Friday, December 27, 2013

Cookies boxes for friends. Sorry Santa!

So this was the cookie box packaging I ended up with after looking at all the packaging pictures on Pinterest. I made 4 types of cookies, and green tea macarons, bought some candies, to fill the 4 tiny squares of the box. 

I made some green tea macarons, double chocolate walnut cookies, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal pecan cookies, and coffee cinnamon snicker doodles! Hooray!

Initially, I had planned to make some red macaroons to give this box a Christmasy red and green color scheme, but the world isn't always perfect, and I always end up with a different end product than what I had in mind.

Unfortunately, I am almost always guilty of making detours from my original plan. *Sigh*

Good thing they fit perfectly! 2 of each cookies in a red and white polka dot cupcake liners, with the Lindt Christmas chocolate bear snuggly seated on 2 mini candy canes covered with cookies and cream Hershey kisses.

I sent a few boxes to close friends who've moved away after graduation, with hopes that it will brighten up their holidays! This was my first shipment of baked goods and I'm happy that they hold up pretty good during travel. 

Here's some photos I recieved from Reagan, Prisilla, and Sandy+AJ

(Like how my sister always say) To the rest of my friends, "Happy Christmas and Merry New Year 2014!"

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cookie Fest: Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been working way too hard lately and my hands noticed it before I even realized I've turned into a cookie manufacturing machine!! But, I'm not going to complain about the number of cookie platter orders this week at the bakery, after all it's the holiday season!

I'm baking cookies at work and I'm baking cookies at home. It's such a repetitive cycle! The only difference is that they're not the same cookies. Thank God! I found myself being someone who actually enjoy the process of baking cookies more than the actual act of devouring it. Of course I nibbled a little here and there, but most of them get packed and sent out to friends.

As I'm making my cookie sampler holiday gift boxes, I wrote down a list of what types of cookies are going into those boxes. It's obvious that a good chocolate chip cookie is always a staple in all cookie platter or sampler box. So I made them my way, crisp with a some crunch to them.

I used to like my chocolate chip cookie chewy with lots of oatmeal in them, but my favorite childhood cookie company (Famous Amos) made them bite size and crunchy, so I've decided to make mine crunchy too and save the oatmeal to make some oatmeal pecan cookie.

I'm also putting together a cookie platter! I bought a plastic holiday design plate at the local supermarket for $2.50 and arranged my 4 varieties of cookies (clockwise: Chocolate chip, Chocolate chip walnuts, Oatmeal pecan, and in the center - coffee cinnamon snickerdoodles)

Wrap it in some cellophane, tie it up with some festive ribbon, attach the greeting card, and it's ready to go! :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Top 6 Cookie Gift Packaging

It's December! Tis the season for cookie swaps or simply gifting homemade cookies! I've been having a list of close friends and cookie ideas in my head for the past few days, but I haven't decided on any packaging yet.

I'd have to say that I'm kinda guilty of having a small affair with food packaging, sometimes more so than baking itself. I strongly believe that packaging is a very important aspect if you're selling or gifting baked goods. People "eat" with their eyes first before even having their first bite, so visual presentation shouldn't be overlooked!

I've gathered my favorite top 6 cookie gift packaging pins from Pinterest with hopes to finalize my cookie gift box. Check it out and tell me what you think!

1. Sweet Lavender Bake Shoppe is one of The Great Cookie Swap 2013 Blogger, and she did a post on cookie swaps rules and packaging. I like this simple and sweet idea of wrapping up your cookies in cellophane and then box them out for shipping.

2. Wrapping cookies in cellophane on both ends with bows makes me feel like I'm receiving a large size "candy"! It looks pretty especially with a classy ribbon! Unfortunately, I found this pin with a link to an "invite" only blog. :(

3. Still sticking to the cellophane method. This would be a good packaging for trio cookies. A dozen with 3 different flavors in a treat box!

4. Let's move on to the boxes. I actually like this one from Southern Flair. It has a very simple yet traditional look, and a home style type of feeling going on.

5. I think I like the compartment box look because I pinned this one right after I saw the one above. This is a cute one that The Black Apple made and shared. These boxes are the Martha line available at Michael's. I totally got inspired to make some mini macarons from my box after seeing her's.

6. Last but not least. I like the washi tape decor on this box. It's a cake box with a handle, a very classic bakery style, but the washi tape makes it pop and gives it a handicraft "made with love", "home made", "self made", "from me to you" gift kind of feel.

I think I've decided to merge number 4, 5, and 6 together and make some number 1 for a few other friends. Let's get the cookie baking started!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gluten Free Vs. Vegan Baking?

Understanding people's needs is a serious issue. More and more people are becoming allergic to common household pantry goods such as flour and dairy products.

I'm sure you've heard of "gluten-free" and "vegan" baked goods.

As a part of the service industry, American bakeries and cake stores have been slowly accommodating and serving people with sensitive diets. In fact, it's getting more and more popular to a point where you have to be flexible enough to produce such baked goods.

Gluten Free Baking

The gluten free diet is for people who are gluten intolerant or those with coeliac disease and basically it excludes food with gluten in them. Gluten is associated with wheat because when wheat (which is found in flour) is mixed with liquids, gluten proteins form.

These gluten proteins are what makes the dough elastic and stretchy. So if you're making a bread dough, the more you kneed, the more gluten proteins develop, the more air gets trap in the dough which makes an airy and fluffier product.

There are gluten free flour mix available in most major supermarkets and they can be used as substitutes for regular flour. Grocery stores now sell cup-for-cup gluten free flour made out of rice, nuts, corns, or beans. The gluten free flour mix almost always have xantham gum in them but if they don't, it's always good to include a little to help with the consistency of the batter and structure of the baked good.

Xantham gum might sound chemically and alien but it's basically a plant based thickening and stabilizing agent. It helps to blend liquids that don't usually blend well together and it helps to produce a thick batter consistency and creamy texture.

Vegan Baking

Simply explained, Vegans do not consume animal products. Be it from a religious point of view, or just wanting to stay healthy by embracing a new diet, it's a food/lifestyle choice which is slowly growing in number.

What does it mean for us bakers? It means that we need to eliminate the use of animal products in our baked goods. There is a difference between vegan and vegetarian diets though. Vegans excludes eggs and dairy products in their diet. Yup that means, no eggs, animal milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt in their desserts!

Since eggs are so important in the baking process, there are powdered egg replacers that are available in supermarkets. Cow milk can be replaced by using soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, or any plant based milk. Butter can be substituted for 100% dairy free vegan margarine. You can also use applesauce or avocado to replace butter. 

Tofu can be used instead of yogurt. There's a product called Tofutti that can also be used to replace cream cheese. I made a Tofutti cheesecake once and it was surprisingly tasty!