Bring Me Flours

Bring Me Flours via Sweetapolita

The funniest thing happened this week: I received over a dozen emails in the course of a few days (and many before that) asking me about cake flour–what it really is, if there are any substitutions, what flour I use, and more. So, even though I have a pretty delectable cake waiting to be eaten photographed, I thought now would be a good time to shed some light on flour in general, or at least some of the more common baking flours that you will come across on my blog. Since flour is likely the most commonly used ingredient in baking and flour mishaps (too much, using the wrong type, etc) are more common than one could even imagine, the topic is too important to neglect.  I won’t be getting highly scientific, but I would love to share what I know in hopes to answer some of the more frequently asked flour questions I receive. Since there is a lot to this topic, this post will likely be the first of many parts, but, for now, let’s get to it and talk flour:

 

What the heck is flour?

Simply put, flour is a powder made from finely grounded and sifted meal of different grains, nuts and more, with the most common being wheat. Flour is an important ingredient in baking, as it provides the structure and volume we need for successful baked goods; absorbs the liquid ingredients we add to a recipe; and adds flavour, nutrients and some colour to our baked goods. There are several dozen types of flour out there, but the most widely used is wheat flour.

 

What are the most commonly used flours in baking?

When reading different baking recipes, you will most often come across these types of flour (they are also the variations you will typically find here on my blog):

  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Cake Flour or Cake & Pastry Flour
  • Bread Flour
  • Self-Rising Flour

 

What are the main differences between these types of flour?

Different flours contain varying quantities of protein and gluten (typically, the more protein the flour has, the more gluten it has), which aide in giving baked goods elasticity and volume. So, the higher the protein content, the harder the flour (and ideal for breads and such), and the lower the protein content, the softer the flour (best for certain cakes and cookies).

When talking flour, we refer to the protein content in percentage, with cake flour having the lowest % of protein, bread flour having the highest % of protein (from the types mentioned above), and all-purpose sitting in between. This is because, typically we want more elasticity, or “chewiness” in things like bread and rolls and the least in our cakes and pastries, as we want those to be tender and more delicate. All-purpose flour (as the name suggests) is suitable for a broader range of baked goods such as some breads, cookies, bars, some cakes, etc. with protein levels that are in between cake and bread flour. Just to confuse us all, you’ll notice that Canadian flour protein is higher than in American flour, yet our flour still bakes up light and fluffy baked goods. I hope to solve that mystery at some point, but for now, here’s what I know about each type:

Cake Flour

  • A soft wheat flour also referred to (in Canada) as Cake & Pastry Flour (there is also “Pastry Flour”, which is different)
  • Not as readily available (such as in the UK, Australia)
  • Protein content usually between 6.5-8% in the U.S. and 8-10% in Canada
  • It is typically bleached to heighten baking performance and to lighten its natural ivory tone, which helps create a desirable white cake or biscuit
  • Ideal for high-ratio cake recipes (where there is more sugar and liquid than flour in a recipe)–the chlorinated cake flour helps absorb the additional liquid ingredients that would, without the chlorination, be too much for such a low protein flour to absorb, but that are necessary for a moist and tender cake using so much sugar
  • Gives baked goods a tender crumble and minimal stretch

All-Purpose Flour:

  • Also referred to as “flour” or “plain flour”
  • Most often a blend of both hard and soft wheat flours (in Canada about 80% hard, 20% soft)
  • Protein content usually between 9-12% in the U.S. and 13.3% in Canada
  • Most commonly used and readily available flour for baking
  • Available in bleached and unbleached form (and are interchangeable, however bleached will have slightly lower protein %)
  • Ideal for many cakes, cookies, muffins, biscuits and more (with such high protein content in Canadian all-purpose flour it’s even suitable for bread)

Bread Flour:

  • Also referred to as “strong” flour
  • Made from hard wheat
  • Used for baked goods that require strong gluten formation and good rise
  • Protein content typically 11-12.7% in the U.S. and 12.5-14+% in Canada
  • Available in white, whole wheat, organic, specific for bread machine baking and more
  • Available in bleached and unbleached form
  • Ideal for breads of all kinds, pizza and more

Self-Rising Flour

  • Also referred to as “self-raising flour”
  • Two types: self-rising flour and self-rising cake flour
  • Cake or all-purpose flour that has baking powder and salt added and premixed for baker’s convenience
  • Not as readily available (many countries don’t have access to this)
  • Self-rising cake flour typically made up of 1 cup cake flour + 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Self-rising flour typically made up of 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ideal for muffins, scones and more, but I tend to avoid using it whenever possible–it’s hard to find and I like to control the salt and baking powder in recipes

 

Ooh, flour protein content? How fun! How can I determine the protein content of the flour I buy?

The easiest way to do this is to refer to the nutritional label on the bag of flour, or on the flour company’s website. Take the protein in grams and divide it into the serving size on the label, and you have your flour’s protein content in %. You’ll see below that the protein on this Robin Hood All-Purpose Flour is listed as 4 grams per 30 gram serving. 4 / 30 = 13.3%, but it is said that companies are able to round up on their labels, so it’s likely that the more accurate protein % is slightly less.

source: robinhood.ca

 

But I don’t want to stock up on 4 types of flour–are they interchangeable in a recipe?

I definitely don’t recommend switching up the flour type that is called for in a recipe, as you will likely be disappointed with the result (think tough cake or crumbly cookies). The only substitution I would feel comfortable making would be using all-purpose flour in place of bread flour, if necessary, but not vice-versa. See, all-purpose flour (particulary Canadian high protein all-purpose flour that has even more protein than some American bread flour) has enough protein to work just fine in some bread-type recipes, but the results may not be as ideal as if you used the called-for bread flour. However, if you used bread flour (which, again, has the most protein) in place of all-purpose flour for, say, a cookie recipe, then you may end up with a very unpleasing and chewy cookie. The good news, though, is that there are a few ways you can make some flour substitutions in a pinch:

  • To make your own cake flour — for every needed cup of cake flour, measure 1 cup of bleached all-purpose flour and remove 2 tablespoons from that cup (some bakers prefer to replace those 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons cornstarch, but I choose not to), so 1 cup bleached all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons = 1 cup of cake flour
  • To make your own self-rising cake flour (as mentioned above) –  mix together 1 cup cake flour + 1 1/2 teaspoon + baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt for every cup needed (source: here)
  • To make your own self-rising flour —  mix together 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt for every cup needed (source: here)

 

What is the best way to measure flour needed for a recipe?

Well, you probably know what I’m going to say, right? Measuring by weight is by far my first choice, and I think weighing flour is possibly the most important of all ingredients. It’s not always possible, though, if you’re following a recipe that is only written by volume (although you can always convert to weight), or if you don’t have a digital scale. So when weighing your flour isn’t an option, I recommend the “spoon-and-sweep” method of measuring (below). Because flour naturally compacts in the bag or canister, it is so important that you don’t just scoop it up from its compact form and measure it that way–a recipe made with even a hint too much flour can be tough or even fail.

Spoon-and-sweep method: Start by aerating the flour in your canister or bag by moving a knife around and loosening it up a bit. Then, using a spoon or scoop, place spoonfuls of flour into your measuring cup, until it’s overfull, then level it using your finger or the back of a knife. *Never give in to the urge to pack it in or tap it down. For a photo-look at this method, my talented friend, Annalise, has covered this on her blog in the past (here).

 

Do I really need to sift my flour?

When I weigh flour for a recipe (which is 99.9% of the time), I don’t sift my all-purpose flour (unless the recipe says specifically to sift), but I do sift my cake flour. This is mostly because the soft texture of cake flour tends to clump up. I do, though, always aerate my flour, regardless of type, by whisking for a few moments (usually with other dry ingredients) before incorporating it into any wet ingredients (either with a fork or whisk). Since I am a big fan of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s (baker supreme and author of The Cake Bible, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes and more) reverse creaming method (starting with the dry ingredients in the mixer), I simply run the dry ingredients in the mixer for about 20-30 seconds before I add any of the other ingredients.

As Rose explains, if a recipe calls for “1 cup cake flour, sifted” then you would measure your cup of cake flour, and then you would sift it. If a recipe calls for “1 cup of sifted cake flour,” then you would set your cup (cup for dry measure) on your counter and sift the cake flour into your measuring cup until it mounds over, then level it off with knife.

 

How much does flour weigh?

Every type of flour has a different structure and, therefore different weight. The truth is, you will likely find many different numbers out there if you google search flour weights, but here is what I go by, after measuring and weighing each type on my scale. Note that my cup weights (before sifting) are after using the above spoon-and-sweep method for filling my cup. *Note: When I dipped the measuring cup straight into the compacted flour, leveled it off and weighed it, I ended up with about 15% more flour than I when used the proper spoon-and-sweep method, so imagine how that can affect your baked goods, and not for the better (dry cake, anyone?).

*Note: I use a US cup of 237 mL

All-Purpose Flour  

1 cup = 125 grams (4.5 ounces)

1 cup sifted = 115 grams (4 ounces)

Cake Flour

1 cup = 115 grams (4 ounces)

1 cup sifted = 100 grams (3.5 ounces)

Bread Flour

1 cup = 130 grams (4.5 ounces)

1 cup sifted = 121 grams (4.25 ounces)

 

What is the best way to store flour?

All of the flours listed should keep well tightly closed in a cool, dry place (such as a pantry) for, ideally, no more than 6-8 months. If kept in the refrigerator, you can extend the shelf life to 12 months. You can even store flour in an airtight container in the freezer for 12+ months, however, due to the baking powder in self-rising flour, I would likely try to use that before 6-8 months, to ensure that the baking powder doesn’t lose its leavening power (again, another reason to avoid self-rising flour–just sayin’).

 

Fascinating Flour Tidbits:

  • The word “flour” is originally a variant of the word “flower,” with both words stemming from the French word “fleur” (source).
  • Flour dust extended in the air is explosive (there have been many flour mill explosions, including the infamous Washburn “A” Mill explosion of 1878).
  • Wheat grown by western Canadian farmers is prized throughout the world and bought by more than 70 countries. In fact, the Canadian Prairies are known as the breadbasket of the world (source).
  • Wheat grown on the Canadian Prairies is used to make doughnuts in Japan, pasta in Italy, bread in Mexico and noodles in China (source)
  • Canadian flours have higher protein content, across the board, than those in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean all of our baked goods are tougher than American baked goods, actually it seems it’s quite the opposite–since Canadian flour is known to be of superior quality, even our all-purpose flour still makes everything from tender cakes to the perfect pizza crust or loaves–now that is all-purpose!
  • Canada takes its grains pretty seriously: the Canadian Grain Commission is a federal government agency that regulates all aspects of grain quality (and much more), which I suppose explains the high standards we keep and premium flour we produce in Canada (so, we may not have Biscoff Spread or Cookie Crisp Cereal here in Canada, but, hey, we’ve got pretty awesome flour).

Well, that wraps up my riveting tale of flour, and I hope this info helps you in some way and answers some (or all) of your flour questions.

I’ll be back very soon with another post (pinkie swear)!


Related posts:

My Top 8 Sources for Cake & Confection Inspiration

Sweetapolita

One of the most liberating and exhilarating things that I’ve come to figure out during the past few years as a baker and caker is that inspiration is everywhere — literally, everywhere. As long as I’m tuned in and really paying attention to what’s around me, and I keep the ability to stand back and look at things with an open mind and knack for using typical things in an untypical way, I find there is enough inspiration out there to have me happily baking for eternity, with my own spin on things. Okay, well maybe a few days short of eternity — I have days, many days, where it doesn’t come together, and where tears are shed, but that’s when I realize that it may be time to walk away and rejuvenate. Then, when I’m ready, and the stars are realigned, I get back at doing what I love and send my muse an urgent plea.

Here are my 8 favourite sources of inspiration for cake & confection designs and ideas:

1. Children’s clothing

This may sound a little unusual, or maybe we all do it, but I find oodles and oodles of inspiration in children’s clothing & pajamas. As a mom of two little girls, I am surrounded by a jackpot of tees, pjs and more, which kind of comforts me–I can’t go two steps in our house without finding a cute piece of the girls’ clothing just begging to become cookies, cupcakes or cake. I find children’s clothing designers create the most pleasing colour-palettes, patterns and themes that are often reminiscent of confections and childhood in general. It’s not that I want all of my desserts to look like they are for children, because most aren’t, but I find that this kind of playful inspiration can bring out my inner child, which ignites a spark in me and makes me happy. When I’m happy, I create prettier things. True story.

Milk & Cookies for Santa via Sweetapolita

The colour palettes used in children’s clothing are often pastel, rainbow and the like. Sometimes I’m inspired to literally recreate a design I love onto a cookie or cake, as I did with these Milk & Cookie Cookies for Santa, and other times it’s not so literal–such as the How to Make a Rainbow blog post, which I pulled inspiration from the words and concept of the girls’ matching pajama sets. Sometimes I’m purposely searching for ideas, and other times I become inspired upon first glance, even before I buy it. And, I may or may not be guilty of choosing a style just so I can go home and use it as cake or confection inspiration, but since I’ve got two very girly-girls, this usually goes over well. There are so many ideas just sitting there in their closets waiting to be baked into life. You can also browse online for kids’ clothing, so no need to stock an entire closet full or rush out and make babies (unless you find making and raising babies particularly inspiring, in which case make away) to tap into this goldmine of creativity. I get a flutter in my heart while browsing Decaf Plush, Layla Grace and Etsy, to name a few.

2. Books, Stationery & Wrapping Paper

This is one another one of my favourite ways to get inspired, and it there are so many ideas waiting to happen, when you look at pretty books, paper, illustrations, or wrapping paper in a new light.

Love Letter Cookies via Sweetapolita

The first time I fell in love-at-first-sight with a potential paper-into-sweets idea was when I spotted these envelopes in an issue of Martha Stewart and created the Love Letter & Scripted Hearts Cookies (above). Up until the moment I spotted the stationery in the magazine, I was at a complete loss what to bake & make and just like that, I had a cookie vision. This was a pretty literal take on the envelopes, and then I added the hearts once I got started and felt, well, even more inspired. See how quickly inspiration travels? I can also recall an “aha” moment when I was brainstorming ideas for a friend’s virtual baby shower, and this book clicked a switch, resulting in the Little Pea Sugar Cookie Pops. And wrapping paper? This is one of the most incredible resources out there–so much creativity goes into the art of wrapping paper. I mean, can someone please make this into a cookie collection? Or this? And look at these colours – they scream confections. Some of my favourite online resources for this kind of inspiration are Paper Source, Cartolina and Etsy. Paper bliss . . .

3. Candy

This is a funny set of circumstances, really: Candy inspires me to make cake and cookies, but actually eating candy isn’t really my thing (one thing I forgot to mention on my recent post, 23 Random Things About Me). Maybe it’s because I’m a bit fanatical about oral hygiene and keeping my teeth healthy, or perhaps I just love the texture of baked goods and frosting so much that I’m not often willing to spend those calories on eating straight candy. That being said, nothing says uplifting or connect-with-your-inner child like walking into a candy shoppe. The colours, the shapes, the scents – instant sugar-induced inspiration and happiness.

Peppermint Twist Cake via Sweetapolita

As you probably guessed, or maybe recall if you read my guest post on Wedding Bells last holiday season, the inspiration for this winter wedding cake was peppermint candy and twine, which sounds a bit odd now that I think about it, but I remember how compelled I felt to incorporate a candy vibe into the cake. Even just a handful of old-fashioned candy can inspire, and it doesn’t always result in a big fancy wedding cake. Remember these Licorice Delight Cupcakes? Or this Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting?

4. Whimsical Blogs

This is such a big one for me–I love whimsical blogs! When I say “whimsical” blogs, I’m referring to blogs that are filled with, or, actually, overflowing with colour, quirkiness and just an overall sense of artistic chaos–blogs that leave you wondering if you’ve got paint or fabric snippings on your shoe after you’ve visited.

Art Palette Cookies via Sweetapolita

There are a few blogs in particular that give me an immediate creative boost and inspiration, and even a quick visit can arm me with creativity. You may remember my girl crush close friend Vanessa Valencia, and how her work and blog, A Fanciful Twist, inspired me to create these Artist Palette & Paintbrush Cookies. The truth is that each time I visit Vanessa’s blog I get a feeling of transcendence, and when I leave her blog I am instantly eager to make something special — it really is like visiting another world. It was also because of her that I took two steps left of my comfort zone and created the Ruffles & Roses Mad(ish) Tea Party. Another art & lifestyle blog that I adore is A Beautiful Mess by Elsie Larson. Elsie’s blog has a strong vintage-crafty flare and is dipped in pretty. She blogs about DIY projects, outfits, photography, beauty, treats and so much more. I dare you to spend 5 minutes on either of these blogs, or similar, and not feel compelled to create. There are many more out there, but these are my two current favourites.

5. Design Seeds

Design Seeds is an incredible source of colour inspiration. Jessica Colaluca is the talented woman behind this site filled with seemingly infinite colour palette inspiration (I’m sorry for the “u” in colour, Jessica — my Canadian fingers won’t let me omit it), and I can only imagine, actually, no, I can only dream of imagining how many works of art out there that have stemmed from her gift for creating and generously sharing her colour palettes.

{fresh pink} source: design seeds

In our case, let’s say you’re making a birthday cake or cookies (or anything at all) and you’re not sure which colours would work well together, or maybe you’re typically great with colour, but you need a boost to get your creative colour energy going. It’s almost hard to believe that there could even be so many palette options, but, like I mentioned, it is seemingly infinite, and since even the slightest variance in shade can evoke different emotions, each palette tells a story and inspires me in a unique way. Her site, albeit deep-rooted with colour, is simple, clean and easy to use. You can browse palettes by single colour, collection or season.  All of her palettes are inspiring, but I’m often drawn to her “Edible Color” palettes (quel surprise!).

6. Pinterest

Did I mention that my life changed the day I discovered Pinterest? If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, it’s basically a virtual pinboard for selecting images you find around the web and categorizing them onto different boards for your own reference and those who are interested in what you’ve pinned. Think of it as a big inspiration board, but on your computer. You can also follow any other Pinterest users, and see and/or repin anything they’ve saved to their boards. If you feel that sounds endless and overwhelming, well, you’re right, but it’s in incredible source of inspiration. And although “Pinterest” isn’t really one specific bit of inspiration, but rather endless, I find it really helps me create because I can view an entire board in one glance. Something about the ability to group these images any way I like keeps me focused.

While I was recently working on this summery fresh cake (above) with a “Provence” tablecloth theme for Wedding Bells magazine (Spring & Summer 2012 issue — it’s hitting shelves next week, which you won’t want to miss!), I turned to Pinterest straight away. I was, of course, given some guidelines for colour and theme, but it was up for my interpretation, and this can be a little overwhelming in its own right. If you peek at my “Sweet Colour Inspiration” Pinterest board, you’ll likely see it’s peppered with fresh, summer, blue and yellow images, and these images, as a group, gave me direction and a vision for my cake. But, fancy cakes aside, even if I’m making a simple layer cake or brownies, sometimes something strikes me on Pinterest that gets me excited to bake all over again. Or redecorate the house. Or buy a couture gown. Or to throw another wedding party. If you join Pinterest, you’ll see . . .

7. Baking & Party Supply Shops

Do you ever get stuck in a baking-tool rut? I do, and actually I’ve been in one lately, so shopping pretty baking supply shops gets me inspired. It’s not even about actually buying new cake or baking tools or party supplies, although I won’t lie, that does give me a lift. It’s kind of like buying new makeup — you wake up the next day with more P&V than usual because you can’t wait to try your new blush . . . or is that just me?

Rainbow Doodle Cake via Sweetapolita

This Rainbow Doodle Cake (which you are likely tired of looking at by now) came to be because I spotted the Gourmet Food Writer Markers one day while online shopping, and coupled with my little Reese’s need for a rainbow cake, we ended up with a much-doodled cake that she was so proud of. Had I not been looking for a new & fun bit of cake-tool inspiration, I’d probably still be trying to dream up a birthday cake design for her.

Neapolitan Sugar Cookies via Sweetapolita

Sometimes I get comfortable using my favourite baking tools, and even a new cookie cutter can set off a rush of cookie design ideas, like when I bought my cute-as-pie milk bottle cutter and made the Neapolitan Milk & Chocolate Sugar Cookies. I find, though, that even just taking some time to browse different baking supply or stylish party shops, online or in person, ideas start to click. And click. And click and click. Just remember to write your ideas down before you forget them! Some of my favourites are Shop Sweet Lulu, Bake It Pretty and Fancy Flours.

8. Desserts, Past & Present

I know this may sound peculiar. How can the general term “dessert” be a source of inspiration for dessert? Well, here’s how this works for me: I love dessert (no really, I do), and so I’m, for the most part, thinking, sleeping, dreaming, living and reminiscing about dessert. The key for me is taking a step back and looking at dessert in a new light — maybe mixing up an old treat into something different, but the same. Confused yet? For example, my memories of the carton-packaged ice cream bricks from my childhood inspired this cake, but yet there was no ice cream involved in my cake–the same but different. My love and memories of those Misty Mints I ate at Christmas-time as a little girl inspired me to make these peppermint patties, taking the simple little minty pastel chocolates and turning them into full-on homemade white chocolate and mint peppermint patties — the same but different. I love observing the flavour combinations that are out there in any dessert or confection and then tying them into my own recipes, but with a different spin. So, I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t always look to cake for cake ideas, but rather shake things up by using pretty much any sweet treat as inspiration for other sweet treats. I should mention, though, that there’s definitely something to be said for trying a recipe you’re inspired by and simply making it as it is, but for those other times when I really want to experiment, this system works for me.

So, these definitely aren’t my only sources of cake & confection inspiration, because every day and every project is unique, but these are some of my favourites.

What are your best-loved sources for creativity?



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Six-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake

Six-Layer Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, since my last post, I aged a year . . . yes, a year! I celebrated my birthday this past weekend, and, although we kept it cozy here at home, I couldn’t resist baking two different cakes. The truth is, I couldn’t decide what to bake, and since it was just going to be my little family, and I wanted to spend some time relaxing,  I didn’t want to get too fancy or crazy, but I still couldn’t decide what to make. Sadly (sort of), I can’t blog about the first cake I made because we (and by “we” I mean “I”) ate most of it and it was quickly out of the running to be photographed. If you’re curious what it was, I found the recipe here. It was delicious and intense in its chocolate-ness, and it had been on my mind for months. It was a perfect opportunity to give it a try! This 6-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake was the second cake I made, and I made it because I wanted to bake a different version of the one-bowl dark chocolate cake I normally use, and I was craving Strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream. It’s really a simple combination, but I love the deep, dark chocolate cake paired with the light, creamy strawberry buttercream. The strawberry version of the buttercream is simply a matter of adding strawberry puree or fresh strawberries to your vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. I don’t make this version as much I should, actually, and it gave me a much-needed hit of strawberry and chocolate!

I couldn’t resist splitting the 3 layers into 6, since it’s a fast and easy way to create some drama in an otherwise classic birthday cake, and of course it’s a chance to include that much more Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I don’t think I could do this with a sugary frosting, as it would just be too much sweet (and, yes, I really do think there’s such as thing!), but it works well with this cloud-like, and not-too-sweet buttercream. As with the Rich Chocolate Cake recipe I use so often, this is a simple one-bowl recipe that offers a dark, super moist, and chocolate-y cake made with oil and my favourite extra dark cocoa powder: Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark. I love the intensity of this cocoa powder, both in its flavour and colour, and it really comes through in this cake. You may notice that I can’t stop baking with it!

Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Cake via Sweetapolita

I topped the cake with a dark and shiny (and simple) glaze, made with my favourite Callebaut Belgian bittersweet dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) callets, which also have a touch of real vanilla in them, and butter melted over a pot of simmering water. A quick and yummy way to add another hit of chocolate to the cake. I love this chocolate! I use it for brownies, ganache, buttercream, and more. It comes in callet form (like chips), which is so easy to melt without having to chop from a huge block. If you’re not a huge fan of such dark chocolate, you can always use semisweet, or in some cases milk chocolate. I use milk chocolate sparingly in baking because I find it so sweet, but there is definitely a time and a place for it–especially when it’s Belgian milk chocolate. In any case, I tend to use the extra dark variety in most cases.

For those of you who have requested a few more caking-baking tips, I’ve included a few below, and you can also refer to one of my earlier posts on the subject, 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes.

Here is the recipe for all of the components of this cake–use them all, or any of them on their own, or mixed and matched with some of your other favourite recipes!

Six-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake

Yield: One 6-layer, 6-inch round cake

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 1-1/2 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/3 cups (275 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) dark cocoa powder
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons (6 g) baking soda
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons (6 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 140 ml (5 liquid oz) buttermilk
  • 130 ml (4.5 liquid oz) espresso or strong, hot brewed coffee
  • 75 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 5 large, fresh egg whites (150 g)
  • 1-1/4 cups (250 g) sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(340 g) butter, cut into cubes and cool, but not cold
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml)(or to taste) strawberry puree OR a handful (about 1 cup, or more to taste) of fresh, washed, and dried strawberries, chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • few drops pink food colouring (optional)
  • For the Glaze:
  • 4 oz (115 g) high quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or callets
  • 1/3 cup (76 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C). Prepare three 6-inch round cake pans with butter, parchment paper rounds, and flour or cocoa powder. Tap out excess.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and with paddle attachment on mixer, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer) and pour into prepared pans. If possible, use digital kitchen scale and weigh pans for even layers. Batter will be liquidy.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Cakes are done when toothpick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs, about 30 minutes total. Try not to over-bake.
  5. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
  6. For the Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  7. If using strawberry puree, place a handful of frozen strawberries in a food processor, and process until a smooth puree. Measure approximately 1/4 cup and set aside (you may want to add more puree to taste).
  8. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  9. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don't begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.
  10. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  11. Add strawberry puree to taste or the finely chopped strawberries, and blend until combined. Add small amount of pink food colouring, if desired.
  12. For the Glaze:
  13. Place the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir the mixture using a rubber spatula until melted and smooth. *Be careful to not get even a droplet of water into your bowl of chocolate and butter.
  14. Assembly of the Six-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake
  15. Slice the 1st cake layer in half horizontally, using a large serrated knife and place cut side up on your cake board, pedestal, or plate.
  16. Using a small offset palette knife, spread approximately 1/2 cup of buttercream evenly on the top.
  17. Repeat this with remaining cake layers, until you come to the final layer, which you will place face-down on the top of the cake.
  18. Place cake on a turntable (if possible), and using a small offset palette knife for the top of the cake, and medium straight palette knife for the sides, cover the cake in a thin layer of buttercream to seal in crumbs. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or more). *This does not need to be perfect, as that will come with the top "coat" of buttercream.
  19. Repeat the previous step and for best results, use bench scraper held at 90° against the side of the cake, slowly turning the turntable and keeping your hand steady--let the turntable do the work. Clean up edges with your small offset palette knife.
  20. Chill cake.
  21. If glazing the cake, make the glaze and set aside for a few moments to cool a bit. Pour glaze over chilled cake, smoothing the top with a clean small offset palette knife.
  22. Chill again to set.
  23. *Bring to room temperature before serving--about 2+ hours. Never serve Swiss Meringue Buttercream until it is soft and room temperature.
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For more about making Swiss Meringue Buttercream (and troubleshooting), you may enjoy reading these previous posts: Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystyfied and Inside-Out Neapolitan Cupcakes & More About Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

A Few More Steps to Baking/Making Better Cakes

1. I always use a kitchen scale to weigh my ingredients. They’re small, light, and don’t have to be fancy or expensive; here is what I use: Salter 1020 Aquatronic Electronic Kitchen Scale. It’s just a great habit to get into. You wouldn’t believe the difference in what one person may scoop as a cup of flour, versus another, and weighing it to the exact gram/oz is your safest bet. Having too much flour can sure dry out a cake in a hurry, just as too little will throw it off kilter. I really believe that using a scale is one of the habits that made me a much better baker, and definitely more consistent. Trust me! I even use mine to weigh my coffee grinds for a perfect pot, my serving portions (when I’m eating clean), homemade burgers, and when dividing batches of pizza dough, etc.

2. You may notice that I bake “layer by layer,” so rather than baking a higher cake and slicing layers for a standard 3-layer cake, I bake 3 more shallow layers in 2″ high pans. This way, the cakes seem to come out more moist, with no “doming,” and ready to be frosted. It may seem an inconvenience at first, because you have to buy 3 cake pans in each diameter, but you get used to it quickly, and it’s so worth it. You also save the time trying to slice even layers, unless of course you are turning 3 layers into 6. But, then again, that’s worth it too!

3. Never open the oven before 20 minutes, or you could disrupt the baking process. Always wait 20 minutes, and then, if you’re baking 3 cake layers at a time, rotate the pans and then continue baking.

4. There are a few tools that I mention in almost every post, and since I’ve been receiving many emails asking more about the cake baking/decorating essentials, I thought I would take this chance to create a list of some of my favourite things in the kitchen, and things that I believe really make a difference:

I hope that helps those of you who were curious! See you soon with another baked treat.

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystified

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Well, this is my first impromptu post or, well, as impromptu as I can get around here! I was planning another cake post, which is coming soon, but this week I’ve received so many emails and comments asking about the ever-intimidating Swiss Meringue Buttercream (let’s call it SMB), that I thought it may help to run through how to make this glorious not-too-sweet and satiny-smooth delight. Warning: this is a very wordy post, and it’s seriously lacking fun and pretty photos. There’s no photo-styling going on and in some cases not great lighting, but I just really feel that if everyone is comfortable with making SMB, then you will get so much more out of my cake recipes, because I use it so often. So, if you’re up for it, let’s talk SMB!

I remember sitting down for one of my very first courses at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts, and learning about how this was the ultimate buttercream for wedding cakes, birthday cakes, fancy cupcakes, and pretty much any cake at all. Up until that point, I, like many, loved sugary frosting made with powdered sugar, butter, etc., because it’s really all I knew. I will admit that there is definitely a place in my heart for super-sweet frostings, because, well, that’s just me–a devoted sugar junkie, but once I got a taste for “the good stuff,” well, I rarely opt for the other on a cake. Cupcakes, well, I think that is where sugary frosting rocks it like no other. SMB is gorgeous on cupcakes, but for  me, there’s nothing like a super-sweet cupcake fix. It was explained to my class that if we planned on making wedding or event cakes, we need to embrace SMB, since it’s most-often used under fondant as well as on its own for fancy cakes. There really is no comparison. The key, though, is enjoying SMB at room temperature. As soon as it starts to chill in the refrigerator, it solidifies, much like pure butter, and biting into that consistency just doesn’t have the same appeal as tasting fluffy, satiny icing. You also really taste all of the flavours in both the cake and the fillings/frostings when they are at room temperature.

In the world of meringue buttercream, there are really 3 main types: Swiss, Italian, and French. What is Swiss Meringue Buttercream exactly? Essentially, SMB is a meringue-based buttercream (what gave it away?) in which copious amounts of butter are whipped into a sugary whisked meringue base, followed by pretty much any flavour, chocolate, puree, extract, etc. It’s a super-stable, resilient, and delightful buttercream that I simply cannot get enough of. The variations are endless: vanilla bean, raspberry, mocha, caramel . . . endless! I should mention that Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Italian Meringue Buttercream are almost identical, but the difference lies in the method: SMB is created by heating  and whisking white sugar and egg whites over a bain marie (simmering water on the stove) to about 140 degrees F, before whipping the meringue. Italian Meringue Buttercream is created by adding a heated sugar-syrup into an already whipped meringue base, followed by the addition of butter and flavours.

There is also French Meringue Buttercream, albeit less popular from what I can tell, which is created by whipping the egg whites while adding a steady flow of white sugar, until it thickens, followed by adding the butter and flavourings. I personally prefer the SMB because it’s what I was taught, but I also  find comfort in knowing that the egg whites are actually heated prior to adding the butter, but it’s completely personal preference in method. Also, like pretty much any technique in baking, there are many ways to create SMB, but this happens to be the way I do it. So here we go–let’s make some!

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Because we are first making the meringue portion of the buttercream, we want to ensure everything is grease-free, otherwise the meringue won’t do it’s “meringuey” job the way it needs to. Even a trace of grease can cause the meringue to flop. So, let’s take a paper towel with some lemon juice or vinegar and wipe our equipment clean. I also have white rubber spatulas that are devoted to meringue only–royal icing, meringue, etc.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Now that everything is meringue friendly, let’s set up a bain marie (a fancy term for a pot of simmering water on the stove). You don’t want  the water to come close to the bottom of the bowl you’re going to place on top, nor do you want the water to be at a rolling boil (let’s not cook those egg whites), so even just an inch or so of water will do.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Then I take the butter from the refrigerator and cut it up into cubes and leave on the counter while I complete the rest of the steps.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Now we measure/weigh (I prefer to weigh) our granulated sugar. Using a measuring cup, or other bowl, place it on the scale, tare it so it so the scale starts back at zero, and add the sugar until you have the correct amount (I was making a bigger batch in the these photos, so disregard the 800 g).

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Clip on your candy thermometer and add your egg whites. Whisk gently, but constantly, until it reaches 160° F. A quick note about egg whites: I wanted to talk about the issue of using fresh egg whites versus 100% egg whites in the carton for meringue. To be honest, I got used to using the cartons of 100% egg whites during what seemed to be the longest stretch of being pregnant–I loved knowing that they were pasteurized and completely safe. I also love that I can make large batches of meringue without wasting yolks (although there are many fabulous uses for yolks only, but it’s just easier for me to not go through all of those eggs), and simply weigh the total of egg whites needed on my kitchen scale and get whisking. The thing is, some bakers swear that the liquid egg whites don’t whip up quite as stable and thick as fresh egg whites do, and I’ve heard that due to the fact that during the process of being pasteurized, the egg whites are heated to a point that, yes, makes them safer to eat, but prevents them from foaming and whipping up into a stable meringue. I have to tell you that I’ve always used Naturegg brand 100% liquid egg whites, and they’ve worked very well for me. Today, though, I was curious about this, so I whisked up a batch of meringue using fresh egg whites. I definitely noticed a difference, but it was slight. I think, personally, I would opt for real egg whites for baking meringue, and liquid egg whites for buttercreams.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Once your egg whites and sugar have reached 160°F, take the bowl off of the stove and back to the mixer, where you will use the whisk attachment to whip up the meringue. I start on about medium-low (3 on the KitchenAid) for the first moment or so, and then increase to medium-high (7 on the KitchenAid). This photo was taken about 2 minutes into beating the egg whites. It typically takes about 10 minutes for the meringue to become thick, glossy, and cool.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Here it is a few moments later. You can see it’s fluffing up nicely, and becoming nice and glossy.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

At this point, a few moments later, it’s looking nice and thick, but the outside of the bowl is still hot to the touch, so we know it’s not quite ready yet. If we threw the butter in there now, it would basically melt. Let’s keep whipping it up . . .

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

So now the bowl is neutral to the touch and the meringue looks thick and glossy. Just a note that at this point, you have a meringue! You can eat it, as I tend to do, just as it is, or you can pipe it and bake it, or top it onto a lemon pie, or do just about anything with it. This is Swiss Meringue, just minus the “buttercream” part. Trust me, it’s gorgeous and sweet just the way it is. I love this stuff, and I could eat it all, but, since we likely have a naked cake waiting to be prettied, we better add the butter.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Switching over the flat beater of our mixer now and decreasing the mixer speed to low speed, we’re going to add cubes of butter, one at a time, until each one is incorporated. This is a few cubes in, so you can see that the meringue has started to deflate, but once we add all of that butter, it will fluff up.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Here it is a few moments later, after more butter was added. You can see that it’s actually looking a bit soupy–see, my butter was a bit too soft by the time I stopped to take photos, which is actually great news, because I can show you what it looks like when that happens, and what we can do to fix that.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

So, at this point, I’ve added all of the butter, but, again, because the butter was too soft, it seems too loose. So, I placed the bowl into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, and then beat the buttercream for a few moments more on low speed. It thickened up, but was still a bit loose, so I added a few extra cubes of butter and mixed for a moment or two.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

So, it’s getting much thicker, but doesn’t it look almost scrambled-egg like? Under any other circumstances in the kitchen, that would seem scary and disheartening, well, unless of course you’re actually making scrambled eggs, but like I said SMB is very forgiving. Just keep on whipping this up in the mixer on low speed, and it should just magically thicken up and come together. Let’s have a moment of silence for all of those batches of SMB that were thrown in the garbage at this stage, because they were deemed hopeless.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

And there you have it! Actually, we almost had it here, but I whipped it for another few moments, added the vanilla and salt, and it ended up as satiny and shiny as it should be–I’m sorry that I must have been distracted! Either way, at this point, it’s ready for colouring, additional flavouring, and decorating! Here’s an example of cake I did where fluffy and satiny SMB is the star (you can read more about this cake here):

Ruffle Cake via Sweetapolita

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Yield: ~ 10 cups of buttercream

Ingredients

  • 10 large, fresh egg whites (300 g)
  • 2-1/2 cups (500 g) sugar
  • 3 cups (680 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and cool, but not cold
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (20 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  2. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don't begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.
  3. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  4. Add additional flavours, purees, as desired.

Notes

*Keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, rewhipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

**Can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.

***If buttercream still doesn't have its satiny finish after rewhipping, microwave 1/3 of the buttercream for approximately 10 seconds and add to remaining buttercream in mixer bowl, beating for a few moments to incorporate.

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Sweetapolita’s Notes on a few Variations:

  • Chocolate Buttercream:  Add 300 g (1 1/2 cups before melting) melted bittersweet high quality chocolate (the best you can get–I use Callebaut) for every 5 cups of vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and beat until incorporated.
  • Strawberry Buttercream (or any other berry version):  Add fruit puree to taste (approximately 1/2 cup for 5 cups of SMB).
  • Vanilla Bean Buttercream: Add 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste OR 1 vanilla bean, scraped for every 5 cups of SMB, and beat until incorporated.
  • Lemon Buttercream: Eliminate vanilla extract and add 1 teaspoon of pure lemon extract  for every 5 cups of SMB, or to taste, and beat until incorporated.
  • You can also add liqueurs and other flavourings, as well as any food gel colours to achieve any desired colour.

Have a wonderful Friday, and I’ll be back in the next day or so with my next baked good post.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Steps to Making the Perfect Sugar Cookie (and Cookie Pop)

Perfect Sugar Cookie via Sweetapolita

Modest title, right? Okay, well, I am proud of my sugar cookies, so don’t mind me. I’ve been baking up batches like crazy these days, so I feel as though I have it down to a science. Funny, I used to make them primarily for special occasions, but they have become such a nice treat for pretty much anytime at all, simply because they taste so good. Sure, I decorate the heck out of them typically, but the cookies themselves are so good that I often eat them simple and plain. Crisp, sugary, and vanilla-y, which is just what a sugar cookie should be. The dough is the perfect consistency for rolling and cutting; and the batch is a really workable size, in my opinion. I’ve had a bunch of readers ask for my sugar cookie recipe, and albeit simple, to me it really is perfect. So, I thought now would be a good time to share it, and my steps to making them, with you, so that we can keep going with of plenty of decorated versions, and that we’re all on the same sugar-cookie-basics page. I have to admit that I get told often that these cookies taste better than most, including the ones at Starbucks :)

I started adding pure lemon extract to the batter in addition to the vanilla. This came to me after becoming hooked on the lemony-vanilla flavour in some Italian animal crackers I bought for the girls that tasted just like McDonaldland Cookies (Italians worldwide are cringing as we speak). I’ve added my own steps for the chilling/rolling/cutting process in the method below with what works for me. It may seem like a lot of work, but I promise that it’s worth it. I learned, over the years, that if the cookies are baked with anything less than perfectly chilled dough, that they expand and don’t keep their clean intended shapes. So frustrating, but avoidable.

So here are some photos to help us along, and since I was making cookie pops this past weekend, I thought I would add that bit into this tutorial, just in case you felt inspired to make cookie pops; they too can be frustrating if the correct steps aren’t taken. I purposely left the decorating portion out of this post, so that we can focus on the fundamentals of baking the cookies themselves. I want to say, though, that making sugar cookies is about personal preference, just as any technique is, and this is my way, but not necessarily the only way.

Perfect Sugar Cookie via Sweetapolita

I’ve included explicit instructions for the sugar cookie recipe/chilling/rolling/baking below, but to give you a visual of the cookie pop process as well, I’ve included some extra photos. Here is the cookie dough after well-chilled and rolled using 2 dowels for even thickness and sandwiched between 2 pieces of parchment. This yields a perfectly even sheet of dough for cutting. I always slide this entire thing, minus the dowels, onto a large cutting board and place into refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Perfect Sugar Cookie via Sweetapolita

I then take the chilled sheet of dough out of the fridge and begin cutting my shapes. For cookie pops, I tend to cut one at a time, insert the cookie stick, place on baking sheet, and then move on to cutting the next cookie. On a side-note, let me say that collecting cookie cutters is slightly addictive!

Perfect Sugar Cookie via Sweetapolita

So when making cookie pops, I take my cut shape, make sure it’s near the edge of my board, gently place my left hand on top of the cookie shape, and using my right (dominant) hand, I slowly insert the end of the cookie stick (found at baking supply shops) into the bottom of the cookie, using a slow, turning motion. This really helps minimize breakage of the dough when inserted . . .

Perfect Sugar Cookie via Sweetapolita

But, as we all know, hearts can be broken, so after inserting the stick, although the top of the cookie looks perfect, when I gently (and I mean so, so gently) turn the cookie over with a sharp spatula, I see that the bottom has broken a bit. But, that’s okay, we can fix that . . .

Perfect Sugar Cookie via Sweetapolita

I take little wee bits of the cookie dough scraps and patch it up with my fingers (now is a good time to use some nice clean food prep sanitary gloves). See, all better. Now oh-so-carefully pinch the bottom of the cookie, where the stick meets it, and ensure it’s secure. I then place each cookie pop onto the cookie sheet using a cookie spatula.

Perfect Sugar Cookie via Sweetapolita

Here they are ready to go into the oven, using a baker’s mat. (I use Silpat Mats and clean Nordic Ware aluminum bakers half sheets, and I reserve the half sheets for cookie baking only, to keep them pristine.)

Perfect Sugar Cookie via Sweetapolita

And baked! I find the key is letting them get a golden edge, but also a light golden hue–otherwise, I find they aren’t crispy on the outside. They look so ready for some serious cookie decorating.

The Perfect Sugar Cookie (and Cookie Pop)

Yield: Apprx 30 medium cookies, depending on shapes/size

Buttery, crisp and classic vanilla, these sugar cookies are ideal for decorating, snacking, tea-time or gifting. If the steps are followed, they will keep their shapes well and won't expand while baking.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups (750 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (8 g) salt
  • 2 cups (454 g)(4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened for about 20 minutes at room temperature
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) pure lemon extract

Instructions

  1. In large bowl, sift together flour and salt. Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs.
  3. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla and lemon extract and blend.
  4. Remove 1/2 of dough from bowl, make a ball, and place on a large piece of plastic wrap on counter.Wrap the sides of wrap over the ball, then press down with the palm of your hand and make a disc about 2" thick. Finish wrapping the disc with the plastic wrap. Repeat with 2nd half of dough. Chill both discs of dough for about 45 minutes.
  5. Remove one disc and remove plastic wrap. Place on top of a large piece of parchment paper (I use a silicone rolling mat underneath to ensure it doesn't slip while rolling, but you can even dampen counter so the parchment sticks a bit.), then place two 1/4" wooden dowels on either side of your dough, then another sheet of parchment paper.
  6. Roll dough (this will require a bit of elbow grease for the first few minutes until it softens up a bit) so it's flush with dowels--they will ensure that your dough is even thickness.
  7. Preheat your oven to 325° F. Slide your parchment paper and dough onto a board, then place in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from fridge, and cut your shapes using the cutters of your choice, placing them on a baker's half sheet lined with a silicone baking mat (or parchment), with 2" clearance around each one and the edge of sheet. Place sheet with cookies into freezer for 15 minutes before baking. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.
  9. Cool sheets on wire racks for 10 minutes, then gently remove cookies and place on wire racks to finish cooling.

Notes

*May be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. They also freeze well.

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For other Sweetapolita cookie decorating ideas, here are a few from popular past posts that you may like Milk & Cookie Cookies, Artist Palette & Paintbrush Cookies, or Neapolitan Milk & Chocolate Cookies.

I find I’m drawn to using fondant for my cookie decorating–not always, but often. If you’d like to read some seriously great cookie decorating tutorials, ideas, tips, and more, with a focus on royal icing designs, here are some of my fabulous cookie-goddess friends’ blogs that I know you will love, if you don’t already, that is. These reigning queens of cookie are incredible at what they do (in no particular order):

Bridget, Bake at 350

Callye, The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle

Gail, One Tough Cookie

Marian, Sweetopia

Glory, Glorious Treats

Good luck & enjoy!

 

Sugar Cookie recipe adapted from my class at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts

 

 

 

 

Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts has been teaching the art of cake design, decorating, and sugarcraft since 2008. They offer professional level programs for those committed to pursuing a career in cake design and a variety of continuing education for all skill levels.

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