12 fresh pesticide-free green leaves; such as rose, lemon, ivy
or any other non-toxic firm leaves.
2 ounces semisweet chocolate or dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
Wash and dry leaves, Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. Stir until smooth and remove from heat. Get out a baking sheet to place leaves on. With a off set spatula or small brush spread a thin layer of chocolate on the back of each leaf, do not go over the edge of leaf, but completely coat it. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and set in cool, dry area until firm. You can place in refrigerator, but the chocolate might end up getting that white look to it, that's why I suggest a cool, dark place. Just before using, gently pull the leaf by the stem away from the chocolate.
You can also make chocolate cups or a more organic type of cup using a balloon.
First start by getting either foil cups or silicone muffins cups. A clean pastry brush or paint brush. You will need dark chocolate broken in pieces or dark to semisweet chocolate chips. Once again, melt over a double boiler - simmering water. For the balloons, blow up slightly, not too big and I like to gently wash and dry them off. Make sure they are very dry. Gently ease the balloon into the chocolate about 1/2 way, swirl around a little and place on parchment lined baking sheet to dry, in cool, dark place. When they are dry, take your scissors and go to the area where you tied them off and carefully cut a little tiny hole, slowly release air and the balloon should deflate. Gently remove the balloon and your cups are ready to fill.
If you are using liner cups, turn them upside down and paint the cups with chocolate, you don't want too thin of a layer. Place on baking sheet and let dry in cool, dark place. When dry, gently pull off liner. These are good to use for Easter candy.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler. Fill a piping bag with the melted chocolate and pipe any shape you desire. Let set up and gently peel off shape from parchment. You can use to garnish any cake, cupcake, dessert you desire.
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup superfine sugar
Combine granulated sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Gently stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid, if desired. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.
Sugared Grapes or Mint Leaves
6 small grape clusters or if using mint leaves, 30 of them
1 egg white, lightly beaten
One at a time, dip the grape clusters or mint leaves in the egg white. A paint brush also helps too. Be sure to thoroughly coat all the grapes or leaves. With a sieve dust the grapes or mint leaves on both sides with the sugar. Arrange in a single layer on baking rack and let dry. To store, layer with waxed paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Crystallized Petals and Flower's
1 egg white
Pesticide-free edible flowers; such as lavender, marigolds, roses, rose petals, or violets.
Superfine sugar (note if you don't can't find superfine, just place granulated sugar in food processor and process)
In a bowl, beat egg white until frothy. With a small brush, lightly paint the flowers and petals on all sides with egg white. Heavily dust the flowers and petals with superfine sugar. Put the flowers on a baking rack at room temperature and set them aside until they are dry and crisp. Store, layered with waxed paper, in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Stenciling: If you don't want to frost a cake, but still want a decorated look, try my mom Dorothy's way. She made her own stencils, or used paper doilies, but you can now purchase stencils. Place the stencil over your cake and add powdered sugar to a sifter. Sift the sugar over the stencil and carefully lift off stencil. You end up with a beautiful sugared design.
Garnishes: Here are some easy ones you can try.
Pick tender young carrots, peel thinly. Cut off a thin lengthwise slice from each carrot. Cut carrots into about 3-inch lengths. Place carrot cut-side down and cut into thin lengthwise slices. From here you are going to cut into fine matchstick strips. Drop the carrots into boiling water to blanch for about 30 seconds. Place in bowl of ice water to refresh. Take a small bundle and tie together with green part of scallion. Cut green parts off scallions and pour boiling water over to soften. Cut green part into narrow strips and tie bundle of carrots.
Lemon Baskets - I don't know how many of these I've made
Try and pick lemons that look pretty. Place the lemon on its side and cut halfway down the lemon slightly off center. Start another cut of the same depth alongside leaving a piece in the center for the handle. Make a horizontal cut from the stem to the first cut; lift out the wedge of lemon and do the same with the other side. Cut away the flesh under the handle and scoop out the flesh in the base.
Turnip Chrysanthemums - this also works with onions
Peel a white turnip and place on a board with wood chopstick on each side of the turnip. Use a very sharp, fine bladed knife to slice all the way along the turnip. The chopstick will prevent you from slicing completely through. Give the turnip a half turn and then leaving the chopsticks in the same position, slice the turnip again crisscross style. Make sure the knife cuts straight and not at an angle. Soak the cut turnip in a mixture of 1 Tbl. of salt and 2 cups of water. Rinse well. Next, you can color the turnip or onion by dropping food coloring into a bowl of cold water and leaving the turnip or onion in bowl until you have reached desired color. Take out and gently move petals to give realistic appearance.
Purchase a jar of pickled ginger, the pinkish colored one. Drain but save juice. Take a slice of ginger and roll in your fingers to form a cylinder to make center of rose. Add petals to the rose one at a time, crimping the ginger and gently rolling back the edge to give a realistic look. Squeeze the base of the rose so it holds together. If you have leftover ginger, place back in jar with juice to save.
Mom's Scallion Whisks
Wash scallions and cut off the roots. Lay onion on cutting board and make long straight cuts in white part, then turn and cut again, then again. Do the same with some of the green part. Place in ice cube water bath and store in refrigerator until they start to curl up at both ends. You can also do this with small pieces of celery.
Take a 1-inch piece of chilled butter and roll into a ball, the roll in cracked peppercorns, chopped parsley, lemon zest or any herb you prefer. Store in refrigerator covered with plastic wrap.
Peel tender carrots with a vegetable peeler and trim off top and bottom ends. Roll up the slices and place close together in something like an ice cube tray, poor cold water over curls and place in refrigerator for a few hours. Drain and use for garnish on salads.
Use a mandolin and slice zucchini in long thin strips. Take a small slice off each end. Lay strip down on cutting board and with a paring knife make short cuts (a little bit more than halfway)along one side of zucchini slice (it will look like a comb). Roll up the slice of zucchini and secure with a wooden pick. Sit upright for petals to open, add small chiffonade curled pieces of basil in the middle.
Tomato Roses - I made many a tomato rose growing up
Using a very sharp paring knife start at base of tomato peel, a thin strip all the way around the tomato finishing at the stem tend. It must be peeled thin so it will roll correctly. Place the tip of skin flesh side down on cutting board, begin rolling the stem end of the strip to form a coil. When almost all of the skin has been rolled, sit the flower on its base and curl the last piece to form a more open petal. Add some Italian parsley leaves if desired.
Strawberry Fans - Easy
Choose firm, nice red berries with stem on. Place berry on cutting board, hull down and make long cuts in berry from the stem area, but don't slice all the way through. When berry is sliced twist the berry so it fans out.
Sift 1 cup of superfine sugar on to a piece of parchment paper. Whisk 3 egg whites with a pinch of cream of tarter until soft peaks form when beaters are lifted. Gradually beat in 2 Tablespoons of the sugar and then add remaining sugar all at once and gently fold into egg whites. Line baking sheets with parchment paper Place meringue in piping bag. Pipe stems of mushrooms by squeezing a little meringue on sheet lifting to a peak. Squeeze small rounds for the mushroom caps.
Dust the caps with a little unsweetened cocoa powder pushed through a fine sieve. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour or until they are dry. Turn the meringues over, turn off oven and leave meringues to cool in oven until completely cooled. Join the stems and caps with a little white icing.
Preheat oven to 350. In a saucepan combine 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 cup superfine sugar and 1 tsp. ground ginger and 1/3 cup light corn syrup. Heat until butter melts. Cool and stir in 1/2 cup all-purpose flour. Drop a large teaspoonful onto parchment baking sheets. Bake in oven about 10 minutes or until cookie begins to darken around edge. Cool a few seconds then turn paper upside down and peel away cookie. Quickly, pick up cookie and mold over a cup, fluting the edge. If cookie hardens before cup is formed return to oven to soften. Before you serve them; fill with ice cream, mousse, flavored whipped cream and berries. Makes 6 to 8 cookies.
Need an interesting salt and pepper holder if you're having a seafood dinner? Take large oyster shells and wash and dry them well. Place sea salt in one and pepper in another. Or find smaller ones and use as individual salt and pepper holders at each dinner plate.
"Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving"