Thursday, October 18, 2012

Baking Bazzar - Top Ten

I love to bake. I do it all the time instead of buying sweets and breads for my family. I'm equally addicted to scouring the internet for cool ways to make somewhat plain treats quirkier and more interesting. Today, I'll share with you my top ten cutest ideas and maybe a few quick how-to's to make them yourselves.

Popcorn anyone? It's an age old trick, making something look like something else either to make it look more appealing or to hide the fact that it's something gross or forbidden. But here's an idea - Why not make something delicious, like a cupcake, look like something kids normally don't like, like a carrot? I made some cookies the other week that looked like lima beans and now my son is quite happy to eat the real McCoy, because his brain now equates them with sugary goodness. Genius huh?

Classically speaking, nerds and kitchens don't get along quite so well, but a lot of molds have been broken what with nerdy becoming sexy and outlandish becoming conservative. All of us nerds are now free to proudly wear our Pokemon outfits, our pocket protectors and talk about program coding without fear of retribution so why can't that translate into the kitchen? This is a gorgeous idea to jazz up boring fruit. Simply select your favorite nerdy icon and cut/slice/stack/mold your food to create it.

Take the Rubbiks Cube for instance. Choose three or four different foods and cut them into 36 equal squares then stack them into three layers of twelve squares. Voila, one cute but nerdy meal to grace your dinner table!

Nothing goes better together than fruit and chocolate. Except maybe chocolate and chocolate! But there are literally hundreds of ways to combine the two that take less than a few minutes and are a sweet indulgence. You can puree your fruit and pour it into a fancy silicon mold then top with melted chocolate for a cute snack. You could roll your fruit in a coating of chocolate or dip and decorate. You could slice your fruit and mix into the chocolate and set it back into it's block form. You could stack slices of chocolate and fruit like a kabob. Go nuts!

What could be cuter than slicing open a fresh loaf of bread and finding an adorable panda picture inside? Instead of a panda, what about I♥You? Or a cute little bird, or the word bread itself? You can make it vegan, gluten free, wheat free, yeast free or plain white and fluffy. You could make a dog or a cat of a small child or a car or a plane or a pony or a Pikachu or a sword or a witches hat or a lightening bolt or a frog or a princess or a unicorn or a rainbow or a tree or a snake or a miniature bread Monet!

Got left over fruit peels? Why not turn them into delicious, flavor infusing serving dishes! Play around with your favorite fruit combinations like Orange and Mango, Kiwi and Mandarin, Apple and Pink Grapefruit. Or, use the hollow halves of your fruit skins as molds for fruit-like jelly shots.

Cut a small hole in the top of a watermelon and empty and entire bottle of vodka or liquor of your choice into it. Plug the hole and refrigerate over night. The next day you can cut it into delicious juicy, fruity, alcoholic slices that'll liven up any summer get together!

Or - Pick a small fruit like strawberries and hollow out the middle. Mix up or buy your favorite mousse/custard/ice cream/cheesecake mix and spoon into a piping bag. Pipe your cream concoction into the center of your hollowed out fruit and stick in the fridge or freezer till set again then enjoy a delicious fruity treat!

Bake it in a cup! Or a jar! How adorable does this look? A sweet tea cup and saucer with a magnificently light and fluffy cupcake inside topped with yummy cream. The perfect accompaniment to a girls night in or a high tea party. Or separate your cake batter into smaller bowls and color with food dyes then layer or swirl it into a clear jar and bake it that way so you can see the colors and patterns through the jar then top with fresh whipped cream and juicy berries. How delicious!

This is one of my personal favorites. I tried it for the first time a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to stop baking them. Or eating them. Simply spoon your cake batter into ice cream cones, the kind with the flat bottom, and bake at a slightly lower temperature for a little bit longer. Top with colored butter cream icing and decorative bits like colored sugar, baking glitter, hundreds and thousands, chocolates and cookies, sugar flowers, bakers paint, icing sugar and whatever else your heart desires. You can even change up the color of your batter so when you bite into it, surprise! Neon pink or ocean blue spongy cake that you thought was ice cream. Also a good way to disguise healthy muffins as unhealthy treats!

Think about it - A scoop of your favorite ice cream flavor sandwiched between your favorite cookies. The ones pictured might have been bought but there is no reason why you can't make this one at home. You can even go all out and smoosh in some of your favorite candies like gummy bears, Wonka nerds, snakes, caramello koalas, pop rocks or candy corn. Roll it in hundreds and thousands, smashed rock candy, or chocolate hail. Make your own ice cream, as creamy and sinful as you like and slam it between two, three or ten cookies in a delectable tower for the ultimate treat for a hot/warm/any day!

And how about these cuties? Nothing says pretty as a princess as a crystal bowl filled with delicate rose shaped cookies. You can do this with any kind of cookie dough so long as it's a little runny but still holds it's shape and there aren't any lumps in it. Simply fill a piping bag with your cookie mixture and pipe into the desired shape. Let it sit for a while to form a slight crust so it doesn't collapse at the first sign of heat then smack it in the oven for the required time and voila! You could do this with pavlova mix to make little crunchy pavlova biscuits. You could do this with anything really, it's all up to your imagination!

And finally, another favorite of mine. I'd love to find one of these pans over here in Australia but so far no luck, not ones that I can afford at any rate. You don't have to use the pan though, which is the brilliant thing. You can find an ice cream or paddle pop shaped cookie cutter and do it that way or you can do it how I do it. Take a bunch of lolly sticks and soak them for a few minutes in warm water. This will leech out any nasty chemicals and make sure the sticks don't burn. Roll a stiff cookie dough into short logs and wrap around the lolly stick. Shape how you want them to look and place on a greased tray. Bake for the required time. You can eat them just like that or ice them with royal icing and other yummy stuff!

Happy baking!

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