“Little Monkey” Baby Shower

What a beautiful occasion to celebrate! My sweet sister in law and long time BFF is having a baby boy, and we were so excited to finally prepare for a boy-themed shower (the last 4 babies have all been little princesses!). To go along with the jungle themed nursery, we incorporated the monkeys and the color scheme was blue and green. With a gorgeously delicious candy buffet, we set the scene with pops of vibrant blue and green and accents of brown. All this beautiful candy was from a fresh and Kosher candy distributor, Ohnuts.com. 

blue and green dessert table 2014-12-20sugarandgarlic2014-3 blue and green candy table blue and green candy table cake pops

 

Since we spent a lot on the candy, we saved on the cake pops. We were smart and got the delicious cake pops from Starbucks and spray painted the white ones with food grade spray paint from Wilton’s to match our color scheme. Everyone just loved the cake pops, and at a fraction of the cost of custom bakeries, we loved them too!

cake pops

We used the seasonal peppermint chocolate cake pops from Starbucks’ La Boulange bakery and painted them blue with food paint. These tasted AWESOME.

 

I got my hands on some of the best macarons you will taste from Pierrot Gourmet at the The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago and had them make some custom colors for me (just give them a week’s notice) in their signature flavors of chocolate coconut (the blue ones),  mint chocolate (the green), and salted caramel (the gold). They did mess up my order unfortunately, and it was too bad because I was so excited to bring what I consider to be the best macarons I have ever tasted to my Michigan friends and family. They didn’t make them in mint chocolate (it was only peppermint with a plain buttercream filling), nor did they do chocolate coconut (it was also a plain buttercream filling). Additionally, the coconut shells were all hollow! So I am not sure I would go with Pierrot Gourmet again for a large party event. But they were beautiful, and these do taste amazing when you buy them fresh at the shop. Just look at these beauties.

blue macarons blue and green macarons

To go along with our candy buffet, we requested the bakery to assemble half of our macarons on lollipop sticks. How cute do these look presented in a tray of green jelly beans!? Note that the macarons with a buttercream filling did not hold up well, and slid right through the stick. If the macarons have a thicker filling like ganache or caramel, it will hold perfectly. The gold macarons have a thick caramel filling and help up nicely the entire time.

macaron pops green macaron pops

 

One of the most stunning displays at this amazing shower was this fruit display made from tropical fruits. The mother-to-be’s BFF is a talented culinary artist and mastered this feat when I (jokingly) suggested we include this glorious fruit display! They needed to use a metal rod to slide through the pineapples, and a heavily weighted container as the base to keep this from toppling over. The monkeys were made with a papaya as the body, oranges for the head, lemons and slices for the mouth and ears, and black grapes for the eyes. You will need several metal or bamboo skewers for this design; as you can imagine, the fruit is heavy. 

tropical fruit display

Papayas, oranges, kiwis, pineapples, and bananas assembled into this adorable display!

jungle fruit display

 

Oh yes, this is the infamous banana pudding from Magnolia’s bakery. Perfect for our monkeys who love bananas, and a HUGE hit with everyone! Have you tried this stuff yet?

Magnolias banana pudding banana pudding

Our centerpieces were a simple edible pineapple, surrounded by bananas, and some topped with plush monkeys. My adorable mother-in law set these up! The water bottles were personalized with a monkey-themed label from Etsy!

pineapple centerpiece

The room was filled with vines and hanging plush and paper monkeys, both purchased from Amazon.

jungle baby shower jungle baby shower monkey baby shower

Dessert was decadent, with an adorable and delicious chocolate and banana-cream tiered cake topped with a baby monkey. I described the design and the baker and cake designers at Paradise Cakes of West Bloomfield, MI executed beautifully! That’s a rice krispie treat monkey covered with fondant!

monkey cake baby monkey cake

And how about these adorable and easy DIY cupcakes made by my other sister in law. She baked cupcakes, frosted on green leaves and used these perfect little monkey toppers, also from Amazon! 

monkey cupcakes monkey cupcake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shower event and baby arrival are both in the winter, so we thought a moisturizing coconut or mango lip balm from Burt’s Bees wrapped in a beautiful gold box and blue ribbon would make for the perfect and functional party favor!

lip balm favors

 

I made a diaper cake and wrapped the tiers in my favorite soft blue receiving blankets by SwaddleDesigns (these are a generous size and there is a step-by-step drawing of how to swaddle attached right on the tag) and wrapped the “cake” with blue ribbon. A dainty pair of wing-tipped infant shoes and a cuddly monkey hugging the side tied the diaper cake into our theme nicely. We also gave baby’s nursery library a head start with a collection of some classic favorite monkey themed books such as Caps for Sale,  Five Little MonkeysIf I were a Monkey, an adorable Little Monkey finger puppet book, and Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb. Children’s books always make for nice functional decor and double as a gift for baby!

monkey diaper cake monkey diaper cake diaper cake

 

Last but not least, we had an impressive and delicious spread of food catered from La Saj, located in Sterling Heights, Mi. This food was DELICIOUS. The stuffed grape leaves, the lentils, the chicken, and the tabbouli were all to die for. I am drooling as I think about it!

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Salted Caramel Brownie Cookies

salted caramel brownie cookie

Mmmmmmm who doesn’t love those chewy, fudgey, decadent, edges of brownies lining the sides of  your brownie pan? So rich and chocolatey, and a nice chewy crisp make the texture of the infamous brownies on the edge beloved to many. What could be better?

How about 360 degrees of that perfect texture in a cookie? Oh and with some creamy salted caramel. Yes, caramel. I am always looking to see how I can take my desserts to the next level. Salted caramel brownie cookies. This is it folks.

a fudgey brownie cookie salted caramel brownie cookie brownie cookie

The recipe of this cookie is a modification of one by the talented Donna Hay and is quite easy. It requires a melted dark chocolate brew stirred with a minimal amount of flour. I use Ghirardhelli or Valrohna dark chocolate, because of their superb quality, and as the main ingredient, the flavor is important.

chocolate and butter

 

First, you will melt this delicious dark chocolate with the butter. You may simply do this in the microwave in 30 second intervals of stirring and checking. Or you may opt to do this in a double boiler; I simply place a pyrex bowl over a smaller pot of boiling water. Either way works well, and with either method you need to be careful not to scorch the chocolate. 

bittersweet chocolate

Now the eggs and sugar are whipped into a creamy meringue, which lends to the perfectly shiny, crackled top of the cookie that shatters in your hands and mouth. Do not skip this step! brownie cookie batter

After you have prepared the fluffy meringue of sugar and eggs, sift the dry ingredients. Sifting the flour helps ensure a smooth batter with no lumps. I use a mesh strainer to shake the flour and baking powder through; you do not need any fancy gadgets. Next, comes the coffee, the essential companion to chocolate. Using coffee or espresso in chocolate recipes enhances and deepens the flavors of the chocolate. Then you will add that velvety melted chocolate. Try not to eat half of it as you pour and scrape the sides. If you tend to do this (as I do), then melt more chocolate than needed! 🙂

For the caramel, I use Rolos candy. I like to chop them only once, in half, to maximize the amount of caramel in each stretch. These seriously ooze chocolate and caramel in every bite! How perfect 🙂

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Finally, it is absolutely necessary to refrigerate the batter for at least 10 minutes so that you could a) easily scoop the batter into round dollops and b) so that the cookies keep their shape as they bake. Once the cookie batter is dolloped onto a baking sheet (I recommend using silicone baking mats), sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Bake at 350 degrees and let the magic happen. 

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a fudgey brownie cookie 2015-01-07sugarandgarlic2015-17 brownie cookie

 

Grab a plate. And a cold glass of milk.

brownie cookie and milk

 

Salted Caramel Brownie Cookies
Yields 2
This is a delicious brownie cookie with creamy pops of salted caramel, and topped with a light sprinkle of sea salt to highlight the rich flavors of dark chocolate and caramel.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
9 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
9 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 500 grams of dark chocolate chunks (3 cups)
  2. 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  3. 2/3 c white sugar
  4. 2/3 c dark brown sugar
  5. 1/2 c flour
  6. 4 eggs
  7. 1 tbsp vanilla
  8. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  9. 1 cup chopped Rolos caramel candies
  10. 1 tsp instant coffee or ground espresso
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt 2 cups, or 400 grams, of the chocolate with the butter in a double boiler (one pyrex bowl placed over a pot of boiling water), or in a microwave while stirring every 30 secs. Do not overheat as this will ruin the chocolate's consistency. Set aside.
  3. Whip the eggs with the sugar for about 10 minutes until pale and creamy.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder.
  5. Add the flour gradually to the egg and sugar mixture.
  6. Add the espresso or coffee grounds.
  7. Stir in the melted chocolate until well incorporated.
  8. Add the remaining chocolate chunks, as well as the chopped caramel candies.
  9. Set in refrigerator for 10-20 minutes.
  10. Scoop a tablespoon of the mixture onto a baking sheet for each cookie, leaving 1-2 inches between each cookie as these will spread. Sprinkle each cookie with coarse salt.
  11. Place the cookie sheet in the middle rack on the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until the top of the cookie is cracked. Do not over bake! Check on the cookies by 8 minutes as cooking times vary, depending on your oven.
  12. You may choose to sprinkle a pinch more salt on top of each cookie after baking, if the salt appears to have dissolved while in the oven.
Notes
  1. From my experience, if you have a cookie sheet baking underneath another one, the bottom rack of cookies don't develop the beautiful crackled top layer.
  2. You may use chewy caramel candies, however these did not spread in the cookie as much as the Rolos.
Adapted from Donna Hay
Adapted from Donna Hay
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/