Feel The Pain - Everyday Baking Blog at Allrecipes.com - 83359

Everyday Baking

Feel the Pain 
Mar. 18, 2009 3:25 pm 
Updated: Apr. 6, 2009 10:23 am
Yeah, I know...things are tough all over.
- Tom Waits, Emotional Weather Report
      My family and I went to a 3-year-old's birthday party recently. Like everyone else these days, we're trying to keep a tight rein on our expenses—but we also wanted to bring the birthday boy a gift. The low-cost solution? A couple of dinosaur cookie cutters, boxed up with a batch of homemade cookies.
      Because I bake food gifts fairly often, I already had all of the supplies I needed. Gel food colors can be expensive, but they last indefinitely and a little color goes a long, long way. I recommend buying at least the three primary colors—(remember art class? red, blue, and yellow)—plus brown. I love mixing my own colors, and I think muted shades are much more attractive than shockingly bright tones. A tiny dollop of brown on the end of a toothpick will take the edge off just about any too-loud frosting. I use Ateco colors and generally mix the colors with a silicone spatula or with my hands (wearing disposable latex gloves to keep my hands stain-free).
      I lined the box with greaseproof tissue paper (useful if you give away a lot of quick breads, fudge, etc. Parchment paper works well for this, too). I piped a dot of icing on the bottoms of the cookies to glue them in place on the paper so that they wouldn't slide around in transit. We wrapped the cookie cutters and an extra stack of undecorated cookies in more tissue. And rather than wrapping the box up in wrapping paper, we traced the cookie cutters on construction paper and glued them on the box for decoration. Not only was it cheap to do, but it saved us from jostling the cookies around in the box.
      The recipe I used, for a chocolate butter cookie, is one of my favorites. It's from Cook's Illustrated, and it's similar to this Cut-Out Butter Cookie recipe. Reduce the flour by ¼ cup and add ½ cup of cocoa powder. Omit the baking soda (this is more like a chocolate shortbread) and use 1¼ cups of butter. Rather than three eggs, which will make the dough sticky and the cookies puffy, use 2 yolks instead. Lastly, add a pinch of salt. Bake at 375° F (190 C). Like all chocolate cookies, you have to judge doneness by poking the cookie with your finger rather than looking for browned edges—the cookie should be firm to the touch and smell fragrant.
Dinosaur cut-outs
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Triceratops cutter
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Cookie icing: I use gel food colors. A tiny dab of brown helps mute brighter shades.
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Green dino
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Leo's cookies
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Leo's cookies - on greaseproof tissue paper.
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Gift box: Cheaper than wrapping paper! We traced the cookie cutters to decorate the box.
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Mar. 18, 2009 6:55 pm
I'm so glad you posted this! MY friends son is turning 6 and she was going to do Chucky-Cheese, and than found out how much it was going to cost$$$. So she is having the party at her home. So all I need now is to find CAR cutters! The boy loves HotWheels! Someone help me find the cutters and I'm set to make the cookies! Thanks Frances!
Mar. 18, 2009 7:57 pm
I like the color of the cookies. Not sure if I've ever made chocolate ones before, thanks for the recipe! What icing recipe do you use?
Mar. 19, 2009 7:14 am
Why did I have to read your blog before breakfast? Now I'm ravenous for chocolate dino cookies instead of my usual yogurt. Argh!!!
Mar. 19, 2009 10:11 am
Hi Michelle! I found the dinosaur cutters at a specialty cake decorating store for about $1.75 each (it's an old-school hobby-type store founded by a woman and her sister years ago, now run by the daughter: piles of merchandise stacked everywhere, more in the back...only the proprietor knows how to find anything). Your best bet for a good cheap selection is a kitchenware store, or even a mom & pop hardware store. I did a search on Amazon for "car cookie cutters" and found several HotWheels-type cars: a classic muscle car, race car, etc. Don't bother with the $10 copper cutters (!)—there's a merchant called Confectionery House on Amazon that has $2 cutters (they have a seahorse cutter that I might have to buy). Leo, the little boy who just turned 3, will probably be into HotWheels in a couple of years; his dad has his collection of vintage '70s HotWheels. Take photos of your car cookies!
Mar. 19, 2009 10:16 am
Thanks, Heidi! Wow, you take great photos—I just peeked at your profile. For cookie frosting, I go for the easy route: I just mix powdered sugar and milk to reach the consistency I'm looking for. I wrote one other blog about decorating cookies for Valentine's Day; here's what I said about the icing: I dumped about two cups of powdered sugar into my Kitchenaid bowl and drizzled in a couple of tablespoons of milk. (I don't sift the sugar first, since the mixer slaps it around enough to break up any lumps.) I add enough milk to make it fluid without being runny. Then, I divide it into different bowls and add food coloring. Always keep the icing you're not using covered with plastic wrap right on its surface, or else it'll dry out! If I need thicker icing, I sift in more sugar—very important to sift, this time, as lumps will mess up your decorating—and stir it in by hand, not with the mixer (too much trouble with different colored icings.)
Mar. 19, 2009 11:32 am
Sorry, Foodelicious...I don't think chocolate cookies agree with cats. Maybe cookies sculpted from tuna.:)
Mar. 19, 2009 2:25 pm
I'm so glad to have stumbled across your blog Frances, I never knew that brown muted bright colors and the site you gave for the wax tissue paper is fabulous. I'll have to get me some :-)
Mar. 19, 2009 2:32 pm
Yeah, I discovered the magic of brown when I was decorating fall leaf cookies at a bakery where I worked. Now I use it all the time just to make the colors, I don't know, richer maybe? They seem more natural somehow. Glad I could help. I admire your cake artistry, Soifua!
Mar. 19, 2009 4:29 pm
Frances thanks so much for the help with the hotwheels! I'll let you know how they turn out! :))))))))
Mar. 27, 2009 5:20 am
This is a perfect gift idea, Thank you so much!!
Apr. 6, 2009 10:23 am
GREAT idea! You can find any cookie cutter your heart desires on eBay, that is where I get mine!
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About Me
I'm proud to say I've been an Allrecipes employee for 9 years, combining my love of the written word with my passion for food. I've worked in publishing and in the food service industry, both "front of the house" and back. I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America's Baking & Pastry program and have worked as a baker and pastry cook in Wisconsin, for a season at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and at bakeries in Seattle. Twitter handle: @F_Crouter
My favorite things to cook
My baking career really began when I was in first grade and my family was living in Germany. Every morning my father and I would walk to the local bakery for bread and an afternoon treat, like Apfelkuchen. I love dark sour breads, baking anything with yeast in it, and anything that requires hours of patient work, like croissant and Danish doughs.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Food we ate while camping. Animal pancakes. My mom's meatloaf. My grandfather's breakfasts.
My cooking triumphs
I think a baker's real triumph is getting to work at 4 am, day in and day out, so that there are beautiful pastries and loaves of bread on display when the bakery opens three hours later. A personal triumph was making my own wedding cake.
My cooking tragedies
Heavens! Too shameful to list: all that wasted dough, those burnt nuts, spilled milk to cry over....
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