Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Piping Straight Lines -- Quick Tip Tuesday

I've taught quite a few people to decorate cookies in my day. At least like.... seven people. So I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert beginning cookie decorator watcher. And I would say that perhaps the single most frustrating aspect of decorating for a beginner is getting consistency right.


And the second would be watching me pipe an outline and then trying it themselves only to discover that their perfect outline magically turned into a thin, squiggly outline instead. You can read all about icing consistency in THIS POST. And once you've got that mastered, or if you like to live in denial... we can talk about straight NON-SQUIGGLY outlines. At the risk of being incredibly annoying, I will say that first you need to have the right consistency of icing. It's go to be thick, or this just won't work. Second, don't touch the cookie! The tip should only touch the cookie when you start, stop, and make a corner. Other than that, your goal is to lay down the icing as if you were outlining the cookie with a piece of yarn.

Watch your speed. If you find that the icing is coming out too fast, you can make it thicker or just stop squeezing so hard you Olympic Champion Icing Squeezer you! If the icing is breaking or being stretched thin, you need to squeeze a little harder or thin the icing a bit. I like to keep pressure on the back of the bag with bag clips so I don't have to squeeze as hard.

And once you've figured out how to make the lines straight... I've got one more trick to keep them from going crooked. Anita from Sweet Hope Cookies shared this gem with me. Grab some striped scrapbook paper next time you're at a craft store. Or print some off your computer. Slip it in a sheet protector and place your cookie on top. Use the lines on either side to help keep you on track. Just like above, touch the cookie when you start and stop on each side of the line and then fill in any areas in the middle.


 Can you save over-mixed icing?


Quick and Easy tip for filtering icing so it doesn't clog your favorite tips.

My favorite tips.

Cookie Decorating Quickstart for Beginners

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Make Hand Cutting Cookies As Easy As Possible -- Quick Tip Tuesday

Let me just be clear. I don't love hand cutting cookies. At all. If I were to list the things I love most in the world, hand cutting cookies wouldn't be on it. I'm going to let you in on a little secret that is going to make your hand cutting life a little easier. Oil spray. That's the secret.

Print or draw your design on paper. Cut it out and then spray it with oil. It "sticks" to the cookie dough like Velcro. You don't even have to hold it down to cut around it. I use a paring knife because it's sharp and short to cut my cookies.

As an added bonus... once you spray your paper cut out, it becomes translucent. You can see the design from either side. Sometimes I do this when I trace the wrong side of the cutter for my sketch. Instead of flipping every cookie over, I just spray my sketch and flip it over.

 When you are done you just pop it off with a toothpick or the edge of a knife. I usually leave it on top until I've transferred the shape to the baking sheet. It helps maintain the exact shape without the stretching and warping that usually comes with the transfer. Oil spray... who knew?!


How to get the color you want from the color you already have. 

How to keep your letters clean and sharp.

The link between icing consistency and icing temperature.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Decorated Barbecue Cookies

If you are ever in a cookie rut... might I suggest a little game to jump start your creativity? It's really simple. Let 2 children under the age of 4 go all crazy-pants in your cookie cutter cabinet. Just pretend that you are going to do something actually productive like feed the baby or learn Mandarin and come back 3.6 minutes later. Your cutters will be scattered across the house like... like...well, like something that gets scattered all over the place when your back is turned but isn't gross, because I really hate bugs and cookie cutters should never be compared to bugs. Especially the gross ones.

Decorate Barbecue Cookies with Chips Tutorial

And then let your 7 year old help you sort them back into their appropriate boxes. Because when he picks up the ark cutter... he might just think it's a hamburger. And then you're set. Although, there's always the chance that he'll think it's one of those little robot vacuum things instead. And then demand that you get him one so he doesn't have to clean his room anymore. But you *know* that if you get him a vacuum robot, you are only one step away from paying someone to feed him Cheetos while he watches marathon, back-to-back episodes of Saved By The Bell because he's 30 years old and never figured out how to do anything by himself. So... there's that risk. But on the off chance that it goes the way of the hamburger, let me show you how to make some chips to go with it.

But first... let's talk about the Cookies and Cards project I do once a month with my cousin. She's fabulous and makes cards and fun paper projects and puts them on her blog Simply Pam's Creations. and then I snag one of them and make cookies and she makes another great card from a cookie I've made. What's not to love, right?  I fell in love with the lemonade pitcher the instant I saw this and just kept right on going with the rest of the cookies. And back to chips...

Start with a 4 leaf clover cutter. And grab a long plaque cutter and cut off a leaf and a stem. You can bake it just like that or squish it together a little or just throw it on the baking sheet and see what happens.

Decorated Chips cookies tutorial
1. Once these gems are baked, they are only too easy to decorate. Use 15 second pale yellow icing to flood a blobby shape that vaguely resembles a chip. Let it dry for 15 minutes, or until it crusts over.
2. Add another blobby chip shape and let that dry for a few minutes too.
3. And then finally add the last chip. Let the whole mess of chips dry for a couple of hours.
4. Outline the chips and add some ridge lines with a #2.5 tip.  You can stop here if you like. I won't mind.
5. Or you could let your chips dry for a couple more hours and then dust them up with some gold and brown luster dust. Your choice.

Decorated Barbecue Cookies with Chips Tutorial


If you wanted to go see what cookies my cousin made into cards, you could totally do that.

I made the hamburgers just like I made these sandwiches. See how I did it HERE.

Find the plaque cutter HERE and the clover HERE.

Fantastic grill cookies from Sweet Ambs.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How to Think Outside the Cutter

I consider myself to be a go-getter. I do what I want and I don't usually take "no" for an answer. Unless it's illegal, and then "no" is totally cool with me. And also only if it doesn't involve laundry. Laundry and I are *so* not friends. And sometimes when people are mean, I just stay home and sulk and maybe watch pointless internet videos until my eyes want to fall out of my head. I guess I'm only kind of a go-getter.

 But with cookies, I go all out. And I like to make the cookies I want to make. Not the cookies the cookie cutter companies tell me that I want to make. They're not the president of my cookies. And until they start cleaning my living room, I am not going to let them tell me what to do. (But I'm still okay if they want to send me presents on my birthday or something.)

Sometimes I see a cutter and I fall in love with it. And I want to keep it forever and make cookies of dreams. And sometimes I don't. Sometimes I see a cookie first and I have to find a cutter that's willing to put aside it's differences and make things work out. It happens a lot at my house. I'm basically a cookie/cutter therapist. I kind of have a system for it now. And I was thinking that if you're having some cookie and cutter love troubles going on at your house, you might be able to use that system.

The first step is choosing your design. You can sketch it or use some clip-art you love. 

If you are a good visualizer, you can skip this step. If not, trace just the outline of your sketch or clip art. And then look at it. See where it juts out or where it's long or straight or curved. Flip it sideways and upside down. I can see that this design is long and skinny at the bottom and has a bigger, bubble shaped top. See if you can think of a cutter you own that has similar edges or shapes. Then get looking through your cutters. I find that I often discover the perfect cutter while looking for a different one, so keep your eyes open.

When you've found a few cutters that might work, lay them out next to your sketch to see if they really do look similar or if you were just making that up in your mind.

Pick 2 or 3 of your favorites and trace them on a piece of paper.

Re-sketch your design inside each of the traced outlines, modifying it to fit the lines of the cutter.

Pick your favorite sketch and make some cookies! I know it sounds crazy, but you can do this. After thinking through the whole process a couple of times it will become easier and you'll start to look at your cutters as edges and jags and curves instead of just it's traditional shape.


How to piece together cookies so they stay together.

Keep your letters sharp and not all blendy-into-each-other.

Torch of Liberty Tutorial.


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