The Most Ardently “Janeite” Stamped Sugar Cookies, Inspired by Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

Uncategorized | October 5, 2018 | By

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“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

While not quite a “Janeite”, completely obsessed with all things Jane Austen, I love the above quote. It is so me. Don’t tell me I can’t do something. I will do it, every time. Don’t try to back me into a corner. I’ll mow you over on my way out. Don’t try to put me in what you think is my “place”. I’ll show you where I belong and fiercely defend my right to thrive there. Don’t try to intimidate me. I can be very intimidating, myself. And I think this is why I love Jane Austen heroines –in particular, Elizabeth Bennet– and everything I’ve read about the author. And how can you not just love Mr. Darcy for allowing Elizabeth to be herself and for loving her for it, in spite of his initial feelings of superiority. And, a man who admits his faults? I’m just old-fashioned enough to feel weak-kneed at the idea.

These dainty little sugar cookies were intended to be cameo-style oval shapes, decorated with black icing stenciled from templates I drew and cut from sheets of transparent stencil plastic. I have been making stencils since I was a teenager obsessed with colonial decor and all the fun country stenciled things that were popular in the late 1980s. All you need is an idea of the image you want to create, a sturdy sheet of plastic or cardboard, a cutting board or surface that you don’t mind gouging and slicing up pretty good, and a very sharp blade. I have always used an X-acto knife. The only tricky part is deciding which portions of your image will need to remain connected to the sheet of plastic and which will be cut away. If you are good at drawing, no problem. You can decided how your finished image should look. Just place the image you would like to turn into a stencil behind the transparent plastic. Use a craft knife to cut along the outside edges of the image.

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Pop out the cut plastic.

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43172459_10212699801351041_7863080801003372544_n In addition to using some of my stencils, I also used rubber stamps to make these cookies. My local art store had so many to choose from that I was able to stay within my theme for this post while throwing a little steampunk fun into the mix. My bicycle cookie is about 20 years ahead of Lizzie’s time but was invented just three years after the book was published, so I included it.

 

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My family members and I are steampunk nuts, attending steampunk conventions every chance we get.

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So I am suddenly seeing cookie vending at a steampunk con a possibility in my future, with these fun creations.

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And while black velvet or satin ribbons would have been ideal to use to tie up my little cookie packages, if I were selling them at an event, I kept them humble and “lower class”, in honor of Elizabeth Bennet, by tying them with the natural raffia that I love so much in my every day life.

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Perfect for an 18th or early 19th Century themed book club meet or a later century, Victorian themed event, these cookies would even work well for an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Mad Hatter tea party.

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The cookies need to be made at least two days in advance, as both the thick royal icing base and the additional stamped decorations need plenty of time to dry before being handled and packaged.

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I used thinned black Wilton icing color for the stamps and stencils. You can speed up the drying time by placing the iced cookies in a dehydrator for a few hours.

Mixing the color with vodka or alcohol-based extract, like vanilla, to thin it, helps the moisture to evaporate off the surface. A dusting of confectioner’s sugar also advances the drying time.

The cutters I used were between 1 1/2 to 2 inches, length and width. The cookie dough does not spread during baking but makes firm, sturdy cookies that hold their shapes and have clean edges and corners, making them ideal for icing.

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Iced Rolled Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

Cookies:

1 1/2 sticks (12 ounces or 3/4 c.) unsalted butter

3/4 c. granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 large egg

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. Himalayan pink salt

Royal Icing:

1 T meringue powder

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

12 ounces confectioner’s sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 c. water (or more or less, depending on humidity level)

Gel icing colors (I use Wilton.) in royal blue, teal, and black.

 

Additional flour for rolling out the cookie dough.

Additional confectioner’s sugar for dusting iced cookies.

 

Method:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer. Whip in the egg until light yellow and thickened. Beat in the vanilla extract. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add to the creamed mixture. Mix just until moistened and the dough comes away from the walls of the bowl.

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Cover and chill for at least an hour.

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Roll on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters, placing each cookie one inch apart from the others on silicone baking mat or parchment lined cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes, or just until the edges begin to turn golden and the cookies are firm. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks and thoroughly cool.

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Make the royal icing by whisking together the meringue powder, cream of tartar, and weighed and sifted confectioner’s sugar. Stir in the vanilla extract. Whisk in the water a little at a time until the icing is thick but still a bit runny, so it can flow through a squeeze bottle or small piping tip.

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Divide the icing into one, two, or even three, to make different colored batches, if desired. Add color until the icing reaches the hue you are looking for. To make the robin egg blue icing, I barely dipped a table knife into royal blue icing colors, then repeated with teal.

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Place each type of icing in a squeeze bottle or piping bag fitted with a small round tip.

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To ice the cooled cookies, make a dam around the edge of each cookie with a bead of icing.

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Then flood the inside of the dam with a nice puddle of icing.

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You can wait a few seconds after piping the bead to let it dry a bit, preventing any of the icing from spilling over and out to run down the edge of the cookie, but the cookies will not have as smooth an appearance as if you fill them immediately after piping the dam. I like the look of a completely smooth top as well as a nice bead border around each cookie. So preference is up to the baker.

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Allow the cookies to dry overnight before stamping or stenciling. A dehydrator helps the process along, but since heat builds inside my dehydrator, I put several empty trays between my cookie trays and the heating element of my unit. I also left the vents on the lid open to prevent a build-up of heat.

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Using thinned black gel color, stamp or stencil away to your heart’s content, using any cookie stencil or craft stamp you’d like.

Allow the embellishments to dry for an hour in the dehydrator.

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Using a pastry brush lightly dipped in confectioner’s sugar, dust the top of each stamped or stenciled embellishment, then lightly rub it with your finger to help your image lose some of the chalkiness created by the dusting of sugar. Store in air-tight containers or treat bags.

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Yield: Between 2 and 3 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cutters used.

Sucre’ ~ “A Sweet Boutique” in The French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana

Uncategorized | October 1, 2018 | By

 

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As a kid born at the same time as Disney World and growing up in a rapidly developing Orlando, thanks to the creation of the theme park, there was never a shortage of weekend and late night fun to be had. If you wanted ice cream or even fried chicken late at night, you could find it. A Sunday drive could turn into lunch at Epcot, snorkeling in a crystal clear aqua blue spring, or a picnic on the beach.

When my husband and I raised our boys in a completely different way, in a tiny Appalachian mountain town, the one thing I missed for myself and for my children was the possibility of anything happening at any time. To make up for it, too many times I dragged them into the car for drives through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a healthy alternative, or weekends in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN for a taste of “tourist town” excitement. I also made sure that on visits home I kept them busy from early morning to late at night, which wasn’t hard to do in theme park and resort areas.

When we visited New Orleans for the first time, the fact that you could be out on the streets in The French Quarter until late at night and still find something fun to do (or eat) reminded me of home. Stumbling upon Sucre’ our first night there, after a fabulous creole dinner and a lengthy stroll, was literally the icing on on the cake of our first day in The French Quarter.

Open until 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 on weekends, late night treats, when heavy Southern fare has you weighed down, are a definite possibility.

And it’s convenient location on Conti Street means no late night back-street hike into areas you’d rather not venture into as a tourist.

The overwhelming abundance of French macarons available at Sucre’ is what first caught my eye.

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But I was further impressed by the number of French pastry creations and a large number of gelato flavors available, as well as Sucre’s full service espresso bar.

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I wanted a macaron, but couldn’t decide on a flavor (or flavors), so I chose a beautiful chocolate genoise creation with a pretty little gold embellished macaron garnish so that I could have my gateau and eat it too!

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Sucre’ French Quarter Boutique

504-267-7098

Manager: Kristy Smith  ksmith@shopsucre.com

Sun – Thurs: 9 am – 10 pm 

Fri – Sat: 9 am – 11 pm

  622 CONTI · NEW ORLEANS, LA ·70130

Maple Dijon Glazed Roast Pork with Wildflower Mead, Inspired by Tiffany Baker’s MERCY SNOW

Uncategorized | September 29, 2018 | By

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June McCallister is the kind of character you love to hate. At first, because she simply seems too good to be true, but as the tale of Mercy Snow unfolds in Tiffany Baker’s novel of the same name, it’s June’s underlying self-serving nature that makes her unlikable. It was her need for perfection and desire to maintain a certain image as the small New Hampshire town mill owner’s wife that inspired me to create this dish. It’s just the type of frou-frou entree she would force upon her husband and son at the dinner table, along with her green bean amandine and a lavish dessert, when they’d probably rather have fried chicken and mashed potatoes with milk gravy and corn straight from a can. But it was Mercy’s miracle working that made me want to allow her magical ingredients from the earth to outshine June’s imposing gestures, even when they included a budding affection for Mercy’s little sister, Hannah. And so my simple roast pork loin with maple syrup, “fancy” dijon, and wildflower mead was born to marry the two women’s ideas.

Maple Dijon Glazed Roast Pork with Wildflower Mead

Ingredients:

1 (5lb.) pork loin

Salt & pepper

1/2 cup wildflower mead, or white wine

2 T dijon mustard

2 T pure maple syrup

1/2 c. water

Method:

Heat oven to 350F.

Combine the maple syrup and mustard in a small dish.

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Season the entire surface of the pork loin with salt and pepper.

Heat a large Dutch oven or roasting pan over high heat. Sear the roast in the pan to brown it on all sides.

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Deglaze the pan with mead.

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Spoon or brush the maple dijon glaze over the entire exposed surface.

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Place the entire pan, uncovered, into the hot oven.

Roast the pork until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 145F and the glaze has browned to golden, approximately one hour.

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Transfer the pork roast to a platter or cutting board and allow it to rest for a few minutes so it will retain it’s juices when sliced.

Place the roasting pan on a burner over medium to high heat. Add water to the pan drippings to deglaze. Whisk and reduced the liquids in the pan until they are glossy and slightly thickened.

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Thinly slice the pork and serve it with the juice from the pan.

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The sliced pork can be held in the pan with its juices in a warm oven.

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Yield: approximately 12 servings