Table Assignment Cookies

As some of you know, I took on the huge task of making the table assignments for my wedding reception.  They weren’t just table assignments, they were chocolate chip cookies decorated in the shape of wedding cakes with everyone’s name and table number piped onto them.  And I had to make 75 of them.  It was no small task, and the only excuse I can give as to why I procrastinated so long was that I didn’t know how long they would stay fresh after I made them, and I didn’t want people to have to eat stale cookies.

Another issue I ended up running into was how to make chocolate chip cookies that wouldn’t spread out excessively during baking.  If you’ve ever made chocolate chip cookies, you know that you can just put a glob of dough onto a cookie sheet, and when it’s done baking it will be completely spread out and flat.  Well, I didn’t want that to happen with my cookies, because I really wanted them to maintain their wedding cake shape.  I went through about 3 recipes before I found one that wouldn’t spread while baking but still tasted good.  When Steve was taste testing the cookies, he immediately spit out the first batch, it was that nasty.  Ha! Luckily the 3rd time was the charm.

I ended up staying awake until 3:30am the night before my wedding so that I could finish the cookies and not have to work on them the DAY of my wedding!  Luckily I had my friend (and bridesmaid) Tiffany staying at my house, and she was such a big help.

I started out by adding a cup of butter, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and 1/3 cup of granulated sugar to my mixing bowl.

I blended the butter and sugar until thoroughly combined and creamy, then added one egg yolk and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Then, I mixed all that together until it was thoroughly combined.

Here is where the dough really starts to take it’s shape.  I sifted about 2 cups of flour into the bowl (one cup at a time) and mixed until it had the consistency I wanted.  I could tell it was pretty much ready when the dough started getting dry enough to where it was scraping the sides completely clean as it was being mixed.  See how there is barely any dough residue on the walls of the bowl?

I poured a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips into the dough and mixed on the lowest setting on my mixer.  I didn’t want to break up the chocolate chips too much.

Here is the trick to making chocolate chip cookies that won’t spread out.  Freeze the dough for about 5-10 minutes before rolling it out.  Then when you cut out your cookies with a cookie cutter, they won’t fall apart on you when you’re trying to lift them onto the cookie sheet.  You might notice the dough starting to get too soft after a few minutes of rolling it out and messing with it, and if that happens you can just stick it back in the freezer for a couple minutes to firm up again.

I rolled the chilled dough out between two sheets of parchment paper so that I wouldn’t have to mess with flour everywhere.  It actually worked really well.

Once you have your dough rolled out to the correct thickness (I think I rolled mine to about 1/4 an inch or so), take your cookie cutter and start cutting away!  I normally cut all my shapes and then peel away the outer edges, instead of trying to remove the cut out cookie from the rest of the dough.

Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper (this also helps them not to spread too much) and chill the raw cut out cookies in the freezer for about 10 minutes before placing them in the oven.  You want them very cold and firm before you bake them.  This is the main thing that helps them keep their shape.

Bake the chilled cookies at 350° for 10-12 min.  I baked mine for 10 min because I didn’t want them to get too brown and crunchy.

Once your cookies have cooled, it’s time to decorate!  You can find instructions on making Royal Icing here.

I outlined each of the 75 cookies and let them dry overnight.  You really only need to let them dry for about an hour or so, but it was about 3:20am on Wednesday night and I decided that I was done with cookies for the night.  You can see how I had to “glue” one of the cookies back together on the left side of the above picture.  If a cookie ever breaks on you, it’s very easy to glue it back together with some Royal Icing, and then when you finish decorating the cookie, you can’t even tell that it was ever broken.

Once the outlines are dry, you can thin the rest of your icing to a syrup consistency and flood your cookies.  I pour the thinned icing into a plastic squeeze bottle to make it easier to spread onto the cookie.  You will probably need to use a toothpick to make sure the icing gets into all the corners.

Steve even helped with one or two cookies!

Here’s what the cookies will look like once they are completely flooded.  I love this method, because you can get such a nice smooth surface to decorate.

After we had flooded all 75 cookies, I needed to make some more Royal Icing so we could go back over top with lavender and write the names and table numbers, and add some decorative dots around the edges.

Tiffany was a little too generous putting the icing in the piping bag, and she had to squeeze about half of it out.

Writing the names was definitely the most tedious part!  My hand was starting to hurt after only a few names.

Tiffany did a great job putting lavender dots all around each cookie.  That might have been even more tedious than the names!

It was 3:30am when we finally finished.  Oh, and I didn’t even mention that I had to paint that Thank You sign at the bottom of the picture.  On the other side of the sign it says “Just Married”.  My sister in law and photographer, Stacey Pentland, had us hold up the signs in our wedding attire so that our thank you cards could have that picture on them, and so we could have another picture of us holding the Just Married sign.

All in all, I’m glad I did the cookies.  Everyone seemed to love them, and it was a nice personalized touch to our wedding.


My First Time Decorating Sugar Cookies

I’ve been enjoying looking at several baking blogs lately, and many of them display beautifully decorated sugar cookies.  I’m planning on incorporating pretty sugar cookies into my wedding design, so I thought I’d practice on my Dad and my friend, Katie.  Their birthdays are this month, and what better way to celebrate than by eating cookies made by yours truly?!

Sugar cookies are not my favorite cookie.  I’m a chocolate chip girl all the way; and I also appreciate a good peanut butter cookie now and then, but since sugar cookies are the traditional cookies for decorating, I decided to go with them.

I didn’t document the process since it was my first time making these from scratch, and I didn’t want you all to follow my instructions in case they didn’t turn out that good.  The batter was VERY crumbly, and I had to knead it together as I scooped it out of the bowl.  I had a hard time keeping it together as I was rolling it out.  Next time I think I’ll add a little more liquid.

I went to a bakery supply store and Joann’s and picked up some cookie cutters, squeeze bottles, and a few other supplies.

Here are the cookies I made my dad.  Since it was my first time making them, I wasn’t very organized with the frosting, and so I wasn’t able to do as many colors or details as I wanted, so I finished decorating with an edible marker.

He is turning 70 this year.  70!!!  I can’t believe it!  He’ll always be young to me.  When I look at him, and I look at other 70 year olds, he still looks WAY younger!  Maybe it’s because he still has brown hair, and doesn’t even color it!

These hammers are my favorite.  He has been a contractor since he was about 16, so a hammer seemed pretty fitting for him. 🙂  I know hammers don’t usually have white handles, but I didn’t have any brown….so you’ll just have to deal with it.

The butterflies I made for Katie turned out pretty good.  Although, when the icing dried, it left a couple craters.  Hopefully she won’t notice. 🙂

I know I’ll get better with practice, so if anyone would like me to practice on them, feel free to let me know!  I certainly can’t eat a bunch of cookies, especially before my wedding!

Here are the rest of the butterfly cookies.  I made several different sizes so she won’t feel too guilty if she wants to eat more than one at a time.  I hope they don’t break during shipping!  Thanks for sharing my first sugar cookie decorating adventure with me!

Books & Tornadoes

Well, today was the closest I’ve ever been to experiencing a tornado first hand.  This morning it was raining as we drove to work, and I didn’t think much of it.  It was pretty warm outside, which I knew meant that we would probably have some thunderstorms.  Boy was I right!  Around 2:00pm we started hearing tornado sirens outside our office, but oddly the weather had died down, and there was almost no wind and the rain had let up quite a bit.  The calm before the storm.

A couple minutes later, we looked outside and it looked as if evening had suddenly fallen upon us….but it was only 2:00 in the afternoon.  The wind started picking up, and as we all stared out the window of our office, my heart started racing.  The rain was pounding our cars outside, and the wind was picking up with a speed that I had never seen before.  I am from Southern California, where there is a thunderstorm once every 10 years.  This was not normal for me!  Where was our storm cellar?  Oh, that’s right.  We’re in our office building, and there IS NO STORM CELLAR!!!

We all raced to my office, which happens to be toward the middle of the building and has no windows.  Then the power went out.

More heart racing.

Because my office lacks windows, all we had was the slight illumination our cell phones provided for light.  Why don’t we have any flashlights in the office?  Pretty sure we’ll be stockpiling them tomorrow.

A couple minutes went by, and Steve and Curtis (one of our employees) went back to the lobby to see if it had died down.  It hadn’t.  I heard them yell, “OH CRAP!!” and they came running back into my office.  They said that the wind was blowing so hard that they couldn’t see anything even 10 feet in front of our office.  The wind was carrying with it pelting rain, hail, and debris.

I tried sending texts to my mom and my friend Elizabeth, but of course I didn’t have any cell service.  My facebook app worked, though, and I typed out a couple scared status updates asking people to pray for our safety.

While hunkered down in my dark office, Casey (another employee) and I were worried about our chemist, Jeff, who had gone to lunch only a couple minutes before the storm hit.  We were finally able to get a hold of him, and he informed us that everyone in the Subway restaurant he was in had taken shelter in the freezer.

Several minutes later (but what seemed like hours) it was finally over.  The wind had died down enough that we walked outside to look and see if there was any damage.  Luckily the only thing we found was that a tree had fallen on one of the cars in the parking lot (not one of ours, luckily).  Since the power was still out, we decided to let everyone go home.  Needless to say, while we were driving home we passed countless fallen trees.  Many of which were blocking the roadways.  We had to take a detour through the mall parking lot since several trees were blocking the road we needed to take, and we saw several trees that had been completely snapped in half at the thickest part of their trunks, and the tops had blown completely across the parking lot!

Thankfully, God protected us and our house, and we didn’t have any damage other than some of my patio curtains being blown down.

On a happier note, the 2 books that I ordered on Amazon a few days ago arrived today!

Cake Pops by Bakerella.  If you’ve never visited her blog, do it!  She’s got so many cute recipe’s and tutorials for her Cake Pops.

I also got this wonderful book! 1,000 Ideas for Decorating Cupcakes, Cookies & Cakes.  It doesn’t have any instructions on how to make these beautiful creations, but it does give some frosting and fondant recipes, as well as tell you what type of frosting or fondant was used.  So, if you get this book, you should probably either already have a knowledge on how to do some of these decorating techniques, or get an additional book that has pastry decorating instructions.

Just look at some of these gorgeous ideas!  I’m sure I could figure this out (after messing up quite a few times).

Doesn’t that cake look delicious?!  I’m loving the chocolate ganache that is dripping down the sides.

Umm, Hello gorgeous!  Oh yah, I could totally do that!  Hey, I can always dream…..and practice!  Anyone need a cake?

Look at these adorable wedding cookies!!  I think I’m going to attempt something like this for Elizabeth’s bridal shower that I’m hosting in a couple weeks.  That wedding dress is so cute!

I’m planning on making some cake pops as wedding favors for our wedding in July, and wouldn’t these be perfect!?  So cute!!!

I’m so glad I had these books to entertain me after almost dying in a tornado…..well not really, but hey, it was my first tornado experience!!!  I was traumatized!  But I’m all better now, thanks to these lovely baking & decorating books. 🙂