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Spring 2010

In This Issue
Feature: Shortbread Spring Bonnets
Favorites: D. Blümchen & Company
Fanfare: Cookie Swap Tour

What's your harbinger of Spring? Crocuses? Forsythia? Or maybe the glimpse of freshly greening grass in the front yard? For me, it's the completion of my annual work area-migration from my upstairs (read, warm) study to my 'til-now-chilly basement test kitchen! This year's transition was especially late, and punctuated with several stops and starts due to Mother Nature's fickle mood. But I'm pleased to say that I'm now happily ensconced in work, three stories down, and none too soon. Testing for my new book project is starting now!

Yes, you heard me right. As we speak, I'm inking a deal for my next book. This one will also be about cookies, but with more of a decorating spin, and with more blow-by-blow instructions for cookie-crafting projects. I've got a year to write it. Expect to see it hitting stores by Fall 2011!

My springtime has fortunately been filled with other good news, including a few book awards and exciting additions to my tour schedule, which you'll find scattered throughout this newsletter.

I hope your Spring is welcoming you with fresh and invigorating possibilities too.

Live life sweetly,
Feature: Shortbread Spring Bonnets
Adapted from Cookie Swap   
(about  2 1/2 dozen "bonnets") 
Some cookies with springtime sass! Short on time to decorate? Then just make the shortbread, sprinkle with sugar, and bake.

1. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until the nuts are reduced to a fine meal.
2. Cream 1 cup softened unsalted butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup light brown sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic, and chill about 1 - 2 hours, or until firm.
3. Roll the dough to a 3/16-inch thickness and cut out about 2 1/2 dozen rounds using a fluted 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter. Roll the remaining dough to a 3/8-inch thickness and cut out another 2 1/2 dozen rounds using a straight-edged 1 1/4-inch round cutter. Bake in a preheated 300F oven until lightly browned on the bottoms. Cool completely.
Topcoat the cookies with tinted royal icing thinned to topcoating consistency. (Don't forget to flavor your icing! Lemon extract plays nicely with the cardamom in these cookies.) Let the icing dry completely; then assemble the bonnets by affixing small cookies to the tops of large cookies with a dab of thick royal icing "glue". Let the "glue" dry about 20 - 30 minutes before further decorating.
5. Embellish with fondant hat bands and tiny fondant flowers and leaves, as shown here. Or pipe a royal icing band onto each bonnet and jazz up with readymade royal icing flowers.

Related Recipe:
Royal Icing with Consistency Adjustments

Favorites: D. Blümchen & Company
 Paper eggs

I got the gorgeous German
papier mâché eggs in my Easter centerpiece, top right, from a local antiques mall, but you can also get them (vintage ones, no less) online at one of my favorite craft and paper sites, blumchen.com. Or, if you'd prefer to make your own, as I have above, Blümchen & Company also offer plain eggs that can be dressed up with crepe paper (it conforms to curvy eggs better than regular paper), ribbons, fabric daisies, and other do-dads. (Apply the paper with a thin coating of spray adhesive; the heavier embellishments with hot glue.)

Oh, and what to do with these dazzling eggs? My mom always filled them with jelly beans and other Easter goodies and then planted them in the yard for our annual Usher family Easter egg hunt. But now that I'm a little more grown up, I use them as springtime party favors and hostess gifts!
 Bring in Spring

 Photo by Julia M. Usher 
 Got a case of spring fever? Well, I'm sure it's
 nothing that a great party won't cure.Check out the
 latest spring fling on my site, and learn how to 
 infuse your next party with cheery suggestions of
 the season!
Cookie Swap Tour Continues, But More Gently! 

Just a couple of changes to my itinerary since last time . . . First, I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be signing and demoing at the newly reformatted Book Fair at the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) annual conference - an event not to be missed! Ruth Reichl, Deborah Madison, Karen Page, and Andrew Dornenburg will be in attendance along with more than 30 other leading cookbook authors. I'm most honored to be rubbing shoulders with these culinary greats! Second, my May class at the Kitchen Conservatory has moved to the 2nd to allow me time to attend the Cordon d' Or Cookbook Awards! (Wanna know why? Then see below!)

4-23: IACP Book Fair, Portland, OR
4-25: International Cake Exploration Society, St.
        Louis, MO

5-02: Kitchen Conservatory, St. Louis, MO
5-21: The Good Table, Belfast, ME
6-17: Kitchen Conservatory, St. Louis, MO

More event details

Hot Off the Press 
I continue to keep the Cookie Swap-momentum going with local TV appearances and interviews such as these:
2-11: KSDK - St. Louis, MO
But the most exciting news in recent weeks has been in the cookbook awards category. Hip hip hurrah, indeed! Cookie Swap is picking up three gold medals at the Cordon d' Or Awards in St. Pete Beach on April 30. The first gold is for best cover and title; the second and third are for best author and food stylist, respectively, in the Culinary Frivolities category. I'm now pondering how to get these three clunkers (below) past airport security and back home!
Let's Link

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Buzz Me

Happy Spring, all!  For this quarter's giveaway, I'll be sending signed Cookie Swaps to the 10th and 50th persons to answer the following question (before April 10th):

Question: How many icing dots surround the heart cookie in the lower left foreground of my Cookie Swap book jacket?

Good luck, and, as always, don't hesitate to send your baking and decorating questions my way! I love to help out whenever I can.

Sugar Buzz, the newsletter of
Recipes for A Sweet Life
c/o Julia M.Usher

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