slice
- black olives or nori (like the seaweed sheets you use for sushi)
- Boil the eggs. You can use this perfect method here for example. Make sure you don’t overcook the eggs. You don’t want ugly green chicks, do you? Well maybe when it’s time for Halloween. In the last 3 minutes of boiling, add the carrot slices to the water.
- The egg yolk is near the flat end of the egg, so the cut should be nearer to that side. The pointy end of the egg will be the bottom. You can use a regular small knife. It worked best for me when I held it near the tip, the sharp edge facing upwards. Cut a zig-zag line. You don’t have to be overly cautious not to cut the yolk. A bit cutting is okay, just don’t ram the knife through it.
- Gently pull and stroke the small part of the egg white. If doesn’t come off easily, re-cut the zig-zag line. Maybe it’s a good idea to brush the egg yolk at this step with oil. I noticed that they turn dry and cracky after a while!
- I used an apple corer to make the chicken beaks, but you can use small round cookie cutters as well. Cut the carrot slices so they look like crescents.Or like orange clipped nails.
- Press the carrot beaks (2 crescents) into the egg yolk. For the chicken mommy, you may have to you use a little mayonnaise as an adhesive.
- If you use olives for the eyes, use the end of a plastic drinking straw to cut circles.
- If you use nori, go get your hole puncher at your workstation and cut out nori circles.
- Nori eyes can be placed easily with the flat end of a toothpick that has been damped.
- For the mommy chicken’s comb, cut out a red pepper circle and divide it in half. Make a small cut into the egg so you can place the comb inside.
- Arrange the chicken family in an egg carton. Done!
This isn’t your average hot chocolate on a spoon. It’s hot concrete chocolate on a mafia victim. Black sesame chocolate to be precise. The guy is made from chocolate, too. You’re supposed to melt the whole thing down in a cup of hot milk so you get to drink hot chocolate. There’s a wooden spoon behind the guy for stirring. This could be a nice gift for a mafia fan.
Pretty nice concept, eh? The idea originated from a Dutch/German chocolate company. They sell their Hotchocspoons in many varieties. Awesome. I’ve tried apple pie flavour, it was delicious.
The idea made its way into the foodie blogosphere where it was adapted by many. You can find neat versions of hot chocolate on a spoon/ stick for example here with marshmallows, here in heart shape, and here with sprinkles and more sprinkles. That’s what I like about the blogging network: a good basic idea becomes widely known and inspires people to share their own rendition with the public. It’s not a cycle of copying – it’s a never-ending flow of creativity and advancement.
Why did I make mafia style hot chocolate on a spoon? Well, I was thinking about making hot chocolate spoons with different colours. Grey chocolate made from black sesame was one of the things that came to my mind. And since a grey chocolate block looks like concrete… and you have to drown it in milk… it was kind of obvious that this has to be turned into the look of a mafia victim with cement shoes.
I wanted to take more pictures of the final product but at some point during the shooting the chocolate guy fell down and his head broke apart! Isn’t it ironic? It was death by decapitation although he was destined to lose his life through drowning in milk.
How to make Hot Chocolate on a Spoon – Mafia Style
Cooking Soundtrack: The Godfather Theme
- dark chocolate
- white chocolate
- freeze-dried red berries
- kinako powder (toasted soy bean flour)
- black sesame powder (such as instant powder for dessert)
- wooden spoon or stick
- ice cube tray or small muffin mold
- If you want to see a detailed explanation on how to make simple chocolate paintings, click here to see my previous post about it.
- Here’s the picture of my mafia victim, directly traced on parchment paper, ready to be painted.
- For the dark parts, I used chocolate with 99% cocoa content. Really dark shade. And really bitter taste. That suits the theme, doesn’t it?
- Ready to be moved to the refrigerator.
- For the rose, I powdered the freeze-dried berries and mixed them with white chocolate.
- I mixed kinako and white chocolate for the skin parts.
- After those parts have hardened up in the refrigerator as well, cover everything with white chocolate and refrigerate again.
- Mix black sesame powder with white chocolate for the “concrete” and pour it into the mold. Place chocolate victim and wooden spoon inside and stabilise with box or something alike.
- Drown the guy in a cup of hot milk and let him melt down. Black sesame and dark chocolate are a great combo, believe me.
Today’s post will introduce you to a simple chocolate painting technique that yields amazing results. Don’t worry, it doesn’t require special equipment or outstanding drawing skills. You can choose any motif you want, be it pictures of friends and family, handwriting, your kid’s favourite cartoon character, an elegant pattern, a company logo or the movie star you have a crush on – almost anything can be turned into an accurate chocolate picture with this easy method. You can use it as a neat cake decoration, or serve it on a plate together with dessert.
I was thrilled when I discovered this technique on Yurin’s Obentou Blog (＊３兄妹ママのお弁当ブログ＊). It’s a Japanese blog that centers around kyaraben. Go have a look at it! It doesn’t matter if you can’t understand Japanese, because looking at the pictures is satisfying enough.
Basically, I will be explaining Yurin’s method here, but since I’m not using the the same material and I’ve chosen a different kind of motif I adjusted the method plus I added some personal tips.
How to make a Chocolate Painting
You will need:
- a picture subject.
- dark and white chocolate. I used regular block chocolate, the dark one had 72% cocoa content. Note that Yurin is using so called sign choco. Apparently, that’s chocolate sold in Japan for decoration purposes. It has quick drying properties, comes in a pen-shaped tube and there are different colours available. But really, regular chocolate works fine too.
- optional: food colouring. I tried regular liquid food colouring once and it resulted in a rather bad chocolate texture. I guess it’s better if you work with liposoluble food colouring or powder alternatives. I mixed white chocolate with matcha green tea powder once and it turned out well. Please tell me if you know of any other methods to colour white chocolate naturally.
- a piece or cardboard or a tray
- parchment paper
- small plastic bags
- a bamboo skewer or a toothpick
- First, think about which motif you would like to use. It’s easiest to use stylized images. Here are a few suggestions for suitable art styles: cartoon/comic, line art, stencil art, print art, art nouveau, pop art, pictograms, silhouettes and so on. You can look for stylized images through a search engine by using the named keywords, or you could trace a picture from a book or magazine directly on the parchment paper. Or even draw your original artwork on the parchment paper. Or stylize a photograph by yourself with photoshop, like I did. I took an Audrey Hepburn picture (original source) and turned it into a 3-layer stencil art following this easy youtube tutorial.
As you can see, I mirrored the image. This step wasn’t really necessary in my case, but it is especially important if you have writing on your picture. I also did some corrections with the pencil tool, like eliminating the highlight in the hair.
- If you use a picture printout, tape it to the cardboard. Then cover with a piece of parchment paper and tape that onto the cardboard as well. If you drew directly on the parchment paper, make sure the surface with your pencil marks is facing the cardboard.
- It’s best to start painting with the darkest shade, especially when you have an image with outlines. Chop the dark chocolate finely and fill it into the corner of a small plastic bag. Fill a bowl with hot tap water, dip in the plastic bag corner and melt the chocolate, kneading it from time to time to make sure there aren’t any clumps. The temperature of the water shouldn’t exceed 50°C.
- When the chocolate is melted, cut away the tip of the bag corner and you can start drawing the dark layer. On large surfaces, you can apply the chocolate directly from the bag. For fine details, use the bamboo skewer. You can also pipe a bit of chocolate on a plate, dip the skewer in it and draw. The bag keeps the chocolate from cooling too quickly so only pipe out a little a time. When your done, let the painting cool down in the refrigerator.
- Now it’s time to apply the midtones. I mixed Moneygram fees dark and white chocolate together to get the colour I wanted. When drawing, it’s okay to overlap the dark chocolate areas since it won’t shine through later. Refrigerate again when you’re done.
- At last, apply the white chocolate background. This is the easiest drawing step because you can just splash and disperse it. Make this layer thick enough to give the chocolate stability. Be careful not to use overheated chocolate or your previous work will melt away! Shake the picture a bit so prevent air bubbles. Refrigerate for one last time.
- Carefully turn the chocolate over when it’s firm. Don’t touch it with your bare hands – use gloves or a napkin. You’re done!
A few last words: The chocolate has a rather soft texture when at room temperature and melts as soon as you touch it. That can be a desirable state if you’re using the chocolate picture as a cake frosting for example. If you’re aiming for a chocolate picture with a very shiny surface that snaps, you have to put in some extra effort when heating the chocolate. Research chocolate tempering if you’re interested.
Have fun with this cool technique! And please let me know if you have additional tips! :-D