Archive for: sprinkles
There are many people out there who would prefer to keep artificial colors out of their food. Fortunately, there are a few options to choose from when it comes to natural food colorings, so you can still bake a red velvet cake. But sprinkles and other decorative toppings give you fewer choices when it comes to natural colorings – and sometimes there is nothing like a sprinkling of sprinkles to finish off a batch of cupcakes or cookies (especially if you’re serving them to kids). Williams Sonoma recently introduced a new line of all natural sprinkles. The sprinkles are colored with dyes that are derived from colorful edible plants, such as beets, spinach, red cabbage and turmeric. The range of colors includes pink, purple, orange, yellow, white, green and, of course, a rainbow confetti mix. The sprinkles don’t have any of the flavor of the vegetables that gave them their colors, so you can go crazy when decorating with them and don’t need to worry about your sugar cookies tasting like spinach.
The sprinkles are a bit more expensive than the sprinkles you’ll find in the baking aisle down at your local market, but they are sold in generous 3.3-oz bottles that will get you through a lot of decorating projects throughout the year.
One of the easiest ways to dress up a cake or cookies for a holiday is to top them off with some colorful sprinkles. I am always tempted by the seasonal sprinkles that hit the baking aisle during the holidays – trees for Christmas, bats at Halloween and hearts at Valentine’s Day – but I rarely end up using the sprinkles. The reason is that those specialty sprinkles are usually large, crunchy affairs that add color but start to detract from the texture of your baked goods. I was suckered in by these Wilton Micro Heart Sprinkles, the last time I was out shopping for baking supplies and, for once, I was very happy with how the sprinkles turned out! These incredibly cute hearts are teeny tiny and come in red, white and pink. They are bright and festive looking, and the quality (at least in my batch) was very consistent, with no misshapen sprinkles. They are crunchy and slightly sweet, but they are so small that they didn’t distract from the flavor or the texture of the cupcakes that I decorated with them. I will definitely be using these on other Valentine’s Day goodies this year – not just relegating the container to the back of the pantry to be forgotten about.
I spotted these at stores like Target, Michaels and at a few grocery stores, so they should be relatively easy to find, but they are also available online if you’re looking for something simple to dress up your Valentine treats.
Adding sprinkles seems like an easy way to decorate a batch of butter cookies or other relatively plain-looking cookies for holiday or some other festive occasion. They’re bright, colorful and, unlike frostings and glazes, need no prep time. But sprinkles can come with their own problems because they don’t always end up where you want them to be; frequently, when you’re applying sprinkles, you end up with more on the baking sheet than you do on the cookies themselves! Sprinkles have a hard time sticking to dough that isn’t tacky enough. For instance, when cookie dough is rolled out on a lightly floured surface, it picks up some flour so that it isn’t sticky and can be handled easily – and that same flour will prevent sprinkles from sticking to the cookies.
There are a couple of simple things that you can do to help those sprinkles stick. The easiest thing to do is to brush the tops of the cookies with a little bit of water or milk, using just enough to dampen the cookie dough and no more. This will help the sprinkles stick and won’t change the finished appearance of the cookie when you’re done baking. You can also brush the cookies with a little bit of egg white, which will provide some adhesive, but will also make the cookies appear a bit darker and shinier. Take a sheet of notebook paper and fold it in half. As for technique, pour the sprinkles down the “channel” to direct them onto the cookies, rather than shaking the container of sprinkles all over the baking sheet to eliminate the mess and waste usually associated with sprinkle-ing cookies.
Finally, if you’re using big, round sprinkles, you’re going to need to press in the sprinkles when you apply them. Large nonpareils, for instance, need to be “anchored” into the cookie dough, or they simply won’t stay put on the trip from the countertop to the oven.
This Halloween, I had every intention of doing some zombie-themed baking. I needed some decorations, though, and I thought that some edible bones would be just the thing I needed. In the past, I’ve used plastic skeletons to add some Halloween flair to desserts, but would always pull them off before serving. I was sure that I had seen candy bones before, but this year they were elusive and difficult for me to find. I finally tracked down these Scary Bones Sprinkles at my local Target and they were exactly what I was looking for. The bones are a good size, which makes them easy to place when decorating, have a glossy white finish and are embellished with random blood red spatters that give them a very creepy look. Unlike some other sprinkles I’ve used, these actually taste pretty good. They’re a lot like Spree (a sweet candy with a glossy coating and a compressed sugar interior) and, while crunchy, they are still easy enough to bite into that you won’t crack a tooth if you’ve used them for garnish.
I didn’t end up using these for a zombie themed dessert, but they do make a great addition to a batch of Dirt Cupcakes, and are perfect for spelling out Happy Halloween on top of a cake at a Halloween party. If you can’t find these, Wilton also makes bone-shaped sprinkles, which are a bit smaller and don’t have the blood detail, but make a nice stand in all the same.
As you might expect, I’m much more likely to advocate baking a batch of homemade cupcakes from scratch instead of using a boxed mix. The term “boxed mix” tends to assume that you’re using something that cost about $3 at the grocery store, though, and lately more and more high-end cake and cupcake mixes have been popping up in stores. Martha Stewat has some, Ina Garten has many and even cupcake stores like Sprinkles have a line. Prices tend to be about $11-14 per box – a significant jump over Betty Crocker. In this month’s Good Housekeeping magazine, they put several of these popular high-end mixes to the test to see if they were worth it.
Most of the mixes, as it turned out, were pretty good. The Martha Stewart Collection mixes produced great cakes and came with instructions for glazes and fillings. Rose Levy Beranbaum’s cupcake and frosting kits were a bit complex, but the results were worth it. Barefoot Contessa‘s mixes took almost no work and still came out perfectly, and the ultra-rich Jacques Torres brownies (not quite cupcakes, but close) were said to be to die for. But not all the mixes tested well, so we have to conclude that price is not always an indicator of quality when it comes to cake mix. The Sprinkles cupcake mixes, even when tested by skilled bakers, produced cakes that were bland and dense – and fell far, far short of the cheap and moist supermarket brands.