Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Cookies

So I've been working on cookies for Easter off and on all week and here's a sampling of all of the ones I did. I think there are about 70 all total:

Easter Cookies

Because I was doing so many, I just really played around and worked on trying to learn different techniques.  I had already planned to do the sheep with a round flower cutter I had, but among that huge lot of 27 cutters that my mother-in-law gave me was an oblong flower that I decided was even more perfect for them.  I did all sorts of things for the texture on them - tried Cornelli lace, dots, swirls, you name it.  

Easter cookies.  Sheep cookies

I had a lot of fun with the carrots, which I did in diagonal sections in order to give them some texture.  I'm super slow when working on cookies, so knocking out about 2 dozen of those in about an hour was a feat about which I was VERY excited!  

Easter Cookies.  Carrot Cookies.

On the small hopping bunnies, I decided to try out doing wet on wet roses.  They came out okay, but I definitely need some work on that technique.  I'd also try different colors next time, but I was just using what I had left over because the thought of making and coloring more icing was just too much for me.  Those little crosses were surprisingly difficult for me - I think mainly because my icing was likely a little too thin for how narrow they are.  I loved doing the eggs with the bunny sitting in the grass.  Of course I had to throw in some flowers, too and I had a new cutter that I wanted to try out and I think I'm in love!

A friend had a new baby girl last Friday and I decided that I wanted to do some baby girl cookies for her, but didn't have any baby specific cutters, so I went through what I had and looked at things others had done online and came up with these for her:

I had other things in mind for these, but within 10 minutes of starting to work on them, I had a migraine with aura hit me, so I didn't think I should try decorating cookies while I was blind for all intents and purposes, so I quickly knocked these out the next morning before work and turned the fan on them so that they'd be dry by the time I got home.  I just used the pink I was using on the cookies for Easter, although I really wanted to make a more pale pink, but with the aforementioned headache, I just didn't have any other option at that point if I were going to get these to her when I would see her on Wednesday afternoon.  I had also planned to do a couple of small lambs with pink accents, but in my haste of pulling them off the baking pan, I broke both of them.  Rather than putting them down my human garbage disposal, I just tossed them onto a paper plate.  The next morning, I was thrilled when I saw the break pattern and what I can use that same cutter for.  Take a look and see if you see it:

While making icing this go around, I realized I was out of almond extract, but just doubled the vanilla and kept working and never gave it another thought.  After giving my friend her new baby girl cookies, she sent me a text asking whether they contained any nut ingredients including things like almond extract because her 3 year old has severe nut allergies.  Fortunately this little guy was able to enjoy a cookie with his parents and older brother simply because I was out of almond extract.  My husband isn't a huge fan of the almond extract in the icing (and sugar cookies when I do them), so I may very well just no longer use it, unless specifically requested, as the idea of nut allergies never even occurred to me before.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Mother-in-law Lode

So my mother-in-law called me and told me she'd picked up a few cookie cutters for me.  I should have known when she said a few that it meant a lot more than a few.  She doesn't just do anything - she DOES everything and does it big when she does.  She's the best.  Even still I was surprised when I went over to pick up the cookie cutters and found a bag of 27, yes, that's right, twenty-seven, cookie cutters.  And check out those bargain basement prices on them!  As usual, she did a fantastic job.  I'm so excited and will be using many of them this weekend as I make cookies for Easter.

So, there's a set of three patriotic ones including a flag, the outline of the US and a star; two spring sets including butterflies, flowers, a tulip and a heart;  a Wilton comfort grip bunny head; a Wilton comfort grip full bunny body; a Wilton comfort grip egg; a ducky; a four piece birthday set including a cupcake, cake, gift and a party hat; a comfort grip Easter set including a bunny head, an egg, a tulip and a scalloped flower; and another, yet different, Easter set including a bunny head, bunny body, scalloped flower, tulip, an egg and something else I cannot remember.  Wow.  Looks like I'm set for Easter, just wonder if I have enough time between now and then to try some of them all! 

I love when others encourage my madness!! 

UPDATE:  I decided that I was beginning to amass an actual collection of cookie cutters and decided that now would be the time to start an inventory of what I have instead of after my 60 has quadrupled, since I'm already beginning to forget some that I have.  Cristin, of Cristin's Cookies, was kind enough to share her Excel inventory sheet that is divided into categories on, so that I didn't have to reinvent the wheel to get my inventory listing started.  You can find and download her form here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mixer Cookies

So I figured out what my thank you cookies would be for the mixer my wonderfully fantabulous friend gave me, and when it finally hit me, it was the perfect idea - mixer cookies!  Since I am still learning and trying out my skills, I wasn't quite ready to do a mixer shaped cookie and opted instead to do a royal icing transfer of the mixer.  I found an online image and re-sized it to the appropriate size and set to work on Friday night.  This was a well planned execution of the RI transfers because I knew I would be gone all day on Saturday and would therefore not be able to mess with them until they were fully dry!  I did 12 or 13 of the transfers in case I broke any, even though I was only planning to do six of the big cookies with the transfers on them.

I awoke early on Saturday morning and made myself not touch them, although I so wanted to.  Fortunately I was able to restrain myself.  I made my cookies that morning before leaving so that they would have time to fully cool and have any oil work its way out of the cookies before I was ready to ice them that night.  I measured for what size cookie I would need and determined that I would need a 3x3 square for the best fit.  Sure, it could have been a tad smaller, but I haven't the patience for counting the little marking lines between the inches on a ruler.  Speaking of a ruler, I used two of them to cut my square cookies, since I have found it near impossible to locate a square cutter other than small fondant cutters.  When I returned home that night, I outlined and flooded my favorite chocolate cookies from Lila Loa and placed the RI transfers.

They were then looking so cool to me that I got a bit overzealous snapping pics of them lined up and since it was late at night the overhead light was casting shadows all over them so I was having to hold the camera at an odd angle above them.  No sooner than I thought that I'd better be careful, the camera slipped from my hands and went lens first into one of my precious little treasures.

Since it was still wet, I was able to easily scrape away what was there and redo the cookie.  The same cannot be said for my poor camera. The icing was all over the lens but also embedded in the shutters, so every time I'd clean some out, the instant I opened and closed it, there was icing everywhere again. I decided to give it a rest for the night and see if it would clean better after the icing had dried some. NOPE! The shutters were iced closed on Sunday morning. Of course, I forced them open, so then they were stuck open. Have sent it off to the manufacturer for a thorough cleaning and it is looking like it will be covered under the warranty, which blows my mind, but I am very happy about.  So, the rest of the pics have been taken with our older, much less wonderful camera.

On Sunday morning, I added the finishing touches to them and did the companion cookies, which were color coordinated diamond shapes, elephants with the Alabama "A" on them since my friend is a big Alabama fan and some chevrons, since we both hate all of the chevron stuff we're seeing lately!  One of the finishing touches was something I had never done before, which was "painting" on a finish of silver pearl dust on the mixing bowl.

Notice the mixer in the background

I packed them up in little treat bags with red ribbon inside the lovely polka dotted take-out style box shown in the pics above and packed them for shipping.  I know I'm supposed to wrap them a bit better than I did, but I just decided to see how it would go.  Just got a call from my friend who received them.  She LOVED them and said they arrived mostly intact!  The elephants, which had delicate parts - the legs and trunks - didn't fare so well in shipping.  And from looking at the pics she sent, it seems that some of the mixing bowls lost their handles, which is odd because that isn't even the portion of the mixer transfers I'd been concerned about.  I'd been worried about the little foot under the mixing bowls and had even built up white royal icing under a couple of them.  Anyway, here's what they looked like when they arrived.

I am very pleased with them overall and still have 6 mixer transfers remaining!

BTW:  Is this font color hard on the eyes, or is it just me?

UPDATE: Yay!!!  Canon replaced my camera under the warranty!  Got it via Fed Ex today (3-28).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Overwhelmed with Excitement & In Tears with Gratitude

Granted this is supposed to be my blog about cookies, not my personal stories that go on my personal blog, but this is so cookie related, that I MUST post it here (not sure that there's anyone reading it anyway).  This evening my husband and I were being bad, as we always are, having dinner in the living room watching something on Hulu when I noticed the UPS truck slow down in front of our house, but knew it wasn't stopping here because neither of us had ordered anything. I then heard a door close, so I hopped up off the sofa- I'm a total Gladys Kravitz when I hear noises outside - to look out the front window. I saw the UPS man heading for the front porch with a large box and then heard him say, "UPS," as he quickly knocked and exited the porch, leaving the package. I opened the door and saw a huge box addressed to me directly from a seller of something. I was so confused and swore to my husband that I'd not ordered anything. I nudged the box with one arm and realized it was quite heavy and that I wouldn't be able to get it with my dinner plate in my other hand. The only thing I could think was that I've been repeatedly entering giveaways for a Kitchen-Aid mixer on any and every site I can find for the last few months, but I also knew I'd never received a winning notification from any of them, so I figured that couldn't be it. 

The hubs brought the box in and I grabbed a pair of scissors to cut the tape. After moving the extraneous packaging from the top of the box, what did I find?  You guessed it!!!  That red Kitchen-Aid stand mixer I've had my eyes on for a couple of years now, but have just never been able to justify.  I was beside myself, but still couldn't figure out from where it had come.  Finally I located a packing slip and saw the note that it was a GIFT from my longest-time friend that I'm still in contact with. Prior to the advent of Facebook, we talked a couple of times per year on each other's birthdays and always recalled the many nights we'd spent the night at each other's houses as kids, but rarely saw one another, even though we always easily picked up where we left off. Even though we live several states away from one another now, through Facebook in the last several years we've been able to catch up and have great conversations (and lots of those really catty ones you can only have with certain people).  Even though we've never forgotten each other's birthday since I was in 3rd grade and she in the 4th, we've never given gifts like that to one another, so I was immediately just stunned to tears because I was so touched that she knew how much I wanted that mixer!

I really cannot explain the spectrum of emotions that were drowning me for over an hour, other than to say I was completely overwhelmed.  Of course, I immediately called her and just couldn't say thank you enough times.  Her response was that she knew I'd had a really tough year - my dad died last April and I still can't talk about it without bawling and I've had some scary health things going on in the last 6 months as well (although I think all is well now, but to be told point blank with no care or concern from a doctor that I could be permanently blind as soon as the next morning really did more damage to me than any of the actual problems I was having) - and she just wanted to do something special for me as an early birthday present and that she was so impressed with what she'd seen me do thus far that she thought I absolutely needed it.  Holy cow, I am so excited and touched and just overcome and overwhelmed with emotions!!  (I can't believe I actually just used the phrase "Holy cow!")

So here's where I need help from anyone who might be reading this. Of course, she gets some cookies pronto!  I know I'll do those fabulous chocolate cookies from LilaLoa and some of the best sugar cookies from SugarBelle, but with my limited skill set as of yet, I need ideas for some really great looking thank you cookies that I would be able to pull off and them still look good. I've seen lots of cute things on FB and Pinterest, but would love some other suggestions as well. Thanks for your help!!!!

Off now to go make some icing in my new mixer - once I figure out how to work it!!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Flower Power

So when I saw that LilaLoa was sponsoring a give-away challenge, I knew I wanted to enter - especially because the winner is chosen at random, so skill and expertise play no part in the selection of a winner and therefore a newbie like me might actually have a chance!  Also, I wanted to try something else that I'd not yet done.  How I didn't realize that there was a flower cutter among the ones my grandmother gave me recently, I don't know, but when I ran across it this week, I was so excited to find it.  

The challenge is to mix up your cookie pics - to do something different and not get stuck in a rut of how you photograph your cookies.  Granted, this is only the fourth post I've done, but I did find myself falling into the rut of arranging them on a plate and taking an overhead shot.  So, this morning's "photo shoot" (Work it, Cookie!) consisted of about a gazillion pics from a bazillion different angles.  As a background I used a piece of tissue paper left over from my mom's retirement party (the beginning of this cookie obsession) that a couple of my cookies made me think of (you'll see what I mean with that cookie camouflaged amid the polka dotted paper).  After viewing the pics, I found that I really liked the close-ups, which is surprising because overall, I wasn't thrilled with these cookies, but I'll get to that later, although maybe not today since my house really needs cleaning, but then again, that could be the perfect excuse to go ahead and detail my experience and what I learned during this 4th batch of cookies.  So here ya go, my pics for the challenge:

And here are some individual shots rather than just the collage version:  


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Valentine's Day Cookies

My next foray into cookies came with Valentine's Day.  Since my hubby doesn't like sugar cookies, I decided to try something a little different.  I did these fabulous chocolate roll-out cookies from LilaLoa and since all I had on hand at the time was Hershey's Special Dark cocoa, I used that.  It made them much darker than the ones shown in the link above and I thought they were FANTASTIC. I will likely always use the special dark cocoa in this recipe.  I also tried the chocolate chip roll-out cookies I found on The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle for others in the Valentine's Day batches.

I did some for the hubs, of course, and I also did cookie packages for my mom, grandmother, mother-in-law and aunt.  After Christmas I always stock up on gift boxes when they are marked down and found that the rectangular lingerie sized boxes were perfect for sets for each person.  I didn't have any pink ribbon on hand, so I made the most fantastic bows from a roll of crepe paper streamers that I had.  I didn't get a pic of the boxes, but I'm not sure if I was more pleased with the packaging or the cookies!  lol

About a week and a half after Valentine's Day my MIL called and told me that she could just not bring herself to eat the cookies I'd given her except for one of the small ones and the back part of one of the large chocolate ones. I asked if she didn't like them. Her response was that they were too pretty to eat.  I told her that they wouldn't keep forever, so she needed to eat them.  She then told me she plans to polyurethane or shellac them and keep them in her china cabinet.  While that was certainly flattering, it absolutely had to be about the strangest thing I'd ever heard!

The day before V-Day, I met my mom and grandmother for lunch and brought them their cookies.  My grandmother had heard of my new found cookie obsession and dug out some of her old cutters for me. I have to include her cute pic here because she was decked out for our Valentine's luncheon (the other pic is the cutters she brought to me that day).

So what did I learn doing these?  If you look closely, you can see the difference in the way some of the cookies are flooded.  In the middle of this project, I began seeing this video from The Bearfoot Baker being re-posted in FB. It is a fantastic tutorial on flooding cookies and I was immediately able to put what I learned into practice. Also, I learned that getting the perfect red is HARD!!!  I started with Americolor Tulip Red and let it develop overnight and found that it still seemed orange-ish to me.  I added some pink, I added some cocoa powder and still didn't like what I was seeing.  So I went to the store and bought Americolor Super Red and added a little to it and let that develop and it turned into a gorgeous red.  However because I'd just sort of willy-nilly kept putting Tulip Red in at the beginning, it turned out a little darker than I would really have liked once the cookies dried, but at least it was then a true red!  Next time, I would just use a bit less coloring overall and it should end up fine.

My Second Cookie Attempt

My second stab at decorated cookies came after we tried a new vet as a last ditch effort to save our sweet 14 year old cat, who by the way, is now thriving after a thyroidectomy. As a thank you to our new vet I made her some kitty cookies.  I even went so far as to make my own cookie cutter for this - not sure where that bit of over-achievement came from, but I was pleased with the result nonetheless.  I'd been thoroughly studying every single post on The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle and recalled having seen a post on making your own cookie cutters, which at first I'd thought was nuts.  Then one night I had a light bulb moment when digging through my craft filing cabinet. I ran across a little scrapbooking kitty "license plate" and loved the shape of it and at that moment recalled the how-to on Sugarbelle's blog and decided to give it a try. 

I give you a pic of the inspiration and of the finished product. I think it turned out pretty well considering I hadn't the first clue what I was doing. Looked pretty good, but how well it would work remained to be seen.

I was nervous about how the cookies themselves would come out from my makeshift cookie cutter and was once again pleased with the result.  I was essentially a Sugarbelle Stalker for this entire project, as I used her basic sugar cookie recipe, too, for these.  Here's how they cut out and baked up. Once again, not too shabby! 

So I'd completed the easy part and now I was ready to do the really scary part.  This time I elected to use Royal Icing rather than the glaze I'd used on the goats.  So this project had yet another first in it.  What did I learn?  Consistency is key! Faces are hard for me. I stink with a piping bag. A few of them turned out pretty cute, but it took me quite a while to get into my groove and feel comfortable doing them.  You can see in some of the pics below that I didn't have the consistency just right on a couple of the noses, so they spread out.  I did manage to have a few that I wasn't too embarrassed to give to the vet as a gift.  I showed the pics to my sister who insisted that I post the pics to facebook despite how bad I thought they looked, because she said I was being too critical.  Granted all of the commenters on the pic on facebook are friends of mine who would never be ugly to me, but their comments were positive and really helped with my confidence in them overall.

The Beginning of My Cookie Obsession

My mom was retiring at the end of January and I decided that I HAD to make goat cookies for the party I was giving her for this momentous occasion.  No, I wasn't calling her an old goat - she actually raises goats and has for years. In fact, every spring when the baby goats are being born we have an ongoing joke that should any hold out long enough to be born during the week of my birthday in late April, that she will name the goat after me.  So far in all of these years, I've yet to have one named after me, but I'm still holding out hope.

These were the first decorated cookies I had ever considered doing, so I scoured everything online that I could find to learn how to do this.  I settled upon using a glaze recipe I found on and bought a goat cookie cutter through a seller on Etsy. 

Because I was terrified about making the spots on the goats, I conned a friend into helping me with them and she agreed to do the spots and hooves for me, which was a really good thing since it made me be on a time schedule and have the cookies made with their base coat of the glaze on them in advance to be able to get them to her to do the spots.

 Here's how they turned out:

At the time, I was so very proud of them, but in my two subsequent batches of making decorated cookies since then, I have learned so much and now think these little guys look a little sad.  I am considering remaking them to compare.