Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Crafty Bites

When I was much younger with very small kids and a full time job I did astounding things like making Black Forest Cake from scratch, including marinated fresh cherries and elaborate whipped cream and chocolate curl decorations. Nothing slowed me down it seemed, so making onion soup from scratch...from roasting the beef bones to make the stock kind of 'from scratch'...which took two or three days if I remember it correctly, really wasn't daunting. I must have been at least slightly insane. There were more of these complicated culinary shenanigans, but you get the idea.

These days I still enjoy the culinary challenge or two but more often I go for simple and easy. (Dan's Garlic Bread wasn't either, but it was worth it.) Having been snuffly and sneezy and hoarse with either a cold or the flu for the last week, simple and easy wasn't even enough.

When in doubt, go crafty.

I needed to provide the dessert at a ladies luncheon today...for up to 40 women. I started by purchasing Costco's Brownie Bites because they are dark, intensely chocolate, and not too big. Two on a small plate with a swoosh of our local Clover brand canned whipped cream sounded about right. For the photos, taken later at home, I added another bite to the plate, but for the luncheon we added a few nuts and a couple of Easter candies. It was a hit.

So why crafty? Because presentation is important sometimes and I dolled up the bites two ways. You are probably clever enough to figure out dozens of other ways to embellish them but here is a place to start.

First I ordered little sugar decorations from King Arthur Flour (and, no, they do not pay me for recommending them) choosing cute daises and bright stars. One or the other decoration was on sale and they often have seasonal decorations on sale right after the season.

I had some sparkly sugar, also from 'the King' on hand from a previous crafty project.

All I had to do was make a small batch of Royal Icing. It went into a Ziploc bag, a corner was cut (very tiny opening) and I squirted icing on to the center of enough bites to take care of the sugar decorations...just over 40. A star or flower was then plopped on top of the icing dot and give a tap to settle it. Believe me this sort of mass production goes quickly; it takes longer to line up the brownie bites to be decorated!



The next craftiness took only a bit longer. The next 40 bites were given a spiral of Royal Icing...using the same bag of icing...and the spirals were sprinkled with the sparkly sugar. Everything was allowed to dry, put away, and that was it.

Everyone was quite taken with the cute little bites and I still had energy left to pour tea at the luncheon. Imagine how exhausting to make all those little cakes and then decorate them! I'd have to be 20 years younger and/or in perfect health.

Feel free to steal this idea. Would work for decorating cookies for a party, too.

Royal Icing (half recipe)
from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book

1 egg white
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar (plus a little extra if needed to make it the consistency you want)
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine the egg white, sugar, lemon juice, and slat in a mixing bowl. Beat at high speed for several minutes, until the mixture holds soft peaks. If needed, add additional sugar a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. (Note: for these decorations I made the icing stiffer so that it would hold the decoration without running and so that it would hold the spiral shape cleanly.)

2 comments:

tanita davis said...

Oh, beautiful! I would never have thought of starting with something pre-made, but for forty women, that is GENIUS.

Our church back home is having a women's tea; I'll be pointing my sister RIGHT to this post...

Susan said...

Oh, 15 years ago, or even 10 years ago ~ good grief, even 5 years ago ~ I was unstoppable, hefting fieldstone to build raised beds, making my own pasta, and sewing curtains without a pattern. I was AMAZING. I've felt somehow guilty for "fizzling out" these past several years, but your post has helped me to realize that it's okay to slow down some. I'm not 35 anymore, after all. Or even 50. We can still create wonderful things, and bring smiles to faces, without doing backflips. Your dessert plates look like such fun! Thank you for sharing!