Sunday, March 20, 2011

An Edible Paste... Finally!

♥♥♥ Advanced
I can promise you one thing, I NEVER tasted the paste in my kindergarten classroom.  My husband however, is a totally different story.  And he promises that it really did taste good.  In homage to my husband I've begun to play with Gum Paste - a paste that's acceptable to eat.  Finally.

I made these gum paste flowers a few days ago, and added them to my cupcakes.  It brought a whole new level to my cupcakes and we're actually a lot of fun to make.  My daughter thought so too (I let her play with it too!),  and she definitely ate her fair share.

 I've had a few friends who have asked me how to make these little gems, so I figured it would be a good idea to put together a little tutorial (with what limited knowledge I have) on how they are made.  This really was my first attempt at these, so I'm sure there are more professional and easier ways to do this if you have all of the right tools - I'm just not there yet.  So we'll make due with what we have.  Sound good? Let's get started!

Here's what you'll need:
  • Food Coloring, or Icing Color, in the colors you prefer (Here's what I like)
  • A box of Tooth Picks (or dowel rods for larger flowers for cakes)
  • One Egg White (As an adhesive - although water can be used as a substitute, it generally doesn't hold as well.)
  • A paintbrush for applying the egg whites
  • If necessary, fondant cutters (shapes) or a knife.
  • If you want some texture in the centers of your flowers, you can use decorators sugar, etc.
  • Green Floral Foam (It makes it easier to stick your flowers in while they dry)
  • Rolling Pin
  • Wax Paper

To begin, mix up your Wilton's Gum Paste per the directions on the side of the can.  If you've purchased the pre-made gum paste you can skip this step.

Next, separate gum paste into several different pieces, depending on how many colors you plan to use.  I suggest about an 1/8 C. per color (So very little amounts if you're only making 10-12 flowers).  Generally, you'll be using more pink, blue, etc. than you will green or yellows for the leaves or stigmas. Add a little color to each section, and knead until they are the colors you like. (The amounts I'm showing are much less than 1/8 C, but I've been using them...)

Depending on the size flowers you will be making, the amounts may vary but for purposes of this tutorial, we'll be making 10-12 quarter size flowers (small enough to not be too heavy for the toothpicks). Once your gum paste is mixed, separated, and colored, we can begin making some flowers!

Lay out a sheet of wax paper, and dust it with a little powdered sugar so your gum paste doesn't stick.  Make sure that while you aren't using each color you keep them in airtight containers or Ziploc bags lined with shortening because the gum paste dries out VERY QUICKLY.

Take a *pinch* of yellow for the stigma, and gently roll it in between your two hands.  If your hands are too warm it will melt and stick to your palms.  You may need to dust your hands with powdered sugar, but remember that you need to work quickly because the paste hardens fast.

Once the stigmas are rolled to the shape you would like, stick the toothpick in the bottom end, and sit up in your foam to dry for 20-30 minutes.  I used a jar of rice because I didn't realize I was out of my floral foam, so anything will work as long as they can stand upright.  They don't need to be perfect, they can literally be any shape you would like!

Once the stigmas are dry, you can begin working on the petals.  This is when it gets to be a lot of fun.  You can make your flowers look any way that you would like! A one petal Calla Lily, punch outs from the fondant cutters, or even just a normal flower with hand shaped petals. Just roll out the paste color of your choice to the thickness you desire (I like 1/16 in), and start cutting!

*Preface: My gum paste has been colored for a few days, so it's a little more brittle than it would be if it were used the same day it were made.  My edges may be a little more rough than yours should be.

**Suggestion:  Make these the day before you serve the cupcakes, and leave them out over night. add them to your cupcakes just before serving.  If they are left covered or refrigerated they will wilt... go figure!

Calla Lily:
Roll out your colored Gum Paste to the thickness you desire.

Cut out desired shape.  Tear drop shape is best for Calla Lily's, but you can see here that I used a pointier shape. 

Pick up the petal and smooth and flatten the edges. Draw a line down the center lightly with your knife. This will allow the petal to bend easier in the middle.

Brush a small amount of egg white on the bottom half of your petal.  The egg white acts as an adhesive.

Be careful not to press too hard and pull the stigma off of the toothpick.  Between your warm hands and the moisture of the egg white, the stigma will become soft again. As you gently wrap the petal around the stigma gently smooth edges together.  You may have excess petal at the bottom of the flower but that's okay, just gently pinch off the excess and pull toward the bottom of the toothpick to remove it.
This should be what your Lily looks like after you've smoothed the petal around the stigma.

I like to lay the Lily's down on a plate to dry, in order to keep the petal upward. Once the flower is dry again (10-20 minutes) you can add a leaf if desired. (Leaf instructions below)
You can either leave the tooth picks in the flowers and use them as a support in the cupcake (I would suggest it), as well as making it easier to remove them from to cupcakes.  They are edible, but I would not suggest it since you use raw egg white as an adhesive. 

Six-Petal Flower

Again, you can remove the toothpick after it hardens, or leave it in, but my suggestion would be that you leave them in to add support while they rest in the frosting.
Roll out six pinches of gum paste, some larger and some smaller, into balls. 
Flatten each ball.
After smoothing and flattening each edge of each circle, wipe the bottom half of each in egg white.

Wrap one petal around the stigma, and flatten at the bottom.
Add another petal, overlapping the previous petal until three completely cover the stigma.
Add the final three petals at the intersecting points, and smooth the bottoms of each.
Wipe completely with egg white and allow to harden (10-20 minutes).

Let dry in upward position to keep the petals from flattening against any other surfaces.

Last, but certainly not least...
Just like the petals, begin with a ball, and flatten and form into a leaf.

Add egg white to bottom half of leaf...
Smooth onto the base of the flower.  I like to use it in a place where I feel like the flower may be uneven.
Sorry this photo is the wrong direction, but you get the idea. 
Let stand to dry - I like the completed flower to be able to dry over night.
Once the flowers have dried over night they should be almost rock hard.  You still have to be fairly gentle with them, but it should be pretty easy to stick them into your frosting and cupcakes.

And here's your finished product!
If you wish to have colored sugar on the stigmas, then just before you go to put them on the cupcakes, wipe the stigma in egg white and dip in sugar.

So, it's a far cry from those days in kindergarten when my husband would taste the paste, but I'm willing to bet he would prefer these anyway.  I hope you have as good of an experience as I have had making these beautiful little gems.  Please leave your comments below and let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

Good luck!