Show & Tell: Strawberry Shortcake Cookie Cups

21 Jun

After I picked and pureed the strawberries from my local pick-your-own berry farm I was dying to enjoy the flavor of summer. Luke and I had already gorged on our fill of fresh berries and I decided to get my bake on.

I followed the same steps to make the shortbread cookie cups as I did for the chocolate chip cookie cups but using my shortbread recipe.

The cookie cups have been my most popular post, and I thought I’d share a trick I use to get them looking their best.

The cookies tend to brown quicker on the very top and they are never perfectly flat. So I use my microplane grater to gently sand them down.

I also give the bottom a light sanding to ensure that the cup will sit flat and steady on the plate.

I used a strawberry mouse to fill the shortbread cookie cups. With the puree we made in the FYI: Strawberry Freezing, Pureeing and Jamming it’s simple and quick.

First make a quick Cream Chantilly:

1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract

1/4-1/3 Cup Powdered Sugar

Whip the cream, extract and sugar together to a soft peek.

Now gently fold in about 1/3 cup of cold strawberry puree. Whip again slightly until it firms up a little.

This is a ‘to taste’ thing. Add more or less sugar depending on how sweet your berries were or how sweet your palate is.

Fill your shortbread cookie cups and top with fresh strawberries.

Would you judge me if I told you that I ate this for breakfast? Strawberries are good for you right?

The end of my very first month of blogging is coming up!

Off the List is going to officially be one month old and to celebrate I’m going to be giving one lucky winner their very own mold to make these amazing cookie cups.

All you have to do is subscribe to Off the List and leave me  a comment on any post before July 1st. I’ll have a winner picked at random and in no time you could be making these great, simple desserts yourself.


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FYI: Strawberry Freezing, Pureeing and Jamming.

21 Jun

Today I’ll continue with our adventure into preserving local strawberries to enjoy year round. Now that we’ve made it home from our trip to the pick-your-own berry farm we need to start processing the strawberries.

Freezing

Freezing berries is one of the easiest ways to preserve them. No need to buy overpriced strawberries from the grocery store in January when you have some sitting in your own freezer at home that you picked yourself locally.

Step 1: Wash the berries in a colander. Use a plate under the colander to catch water while you work.

Step 2: Cut up strawberries. First slice off the top, lay flat and slice in half, slice in half again.

Step 3: Spread out in a single layer on a parchment lined pan.

Step 4: Place pans in the freezer.

Step 5: Once berries are frozen package into freezer bags and place back in the freezer.

Have you seen the label IQF on berries in the grocery isle? It stands for Individually Quick Frozen. By freezing the berries spread out on a pan they stay separate from each other and freezer quicker, which helps to maintain the quality.

Pureeing

Step 1: Wash and core strawberries. To core slide a paring knife into the top of the berry, twist the berry around until the top and core are seperated from the rest of the berry.

Step 2: Puree the berries in a food processor or blender.

Step 3: Place berries in a pot, bring to a boil. Skim foam. Allow to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Step 4: Pass puree through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds. You can also use cheese cloth if you do not have a fine mesh strainer.

Step 5: Return to pot and reduce over low heat for 30 minutes or until reduced by 1/2.

I like to call the result of this process Strawberry Essence. It’s full of compacted flavor with no additives or chemicals. You can freeze it and defrost as needed. I use this in cakes, icings, mouse, anything I want to give a fresh summer time strawberry flavor. I use the puree to make the strawberry mouse in my Strawberry Shortcake Cookie Cup.

Jamming

Jams are the traditional preserve. It’s a practice that had fallen out of favor for awhile, thankfully it’s starting to become more and more common. Once you make your own jam you will never want to buy grocery store imitations again.

That and anyone you give the jam to will make such pitiful pleas for more that you’ll pretty much be obligated to making some each year.  I always keep some extra around in case I need an emergency gift for someone. It makes a great hostess present.

Heres a list of the basic equipment you will need. You can buy kits that have most of this already. At the end of the summer the jars, lids and pectin go on sale for dirt cheap. Be sure to stock up for next year’s canning season.

Strawberry Jam

Yield: 7 x 250 or 236 ml Jars

3 3/4 Cups Crushed Strawberries (about 2 liters/quarts)

1/4 Cup Bottled Lemon Juice

7 Cups Granulated Sugar

1 Pouch (85 ml) Liquid Pectin

This reipce is from my Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving, it works great. Just be sure to measure the strawberries after you have crushed/pureed them.  I usually make this in a 3 x batch. Did I mention you will have LOTS of people begging or some of your homemade jam?

You want to be sure to put a label on the jams with the date they were made. You can buy canning labels that are premade. They look a little too…. grandmotherly for me. So I make my own using address labels.

You can copy and paste this into a template for address labels and print out using Avery White Mailing Labels 8161 or 5161. Easy, modern, non grandmotherly jam labels!

Next I’ll show you one of the many ways you can use that puree to add amazing flavor, chemical and preservative free, to whip up an impressive dessert (in a cookie cup!) Plus details on Off the List’s one month of blogging giveaway.


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FYI: Strawberry Picking and Processing

20 Jun

We’re going to take a brief detour from our FYI Gum Paste series, but don’t worry we’ll be right back to it in no time. It’s strawberry season and we need to take advantage.

We all try to do our part and eat local. It’s good for the economy and the environment. And it tastes delicious. It’s easy to do in the summer, but it can get a little harder once the farmers market start to close up in the fall. We need to pick up some long used skills that would have been second nature to our grandmothers.

The first, and most basic skill: How to Harvest Produce. Head down to your local pick-your-own berry farm and get ready to go strawberry picking.

Grab a couple of baskets and hop on the bed of the tractor. Soon you’ll be bumping along the field towards the designated strawberry patch.

Strawberry Picking Rule #1: Stay in your row, pick the berries that are growing to the inside. Unless your neighbour has moved on and you see a few choice berries they missed. Then it’s fair game.

Strawberry Picking Rule #2: Only pick the red berries. Be sure you don’t damage the ones that are green and unripe, that way there will be more bright red goodies in a week or two.

Strawberry Picking Rule #3: Be careful of berries that rest on the ground. They may look bright and pretty, but 9 times out of 10 they are bruised or a little insect has already helped themselves to lunch.

Strawberry Picking Rule #4: Don’t Pick under ripe berries. You want the ones that have a nice deep red colour.

Strawberry Picking Rule #5: Big berries are great for eating. But when you want to can, puree or freeze berries choose the smaller ripe ones. They have less water content and a more concentrated flavor.

Strawberry Picking Rule #6: When you have filled your basket make sure you can fit your hand under the handle.

The Golden Rule of Strawberry Picking: Everyone must have a sampling of the berries while picking. Quality control don’t you know?

Luke and I filled up 4 6 liter baskets. It took us roughly about an hour, it was a great time. 

Even though it was only 10 in the morning the field was filled with people of all ages. It’s great to watch the children wondering around smiling as strawberry juice trails down their chins. To me, that is the image of summer.

Be sure to check and see if your berry farm has any other pick-your-own produce. We’ll be back to ours for Raspberries and Pumpkins. We might even give the Snap Beans a go.

Now that we have our harvest we need to process it so that it’ll be around for the cold months.

Tomorrow I’ll show you how to freeze and puree strawberries as well as walk you through the simpliest way to make delicious jam that will have everyone you know knocking on your door.


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On the List: Blogging Tips to Puppy Drips

20 Jun

I’ve got a wide variety of projects to add to the list this week. As I go into my third week of blogging I’m starting to wonder how I can make Off the List a little more legit and maybe (just maybe)  increase traffic. My second sewing project has me looking to learn professional tricks and techniques. And as always I’m looking for ways to minimize the mess and craziness of living in a household where the people are outnumbered by the pets two to one.

Build a Better Blog

Creature Comforts has an amazing blog series that recently started up that is all about how to build a better blog. Boy do I ever need the advice. And judging from the comments I’m not the only novice blogger that is worshiping the kindness of our more advanced counterparts. Marketing, Advertising, Domain Names… Who knew there was so much to it all?

Twitter Following and Followers

I joined Twitter…and that’s pretty much as far as I have gotten. I’m still trying to figure out how this social-network-mini-posting thing works. I need to hunker down and search around to see which of my favorite crafty bloggers have Twitter accounts I can follow, maybe I can even gain some of my own followers. I currently have two, one of which I’m fairly certain is the Twitter equivalent to spam.

Vintage Sign

Little Blue Boo posted a tutorial featuring an unexpected way to make a very genuine looking vintage sign.  I have a huge canvas left from a failed painting years ago that I couldn’t bring myself to throw out. Now Little Blue Boo have given me a reason to justify carting it around from place to place.

Finishing Touches for Garment Sewing

Sew, Mama, Sew! Is an amazing resource for any aspect of sewing. But I really appreciate this post about Finishing Touches. It’s these little tips and tricks that make me want to sew. I hate finishing a project only to step back at it and feel like its lacking something, there’s no finesse, it looks TOO homemade. I’ll be absorbing as many of these techniques as I can fill my brain with.

Vinyl Table Cloth Turned Drop Cloth

Larissa over at Just Another Day in Paradise shared a tutorial for a High Chair Drop Cloth. I love the idea, but havn’t any use for a high chair yet (one day). But I do need to protect my wood floors around my dog’s water dish. Mason and Roxy are incapable of not spilling half of the water they drink. Especially Roxy, must be something to do with the puppyness. So this is On the List to transform into a puppy mat.

Happy Sunday Everyone, I hope in the next week you find some time to cross a few things Off Your list.


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Tutorial: Nap Time Blanket

18 Jun

I’m a napper. I believe that naps are the key to happiness, energy and immortality.  When I first started living with Luke he would suggest that I go to the bed to nap, instead of taking up the whole couch. I quickly set him straight; going to the bedroom would mean I was going to sleep, staying on the couch meant I was taking a nap. Yes even at 1 in the morning.

After being an eye witness to the awesomeness of my naps for a few years Luke started to pick up the habit himself. Unfortunately the one nap blanket we keep on the couch was very short. I’m 5 foot 2 and even I find that my toes become exposed if I’m not curled up just right. So after we set up my craft room (a birthday gift from Luke) and I no longer ran in fear at the sight of my sewing machine Luke asked if I could make him a nap time blanket.

So we picked up some fleece, which is the same material as my nap time blanket. I find it breathes in the heat and keeps you warm in the cold. I took a look at the original blanket and noticed that the corners are rounded. This spoke to my inner hatred of mitering of any kind (I had a traumatizing experience with trying to miter some baseboard trim) and decided to copy the detail.

Materials and Tools:

  • Fleece Fabric- 2 Yards (this was the perfect height and width, no cutting or scrap)
  • Quilt Binding or Double Fold Bias Tape- 9 Yards
  • Fabric for Lettering
  • Thread
  • Heat n Bond Iron on Adhesive
  • Scissors/Rotary Cutter and Mat
  • Sewing Machine
  • Iron
  • Ironing Board
  • Pins

I love the word detail. I think I just might have to give the same treatment to the original nap blanket, maybe even add a Mr. and Mrs.

Ignore the paint on my hands in the pics, I’m in the middle of a couple of projects (arn’t we all). Oh and anyone who laughs at my consistently imperfect stitching gets their nap time rights revoked. As the Queen of Napping I can do that.

Here are the pattern for the words, all inversed and ready to go. Just for you, from me. Feeling the love?

It feels so good to have tackled a second session of sewing (ahahaha oh accidental alliteration). And I love that I can now say that this project is officially Off the List.


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Show & Tell: How to Give a Cheap Cabinet a Facelift

16 Jun

Over at Young House Love they were recently faced with a dilemma I can relate to.  Any one who has bought and set up a book shelf or cabinet knows all about the cheap cardboard backing that comes with it. They are flimsy, and do nothing to keep the shelves square to each other. But even worse they have the tell tail creases that scream ‘pre-fab, box store purchase!’ I’m going to share with you a quick and easy way to both strengthen up the cheap cabinet  and add so much character it’s drab history will forever remain your secret.

When I was setting up a room for my niece for when she came to visit,  (I’m one of those people who go above and beyond what is sane) I needed something to offer up some storage for all of the little toys and crayons we had stocked up on.

When I was clearing out the room (which had basically become a junk room) I emptied out an old tired cabinet that I had inherited from my mother. It was a cheap laminate with ugly doors that I had attempted to rescue a few years ago by painting a dark burgundy (don’t ask). I hauled it out of the apartment and asked Luke to take it down to the curb so someone who was interested in it could give it a new home.

Fortunately Luke didn’t get around to it right away and after I had walked past it a few times I started to see it in a different light. I was in the middle of painting a child’s sized table and chair set as well as retrofitting a set of hand made toy fridge and cabinet (the cabinet became a stove with some jig saw work). I loved the colours and wanted to find an excuse to slather the happiness onto another piece of work.

So I hauled the cabinet upstairs to the third floor apartment that we are currently renovating, and doubles as a work space. I wasn’t happy with that infamous cheap backing, especially since this was going to be in a room used by a child, and it needed to be sturdy. Also I had taken off the doors and wanted to make the cabinet really pop by doing something with the back. So off to the Home Depot we went.

We purchased some cheap paneling. Cheap in price: $4 for a huge piece (big enough for this project and then some) and cheap in look: fake wood grain….yuck

I went into my trusty painting kit (we have a kit for everything, electrical, plastering, plumbing).  Pulled out a roller and went off to find my HUGE tub of primer.

When you are alway renovating, this is how you buy primer. And when you have that large a tub of primer you can mix it by hand, but it’s more fun to use this handy little tool we picked up from the Dollar Store. It’s fits into a drill and is suppose to be used for the garden, but we use it to mix up everything from paint to plaster.

When you prime the paneling you want to have a good amount on the roller and make sure you get it into the recessed lines. You have to let it dry really well.

While we are waiting I’ll show you some of the main bathroom. Its the room that is closest to being done. Although this is an apartment we will be renting out eventually I still like to put in some little design quirks here and there.

Off setting the tiles and contrasting them with a grey grout worked perfectly to give basic tiles a modern look. We picked up this shower head in the clearance section. It’s not your typical ‘builder’ installation and helps to give the room a bit of character.

Because this is a rental unit we really can’t afford to sink a lot of money into the extra stuff, like bathroom shelving. So we are left with the option of using basic (and sometimes less than sturdy) items OR scouring the clearance section till we find a beauty like this. It was sold for $99 originally and we scooped it up for $20.

This is an attic apartment, so we are dealing with a lot of odd angles. The bathroom is no exception. After trying one lighting option that crowded the space above the vanity (there is a light on the walls to each side of the sink) I went online, determined to find a smaller light that would still look good. I found these reduced to $30. I think they were described as wall sconces, but I always look beyond the label.

Back to the paneling. With the primer dry I applied the paint, using a lighter coat, and being careful not to push down the roller very hard. This way paint doesn’t get into the recessed lines and they stay a nice contrasting white, with no extra work required. I did two coats, that worked for me.

With the backing ready and waiting I went to work at the cabinet itself. Sand, prime, and paint. We used some finishing nails to secure the paneling to the back and boy was it sturdy. There was no more shifting or give! Plus it looked amazing.

After the visit from Kimmy and my sister were over we changed the room into a craft room and our redone cabinet now proudly holds all my crafty odds and ends.

Do you have any tips for redoing box store furniture? Can’t wait to refinish a book shelf or cabinet? I’d love to hear from you.


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Tutorial: Dollar Store Raffia Bowl

14 Jun

I love the Dollar Store, but really who doesn’t? But I know exactly why I love the Dollar Store.

Raffia.

Oh sure there are lots of other great craft supplies and random treasures that help fill my shopping basket, or two or three, but it’s the irresistible raffia that draws me back time and time again. The colours! The versitility! I could wax poetic about this string all day long.

Instead I’ll give you a tutorial on one of my favorite creations to craft this amazing raffia into.

Materials:

  • Balloons (round shaped)
  • 2 Colours of Raffia- you will need about 1/2 a roll for each 8 inch diameter bowl.
  • Glue or Modge Podge
  • A bowl to put the glue/modge podge in
  • Scissors
  • Something to protect your work surface- I use a piece of poster board
  • A very patient husband to take pictures while your hands are covered in goppyness

1. Blow up the balloon until it has a diameter of about 8 inches. Fill up the bowl with a good amount of glue/modge podge. You will be using alot of it. Smear a 2 inch wide strip of glue starting about 1/4 of the way down the balloon.

2. Unwind 8-10 inches of raffia at a time. Run it through the bowl and cover with glue, wipe off the excess with your fingers.

3. Start to wrap around your balloon, making sure the rows are tight together. Keep a hold of the balloon, it will roll away if you let go! Try and tidy up your rows as you go. Keep unwinding the raffia in 8-10 inch lengths and running it through the glue as you wind it around the balloon.

4. Continue with the first color of raffia until you have a band 2 inches wide or so. Cut off the string of raffia and unwind 8-10 inches of the second colour of raffia. Run the new raffia through the bowl of glue. Twist about 1 inch of each colour together, tuck the tail under the row above.

5. Continue with the second colour until you have a band about 3 inches wide. Change back to the first colour, twisting the ends together and tucking the tail in under the previous row. Continue with the first colour all the way around the balloon. The bottom can be a bit tricky, it helps it you hold down the rows with your fingers as you wind the next one.

6. Smear a generous layer of glue over all of the raffia. Lightly go over it with your finger to remove excess.

7. Tighten up the lines, try to make sure you get glue into any holes left between the rows.

8.  Use a wire hanger to create a hanging device. Poke one end of the hanger through the nipple of the balloon, wrap the middle of the hanger around a curtain rod and tack the other end to the ceiling.  Ignore the looks of disbelief your husband will cast your way.

9. Wait 6-8 hours, and the outside will have mostly dried. You will be able to tell because it will look clear instead of white. Take the bowl down.

10. Pull the balloon out. Sometimes you have to pop them, sometimes they will have started to deflate (like mine). Tidy up any extra bit of dried glue. You will be able to see that the inside is till wet.

11. The weight of the raffia will have pulled down the shape of the bowl. This works perfect for our project. Rest the bowl on a work surface and press down gently. Your aim is to flatten the bottom so that the bowl will sit nicely when dried. Leave it a few days to fully cure and then enjoy your gorgeous new bowl!

I use mine in my craft room as a little catch all. When I’m in the middle of a project I like to throw all of the stuff I’m using in one place and put it back into its proper home later. That way I don’t have to stop what I’m doing and loose my crafting mojo, plus if I need it again (which is usually likely to happen) it’s right at hand.

You can also use the same method to create a simple fun mobile. I made this one for my niece when she came to visit.

Blow up three balloons of different sizes. Cover the whole balloon with the raffia. To keep the shape dry these resting on their side on a garbage bag at first, be sure to turn every now and then to stop it from sticking. String together and secure to the ceiling.

Kimmy loved watching this above her crib. I keep it in my craft room now, it matches the colours and looks like a mini art piece.

Here’s another great project tutorial using Raffia to add colour and texture to a magnetic Dry-Erase board.

You’ll find tons of crafts to use the raffia in. It does just as well as a supporting character. I used in it my Party Favor Baskets to add a bit of colour and texture.

What is your favorite Dollar Store find? Do you love the raffia as much as I do? Can you think of any other great crafts to use it in?

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On the List: Redoing the Old and New

13 Jun

It’s going to be a shorter On the list post this week. Which is really a good thing isn’t it?

Guest blogger Abby Matthews did a post on Crafty Nest (one of my favorite blogs) awhile ago.  Ever since I’ve seen it I’ve been dying to refinish a piece of furniture, using wallpaper to add some graphic detail and colour. I’ve even got the perfect side table, banged up and longing for some love.

I recently ordered the Ultimate Embroidery Kit from Sublime Stitching. I love the spunk Jenny Hart has put into her company: a banner at the top of the website reads ‘This ain’t your gramma’s embroidery’. I think so many of the traditional crafts get overlooked because there hasn’t been anyone to freshen them up. Embroidery is one of the many (many) skills I want to learn and a  kit that includes all of the essentials makes it too easy. Now all I need to do is find the time.

I spotted this beauty on a One Pretty Thing (a favorite site of crafters everywhere) Round Up. It was the fabric that caught my eye at first but once I got over to Living with Punks Susan’s great tutorial for a reusable shopping bag had me hooked. I’ve got a ton of cloth grocery bags from different stores, all they do is clutter up my closet. What I need (want) is a nice set of them made to last in gorgeous fabric of my choosing (instead of being covered in obnoxious company logos).

A short post, but these projects are great ones. I can’t wait to get started.

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Tutorial: Puzzle Cookies for Canada Day

12 Jun

It was grey and rainy today. Not a very good day to continue working on my next garden project. So I was stuck in doors and decided it was time to execute a cookie idea I have been bouncing around for awhile.

To start with you need to make a batch of shortbread or sugar cookies.  I’m going to have to tell you a secret. When I was a kid and teenager I could not bake. Or cook actually. I was a disaster in the kitchen. I only started to really get it together in my late teens when I was determined to make cookies that would hold their shape and taste as good as they look.

To this day I swear by the recipe I pieced together from that journey to the perfect shortbread cookie. Here it is:

While the dough is chilling cut out templates for the puzzles. Here are the patterns I used to save you some time.

Lay a piece of wax paper or parchment paper down on your counter/ work surface. After your dough has finished chilling roll it out to about 1/8-1/4 inch thick, depending on how you like your cookies. Place each template on the dough and cut the shapes out carefully.

Place the cookies, on the wax paper, onto a cookie sheet and into the freezer for 5-10 minutes to chill.

Carefully peel off the excess dough around the cookies.

Take the wax paper, with the cookies, off the cookie sheet. Place a piece of parchment paper on it and flip the cookies onto the parchment paper. Make sure the side that was touching the wax paper is now the top (it will give the cookies a smoother finish).

If you feel that the cookies are soft place them in the fridge or freezer to chill. The cooler they are when you put them in the oven the more they will retain their shape. Bake according to directions.

Roll out fondant of your colour choice onto wax paper. Using the same template cut out the puzzle pieces. Flip them onto the cookies. Be sure to cut the template the same side up as you did the cookies and flip the fondant so that the side that was on the wax paper is now on the top. As long as the cookies are still warm the sugar in the fondant will melt and it will adhere itself to the cookies. If the cookies have cooled brush a bit of water onto the fondant before placing it on the cookies.

Repeat with the rest of your cookies.

How great would these be as Canada Day Party Favors? Or you could do them up for a child’s birthday.

Not a fondant fan? You can also do these in royal icing.

If you decide you like making these cookies enough you could always consider making actual cookie cutters of the puzzle shapes to save yourself time. I’ll be doing a tutorial on making your own custom cookie cutters in the future, be sure to check in often.

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FYI: Getting Up Close and Personal with Gum Paste

10 Jun

In the last FYI: Getting to Know Gum Paste I showed you a slew of great tools for working with the sugar clay and walked you through the very simple process of making it from a powder mix. Now it’s time we get to the real fun; expressing our creativity in sugary goodness. Gum Paste is softer, more pliable, and much more elastic than fondant. It also dries very quickly, unlike fondant. Our number one ally in the struggle to keep the gum paste moist while working on it is shortening. Remember this well and you will save yourself much frustration. This FYI Gum Paste edition we will go over some gum paste basics

  • How to tint to any colour
  • How to easily roll it out
  • How to add textures
  • How to use the Clay Extruder
  • How to cut letters with the Tappits
  • How to adhere letters

To start rub a bit of shortening onto your hands and work a little bit into a piece of gum paste as big as you need for your project.

Lay a piece of wax paper on your work surface. Scale the size of the piece you use to the size or project you are doing. Open the colour you wish and grab a toothpick. Never double dip a toothpick into icing colours, this is an easy way to contimante the gel. You can use both ends of the toothpicks but once they have touched the gum paste they are done.

Dip the toothpick into the icing colour and smear a small amount onto the piece of gum paste. Unless you are aiming for a dark tone be light handed. As the saying goes, you can always add more. Not so much on the taking away part.

To keep the colour from transferring onto your fingers fold the piece of gum paste in on itself. Keep folding in or roll out between your hands into a long rope and fold it in. Eventually the colour will work into enough of the gum paste that it won’t leave much (if any) staining on your hands.

Keep adding colour (be sure not to double dip!) until you are satisfied.

Place your pretty tinted piece of gum paste on the sheet of wax paper, cover with another. It helps to shape the gum paste to generally mimic the finished shape you are after.

Place the rolling pin in the middle and using gentle pressure roll out the gum paste. It helps if you rotate the wax paper as you go, this way you’ll roll out more evenly.

Gauge how much you need to roll the gum paste out to fit the cutter you want to use. The thinner you roll it the quicker your finished project will dry but the more fragile it will be. After a few projects you’ll start to learn what works best for you.

Remove the top sheet of wax paper and the cutter down firmly into the middle of the gum paste. Pull away the excess gum paste.

Be sure to wrap any gum paste you are not using in plastic wrap and place in a zip lock bag you keep near by. Wasting gum paste isn’t doing yourself any favors (ask me how I know.) Remove the cutter carefully from the gum paste.

Put a light layer of shortening on the texture sheet and using a sheet of wax paper roll out a small, narrow piece of gum paste on top.

Carefully pull the gum paste off of the texture sheet.

Lay the textured gum paste down flat on your work surface (which is protected by a sheet of wax paper). Line up the letter you want on the Tappit cutter.

Press down firmly and lift up gently. If you find that some of the tricker letters aren’t cutting cleanly, spread a little shortening on the cutter itself.

Pull away the excess gum paste (remember to wrap in plastic wrap and put in a zip lock bag) and expose the desired letter. Using a small flat tool (I use the spatula from my modeling kit but a butter knife works almost as well) carefully lift the letter off of the wax paper. You might have to wait a minute or two for the gum paste to stiffen up enough that you can move the letter without completely distorting it. Don’t worry about a little distortion, you can always adjust it once you have it in place.

Place the letters on your plaque piece and play with them until you are happy with their arrangement.

Removing the letters one by one smear a thin layer of edible glue on the back and place them back into their spots, adjusting them as you go. Once all of the letters are adhered place the plaque (wax sheet and all) out of the way and onto a flat surface

Lay down another piece of wax paper. Texturize another piece of gum paste.

Cut to the desired size using the wheel cutter/fondant  embosser. This is where wax paper becomes so handy, you can easily see through it to the measurements on your rotary mat. Carefully peel the wax paper off of th first piece of gum paste and adhere it to the larger piece.

Now grab the clay extruder. Kiss it. No seriously. You are going to fall in love with this thing. When I first got mine I tried it once and almost threw it out. I had no idea how close I came to making the biggest mistake of my caking life.  I’m glad I can save you the trial and error it took me to appreciate this thing.

Unscrew the cap, choose a small round die, place it inside the cap and screw the cap back on.

Work a generous amount of shortening into a inch or so sized piece of gum paste. You want this baby to be super pliable.

Scoop up some shortening on your pinky finger (shortening = key to success with gum paste). Coat the inside of the extruder with the shortening as far down as you can go without getting your pinky stuck. Because husbands called to help in such an emergency will take a good 3 minutes to laugh at you before they help. And that’s 3 minutes you could be playing with gum paste instead.

Remove the barrel from the extruder. Roll the gum paste into a small log and place it inside the chamber of the extruder.

Place the barrel in the top of the extruder and push down. With even pressure extrude a small rope of gum paste directly onto the wax paper. Move the extruder as you go to prevent the rope from bunching up and sticking to itself.

Position the rope on your gum paste plaque to your liking and then use a light layer of edible glue to secure it. You can do so many things with the extruder. Most of the accent on the Baby Shower Cupcakes were done with it. It has dies that are perfect to make gum paste hair. It allows you to make a quick and simple border for the edge of a cake in seconds. The possibilities are endless. It works as easily with fondant as it does gum paste.

Sit back and smile. You now know all you need to start working with gum paste. Plus now you also know the secrets of using some of the most versatile tools in the world of sugar art. Tappits come in all kinds of fondants from funky to formal. Textures can be applied to the sides of cakes as well as accents. You will never stop finding new ways to use an extruder, and you will find yourself groveling and apologizing for ever thinking of throwing it away.

Next FYI we’ll start to learn how to make detailed and delicate gum paste flowers. I’ll warn you now, this can get addicting.

Are there any specific gum paste (or other sugar) techniques that you’ve seen and always wanted to know more about? Tell me what you’d like to see on FYI and I’ll do my best to fulfill your wishes.

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