Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cookies with Sweetambs!

Where has the time gone?  Oh, I the kids and the cookies.  Yup, it's been a bit hectic.  I've learned a bunch of new things, including just how many cookies I can handle per week.  That was NOT a fun lesson, but a lesson well learned.  So, I'm going back in time to April so I can discuss the amazing class I took with Amber from Sweetambs !!

I've always loved drooling over Amber's cookie designs, so when I came across her post about teaching a weekend class at Mother of Cakes, in PA...I had to do it.  And it was a win-win situation, since my in-laws live 20 minutes from there and could help watch the Peas for me! 

The Mother of Cakes Academy was a really nice space to work in, and the staff were wonderful!  It was such a refreshing feeling to be in room with 17 other people that love cookie decorating as much as you!  Amber was her usual amazing self.  Over the 2 day course, she taught us about her cookie and icing recipes (yum!!!), as well as border, quilting and filigree techniques.  Here are some photos that I took throughout the 2-day class (I am NOT a camera phone genius, so these photos aren't the best quality!)...

Amber prepping before class

Flooding 101
Working on quilting and royal icing transfers
End of Day 1 (wet-on-wet techniques, quilting, and filigree (my nemesis)!
Day 2...filled with "detailing" (brush embroidering, basket weave, etc)
The final products!!
Thank you Amber!  I had an awesome time!! 
Amber recently opened up her own studio on Beacon, NY.  If you're interested in taking a class, check out her page .  Maybe I'll see you there!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The good, the bad and the crunchy

In a perfect world, beautiful designs would just pour out of my squeeze bottles onto my cookies...all the time.  In reality, I mess up...a lot.  That's why I make a couple of extra cookies with each order.  I almost always mess up at least one cookie.  I never post about it because the end result seems to turn out nice, and no one knows about the few "oops" cookies! 

Well, I have to post about a big order "oops" that happened recently.  One of my good friends (and really, if I had to mess up, I'm glad it was for a friend so we can both laugh about it now) placed an order for Cub Scouts cookies.  She really liked the Chocolate Chip Roll-Out Cookies I did back in December, so she asked if I could make them instead of my normal vanilla sugar cookies.  Sure, no problem. 

I also took this time to try out my new airbrush machine.  My friend needed some filler cookies to go along with the Cub Scout logo cookies, so I had an idea in my head that I wanted to try...and she's my friend, so I wanted to make them super cool with my awesome airbrush machine that I have never tried.  I probably should have gotten a few airbrushed cookies under my belt before I did this...but I digress...

The Cub Scout logo was pretty difficult.  I just couldn't seem to have a vision of how the layers of icing should work.  And for some reason, the blue airbrush coloring didn't dry as evenly as the gold did.  So, for my perfectionist self, they didn't live up to my standards...I was not happy.  Okay (holding my breath) they are:

I love my friend.  She still said they were awesome, even though I KNOW she's seen better from me.  I felt a little better, until...
I got a text from her that the cookies were a bit "hard".  Well, "a bit" is an understatement.  I don't know what happened.  The cookies tasted fine without the icing, but sometime after I iced them they made a turn for the worse.  She was already at the Cub Scout event,  where all of the parents and kids had an opportunity to try the cookies.  I was so upset!  She told me that one kid went over to his mom with a tiger cookie and said, "Look how cool!!  You can eat it, but be careful not to break a tooth"!
Ugh.  Epic fail.  Well, at least we can laugh about it now.  And the chocolate chip cookies are out until I can figure out what happened!!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My New Buddy

This is my new buddy:

Mr. Dehydrator
I recently came across the subject of dehydrators on one of my favorite blogs (LilaLoa).  Wait.  How did I miss this important piece of information?!  It's supposed to keep the cookies a bit shinier, dry them faster AND prevent cratering?  Buddy, where have you been for the past 2 years!
After researching the different brands and sizes, I decided on the L'Equip 528 Dehydrator.  It has 6 rectangular trays and it seemed to be easy to work with.  It definitely didn't disappoint.  All I have to do is plug it in, set it to the lowest setting (95 degrees) and turn it on.  Easy Peasy.
Here's my buddy in action:
I really should have taken photos of the same cookie air-dried vs. using the dehydrator...good thing Bake at 350 did it!  There is definitely a difference with the amount of shine.  Now, I didn't leave my cookies in for more than 20 minutes per layer, so maybe I could have achieved a shinier cookie...but I was very afraid of them drying out.  After a taste-test, I was able to rule that out too.  Not dry.  Still yummy!
My buddy also helped me save A LOT of time decorating!!  Let's use my fun spring cookies (with character designs by Dorky Prints)...
Without my Buddy, my first step would be to "base" the cookies (flood the cookie with a solid color of icing to create a "base" for my design).  This would usually need to sit overnight, or at LEAST a few hours to allow the icing to set and harden.  Usually I'd do this at night, then in the morning start the next layer, which would be the start of the design.  For the sheep, I'd do the white first, let that dry for another hour before putting the gray on top.  Then I'd wait again to start the watering can, which needs to dry about 15-20 minutes between each piece, so the icing wouldn't run together and create a "glob" of a watering can.  See how all of this adds up?
These cookies were done with my new Buddy.  I based the cookies and popped them in my Buddy as I completed them, then I would start taking them out after 20 minutes.  Now, they wouldn't be completely dry all the way through...
If I pushed down on the icing, I would get an indentation, like the picture above.  BUT, the cookies were dry to the touch, which is all I needed to begin my design on top!  And so begins the assembly line...add a layer, put it in the dehydrator, and by the time the tray is filled, I can start taking out the first cookie and add another layer on top!  MUCH faster!!
Normally, when I'm working with small spaces, I get something called cratering (holes in my icing) can read about it on Sweetopia's blog.  It's very frustrating and I could never figure out how to prevent it.  My Buddy to the rescue!  I worked on 3 different orders using the dehydrator and NONE of them had craters!!
Look Mom, no craters...

My Buddy has been an excellent addition to the cookie family!