Playing with Candy (Or How to Dip and Decorate Marshmallows)

When you’re prepping your birthday party candy bar, it’s probably best to listen to happy music like Mtume’s Juicy Fruit (if it sounds familiar it’s because Biggie sampled it for Juicy). Or Michael’s The Way You Make Me Feel. It’s also a good idea to wander into your bedroom to make sure your enormous dog isn’t eating anything like, say, the remote control to your hanging lanterns.

Well, I thought it looked like fun. Also, you were playing with candy and you weren’t giving me any.

So anyway, today I decided to experiment with marshmallows and sprinkles. I used white chocolate and corn syrup as agents to attach the sprinkles to the marshmallows. I think I prefer the white chocolate method; it adds more flavor, it dries faster, and it basically just works better all around.

I played around with the sprinkles I happened to have in my pantry for this draft, but I will likely discard most of the dipped marshmallows for a variety of reasons. My green gum balls are supposed to arrive from Amazon on Monday, and I intend for them to anchor the candy bar. Once I have them in the apothecary jar, I’ll have a better idea of my actual color palette.

I dried the marshmallows on a cookie sheet to prevent them from sticking to the table. I still managed to make a big mess of things anyway.

By the way, if you decide to use melted white chocolate chips as a dipping agent, make sure you add Crisco to the chips, otherwise you will never achieve the proper consistency to adhere the chocolate to the marshmallows. Remember my cake pop disaster? Yeah, the same principles sort of apply to marshmallow dipping too. Also, if you want to dip both ends it’s best to dip one end, let it dry for a bit, and then dip the other end. (I found that less of the sprinkles slid off that way.)

Now that we’ve covered white chocolate and gravity, it’s time to move on to the next part of the candy bar: the gummy crocodiles. While I was on a quest for affordable sprinkles to fill the vases for my floral arrangements, I found amazing gummy gators. Since a flesh-eating crocodile (croc/gator, close enough) is featured prominently in Peter Pan, I thought it was only appropriate to buy every box they had… even if they only had two.

I love gummy anything, and these “gummi” gators are super yummy. (I had to sample a few — you know to make sure I’m not poisoning my party guests or whatever.)

It’s quite likely that most of our partygoers won’t know the book as well as I do, so I’m making little cards with quotes from the novel explaining the more obscure details of the party décor. For the gummy gator/crocs, I’m going with this passage:

“’I have often,’ said Smee, ‘noticed your strange dread of crocodiles.’

‘Not of crocodiles,’ Hook corrected him, ‘but of that one crocodile.’”

Oh, and speaking of crocodiles, this croc will be chasing my watermelon Jolly Roger carving.

Amazon had other plastic crocodile options, but this one seemed appropriately feisty. And just basically, bad ass.

I’m going with this quote for the pirate ship/plastic croc display, “’It liked my arm so much, Smee, that it has followed me ever since, from sea to sea and from land to land, licking its lips for the rest of me.’”

This greedy croc has stolen my suckers.

Once I wrestle my suckers back from him, I have plans for the confections that likely involve hanging them from trees with ribbons. More on that later….

Advertisements

Of Owls and Strollers (Or I’m Planning a Baby Shower)

So, it’s 2:34 am and there is a band of drunken revelers on the sidewalk below my window. They’re too drunk to know they’re actually yelling at each other and not just having a regular conversation. Also there are about 15 of them. My dogs are yelling back. I sort of wish I were drunk on the street disturbing dogs and the peace, but I’m in my jammies blogging and listening to The Righteous Brothers.

Why am I writing when I should be sleeping? Well, I can’t come home and go straight to bed. Ever. No matter how tired I am. I need all of this time to unwind after being with people. Sometimes I feel so wound up at midnight or whatever that I’m temped to go running. And then I remember I don’t run.

See, I just returned home from a baby shower planning dinner, and I now have my marching orders. They involve finger sandwiches, cupcakes, and sachets. Mercifully, there are no cake pops involved.

During the planning session I learned all kinds of scary things about being constantly kicked in the ribcage and having a tiny person mashing about on your bladder day and night. And I learned about strollers.

My friend showed me hers. It looks like it’s on hydraulics. After witnessing a brief demo, I informed her that she will have to install speakers so she can play Dre while she pushes the kid around the 90210. (Yes, that’s really her zip code.)

She also showed me another stroller by the same company. And it has a video. The video involves the sort of techno music you’d hear at a rave where people wear glow sticks, Ed Hardy, and too much cologne. You HAVE to watch it. The thing has space-aged lights. And it charges your iPhone. You absolutely cannot make this shit up.

So I guess strollers have gotten sick since the ’70s. I mean, mine looked like this:

The fat baby in the rickety ride is me. The bear next to me answers to, “O.J.” even though there’s an apple on his bib.

I’m sure the thing was all dangerous by modern standards but it had room for friends… whether I wanted them around or not…

I am the big, bald bully on the right.

I’m not saying things were better in the ’70s or anything. Because people responsible for my wellbeing did let me out of the house looking like this:

There are many crimes against aesthetics happening all at once here.

So anyway, I have nothing helpful to say tonight except that I’m going to make owl cupcakes like these:

Photo courtesy of jennycookies.com

They’re based on the owls from Hello, Cupcake which is a totally fabulous book that I happen to own.

And my sachets will be inspired by these darling little owl pillows I found on Pinterest:

Photo courtesy of April Foss on Etsy.

Just to reiterate: there will be no cake pops at this party.

I’m saving that horror for my birthday party the next day. The guest list for that is at 135 and counting. More on that later. There will be crocodiles involved….

My Evening of Epic Fails (Or I Screw Up My First Attempt at Cake Pops)

“I don’t think people understand what you’re saying when you say Albus.” My mother said as she sipped her sauvignon blanc.

“Well, that’s why I introduce him as Albus Dumbledore,” I replied.

“Not everyone knows who that is.”

“Of course they do. Albus is a mighty wizard!” I exclaimed indignantly. “Besides, it’s Latin for ‘white.’ I like Latin.” (I did NOT like Latin when I was translating the entire Aeneid into English, but this is not important now.)

“I think they think you’re saying Elvis.”

This from the woman who named me Anika? I’ve been called everything from Anita to Shaniqua over the years, and I’ve been correcting people on the pronunciation of my name since Kindergarten, so she hardly has a foot to stand on when it comes to weird names for offspring – human or dog.

“Well, I nearly named him Chappy Sinclair, but I changed my mind at the last minute.”

By look on her face, it was clear this name would not have met with her standards either. (She does not appreciate Iron Eagle any more than Harry Potter, apparently.)

She’s actually right that people have called my dog everything from “Alvin” to “Elvis,” but I had no intention of conceding this. The little girl downstairs squeals, “Elbis!” every time she sees him. (Even this hybrid is probably toddler for Elvis.)

I should also mention that she doesn’t approve of Woodley’s name either. She thinks it’s confusing I named a fluffy female after a 265-pound linebacker. She’s probably not wrong.

She may have given me a hard time about my dogs’ names, but she did buy me this fabulous pink cake pop pan from Sur La Table, so there’s that.

My fancy new cake pop pan, courtesy of my mother.

I must say, my first attempt at using my new toy was even more disastrous than my attempts at dog-naming.

I was hoping to make Hedwig-like owls that looked like this:

See these perfect owls from Bakerella? Yeah, mine looked nothing like them.

I didn’t even get to the decorating part, because I ended up with THIS mess.

Albus is ignoring the Chernobyl-like disaster in the foreground and heading straight for the un-sullied cake pops on the counter. Even my dog doesn’t think the others are edible.

I think my first mistake was using a strawberry cake mix for the cake pops, as it was not nearly dense enough. (I’m starting to believe “cake” is a bit of a misnomer and the base of these balls is really more of a cake/cookie lovechild.) My next mistake was purchasing Ghirardelli white chocolate chips to coat my cake-y creations. Despite adding shortening to make the melted mess thinner, it was just too thick and sticky to properly coat the crumbly cake.

Desperate to find another coating substance, I scoured the internet this morning and discovered another option on Bakerella. It turns out it was hidden within another one of my pins. (Oops. I probably should have READ the post first instead of simply pinning the photo at first sight.) Bakerella suggests using Merckens Candy Coating for the pops. I guess I’ll be looking for a new cake pop recipe and then dipping those in Merckens next time.

I’m not really sure what to do with my cake pop rejects. I’m leaning toward feeding them to the squirrels downstairs even if they are the sworn enemies of my poorly named dogs.

Oh, and don’t get me started on what went wrong with THIS watermelon shark carving last night….

This Jedi-eating watermelon monster was supposed to be a shark. Alas, my Shun Sumo Santoku knife was just too big for the finer details.

Have you tried making cake pops? Did you make an epic mess like me?