Swiss Meringue Sugar Stamps

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Vintage Rosebuds and Thank You Sugar Stamps

  Of all social media, I have to say that Instagram and Pinterest are my favorites.  Particularly so when it comes to cataloging ideas for my cookies.  Especially with Instagram, you’re quick to see trends as they’re trending.  That’s how I came across meringue kisses on sugar stamps. Meringue isn’t a new culinary concept, but it isn’t the easiest of things to achieve.  Don’t believe me?  Go try it.  Humidity plays a huge factor in the success of your meringue, not to mention if you get even a drop of egg yolk in your egg whites, don’t even bother attempting to whip them.  One thing I’ve learned about baking is you have to follow the recipe, at least until you know what you’re doing.  With meringue, you either get it right, or you don’t.  There isn’t a lot of in-between, but when you get it right, you’ll know it.

I got the sugar stamps from The Cookie Countess

Which come with a sheet of tips, and I highly recommend you read it a few times until you are solid on the execution.

Prep before you make the meringue: You should have your sugar stamps on a baking sheet, sugar stamp side up (the side that the meringue is going to stick to when baked).  Honestly, making the meringue is the hardest part, the rest is super easy. Have your piping bag ready with the tip in and sides folded over so you can fill it when the meringue is ready.  Sorry I forgot to take pictures of the bag, but you can find plenty of images on the internet if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

I’m not going to go into the swiss meringue recipe, as it’s all over the internet and also comes with the sugar stamps.  Once your meringue is ready, fill your bag and tie off the end with a pastry bag tie.  You can use a plain tip or a fluted tip, whatever suits your fancy to the type of kiss you want to achieve.  I used a large fluted tip for cake/cupcake decorating so the kiss would be large.

You want to hold the tip directly over the sugar stamp so its tip is centered when releasing.  You’ll get better with each one you make and don’t worry if they’re not perfect, even the imperfect ones look great.  Plus, you’re going to bag them or pile them in a bowl, so you can put the imperfect ones on the bottom or just eat those yourself.

Once you’re done piping, you bake them at 175 degrees for 60 mins.  Test one to see if they’re completely done before pulling the whole pan out, because one you take the pan out, you need to work quickly to remove each or the stamp doesn’t pull off properly.  I recommend testing the largest kiss because if it’s done, all the rest are done.  Be sure not to overcook or the egg white will turn off-yellow. Not pretty if they’re all white, not a big deal if you used food coloring.

Once done, take them out of the oven and pull each kiss off by grabbing it firmly and lifting it up towards you.  If you pull it straight up it will damage the stamp. You want to be quick, but consistent on how you lift each kiss off the stamp sheet.  You’ll see what I mean if you do this wrong.  If they cool, the stamp will not successfully pull away on the kiss so do work efficiently once they’re out of the oven.  If you get interrupted you can always put them back in for about 10 mins and reattempt.

That’s it though.  So simple and such a lovely gift for any occasion.  Enjoy!!

Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered

Look. Listen.  If you haven’t heard of My Favorite Murder (a podcast about true crime, sort of) please go check it out. It’s not entirely what you think it is. I mean, they do talk about true crime cases, but it’s also a lot of meaningless banter that will have you laughing.  My friend Verna turned me onto it in early July and I binge-listened to all 90+ episodes from July – November, so needless to say, I was hooked from the beginning.  We got VIP tickets to a live show in Dallas, TX and I made these cookies for the ladies since the tickets included a meet at greet with the hosts, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. Credit for the cookie ideas goes to Verna.

If you’re not familiar with the podcast, Karen mentioned being afraid someone sending her a box of moths, hence the moths.  They also talk about a case in VA (2011 I believe) of a guy going around slashing women’s butts with a boxcutter, who for obvious reasons was termed the Butt-Slasher, represented by the blood-splattered jeans. I took a few pictures as I was making the icing for the jeans, which is achieved with a blend of three different colors.  When I first got into to cookie decorating, I bought all the various colors, but have learned that mixing colors is better for a few reasons.

  1. it’s cheaper. I prefer AmeriColor gel colors and each bottle adds up.
  2. not every color is available when you need it, so make it. And
  3. people like custom colors.  Even when they don’t ask for custom colors, the feedback I get is overwhelmingly positive about the colors.  It does take a little bit of research and time to blend custom colors, but there are plenty of online resources to help you achieve the exact color you need.

The blood-splatter was done using AmeriMist Super Red  and a food safe paint brush to splatter it.  I recommend putting down a layer of parchment when you’re splattering so you don’t get it everywhere, but it’s water-based so it will come out if you happen to get it on your clothes.  There’s also no need to pour it in a bowl just to splatter it.  Just take the cap off the bottle and put the brush directly into the liquid.  A little goes a long way.  You’ll also want to make sure the icing you’re splattering onto is dry though, or it will bleed.

The large MFM cookie I made with my Cannon Edible Printer which came with the sugar sheets.  The MFM logo was way too intricate to ice by hand, so I printed it on a sugar sheet and surrounded the edges with icing to conceal the edges.  I’ve heard nightmares about black printing on sugar sheets, (that they end up looking grey), but thankfully mine turned out just fine. Ever had this happen and know the trick to avoid it?  I’m afraid I’ve just jinxed myself and would like a future tip for my back pocket, should I need it.

Also, sugar sheets are great, but are best executed when your cutout is circular, square or rectangle.  Notice the cookie shape in my name place card blog?  That shape wasn’t ideal for the rectangular cutout, which is why I iced the entire cookie edging so it didn’t look weird. Live and learn 🙂

Anyways, these blood-splattered cookies were a blast to make and, in the end, left an impression on the ladies.  Check out podcast #95, where Karen mentions my moth cookies at the beginning of the podcast.  It was a lot of work for a few seconds shout-out, but totally worth it! Take a listen and let me know what you think of the cookies.  Thanks for stopping by!

Henna Heart Cookies

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A friend wanted some cookies for her granddaughter’s henna themed, 13th birthday party.  8 hearts/8 hands. She ordered the cutters and her idea was to decorate the hands with henna, cut the heart out of the center of the hand, decorated with 13. I normally purchase all cutters myself so that I can ensure its size, delivery time, etc., however because this was a last minute order, she ordered the cutters (hand and heart), and the hand turned out to be rather large.  The cutters were made to be used together in this fashion, but whomever the maker is, clearly hasn’t actually used them to experience how impractical they are together. Primarily so because when the heart shape is cut from the center of the hand, it left little dough around the fingers to support the weight of the cookie and the fingers would break off. (see what I mean in the photo?)

I managed to bake all 8 hands after figuring out it worked best to not cut the heart out until the hand was on the baking pan (so I didn’t have to transfer it, which would cause the dough to break). While I succeeded in baking them, as I iced the first hand, it broke when moving it to the dehydrator.  Cookies break all the time, well…enough times to manage by icing the break well enough so it’s unnoticeable.  However, these were just too large and weak from the heart cut out.

I chose orange and pink as the base icing colors and lots of other colors to decorate the henna.  The designs that make up henna are themselves simple to execute, but the time it takes it A LOT because of the many small details and drying time. Knowing what I was up against, I decided to merely ice the hands with a basic layer of icing and put 13 on these instead.  Then decorating the hearts with henna. Even though I decorated them differently than requested I knew this was the best course of action and my friend would be happy with them regardless.  The big take away for myself was to always select the cutter or evaluate it before it’s purchased (if I’m not buying it).

All in all, they actually turned out beautifully, don’t you think?

Name Place Card Plaque Cookies

A friend who orders often hosted a luncheon for some ladies and requested cookie name place cards to make the luncheon more special. She also wanted the cookie design to match the china pattern.

To begin, I opted for the plaque cookie cutter, baked six cookies, and iced with plain white royal icing.  Allowing them to dry for 24 hours, minimum because you will be applying the frosting sheet to the icing so you want it hard.

You can accomplish this design a number of ways, but the two easiest ways would be to use the KopyKate Projector, which I don’t have the luxury of having yet or by using a edible printer, which I have.  There are lots of free software applications out there, including the software that came with the printer (no offense, but it’s terrible).  Personally, I like Topperoo, as you get 5 free printables each month, and they work perfectly with the KopyKate Frosting Sheets.

I took the photo of the china pattern my friend had sent and imported the photo to the topperoo template i selected.  Edited it and duplicated it to fill six spaces on the frosting sheet template, so that it will print six individual sheets to place on my six cookies.  Topperoo also allows you to add text, though the font selections are limited.  I opted for a script font and inserted each of the ladies names and printed the sheets with my edible printer.

I cut each frosting sheet with my cookie xacto knife and placed one in the freezer, which makes it really easy to separate from the backing.  Having the cookie a close distance from the freeze, once I’ve applied a thin coat of Edible Glue, I retrieve my frosting sheet from the freezer (with a large butcher knife in hand because it makes it really easy to a) separate the frosting sheet from the backing and b) the smooth, cool surface of a metal knife is more desirable landing zone than a uneven surfaced, warm, hand).  Once I have the frosting sheet over the cookie, gently lift it off the knife so I only handle it or recenter it a few times as possible so that it doesn’t stretch or tear.  Once in place, I then use the xacto knife to remove the edges that may protrude beyond the cookie edges.

To finish the cookie, i use a thick white icing to ice over the edge of the cookie to cover the frosting sheet, so none of the seams are seen.

A Minnie-Mouse 3rd Birthday

Who doesn’t love Minnie?  I made this set for a high school friend’s daughter’s 3rd birthday party.  I can’t take credit for the design, as it was inspired by a red, black and white set that I saw on Pinterest. I’d thought about using a circle cutter to make the mouse ears because I’ve done it before, but for the sake of time I ordered a cutter since mouse ears never go out of style.  I can honestly say that I was a bit wary of bold colors against each other due to the previous month’s order disaster (I’ll tell you about that one some other time) so I ordered an Excalibur Dehydrator

And I’ve never looked back.  This was the first set of cookies using the dehydrator and OMG…where have you been all my life??? (the dehydrator, of course).  Seriously, this is worth Every. Single. Penny. I took a few pictures of the minnie cookies in progress, so if you have any questions about the execution, fire away. But I thought I’d tell you about how great of an investment the dehydrator is for cookie decorating and more, for those of you who don’t know about this little gem.

OK, so I suppose I can’t really get out of telling you about the previous month’s disaster if I’m going to convince you the dehydrator is worth is weight in gold.  In a nutshell, I made some white icing based cookies with red, green, blue and yellow designs on the white.  The white base didn’t have enough time to dry and I iced on it.  Not pretty at all.  Slowly, but surely, bleeding set it.  Much to my dismay, it continued to bleed even after the cookies were delivered.  Needless to say, I didn’t charge for those cookies and immediately invested in a dehydrator.  Look, I’m no pro and am the first to admit that.  Mind you, this never happened to me in my early years of decorating, but it happened all the same.  Anyone else ever have a disastrous order?  What did you do?  You made it right.  As best you could.  Thankfully it was only one of the three different cookies that failed me, but it scarred me for life. So, after a bit of reading and research, I purchased a dehydrator.  Do as you must, but I chose the Excalibur Dehydrator

Because it rates the highest in its class and the drawers slide out versus stack, which would not be efficient for its purpose.  Anyway, I cannot say enough about how create this thing is.  First of all, look how shiny the icing is???? You can achieve this by placing a fan near your drying cookies, but I live in a tiny condo so every bit of space is taken.  The fact that I can place the cookies inside while drying also solves my “where do I put all of these cookies while they dry” problem.  Second, just a few minutes in the dehydrator crusts the icing enough so you can ice next to it without it running.  I took extra care when it was black against white or pink, but honestly, this miracle box saved me hours of drying time and they turned out better than any I’d made before in terms of the shine.  I could go on and on and on, but would love to hear your experiences with fans, dehydrators, etc.  What do you swear by to keep colors from bleeding and to make shiny icing?

The White House Gift Shop Gingerbread Cookies

I love to share this story for a number of reasons, but I’ll stick with my top three.

  1. Whatever it is that you make, giving it away is a tried and true way to spark interest.
  2. A small gesture of kindness can pay off in ways you never imagined.
  3. If you’re just starting out, reevaluate your prices so you don’t undervalue your products.

It was a sunny, summer Sunday afternoon and I’d just finished boxing up an order of birthday cookies to head out the back door when I noticed a party in my courtyard.  (I live in a garden-style condo where our shared backyard/courtyard is always jumping with activity).  I’d forgotten that my neighbor Doug’s birthday celebration was that day because I got sucked into my cookie order.  Since I had made a few extras, I boxed up some birthday cookies for him and took them to him as I headed out.  That was it.

Fast forward to September, he caught me in the Courtyard while I was out walking my dog and asked me to send him some pictures of the cookies I’ve decorated.  That he wanted to show them to his boss and possibly have me make some cookies for the window displays he does for Neiman Marcus.  I’m like what?????  OK!  So I sent of few pictures of cookies and that was that.

Fast forward to November, and I got a text from Doug asking if I would be able to make a few cookies for a window display, honoring the former White House Pastry Chef, Roland Meisner.  Of course I said yes! He dropped off the white house cookie cutter and book for inspiration, saying I didn’t need to go to any trouble of making gingerbread, that sugar cookies would be fine. If you haven’t met me, I can tell you this wasn’t going to happen.  How could I possibly make cookies honoring a former White House Chef, and his book that specifically spotlights gingerbread, and not make gingerbread?!?  So, I made gingerbread.

Side note, If you haven’t worked with gingerbread before, the dough gets really sticky and difficult to work with when it warms to room temperature, which occurs pretty quickly.  To save myself from pulling my hair out, I roll it out on a baking sheet between two pieces of parchment paper and as soon as it gets unruly, it goes right back into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes until it’s cold and firm again. If you have any tips, please, I’m all ears.

OK, so I made gingerbread. 16 cookies  in total, 8 decorated, 8 undecorated. How bad could this be?  Well, let me tell you.  At the time, I was also fulfilling a number of orders, long weekends and weeknights of nothing but cookies, which takes it toll on your hands, neck and back from leaning over cookies for hours at a time.  That said, by the time I got to decorating the 8, I opted to use fondant for the windows so that they were uniform.  I still feel this was the right way to execute the windows, but little did I know that there were 128 windows to make.  All in all, they turned out really well, but they were really labor intensive. It’s almost humorous that I only charged $40 for those 16 cookies.  Gasp!  Ever do this?  Unknowingly sell yourself short? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I made them, but it’s pretty laughable that I literally gave them away. Doug, if you’re reading this, please…no offense.

Now, you’re probably thinking I left out the part about how they got into the White House Gift Shop window display.  But honestly, I didn’t know. I just assumed since Doug works for Neiman Marcus that that it was the Neiman Marcus window display, in Tyson’s Corner, but as it turned out, that wasn’t the case.  I only found out when he texted me the picture of the window display with my cookies.  I about fell out of my office chair when I got the picture.  Very exciting, right?  He did save the cookies and they were used in the same window display the following year. I don’t know if they’ll be there again this year, but you all will be the first to know if they are!!

I made these cookies well before I was selling cookies as a side-hustle, so I’m lucky Doug and a friend that went to see them, took these pictures for me. I literally finished boxing them up at 3AM for an early morning pick-up and all I was thinking about was sleep. I’m so thankful they were kind enough to photograph them for me.