It's officially Fall and hallelujah for that. This year has felt anything but normal, so it's nice to feel a bit of normalcy now that Fall is here. Football is on TV, pumpkins are everywhere and cinnamon is in the air. It's just a bit of relief in this unpredictable time. To start off the Fall season, I thought I'd start by sharing a easy recipe for homemade cinnamon roll bites. Cinnamon roll bites is just essentially balled up brioche dough covered in butter, cinnamon and sugar. To make it easy, I use my go-to cinnamon roll recipe dough. It's full-proof and so easy to work with. This is a nice change from the traditional rolls and a great party dish as it's literally made for a crowd.
Pâte à choux is a light pastry dough originating from France. Learning to make this dough is a foundational pastry lesson. If you can make pâte à choux successfully, you can not only make cream puffs but also many more pastries including Paris breast, eclairs, and much more. This recipe is easy as long as you have your prep work done before beginning the recipe. This recipe is an example of one where "mise en place" really comes into play. You may not get eveerything right the first time. Piping the puffs out might be difficult for a beginner. But, the only way you'll get better is with practice. That's why this recipe is a confidence builder. Once you nail pâte à choux, you can pretty much make anything. I'll walk you step-by-step of how to get it right.
I'm not a fan of raw tomatoes, but if I were, this would definitely be one of the things I'd be munching on all day. Bruschetta is an Italian appetizer or "antipasto" as it called in Italian. It's incredibly easy to make and requires very few ingredients. Typically it consists of bread, tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper. It's also topped with cheese sometimes and traditionally topped with balsamic vinegar. I believe the bread and tomatoes are supposed to be a vehicle for the balsamic. As much as I've tried to like it, I absolutely detest balsamic vinegar. It's just too strong for my palate. If you enjoy it, feel free to replace the vinegar I have in the recipe or you can even use both as an option. I personally use red wine vinegar because I don't find it as harsh as balsamic. It provides great flavor but doesn't take away from the stars which are the bread, tomatoes, and basil.
Homemade yogurt is far and away better than store-bought yogurts. That's a fact. Though it may seem daunting, yogurt is so easy to make at home. I'm going to be teaching you the top yogurt of them all, leban. Leban is a Lebanese yogurt that is as thick as mascarpone or cream cheese but so much tangier. It is made with two ingredients...yes, two ingredients only! It's incredibly easy to make, deliciously tangy, and very versatile. We use leban mainly as a dip for many different foods. It's served with everything from kibbeh to meat pies to rice and so much more.
Rice pilaf is a staple for Middle-Eastern cuisine. It's very easy to make, delicious and is finished in under an hour. The way we make rice pilaf is we include vermicelli noodles that are sauteed in oil or shortening. The noodles add just a bit of a differentiating distinct flavor to the rice. It's such a wonderful combination. If you're serious about learning Middle-Eastern cuisine, then this is a great dish to start with. It's a base for so many recipes, but it also accompanies other dishes as well. For example, in Lebanese cooking, we use rice pilaf as a side dish for chicken entrees, bbq, kafta, and more. We also use it as a base for dishes such as bazella, fasolia, kafta bi-siniyyeh, and more. Those are just a few examples and that's just from Lebanese cooking. All over the Middle-East, rice pilaf is used in a variety of ways. It's so important to nail this if you want to continue on your journey in successfully learning to cook Middle-Eastern cuisine. Fear not, it's much easier than you think. I'm going to show you use how easy and quick this staple dish comes together.
If there is one drink that is my kryptonite, it's the slushie. It's the perfect drink for a hot summer's day. I'm unapologetic about my support for this tasty icy invention.
This homemade strawberry limeade slushie is similar to what you'd get at your local Sonic. It's sweet, tangy, drinkable, but you can also eat it with a spoon. That is by definition, the perfect slushie to me. This drink is super refreshing and full of flavor. It comes together very quickly and with very few ingredients. Skip the drive-thru and give this recipe a try instead.
Kafta is a Lebanese staple for a reason. Beyond being extremely delicious, it's also extremely easy to make and extremely versatile. It comes together quickly and only requires a few ingredients. Oh yeah and the added bonus...it's very healthy! Earlier in my blogging days, I shared our kafta recipe, but it was for kafta in pita. This is yet another way you can make kafta. It's sauteed or pan-fried in olive oil until seared and cooked through. We then turn the heat off and add in lemon juice so an olive oil-lemon sauce forms. It's beyond delicious and the kafta ends up being tangy, juicy, and tender. Just one of the many ways you can make and serve kafta.
We all love cinnamon rolls, but from time to time we all like a change. With Summer being practically here, I decided to use my cinnamon roll dough recipe for these homemade orange rolls. I'm using the same dough, because I love how they come out soft, fluffy and not sweet. The filling is buttery, citrusy and so good. The topping is more of the same. The thing I really love about these rolls, besides their summer flavor and the texture is that they maintain that texture over a couple of days. That's all due to our starter. I love this variation of rolls and I'm sure you will too.
Everyone's grandma has a specialty cake. Like many out there, my grandma's specialty cake came from a box. Her specialty cake was the Betty Crocker marble cake. Yes, it's true. It came straight up from a box. There was no doctored version, it was just the regular recipe made with love. We loved it, of course. Give us a piece of that cake with some ice cold milk and we were happy and quiet for a while. We've spent many Saturdays eating that cake, so when I think of marble cake today, it's really nostalgic for me.
As amazing as that cake was when I was a kid, I think we can do better now. I'm not a huge boxed cake mix fan to be honest. I mean, I'm all for boxed cake in a pinch. I'm no snob here. But, when I have the time and the ingredients, I'd much rather have a made from scratch cake. The challenge is making a good homemade marble cake. Many have tried, but it presents more challenges than you'd think.
Cheesecakes are easy, but at the same time, they take just a bit of work. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it's not. Stay with me for a bit here. So, cheesecakes aren't complicated. They involve ingredients we typically have on hand. Graham cracker crumbs, cream cheese, eggs, sugar, heavy cream, etc. Cream the ingredients in a pan and bake them off. However, they are also a bit of work. Some people bake their cheesecakes in a water bath. I'm not saying a water bath is difficult to set-up, but anyone who's done it will attest to its awkward set-up. On top of that, it's not like you can just dive-in once it's baked. You have to wait for the next day for the cheesecake to set-up before doing that. That's probably the hardest part of it all. Well, sometimes you're just not feeling it. Sometimes you want to cut the ingredients, time, and effort in half. This recipe for no-bake mini cheesecakes will fill your cheesecake sweet tooth and it's so easy and quick to put together. No baking, no crust, no water bath, just easy mixing.
If I said "Lebanese food" to you, what is the first thought that comes to mind? Lebanese food is known as a flavorful, yet very healthy cuisine. I know I'm biased, but it's my favorite cuisine, with Italian being not too far behind. One of our most well-known dishes is chicken shawarma. Both beef and chicken shawarma have become trendy food items over the last few years. Their popularities have grown exponentially, especially in the U.S. during this past decade. They're tasty, widely accessible, and a great on-the-go snack.
Many of you have probably had a shawarma at your local restaurant. Let's admit it, some have been better than others. So, why leave it to chance, when you can just make it at home? This is my mom's recipe for authentic Lebanese chicken shawarma. It's much easier to make than you think and it's beyond tasty. Juicy and tender flavorful chicken wrapped in pita slathered with garlic sauce. It's the way to go moving forward.
Smoothies are like the *it* thing right now. Smoothie shops are popping up on every corner in every shopping plaza across the country. A smoothie is such a wonderful concept. Fruit, milk, a thickener, and delicious flavorings. Blend it all together and you get your healthy, yet flavorful drink. You also get your natural vitamins for the day. It sure as heck beats shoving broccoli down your throat. As you guys know, smoothies come in many different flavors and they're incredibly easy to make. A lot of times, you can just blend up what you have on hand and voila, you have a smoothie! In my case, I have lots and lots of berries on hand at the moment. So, I figured it's my perfect chance to share my version of a triple-berry smoothie.
Cinnamon rolls are one of the most popular brunch items across this country and for good reason. When done right, they're light, fluffy, gooey and perfectly full of cinnamon flavor. A couple of months ago, I finally shared my version of a traditional overnight yeasted cinnamon roll, which you can find here.
A great yeasted cinnamon roll is and should be the standard. But, let's face it. Sometimes we're just not in the mood to go through the yeast process. It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. Sometimes we just want to get our fix without the hassle. And sometimes, like more recently, we're just out of the ingredients required to make traditional cinnamon rolls. That's where this amazing cake comes in. It's a light, fluffy and moist cake. That's first and foremost. We utilize the reverse-creaming method, which yields a wonderfully light and tender cake. Along with it being amazingly moist and fluffy, it's absolutely delicious. It's full of cinnamon flavor, the sides get gooey and it's topped with homemade cream cheese frosting. It actually tastes like a cinnamon roll! It's pretty trippy actually. For way less work, we're able to get full-on cinnamon roll flavor. This recipe is definitely a keeper.
Chicken wings are the ultimate comfort food. They're crispy, flavorful, juicy and easy to make. Fresh from the fryer, there is nothing better. This is not up for debate. Wings come in many varieties, but a heavy favorite for most are the buffalo wings. They have just enough spice to give your tastebuds a workout. My buffalo wings are not traditional in that they're breaded. I prefer breaded wings, so that's why I do it. However, I know there are many traditionalists out there. That's why I'm sharing two versions of my hot wings recipe. One that will be breaded and fried and another that is without the breading and is roasted in the oven. Why am I offering that alternative option? Well, mainly because we're having a national shortage on flour right now and the non-breaded option doesn't require flour. Also, it's considerably a healthier option, since we're roasting instead of frying. Whatever option you choose, understand you can't go wrong. Both recipes produce flavorful and amazingly juicy buffalo wings.
One of my favorite movies of all time is The Sandlot. Real renegade, I know. I know it's a super popular and mainstream movie, but for me, it's a part of my childhood. I'm an early '90s baby, so it was literally everywhere when I was growing up. I'm pretty sure my first crush ever was Benny Rodriguez and I mean, who can blame me? And of course, it's just a really funny and fun movie. So, that's why I couldn't and can't resist the pull of The Sandlot. Pretty much every scene in the movie is my favorite and is super quotable, but one of most iconic in the movie is when Scotty aka "Smalls", is in the treehouse for a campout and is called out by "Ham" for not knowing what a s'more was. "I haven't had anything yet...so how can I have some more of nothing?" Ah, Smalls you fool. Your naiveté is quite hilarious. Regardless, The Sandlot is no doubt an All-American movie and the S'more is no doubt an All-American snack. Thus, to honor both one of my favorite movies and one of my favorite snacks, I've decided to share this full-proof recipe for delicious homemade s' mores ice cream.
Vegetarian food can get a bad wrap for being flavorless, dull and boring. Sorry vegetarians, it's a hard truth you have to admit. However, that's not the case with Lebanese food. We have a lot of vegetarian dishes that are packed with flavor and this dish is no different.
Warak Enab is the counterpart of the beef-filled Warak Areesh. They're both Lebanese stuffed rolled grape leaves. Where they differ is the filling. The filling for warak enab is vegetarian and full of flavor. The filling includes parsley, tomato, rice and more. When cooked, the grape leaves are tender, tangy and they melt in your mouth. You won't be missing any flavor with this very healthy Lebanese vegetarian dish.
There is currently six inches of snow outside. We still have a couple of months of this. I need something bright to remind me of the light of at the end of the tunnel, Spring. That's where these lemon bars come in. Lemon bars are a staple of your local bake sales for good reason. They're incredibly easy to make, tangy, creamy, and chewy. Great flavor and texture, which is what we all really want. Bakery-style bars right from your own home. It doesn't get much better than that!
You know how we all grew up with those frozen chicken nuggets we were served at school or with our Lunchables? Well, those were all fine and well when we were like eight. By the time you got to fifteen, you started to notice just how bad those nuggets were. We're adults now. We can do much better. In comes chicken poppers. These chicken poppers are essentially adult chicken nuggets. They're not just for adults though. Your kids will love them as well. Packed with flavor, juicy and very easy to make.
Last week, I shared my mom's Lebanese chicken noodle soup recipe with you. Well, this week I'm bringing you another one of mom's recipes. I'm going to show you how to make this dish that typically accompanies the chicken noodle soup in our household. Tidbeha is a Lebanese rice dish that consists of cooked basmati rice cooked in onions with minced beef, garnished with slivered toasted almonds (optional). It's a wonderful variety to the normal rice or rice pilaf we make. It's a comfort dish, so flavorful and easier to make than you think.
If you were wondering why I haven't posted a new recipe in a few weeks, I have a perfectly good explanation. Yes, school was one of the major reasons. That obviously takes time away from what I could otherwise use as my filming time. Another issue was I was going through it these last couple of weeks. What I thought was just a cold, turned into self-diagnosed full-on bronchitis. It was horrible. Lost my voice, constantly coughing, headaches and so on. I can't emphasize how terrible those two weeks were. On top of being sick, finals were approaching. It was just a huge mess. One day as I was coughing my lungs out, I walked up to my mom with my mouth curled into a pout and the best puppy dog eyes I could give. I asked her, "mama, could you please make chicken soup?" She quickly obliged. Nothing cures me as quickly as my mom's chicken noodle soup. Why? It's out of this world good. I'm not exaggerating. When you take your first bite of that steaming hot soup, you'll think you died and went to flavor town. My mom makes her soup the Lebanese way, though I found a similar recipe on Shop Chopsticks. It involves vermicelli noodles, a very flavorful stock seasoned with our secret weapon and garnished with Italian flat-leaf parsley. This soup is so flavorful, ridiculously easy to make and will cure you of any ills you may be experiencing.
Thanksgiving is inching closer and closer as each day passes and I can not wait! It's by far my favorite holiday. For me it's all about family, food and football. The ultimate All-American holiday. Of course, the All-American holiday can't be complete without some pie for dessert. But, what is THE pie for Thanksgiving? There is always an intense debate about which of the holy trinity of pies is THE pie for Thanksgiving. Obviously, the holy trinity of pies include pumpkin, pecan and apple.
Well, I'm not really a pecan fan. I do love pumpkin, but there's still one that has my heart even over pumpkin. Yes it's true. I only have eyes for one pie in my life and that's easily apple. I mean you have apples, cinnamon and brown sugar blanketed in a flaky pie crust. You really can't go wrong with that. If you've never tried a homemade apple pie, now is your chance to check that off your bucket list. We're going to turn you into an apple pie making machine. I know some of you are fearing this, but it's going to be okay...I promise. Some of you are intimidated by the mere thought of making pie at home. I'll tell you the honest truth. It's SO much easier than you think. I guarantee it.
Pound cake gets a bad wrap. There are some crazies out there that think it's bland, dense and not worth the effort. Well crazies, you're dead wrong. Pound cake is SO worth the effort...when done right. What do I mean by "done right?" Well, it's pretty simple. We need a tons of fat in the form of butter, sour cream and cream cheese. Why? Because fat is flavor! This fat also provides moisture to our cake. We need great flavor and I can promise you that is what you get here. There's tanginess from the buttermilk, lemon, cream cheese and sour cream. There's great warm flavors from the molasses, cinnamon and brown sugar. Lastly, we need great texture. For a pound cake, it should be a bit dense, yet still have some lightness and moisture to the cake. We also get wonderful texture from our streusel topping. Trust me pound cake haters, this pound cake is one you'll want to try.
It's my favorite time of the year. Those who know me, know that Fall is my season bar none. Though Fall officially started a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that I've yet to post any Fall-related recipes. Well, that changes today. I'm sharing my version of a beloved fall staple. Cinnamon rolls! Now, there are tons of recipes out there for cinnamon rolls. But, I'm a bit of a perfectionist. If I'm going to make a cinnamon roll, it's going to have to hit all the marks. So, what makes a great cinnamon roll? In my opinion, it should be soft, tall, fluffy, golden, full of flavor, and topped with a delicious glaze. I didn't want to share a cinnamon roll recipe until I feel like I nailed all those points. After much research and testing, I believe I've arrived at the pinnacle of cinnamon roll goodness. I'm happy to share it with you!
A few weeks ago, I shared a raspberry mousse recipe with you guys. Well, little did you know what was going on behind the scenes. That mousse went a long way. Not only did I use them for my raspberry mousse cups, which you can find the recipe for here, but I also was able to use the mousse for this lovely chocolate-raspberry mousse cake. For as good as this cake looks and tastes, it's incredibly easy to make. I used a homemade chocolate cake, but you can use the boxed mix or grocery cake layers. From there, all I did was make some ganache, which is child's play and used the leftover raspberry mousse I had on hand. It was that easy.
I'm just going to say it for everybody. "Casserole" doesn't sound appetizing. The word just has a bad connotation attached to it in the food world. You can blame things like Tuna casserole and other crazy concussions for that. However, I'm here to break that stigma. There are plenty of delicious casserole dishes out there. Lasanaga, baked ziti, and baked macaroni and cheese are great examples of amazing "casserole" dishes. Well, let me introduce one more to add to that list...French Toast Casserole. Yes, you read that right. French Toast Casserole. I love this dish so much! There's no need to soak the bread overnight. There's no need to stand over an oven and slave away flipping the bread at precisely the right moment. Nope, this dish allows you to put everything in one casserole dish, bake it off and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. This version of french toast casserole is called "berries and cream french toast casserole." For good reason too. We have berries and cream cheese in the casserole. Then, we top it off with more berries and some whipped cream. Once you take a bite of your warm french toast, you'll think you died and went to heaven. It will take you to another dimension. I'm tellin' you.
It's Summer and it's hot out. I really don't do well in this weather. I'm more an Autumn girl. However, since I can't press a fast forward button to the Fall, I'm going to have to tough this heat and humidity out. During the Summer, I want something cool and refreshing daily. These mousse cups check all the boxes. They look impressive. They are easy and quick to make. And man oh man are they good. I'm pretty much a sucker for any raspberry and chocolate combination. Lastly, the best thing is the differing textures. We have the cool creamy mousse, with the dense fudgy chocolate cake and cookie crumbs sprinkled throughout. It really doesn't get much better.
Anyone that knows me knows that I love peanut butter. Peanut butter candy, peanut butter sweets, and just plain peanut butter and jelly. It's just such a distinctly wonderful flavor. Let me tell you, these cookies will sure fill your peanut butter needs. They're full of peanut butter flavor, dense, soft and chewy. The only downside is you're going to need a big glass of milk to wash them down with because they're that rich. They're so good, but you most likely won't be able to eat more than three at a time. But don't mind me, try it if you dare!
This is my mom's version of oven-baked chicken. It's done the Lebanese way, which is made with tons of garlic and lemon.
To start this dish, you'll want to make my mom's chicken stock. This dish is typically the entree that accompanies my mom's Lebanese vegetable soup that I shared with you last week. You don't absolutely have to serve this with the veggie soup, although I highly recommend it. What's not optional is the use of chicken stock in this recipe. Using the stock recipe I offered to you last week, is the epitome of why this dish is so good. That stock is part of the reason why this chicken is so tender, juicy and flavorful. If you're a garlic lover, this recipe is most definitely the one for you. Also, just a FYI, this recipe is not accompanied by a video tutorial. I just didn't have enough video footage to make a video from it. Regardless, the vegetable soup tutorial is up and that's where you can see how to make this stock. Once you make the stock, the rest is super easy.
A few weeks ago, I teased on my Instagram page (@fayesfood1) that I'd be sharing my mom's version of this Lebanese vegetable soup. Well, life got in the way. By life, I mostly mean school and work. However, I'm back to make good on my promise. This is by far my favorite soup. I'll take it over chicken noodle in a heartbeat. That's how good it is. I mean chicken noodle soup is pretty amazing, so the fact that this soup surpasses it should tell you all you need to know. This soup consists of potatoes, carrots, zucchini and a flavorful tomato broth. So, clearly this soup is tremendously healthy. But, that's not what makes this soup great. It's just absolutely heavenly. The flavor and textures of this soup are so on point. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I'm happy to share the delicious soup recipe with you and I know it'll become a favorite, just like it is for me.
I have a cheat that I can teach you. It's called "healthy" desserts. See, my brothers always give me a hard time about having to eat certain desserts that I make for my posts all by myself. How do I mitigate their teasing? Well, I put fruit on my dessert. That dessert then technically becomes a "healthy" dessert at that point. So, they can't say much and I feel less guilty. One of my favorites "healthy" desserts to eat is a tart. Some people are daunted at the thought of making tarts, but that's something I've never understood. Tarts are very easy to make and man are they delectable. Normally, tarts are filled with pastry cream. However, I chose to fill this version with lemon curd filling and top it with blueberries and strawberries. Like I said....healthy! Lemon and berries just works. It's a match made in heaven. And man oh man do the angels sing when I take a bite of this healthy dessert.
What says "I love you", better than chocolate? Not much that I know of. Come to think about it...nothing. Nothing says "I love you", better than chocolate. So, when I want to really treat myself AND satisfy my chocolate addiction, then this recipe is my go-to. It's really easy to make...it takes less than twenty minutes for the entire process. There are very few ingredients that are required...actually less than ten. Lastly, it's so freakin' good. Chocolate to the tenth degree. A baked cake on the outside and molten fudgy chocolate in the middle. God, I'm salivating just thinking about it. It doesn't get much better than that. So, whether you're treating yourself with a girl's night in or you're treating your loved one, this is definitely something you're going to want to try.
The sun is staying up longer, birds are chirping and we can be outside without a huge winter coat. That only means one thing. Spring is right around the corner! What represents spring better than raspberry and lemon? Not much. That's why when I wanted to celebrate surviving another long winter, I decided to make these easy no-bake lemon raspberry cheesecake bars.
Nothing quite says comfort food like macaroni and cheese. The pasta wrapped up in a cheesy coating, slathered in butter and topped with breadcrumbs. Yeah, you're speaking to my soul now. Who cares if you're on a diet? This mac and cheese is slap your mama good and it's worth the cheat meal. I'm no southerner, but I've done my research. I've combined all my favorite recipes and elements to make an ultimate baked macaroni and cheese. This is stick to your ribs good and it's worth the effort of making it the right way.
I absolutely despise coffee. I don't like the strong smell. I certainly don't like the strong taste. I just don't get the hype. Nope...I'm definitely more of a hot chocolate girl. Give me a cup of homemade hot chocolate, an episode of One Tree Hill, a cozy blanket and I'm a happy girl.
If you've never had homemade hot chocolate, you're seriously missing out. Not only can you whip it up in under ten minutes, but the taste is out of this world. I'm not exaggerating. Homemade cocoa puts that powdered stuff to absolute shame. For a rich, tasty homemade hot chocolate, this is the recipe you'll want to try. Top it as you please and enjoy with your binge-watching.
I absolutely love Italian food. I am fluent in sauce, cheese, meat, and herbs. How could you not love it? One of my favorite dishes is lasagna. As much as I love it though, it's not exactly the dish I think about making when I come home from a long day of school or work. That's the beauty of this recipe. I get all the aspects that are so delicious about lasagna with half the work and time. On top of that, this dish is very filling because it's more of a stew. I use a lot of cheese and sauce which adds a bit of a tasty broth to the dish. It's so good and just as easy. One pot on top of the stove. No baking in the oven, no layering, no making cheese mixtures. There's just no need. There is an easier way...this way. After a long day, this is what gets me back to being at peace. I'm sure it'll do the same for you.
Meat and potatoes are at the center of comfort food. It doesn't get much simpler or much better than that combination. However, many of us overcomplicate it. There's nothing wrong with experimenting in the kitchen, but sometimes it's better to stick with what you know. That's where steak and fries come in. So simple, yet so filling. Many overcomplicate steak. In reality, steaks are one of the easiest things to cook. You just have to know what you're working with and what you're looking for as an end result. This recipe for steak is meant to be easy. It doesn't overcomplicate the method of cooking the steak. It doesn't overcomplicate the flavor of the beef. This is one of my favorite ways to make steak because meat and potatoes should be easy and delicious. This recipe achieves that.
Over the last couple of years, I've picked up a new hobby. Sugar cookie decorating! However, being the perfectionist I am, I can tell you the learning curve initially was very steep and aggravating for me. I know many of you are in the same shoes. You see these cool pictures on Instagram and Pinterest of different decorated cookies and you want to join in on the fun. However, it's not that simple. There is a lot to learn. My intention here is to create an all-in-one comprehensive beginner's guide to sugar cookie decorating.
It only makes sense that we start with the tools required to get started on this journey. Below is a list of recommended tools. Do your research. Some are essential, while others you can do without, to begin with.
Beginner's tools (things to get you started): Baking sheet or cookie sheet, microplane, cookie cutters, offset spatula, pastry bags, squeeze bottles, pastry tips, scissors, parchment paper, silicone mat, rolling pin, scriber or toothpick or turkey lacer, food coloring, wire racks, paint brushes, rubber spatula, plastic spray bottle, mini drywall scraper, x-acto knife, rubber bands or Wilton ties, plastic wrap.
Advanced tools (things to get you to the next level): Pico or Kopykake projector with stand, airbrush kit, food-safe colored markers, tipless pastry bags, heat sealer, poly bags, cookie stamps, fondant, stencils.
**Trends and tools change every day in this industry. I'll add to this list as things change.**
Perhaps the most important component is the cookie. A good sugar cookie is a bit sweet, buttery, a bit tangy (in my opinion), soft and chewy. That's where my go-to sugar cookie recipe comes in. It's a wonderfully versatile recipe that can be used as mini tart shells, pie dough or of course, sugar cookie dough. It hits all the flavor marks and they don't spread as they bake!
You can find the sugar cookie recipe here.
After letting the dough rest, place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Use a dough scraper to cut the dough ball in half. Lightly flour the top and begin to work the dough into a ball. It is normal that it will be pretty crumbly, to begin with. Keep working it and it will become slightly darker in color and smoother in texture.
Work in as much as the crumbs as you can until you have a uniform ball. It's fine to push some of the crumbs to the side and work them into a second ball. As you get a uniform ball, begin to flatten out with hand until it's a circular shape. Lightly flour the top. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough. Roll and turn, roll and turn. I like doing this with a fondant roller, but you can use a regular rolling pin as well. I use a fondant roller because I don't form huge circles. I cut the dough in half and then make two circles out of that one half. Roll with what you please. It's really not a big deal, just giving you an idea of why I use the tools I do. I roll out the dough until it's about ½" thickness. I want a good cookie to icing ratio.
Dip your cookie cutter into flour. Shake off the excess and place your cutter firmly into the dough and press down.
Keep pressing down the cutters until you have enough from that one sheet of dough. Remove the excess dough surrounding the cutters or lift up the cut-out dough after you press down. Either method is fine.
Use a flat spatula or drywall scraper to move the cut-out shape onto a prepared baking fan. Using a spatula or something flat will allow you to move the cookie without distorting the shape. Continue to place the cut-out cookies onto the baking sheet. I have a regular half-sheet pan lined with a silicone mat that has been sprayed with cooking spray. You can also use parchment instead. Place the cookies a couple of inches apart. These cookies don't spread, however, space around the cookies will allow them to bake better, because of the air circulating around them. Use a non-silicone pastry brush to brush off any excess crumbs or flour off the cookie tops and sides.
Bake at 350°F for 9-12 minutes, depending on the shape. The bottom edges should be very lightly golden brown. Understand that different shapes bake at different times. For example, the smaller flower and heart cookies finished a couple minutes before the other shapes, so I took them off the sheet and moved them to the wire rack sooner. Then, I let the rest finish baking. Just be aware of that. Also, once all the cookies are baked off, you can pop any bubbles that formed on top with a toothpick or scriber tool. Poke underneath the bubble and flatten out with your fingers. Do this a few minutes out of the oven so you don't burn yourself, but the cookies are still warm enough to form.
After allowing the cookies to rest on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes, move the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. The picture below shows the color of the bottom of the cookie. Any darker and you'll have a crunchy cookie. I don't know about you, but I'm a soft cookie girl. Any lighter and you won't get as much flavor as possible. This is the ideal color of the bottom of the cookie. I'd even accept just a tad bit lighter.
Our cookies are cooling and we're all set. Now let's focus on the icing.
Sugar cookies are typically covered with an icing called royal icing. This icing is made with only a few ingredients and it's very easy to make. Royal icing allows you so much decorating flexibility. I have a go-to royal icing recipe as well. The reason why I like my icing is that it not only tastes great, but it doesn't dry super hard, which is something royal icing is known for. Once you bite into the cookie, the icing somewhat melts in your mouth. It's absolutely delicious.
For the full royal icing recipe, go here.
My royal icing uses pasteurized egg whites. I've never had an issue using them. However, there are many that still worry about possible health hazards of raw egg whites. They prefer to use a product called meringue powder, instead. Meringue powder is just dehydrated egg whites, along with some stabilizers and sweeteners. I've attached my meringue powder recipe in my royal icing post if you prefer to go that route. If you want your icing to be even softer but still stackable, you add a bit of corn syrup also. I don't recommend doing this until you've made the royal icing recipe a few times so you're familiar with the original texture of the icing.
Once you make your royal icing, place some into separate bowls and cover them with a single piece of paper towel. Obviously, you want to plan out what colors you're using and how much of it, so you know how much to separate. Use a spray bottle, full of water to spray some water over the top of the paper towel. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap. Set aside.
This can be the messy part, so wear gloves if you prefer. To color your icing, remove the plastic wrap and paper towel, begin by adding in a few drops at a time of food coloring. Remember, you can always add more, but you can't take it out. Once it's done, it's done. So, please be careful. After adding in a couple of drops of food coloring, begin mixing the icing. The more you mix, the more air bubbles you'll get. Be mindful of this. Once you get the color you are happy with, begin spraying water into the icing, bit by bit, mixing until you reach your appropriate consistency. When you're done mixing, tap the bowl against the table a few times lightly. Let it settle for a minute. Pop any air bubbles you see with your toothpick or scriber tool.
The key to decorating is consistency. No, I don't just mean keep doing it. Yeah, practice is important and the more you do something, the better you will be at it. There is no denying that fact. However, I'm talking about icing consistency. Let's dive into that topic for a bit.
There are four basic consistencies of icing-thin, medium, thick and extra thick.
The thin icing is the consistency you'll use most often. This is also known as "flood" consistency. It's called "flood" consistency because it's thin enough to move around wherever it wants to. It settles out quickly. This consistency is ideal for filling in large areas of the cookie, such as a base coat. This consistency typically gives you a bit of leeway because it doesn't dry as quickly as the other consistencies. If you need help visualizing it, it looks like the consistency of Elmer's glue. Very thin, but still workable. [10-second]
Medium consistency is sometimes referred to as "one-consistency" icing. Many use this consistency for both outlining the cooking and filling it. This will work with a cookie that isn't larger than 3". The downside of this icing is that it tends to dry pretty quickly, which is why we have the size limit for the cookie. You also use this icing when you want to add dimension to a cookie. [15-second]
Thick icing is for details and outlining cookies. Think of it as the "piping" consistency. It will stay where you put it, which makes it perfect for details and piping letters or words. [20-second]
Extra thick. Well, it's how the name sounds. Very thick and not commonly used in royal icing applications. However, you can use this consistency to spread on with an offset or to experiment with. It doesn't give you much flexibility in terms of decorating though. [25-second]
Besides the descriptions of the icing, you also determine the consistency by time. There is 10-second, 15-second, 20-second consistency. The ideal for flooding is 10-second consistency. What this means is after you 're done mixing your icing and you've popped the air bubbles, run an offset spatula down the middle of the icing. Does the icing "heal" in 10 seconds? Meaning does that mark down the middle disappear in 10 seconds? 10 seconds corresponds with flooding. 15 seconds corresponds with medium and so on. It goes up to 20-25 seconds at the most. Play around with it and decide what works best for you. Once you nail down the consistency, everything is gravy. Believe me on that.
I believe this is crucial. When you first get started, you have no idea what to do regarding storage. I've learned this the hard way. I've worked hours on cookies and then they get ruined in minutes due to terrible storage techniques. The key with storage is you want to keep the cookies covered because you want them to stay moist and you don't want them to dry out. However, we need the top to dry to the touch. So, here's our dilemma.
You have a few options. One route is to buy a dehydrator. This is more advanced and pricy, but it does do the job. There are two types of dehydrators. There is one that blows the air back to front and one that blows up and down. Typically, the front and back one is pricier. Both do the job, but do your research and decide on one if you want to choose this option. The option I'd recommend when first starting out is using catering aluminum pans. The pans are deep enough so you can cover the cookies, without the tops touching the plastic wrap or foil you're using to cover it. However, the downside to this option is that you can't stack the cookies while they're wet, so it's not practical for a large order. You can also use a baking sheet that is deep enough to have the plastic wrap not touch the wet icing. There are a few options, but you just have to see what works for you.
What causes color bleeding?
Color bleeding is a no-no. It messes up you're cookie design completely. Google it if you don't believe me. There are many causes. It can be anything from humidity to placing darks on whites too soon to thin icing. The best way to prevent color bleeding is to allow the first color to completely dry before adding the next color. For example, I flood a cookie with white icing. I will allow that to dry completely for a few hours, then I'll add my black design. If I have another dark color such as red or purple, I have to let that black design dry completely too, before applying them. You see. It's like we're doing layers. This will prevent color bleeding as much as possible.
What if my icing is too thin?
If you overdid it with the water and thinned out your icing too much, all you have to do is add in some sifted confectioners sugar to thicken it back up. Add a spoonful at a time and mix until your preferred consistency is reached.
What if my icing is too thick?
Continue spraying water into the icing bit by bit until the preferred consistency is reached.
How do I store my icing?
Place a paper towel over the top of the icing and spray with a bit of water. Cover the icing with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for up to two weeks or freeze for up to a month. When you want to use, allow to get back to room temperature and mix for a bit until proper consistency is reached.
How do I store unused cookie dough?
Store the unused dough in the fridge for up to two weeks or the freezer for a couple of months. Make sure it's really well wrapped so the moisture and flavor are retained.
What do you recommend using for flooding the cookie?
This is a personal preference. I have used squeeze bottles and hated them. Some swear by them, though. I have used regular pastry bags or ziplock bags to get me by. You can use pastry bags with a hole cut or a 3 tip. Some even use paint brushes and just blob the icing on. I've never done that, but I've seen it done. Personally, I now use tipless pastry bags. They seem to work best for me and I can get them pretty cheap here. Try everything, a see what works best for you.
What food coloring do you use?
Always a gel-based food coloring. They work best and you use less to get the color you want. I typically use AmeriColor. However, in a bind, I've used Wilton gel food coloring and it's ended up fine.
What if my cookie has an ugly edge with stragglers?
I use a microplane or lemon zester to sand my cookie edges sometimes. Don't overdo it and be gentle, but it can help with situations like that.
What if I want to copy an image onto my cookie?
First, wait until your cookie icing is completely dry. Then, you can print out your image, cut out the pieces with an x-acto knife and trace the image on with an edible marker. As you advance, you can purchase a projector and use that to do the job. Typically, food markers come in handy with this.
What's that needle thing people use to move the icing?
This is not optional. You need something to move the icing around when it's in "flood" consistency. This can be a toothpick, turkey lacer or cookie scriber tool also known as a cookie pick. It's up to you what ultimately choose, but all work well.
I will end by saying this. Cookie decorating will be very frustrating at first, but just remember, you're decorating cookies. It's all in good fun. The first step is to just do it. Don't be scared. Worst comes to worst, you get to enjoy a cookie!
Remember, you will get better each time you do it. Trust me. Read, watch and practice and you'll get to where you want to get to with this. Good luck on your cookie decorating journey and let me know if you have any questions!
Fried mozzarella sticks are definitely one of my guilty pleasures. Gooey cheese, crunchy breading, sauce or ranch to dip in...you had me at hello. However, ever since culinary school, my preferences have changed. I do my best to avoid processed foods. Not only are they unhealthy, but they are severely worse in quality when compared to homemade food, obviously. Unfortunately, that meant that I went a few years without eating one of my once favorite foods, mozzarella sticks. It was all bad. Until, one day, I found out just how easy they are to make at home. Not only that, but the real deal homemade variety is 100x better than the frozen stuff. Once you bite into a homemade mozzarella stick, you'll know what I mean when I say, you can't go back.
Add salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning to the flour and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the Panko, Italian breadcrumbs, salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs and milk and mix until combined.
Unwrap and cut the mozzarella sticks in half. Set them aside.
Place a couple pieces of the cheese sticks at a time in the flour, shake off the excess. Dip the sticks into the egg mixture and shake off excess. Dip into the bread crumbs and make sure it's well coated. Repeat this dredging process so that you're doing it twice for each stick. Do this dredging process to all the sticks and set aside. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour.
Pour the oil into a pot or deep fryer and drop a few at a time into a fryer that is set to 375°F. Give it an occasional stir with the tongs. Fry until golden brown and just as a bit of the cheese oozes out the sides. That's when you know they're done. Pull them out and let them drain for a minute or so on a paper towel lined tray. Sprinkle with black pepper and pecorino romano. Enjoy warm!
See how I do it:
- 6 Cheese sticks
- ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- oil for frying
- ⅛ cup Grated Pecorino Romano
In a small bowl, add salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning to the flour and mix until combined.
In a separate bowl, combine the Panko, Italian breadcrumbs, salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning and mix until combined.
In a separate bowl, combine the eggs and milk and mix until combined.
Unwrap and cut the mozzarella sticks in half. Set them aside.
Place a couple pieces of the cheese sticks at a time in the flour, shake off the excess. Dip the sticks into the egg mixture and shake off excess. Dip into the bread crumbs and make sure it's well coated. Repeat this dredging process so that you're doing it twice for each stick. Do this dredging process to all the sticks and set aside on a big plate or tray.
Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour.
Pour the oil into a pot or deep fryer and drop a few at a time into a fryer that is set to 375°F. Give it an occasional stir with the tongs. Fry until golden brown and just as a bit of the cheese oozes out the sides. That's when you know they're done. Pull them out and let them drain for a minute or so on a paper towel lined tray. Immediately sprinkle with black pepper and Pecorino Romano. Enjoy warm!
You can use fresh breadcrumbs, Italian only or Panko only or any combination. Season to taste at the end of the frying process. Must freeze for at least 30 minutes. You can sub the Pecorino for Parmesan. Enjoy warm!
Buttery, soft, chewy, pockets of chocolate, sweet and warm. Chocolate chips cookies are just perfection. This wonderful byproduct of an accident by Chefs Ruth Graves and Sue Brides in 1938 has been a true blessing to us all. It gives us joy. It gives us comfort. When you scarf down many in one session, as I do, it gives you some extra lbs on the scale. But, who cares about that? It tastes too good to care about the repercussions.
There are many ways to make chocolate chip cookies. None are wrong per-say, but I certainly prefer my cookies a certain way. I like my cookies soft and chewy. They don't have to be that way all the way around, but the majority and the middle of the cookie should definitely be easy to eat. If the outside is a tiny bit crispy, I won't complain. I love chocolate. The cookies should be studded with chocolate. I'm talking chocolate chips and pockets of chocolate. I'm talking melted chocolate oozes out when you break one in half. That's how I like it. There are some recipes that use molasses. That's perfectly fine and that ingredient does produce a soft cookie, but molasses is expensive! What I love about my recipe is it hits all MY bullet-points. It produces soft and chewy, chocolatey cookies. The flavor is on point and is what a chocolate chip cookie should be. It's tremendously easy to make, as well. However, if I'm being honest, most cookies are very easy to make, but I'll talk about that some other time. Lastly, no molasses is necessary. So you can spend your well-earned money on the more important ingredient...chocolate. My cookies turn out great every time with this recipe. I'm sure it'll become you're go-to, once you give it a try.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, begin creaming the softened, unsalted butter and both the granulated and brown sugar for about five minutes until creamy and lighter in color.
Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl really well. Add in one egg and mix on medium-low speed until combined. When you see the first egg well-absorbed, add in the next egg and vanilla extract. Mix on medium-low speed for a couple of minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl well again.
With the mixer still off, sift together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Slowly add in the dry ingredients into the dough all at once. Pulse a few times on the lowest speed until a lot of the flour is absorbed. A lot of flour will still show though.
Take the bowl off of the machine and add all the chocolate chips and chunks in. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour and chocolate. I use a stabbing motion to mix it in. This allows me to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. You can also freeze it for a few hours, then thaw it out before baking. The cooling of the dough for 24 hours, at least, is vital. It helps with the flavor. It helps with how the cookies spread. It helps with rolling the dough. It even helps with the coloring. So, in general, cool the dough before baking!
Prepare the cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Spray with cooking spray. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Use an ice cream scoop to portion out the cookies. Place the dough into your palms and form balls. Place the balls on the prepared pan and use your fingers to press down slightly.
Place the cookies a few inches apart. The cookies tend to spread quite a bit so please take note of that.
Bake at 350°F and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are very lightly browned. Take the pan out of the oven and leave the cookies on the pan for a few minutes to continue baking. Move the cookies to a wire rack to cool slightly. Enjoy warm. Please note: the cookies below were only the freezer for about 20-30 minutes due to the constraints in shooting the video. The ones in the photos that follow were in the fridge overnight. You can see the color difference and the difference in spreading. So once again, be sure to refrigerate overnight!
See how I do it:
- 2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups) unsalted butter
- 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
- 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 ½ ounces) cake flour
- 1 ⅔ cups (8 ½ ounces) bread flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 ¼ pounds bittersweet, semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips and chunks (Use a good brand)
- Pinch of sea salt
Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.
Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until lighter in color and fluffier in texture, about 5 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape the bowl really well.
Stir in the vanilla and mix on medium-high speed for a minute or two. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl.
Turn the mixer off. Add the dry ingredients all at once. Pulse until just combined, about 10-15 seconds.
Add in the chocolate all at once. Unhook the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to combine everything. Use a "stabbing motion" to incorporate the flour into the dough. Don't overmix. Just combine until enough. A bit of flour can still remain visible.
Cover the chocolate chip cookie dough with plastic wrap, making sure to press the wrap against the dough, refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
Remove the dough from the fridge and let the dough thaw until you can handle it, but it's not at room temp.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Prepare your cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Spray with cooking spray well.
Use a cookie scoop (ice cream scoop) to scoop out mounds of dough. Form the dough between the palms of your hands. Place the balls on the sheet and press the tops down lightly with your fingers. Give enough space between each dough ball, as the cookies will spread a bit. Sprinkle very lightly with sea salt on top of the cookies.
Bake for 10-14 minutes or until lightly golden brown around the edges. Rotate the pan halfway between at about the 6-7 minute mark. Remove the pan from the oven and leave the cookies on the sheet for about five more minutes to continue the baking. After the five minutes, use a spatula to move to a wire rack to cool until warm.
You can refrigerate the remaining dough for about a week or freeze the dough. It'll last for a couple months in the freezer. Wrap really well. I use Ghirardelli chocolate. It's great tasting and pretty reasonable. Use a good brand of chocolate, because you'll taste cheap chocolate.