Perhaps this little blog needs a little pick-me-up. It’s been a bit of a downer lately, I know. So let’s switch subjects for a bit, shall we?
I started this blog in 2007, and that first post was a stellar one. (I jest.) We actually had a geocities site before – remember those? Yuck. The format was hideous, but we thought we were so avant garde with our whole renovation website back in 2000. We updated photos showing the progress on the house once a month, and once the baby arrived in 2003, there were quite a few of her. Switching to Blogger in 2007 was like turning the light on. Even in those early days of small photos and limited HTML knowledge, it was light years ahead of the old site.
And then you guys came along, which made it that much more fun. And now on Saturday I’m hanging out with not one, but two friends, that I met through this blog. I’m hanging out at the garden with one, and then eating dinner (and dessert, of course) with the other, so we are obviously on the same page. I met another blog friend at a cookbook signing at a bookstore, so yeah, that wasn’t a big personality stretch either. I’m glad you’re all here, and I’m also glad that I can still write and pretend like no one’s reading, because that’s good for me too.
So, another local reader asked me the other day about my cookie past, and I thought that sounded like an interesting and not-sad topic for a post. She wanted to know if I had any formal training in cookie making and decorating and the short answer is “no”. Here’s the long answer.
When M and I married in 2000, one of the gifts we received was a marble rolling pin and a cookie cookbook. This one to be exact:
It was the first cookbook that I read from front to back, and I was smitten. I wish I could remember the first recipe I tried in this book, but I can’t. All I know is that none of them have failed me. They are grouped into months of the year, and each month has a couple of suggested recipes as well as decorating themes. The front of the book has a lot of baking and decorating tips, and a royal icing recipe made with meringue powder (not raw egg whites) in flow, base and outline consistencies. There are other icing options, but the RI is the basis for some of the most beautifully decorated cookies. The recipes are also out of this world. There’s a vanilla sugar cookie that’s delicate and buttery, perfect for small cookies. My go to light colored sturdy cookie is the cream cheese sugar cookie (I don’t use the almond extract anymore, just vanilla). This recipe book also has the best gingerbread cookie recipe ever for roll and cut cookies. I’ve also made black pepper, chocolate mainlined with espresso, molasses, and even cookies with bits of dried fruit or zests. Once I started I couldn’t stop.
I started occasionally making cookies for sale – for events and birthday parties like these pirate cookies.
Sometimes I came up with strange ideas like recreating this stained glass window.
That was the first time I made a stencil, and I tried it with gold luster dust, with icing, and then with icing over a colorful swirled layer in the background to represent the glass.
A few years later M gave me a second cookie cookbook – this one:
I started getting a little more creative, using fondant and royal icing together. Fondant (in my opinion) is not as tasty as RI, but it’s easy to work with, and it doesn’t have the very long drying time requirements that a good flow consistency RI has – so you can layer details easily. Since 99% of my cookie decorating occurs during the late night hours, I appreciate how fondant requires little prep and cleanup, so I do use it as well. I tried making my own once, and it tasted delicious – but it wasn’t easy to work with.
It worked really well to combine fondant and royal icing and various sprinkles and toppings to create a couple dozen pie cookies.
It’s great for bright base coats, with RI for the piped on details.
So there’s the long version of an answer – no, I don’t have any formal training and I’ve never taken a class in cookie baking / decorating. And yes, I suppose being the creative type does help. I have a steady hand and good handwriting skills – even in icing. But I really just jumped right in and followed instructions to the letter until I had the confidence to branch out on my own. I get most of my supplies at Sur La Table (with an amazing variety of cookie cutters for little $$) and Michael’s – they have a fairly extensive cake and cookie decorating area, but not a lot of cutters. I also like Fancy Flours for online purchases. There are many, many wonderful cookie decorating blogs out there that have step by step instructions and amazing video tutorials – not to mention, brilliant inspiration.
Some of my favorites:
Feel free to ask me anything if you decide to join me on the dark side.