Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rolling Out Cookies Tutorial

I began my cookie baking adventure almost 2 years ago. It started with a big bake sale our church was having. I was looking for yummy recipes that would sell well and I used my friends at Little Gym as my taste testers. You know who you are Tracey, Meredith, Laura, and Brandy just to name a few. So while our kiddos were flipping and jumping around in the gym, the moms were sampling my goodies. After finding a few good things for the bake sale, I continued my new found baking hobby and wanted to find a good cookie recipe I could use for decorating. Before we moved to our current location, I was a mural artist among other things. Here's a few pics of my life before baby #2 and my baking obsession. These photos are only 5 or 6 years old. They are pictures of pictures and my album had a run in with some wet weather, so they're not that great.

After enjoying painting so much, I needed something to do as a creative outlet for my artsy side but I couldn't see myself finding sitters for my kids while I was off on some scaffolding some where painting. Baking seemed like the perfect fit for me. I didn't have to leave the kids and I could bake and decorate late at night or during nap. So I kept experimenting and researching until I found a great cookie and icing recipe. I came across many great tips for rolling out and decorating my cookies along the way.
One of the biggest questions people ask, is how I get that perfect cookie. Here's how! (I can take no credit for these little tricks though. All of this is borrowed from many other decorators who have been so kind as to make a youtube video or post it somewhere for researchers like me to find. Thank You!)
A good recipe is crucial. One that won't spread or puff up. Ever tried to make cut out cookies and they bake into blobs? Can I get a "amen?" I found my recipe on the Wilton website and made a few little changes to suit my tastes. Here's my version of Melissa's Sugar Cookies:
2 sticks SALTED butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter flavor
3 cups all purpose flour

cream the softened butter and sugar. Then add your flavorings and mix a little more. add your egg and mix a little more. Then gradually add your flour. Right after you add all of your flour, scrape your bowl, then go back to mixing. I highly recommend a stand mixer for this. You can do it by hand as I did for many months when I first began, but a stand mixer is the way to go. If you do it just right, your dough should clean your bowl and you should have a big glob of cookie dough caught up on your flat beater with none sticking in the bowl.
Next, you take half of your dough and make a lump. I roll mine between parchment paper on the bottom and wax paper on the top. I found 2 board books and tore a few pages off to make them the same thickness that I wanted my cookies to be. I placed the books on either side of the dough like this

Then you put your wax paper on and roll. Notice that the rolling pin never touches the table, just the books! Isn't that great! You'll get even cookies every time. You don't have to use books. Just anything you can find that is the right thickness and can hold up to your pushing down the dough. The dough never touches the books. That would be kind of gross.

There's my dough all rolled out.

I have 3 pieces here because I double my batches of dough with my new big mixer!

Next, you're going to pop your dough into the freezer. I use a piece of foam core board from the dollar store. It is great for moving cookies around in the kitchen. Especially since I only have 1 baking sheet. I know, it's crazy. You'll want it to freeze for about 20 minutes.

When your dough is ready, simply cut out your shapes and the dough should stick to the cutter. Then you just have to gently push the dough out of the cutter on to your baking sheet. I had a lot of cookies to bake, so I stack mine on a tray lined with cling wrap and keep them in the fridge until I get them all cut out. This keeps me from running my oven for an extended period of time.
See the pretty cookie!

This is the dough right out of the freezer. If you can't do this, it's not ready. If you cut your cookies from soft dough, your edges will be rounded and they will be harder to ice.

Pile your scraps up and let them soften so you can re- roll them. Rolling between the paper keeps you from adding extra flour to your dough. AND it's mess free! Yay! No flour flying everywhere!

Here are my stacked cookies. Make sure you put cling wrap in between each layer.

I bake my cookies at 400 degrees. These are rather large, and I baked them for 13 minutes. Right when the come out of the oven, I use a smooth spatula to pat them on top. This helps me get a nice smooth top in case they puffed up a little.

See how nice those are!

Now I know you are all excited! So go bake some cookies!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Kindergarten Physics Lesson

Physics? In Kindergarten? Sure! What 5 year old boy wouldn't love to learn about and experiment with simple machines? John Merritt, Samuel and a couple of friends, Baer and Tieg, got together today for a special science lesson. We learned that God gives man creativity to develop tools that help him work. We had a great discussion about inventions (especially tractors) that help us work. We looked at pictures of simple machines, and then we went outside to experiment. We lifted heavy blocks with a lever, hauled Tieg around on a hand cart. Tried out a caulk gun and saw how a pulley worked. We came back inside to draw a picture of a simple machine, and then went back out to "play" with a simple machine, a tricycle! How can a 4 and 5 year old move around 120 pounds? Watch the smilebox to see how!
(please pay no attention to the puffy pregnant woman with no make up and grocery getter shoes on in the pictures!)

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

What a Week!

It's been a big week here at the Wilkersons! John Merritt starting kindergarten is the biggest news. We homeschool, so we are at liberty to begin when we choose. I thought it would be a good idea to get an early start since baby #3 will make his/her appearance sometime right after Christmas. John Merritt had a great first week! Mom made a boo boo with the calendar and put the wrong date on the little sign he is holding. We actually began on Tuesday August 2nd. Can someone please write "dork" on my forehead? You can see in the picture that our school calendar is wrong also. We also instituted our first chore chart for John Merritt. I listed all of the tasks he is responsible for throughout the day and he has been keeping track with a marker. As of Thursday though, we changed to stickers. Bet you can't guess why! The chore chart has been great and has really helped him take initiative to keep himself and his room neat and tidy. It's so nice to have a child dressed, with his bed made and pajamas put away before you even get out of bed! Way to go John Merritt!
Sam has had a banner week as well. We began the journey through potty training 2 weeks ago, and I think he's really gotten the hang of it. Not that we aren't without our accidents, but he's doing great and staying dry most of the time.
We had a few animal visitors. Two of them I was able to snap pictures of, but the little fawn that plays in our yard eluded my camera once again.
We celebrated a wonderful week with a trip to the bouncy place at the mall with some good buddies and fellow homeschoolers. I think the pictures and video will tell all! Thanks guys for a fun time!
Here are all of the pictures! Enjoy!
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