Sugar Cookies with Fondant Icing

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You know what’s hectic? Moving. I think it must be hectic for everyone.

This week I’m moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan— the land of blue and maize. Moving always feels like the perfect time to reflect on things. It’s seems inevitable as you sift through papers and photographs that have piled up over the years. As I’ve been packing and labeling boxes this week, I’ve reflected on some of my favorite DC memories. Consequently, I put together a list of my favorite things to do in DC that I think everyone should try—whether you’re a resident or a tourist. Enjoy.

Heather’s Top Ten DC To-Do List

1. Take a drop in adult dance class at Joy of Motion Dance Studio. I would recommend jazz with Derrick Brown at the Atlas studio on Tuesdays at 7:00.

2. Indulge in some delicious moules and frites at Granville Moore’s on H Street. Afterwards treat yourself with a slice of pie from Dangerously Delicious Pies which is right across the street.

3. Take a walk down to the fish market on Maine Avenue. The Maryland blue crabs are literally crawling out of the baskets and I guarantee you won’t find fresher seafood anywhere else in the district. Sure it smells fishy, but what can you really expect?

4. Get ready to dance the night away to reggae and dancehall at Patty Boom Boom on U Street. It might be hot and crowded, and the rum punch definitely leaves something to be desired, but every night I’ve had here has been a memorable one.

5. Do your part to save the environment by going car-less and signing up for Zipcar. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that I could survive DC without a car. Zipcar makes it possible by making easy to reserve a car for the inevitable errand that strays away from a metro or bus line.

6. Schedule a boat tour on the Potomac during the cherry blossom festival. You’ll escape the throngs of crows around the tidal basin and for $15 you can spend an hour getting a guided tour of the riverfront and an up close look at the blossoms.

7. If I had to pick one museum on the mall, I’d send you to the Hirshhorn museum and sculpture garden. The museum is shaped in a circle and you can easily get lost in the exhibits as you wander around. There’s even a theater in the basement that features unique short videos. Don’t forget to head across the street to enjoy the sculpture garden.

8. Get involved and give back to the community by volunteering with Little Lights Urban Ministries. Whether it’s once a month or once a week—set aside some of your free time to work with under-served youth and families in the area.

9. Enjoy the fall colors at Shenandoah National Park which is only a short drive from DC. Matt and I went camping here twice and it’s a lovely get away from the bustle of the city.

10. If you’re in the mood for a low-key music event, catch a jazz performance at Twins Jazz. Keep an eye out for Groupon deals that will give you a nice shot a reduced priced tickets.

Oh, also!

I made some sugar cookies in the shape of the DC “state.” I got this cookie cutter from my favorite DC baking good store, Hill’s Kitchen. I’ve told you about them before, but the store is amazing and the people that work there are knowledgeable—and they have free samples from a local bakery on the weekend. I topped these cookies with fondant icing. Usually I’m not a fan of fondant, but for some reason it really works with these cookies—I promise.

Sugar Cookies with Fondant Icing

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Cookie Ingredients
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Fondant Icing Ingredients
1 pound mini marshmallows
2 pounds 10x confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp flavorings (vanilla, orange, peppermint, etc.)
4 tablespoons water
1/4 cup vegetable shortening for coating hands and bowl
equal parts confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch for dusting

Directions for Sugar Cookies
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight). Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.

Directions for Fondant Icing
Place confectioner’s sugar into one mixing bowl, and set aside. Use some of the vegetable shortening to coat the inside of a large bowl. Add marshmallows to the coated bowl. Add your flavorings and 4 tablespoons of water. Place this bowl over a double boiler with 1 inch of simmering water. Stir the marshmallows until they have all melted.

Once the marshmallows have completely melted, add this mixture to the bowl with the confectioner’s sugar. Mix this on low speed (or by hand) until a “dough” is formed. Rub your work surface and hands with some of the vegetable shortening. Turn the dough out onto your prepped surface. Incorporate any crumbled mixture left in the bowl into the dough. Knead the dough until it is smooth. Only dust the surface with a bit of the cornstarch mixture if the dough is too sticky.

Mix in the coloring at this point. Coat your hands with vegetable shortening to keep the color off of them. Once the color is incorporated wrap in plastic wrap and let fondant rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. After the 20-30 minutes have passed, use the fondant as needed. If the fondant is too cold to knead, heat in the microwave for 15-20 seconds and test. Repeat if necessary.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
To store fondant, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then place this inside a resealable freezer bag. Remove as much air from the bag as possible. Fondant will keep for 6 months at room temperature.

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Chocolate Covered Rice Krispies

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There has been a major heat wave in DC this week. One day, I woke up and the temperature was already 85 degrees. When it gets unbearably hot outside, two things happen to me. First, I become incredibly lazy. If walking to work at 8 in the morning has me breaking out in a full sweat, I consider that to be my workout for the day. Secondly, I do everything I can to minimize my time outdoors. If this means walking to the bus stop and taking it three blocks to the metro—I do so without even batting an eyelash.

Suffice it to say, I really don’t fare well with the heat. Growing up in Minnesota, our summers would have the occasional 90 degree day—but nothing like the heat and humidity of the south. This is the kind of weather that makes you want to run through a sprinkler or jump into a pool just to get some relief.

With all of this being said, you can imagine that the absolute last thing I want to do during this heat wave is turn on my oven. For a baker this seriously limits the options available for dessert making. However, I’ve come up with the perfect idea for a summer dessert that doesn’t require you to touch the oven knob. These rice krispie treats are made a little more fantastic by dipping them in chocolate and using cookies cutters to make a custom shape. As an added bonus, these treats are very portable—perfect for a summer picnic. I even sent mine in the mail to my friend Danielle as a thank you for some cookie cutters she gave me.

Chocolate Covered Rice Krispies Recipe

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Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 bag marshmallows (10 ounces)
6 cups rice krispies cereal
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
Sprinkles for garnish
Cookie cutter of your desired shape

Instructions
Melt butter over low heat in a large pot. Once melted stir in vanilla and add marshmallows. Continue stirring until marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat. Add in rice krispies cereal and stir until well coated. Butter your hands and press mixture into an 13×9 inch pan. Once cooled, use a cookie cutter to cut bars into your desired shape.

In a small bowl, melt chocolate chips in a double boiler over low heat. Dip rice krispie treats in chocolate, shaking off excess chocolate, and set on wax paper. While chocolate is still melted, add sprinkles to the top. Repeat the same process with your white chocolate chips. Once cool, enjoy or store in a plastic container.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
If you find that your chocolate isn’t melting evenly, try adding about 1 teaspoon of vegetable shortening until it becomes smooth.

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Fourth of July Cake Pops

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Happy Fourth of July to everyone! This holiday weekend my parents are in DC visiting me, and we’ve got a full plate of tourist activities to knock off our list. Today, we will battle the crowds and head down to the National Mall to watch some fireworks. Although I’ll be the first person to admit my detestation of large crowds, there’s something truly special about celebrating our independence with our nation’s capital as a backdrop.

Before we battled the heat, humidity, and throngs of people—we decided to make a red, white, and blue themed dessert. And what better option than some cake pops?! I have been wanting to try my hand at making cake pops for a while, and decided that I’d give it a try for the Fourth of July. These cake pops aren’t difficult to make, but they do require a little advance planning. It’s a fun recipe to make if you have some leftover cake and don’t quite know what to do with it.

For those that aren’t familiar with cake pops, let me give you a quick rundown. A cake pop is a form of cake styled as a lollipop. Cake crumbs are mixed with icing or chocolate, and formed into small spheres or cubes in the same way as cake balls, before being given a coating of icing, chocolate or other decorations and attached to lollipop sticks. This trend really began to take off in 2010 thanks to other baking blogs such as Bakerella.

Whether you’re celebrating with fireworks, parades, barbecues, picnics, or concerts—I hope you have a spectacular Fourth of July!

Fourth of July Cake Pop Recipe

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Ingredients
1 package white cake mix (and ingredients listed on box)
1/2 cup vanilla frosting
1 bag (12 ounces) of white chocolate chips
1/2 (6 ounces) bag red candy melts
1/2 (6 ounces) bag blue candy melts
20 candy sticks
red and blue gel food coloring
1/4 cup shortening

Directions
Bake cake as directed in a 9 x 13 pan and let cool completely. Crumble cake up into a large bowl. Divide cake evenly into two bowls. Into one bowl, add 1/4 cup frosting and 3-4 drops of blue food coloring. Into the other bowl, add 1/4 cup frosting and 3-4 drops of red food coloring. Stir with a fork until frosting disappears and is completely incorporated into the cake crumbs. Test your mixture by picking up a handful and squeezing it together. It should hold together without breaking apart. If mixture is too dry, add more frosting.

Roll mixture into walnut-sized cake balls and transfer to a wax paper lined baking cookie sheet. Make sure balls are tightly packed and look smooth with no cracks. If they appear cracked, you may need to add more frosting. Transfer cookie sheet with cake balls to freezer or refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes.

Place white chocolate chips into a double boiler and stir until completely melted. The melted coating should coat a spoon but still be able to slowly drip off. If coating is too thick, add shortening 1/2 teaspoon at a time.

Remove cake balls from freezer. Dip tips of lollipop sticks into candy coating and insert sticks no more than halfway into center of your cake balls. Let them set for 1 to 2 minutes, resting on the cake ball, sticks in the air.

Pick up cake pop by the stick and dip into candy coating. Gently tap stick against side of bowl and rotate cake pop to help excess coating fall back into bowl. Reheat and/or melt more candy coating as needed. Poke stick of cake pop into styrofoam block or a cardboard box with holes to stand up straight and dry completely, about 5 minutes.

To decorate the cake pops, heat both red and blue candy melts in a double boiler and transfer into separate plastic bags then snip a small part of one corner off each bag. Decorate the pops using the melted chocolate in whatever design you fancy!

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Sometimes when making cake pops, you might find that the chocolate cracks while they are drying. This typically happens if your cake pops are too cold before dipping. If this happens let your batch warm up a bit before dipping. If your cake pops have already cracked, fear not! Wait until the coating hardens and dip again.

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