Tag: beginner

Multiple Sclerosis: Time to Get Real

Multiple Sclerosis. There, I said it.

If you’ve read my “A Little About Me” page, you probably saw that I have Multiple Sclerosis. I was officially diagnosed when I was 30, but had symptoms of it since around 21 (can’t remember exactly when it started). I’m not really upset about it as it’s pretty much the norm now, but it can get really bothersome.

In all honesty, I can say I’m thankful. It’s been pretty mild and I don’t need assistance for walking or daily living. If you saw me out and about you would never know I had a debilitating disease; I don’t ‘look’ sick. I have an amazing doctor and team of nurses at the Schapiro Center for MS, a 100% supportive and loving husband, and a helpful extended family. There is so much to be thankful for and I take nothing for granted.

What Exactly IS Multiple Sclerosis?

In the years I’ve had MS, I’ve realized the average person doesn’t actually know what it is or how it affects the body. I’ll give a very quick and simplified explanation of it (since I like things to be simple :).

  1. In extremely simplified terms, Multiple Sclerosis is when the immune system attacks the lining around the nerves in the central nervous system (CNS-brain, brain stem, and spinal cord). It’s one of many autoimmune diseases- a disease that causes the body to attack itself.
  2. Symptoms start popping up when the lining around the nerves is worn away and the signals sent from the brain are delayed and is eventually lost.
  3. The body is affected wherever Multiple Sclerosis is attacking the CNS. No 2 people with MS have the exact same symptoms. It is very hard to diagnose and can take years, although things are improving in that area.
  4. There is no known cause. Certain criteria have been established for people who are likely to get MS, and I happened to meet every single one.
  5. There is no cure for MS

How Multiple Sclerosis Affects ME

In spite of the ‘mildness’ of it, I do have my own set of annoying symptoms and live with the fact that I have an incurable disease. Things could change very quickly and my health could decline with little to no notice. On my bad days I have trouble walking, can’t remember where I put my keys (or kids-yikes!), weakness on my right side, and terrible fatigue.

When the word fatigue is mentioned, the majority of people say, “Oh yeah, I get tired, too.” In spite of trying to sympathize, they don’t understand so I’ll explain a little further. This kind of fatigue stops you in your tracks, fills your pants with concrete, drops you on the couch, and finishes you for the rest of the day. No amount of will-power or caffeine can bring you back from it. Believe me, I’ve tried the caffeine thing and it didn’t work. Have I mentioned I LOVE coffee?

On a daily basis I deal with the loss of sensation and tingling/numbness on my right side. I have to stay out of extreme temperatures and make sure I don’t over-exert myself physically. Stress is a huge factor and I avoid it like the plague. I’ve learned to say NO and mean it, and eliminate a lot of things in my life that were stress triggers.

I Thought this was a Cookie Blog?

So why a post on a cookie blog about Multiple Sclerosis?

2 reasons:

First: Any time I can raise awareness of this terrible disease I will. March is MS awareness month and I like to do my part… so be aware!

Second: I’ve realized I’m limited in what I can do for decorating. Multiple Sclerosis affects me on my right side… I’m right handed… see where this is going? I can’t pipe perfect lines, do a lot of free handing, or tiny details. I just can’t do it. My wrist and hand gets shaky and I end up becoming very frustrated. That cookie that looked so easy to do on Pinterest is impossible for me.

A Can-do Attitude

In writing this post, I almost feel like I’m able to admit this to myself and accept my limitations.

Instead of focusing on what I cannot do, I am determined to do and improve on what I can.

  • Can I bake some mean cookies that taste amazing? Absolutely!
  • Can I still decorate beautiful cookies? Yes!
  • Can I learn new techniques? Of course!
  • Can I learn all I can about blogging and food photography? As we say in Minnesota, You Betcha!

The difference now is I’m not going to beat myself up over cookie outlines that aren’t straight. When I can’t do that intricate lace detail or piping border I’ll be ok with it and try something else that looks just as good.

Multiple Sclerosis is part of who I am but it is not my entire being. Living a full life to its extent and doing things I love is high on my priority list and I won’t let MS get in my way.

To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis, click here.

I’m sure there are some readers out there facing obstacles. It might not be MS, it could be anything, so what do you feel gets in the way of your dreams? How can you overcome it?

 

Weekly Technique – Eyelet Lace with Royal Icing

eyelet lace

Eyelet lace is something that has caught my eye more than a few times on Pinterest. The design creates such a feminine, delicate look. Attempting this is something I wouldn’t have even dared before I made peace with my royal icing recipe and since I’ve got a good grip on that I feel like I can up my decorating game a little.

Eyelet Lace What?

The first time I saw eyelet lace on cookies was SweetAmbs book, Cookie Art. She placed eyelet lace cookies on the front and back cover, plus a page dedicated to teaching the technique. I’ve read the post several times and scoured Pinterest and think I have a good handle on how to do it.

You can find SweetAmbs Book “Cookie Art” here. It’s full of great ideas for cookie techniques and there are some templates in the back you can use for royal icing transfers, filigree, and a few other fun goodies. Check it out!

Where to Start

I’ve seen 2 different types of eyelet lace cookies, one that does the design on a naked cookie, and one on a flooded cookie. I’ll be doing both for this technique to see which one gives me better results.

Flooded Cookie

eyelet lace

I started with a flooded cookie. I had some white flooded hearts left over from Valentine’s Day, so waste not and all that! They aren’t perfect and there are about 1 million air bubbles in them, but they are good for practice.

The design inspiration came from a few different pins I found on Pinterest after searching for eyelet lace cookies. I’m keeping it simple just to learn the actual technique.

The first thing I did was trace my design onto the dried icing with a regular old pencil. Since no one will be eating these the pencil is fine, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it for consuming. The idea actually came from a group discussion on Facebook and I guess a lot of cake decorators and cookie decorators use it on a regular basis. I would have used my food coloring pens but I couldn’t find them at that moment so the pencil was a good substitute.

eyelet lace

My idea was to start very simply and then embellish it as I went along and got the feel for it.

After tracing the pattern I piped over it with my pink icing, more leftovers from Valentine’s Day. The icing is pretty stiff and I used a #2 tip.

eyelet lace

After piping on the patter, I embellished it with some simple dots and a border. The border was a little problematic for me. Because the icing was leftover from Valentine’s, it had separated a little. I thought I had mixed it up enough in the bag but as I started to pipe it on there I came to a watery, separated part and it was just a mess. That part is on the top and left side as you look at the picture. The right side is pretty neat and tidy.

eyelet lace

Overall, I really liked how this one turned out and will do this again. It was quick to decorate and fun to create a beautiful design. This probably doesn’t actually count for ‘true’ eyelet lace design, but it’s pretty close and I liked it.

Naked Cookie

eyelet lace

For the naked cookie I used the same design just without the flood underneath using the same pencil to draw on the design. I thought I could get a good comparison by doing close to the same design on both cookies.

After drawing the design, I piped right onto the cookie with the same stiff pink icing and #2 piping tip.

eyelet lace

After drying for a few minutes, I then started flooding the spaces in between the eyelets. To do this, I used a Wilton brush and some thinned out pink icing. The icing was thinner than typical flood icing, it poured easily from a spoon. I then loaded my brush and eased the icing into the places that I wanted covered.

eyelet lace

eyelet lace

Here’s what it looked like right after I finished flooding it. I found that when the icing is thinned that much, it dries kind of sticky and I didn’t love it.

eyelet lace

I went back over the eyelets with the stiff pink icing and then added the same dots as the other design. Here’s the finished product:

eyelet lace

 

 

eyelet laceConclusion

While eyelet lace is a beautiful technique for cookies, I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll be using a lot in the future. It’s pretty time-consuming and for the effort I could have cranked out about 5 cookies just as beautiful, just not as complicated.

If I keep working at it I will improve and probably get faster, just not sure if I want to at this point. I loved the white and pink cookie and how it turned out and will probably make that design again.

 

Is this something you think you will tackle in the future? If you do send me a picture, I would love to see your attempts!

Thanks for reading,

Leah

 

 


New decorating goodies! Tipless piping bags, cutters, and luster dust!

 New decorating tools new decorating goodies

New Decorating Goodies!

With all the Valentine’s cookies I had going on, I quickly ran out of my Wilton disposable bags. I even had to resort to using a few generic sandwich bags to finish some cookies. Talk about hard times! Usually I would run to Wal-Mart and pick up another box, but I’m quickly realizing I need to go another route. The price of those Wilton bags was killing me and realized some new decorating goodies was in order!

First Up- New Piping Bags!

Enter TMP- Truly Mad Plastics. I’ve checked out their site before for their cookie cutters but never realized they sold anything else. I asked for recommendations on a cookie decorating Facebook group I’m a part of and Truly Mad Plastics came up.They have their own brand of tipless piping bags in 3 different sizes and I ordered the small and medium. I’ve found smaller bags are a lot more practical for doing fine detail work. When I saw the price I was in shock, but it a good way; 100 bags for $4! So I paid $8 for 200 tipless piping bags! Such a great deal and it should last me a while.

new decorating goodies

As usual, the clearance tab caught my eye and I threw some luster dust in my cart before I checked out for $2 each. Total spent including shipping was around $18. That’s a great deal considering I usually buy 15 bags from Wilton bags for around $5. I’m so excited to use them! Because I’m watching my costs I asked for the slow boat shipping and they have yet to arrive. I’m hoping they will be at my door tomorrow because I’m kind of at a stand still for decorating until they get here! Update – I received my package just before I posted so I  grabbed a few quick pics with my phone… sorry for the bad quality pictures!

Ordering from TMP

Great ordering experience from TMP – not only was my order accurate, they threw in a few goodies and sample, too! They included all 3 sizes of their piping bags, so I get to see the large as well. They also put in a discount code for a future order over $10 for next month, and some mints and a small sucker. Love it! Oh, and can’t forget the smiley face hand drawn on the packing slip 🙂

New Cutters!

new cutters new decorating goodies

I’m helping with a baby shower next month and will be using that as an excuse to try out a few of those adorable baby shower cookies I’ve been pinning (You can follow my Pinterest boards here). I didn’t really have any good cutters for a baby boy shower so I purchased a onesie and bow tie cutter.  I’ll be practicing before then and of course posting all my progress. I’m guessing everyone will be sick of seeing all my baby shower cookies before then!

On My Way!

Again, posting these new decorating goodies are just my way of marking my progress as a cookie decorator. I’m still building up my tools and my wish list is growing and changing every day. A realization of what is professional and what is hobby is also becoming apparent as I do more decorating. The Wilton piping bags are great for starting and I recommend them for beginners, but I realized I needed a step up. As I’ve started decorating more and more, I want something that is made specifically for royal icing and cookies. TMP bags fit the bill for me. There are other brands out there for the tipless piping bags, but I went with one that was recommended and had the best price. It’s also a small business and I try to support small business owners as much as I possibly can.

 

I’ve already decorated some cookies with my new decorating goodies. I’ll be posting pictures of them in the next couple of days. They were just some cookies I had in the freezer and white royal icing I had left over from the last batch I had made, but the blue luster dust looks great on the white! I do love my blue and white combos.

 

Thanks for reading!

Leah

A Wish List for Beginner Cookie Decorators

 

wish list

The Wish List

If you’ve been bitten by the cookie decorating bug like I have, you’ve probably already assembled the basic tools of the trade. You also probably have a wish list of tools you hope to add as you develop your skill. Here are some items I’ve listed and descriptions of why you would want/need them for cookies.

These aren’t in any particular order, so here goes!

Stencil Genie

This little gadget holds the stencil in place so it doesn’t smudge when you are applying the icing or airbrushing. Great idea! You can find out more here.

Airbrush system

The possibilities are endless with airbrushing! You can add a little shimmer, a bold pattern, lettering, whatever you can think of! Really can’t wait to get one of these. You can see a few choices here.airbrush

Luster dust

A great brand is Crystal Colors. I’ve seen it used over and over with amazing results. You can find them here. Truly Mad Pastics also carries some great colors, you can find them here. luster dust

Color palette

You can use this to mix extracts with luster dust to create a ‘paint’ for your cookies. Again, possibilities are endless. I like this one here. color palette

Americolor soft gel color paste

I love the bold colors you get from this product. They each give you a true color which is hard to obtain in food coloring. Here are some choices for Americolor. americolor soft gel paste

Specialty Cutters

Any cutter you can imagine can probably be found online. There are a few shops that make their products in the USA and are great quality. Ann Clark Cutters and Truly Mad Plastics are two that I follow and enjoy their work. They have also partnered with some fellow bloggers to create cutter lines. Ann Clark is here and Truly Mad Plastics is here. Check them out, they are amazing!

Piping tips

I use mostly Wilton tips 1,2,3, and 4. They are easy to use and readily available in most craft stores and even Wal-Mart. You can find them here. Another brand that’s great for fine details is PME, they start at size 00 and go up from there. You can find them here. wilton #3

Flower Nails and Rose Tips

Royal icing roses are great to keep on hand as you can use them to dress up any baked goods. I love the idea of making a large quantity of flower decorations to store and use any time. You can find the Wilton Flower Nail here and the rose petal tips here.flower nail

Pico projector

This projector makes it easy to transfer images or writing onto cookies (or any baked goods for that matter) and I’ve seen some amazing work done on it. This really ups your game and can give you uniform writing on your cookies. You can find Pico handheld projectors here and here.wishlist

Decorator bottles with couplers

Squeeze bottles are great for flooding cookies quickly with less mess. These bottles here have couplers on them so you can use your favorite tips instead of bags. You can find them herewishlist

Dehydrator

Dehydrators are definitely on the wish list, they are great for drying royal icing faster than a fan or air drying. There are several different brands, check them out here.

What a wish list!

These are not necessarily beginner tools, but something to work up to when it’s no longer just something you want to try.

Do you have a list of things you hope to get to up your decorating game? I would love to hear about them and maybe add a few things to my own list!

Thanks for reading!

Leah

Check out my new decorating toys!

New decorating tools

New decorating tools

Hobby Lobby Anyone?

Check out my new decorating toys! I’m always looking to up my decorating arsenal, so when  said we could go to Hobby Lobby I printed out my 40% coupons and was out the door in record time! I was so enthralled to see all the different decorating tools Hobby Lobby has I almost didn’t hear my toddler screaming through the entire store as my husband tried distracting her so I could browse. I said almost. Did I mention I have an amazing husband?

Luster Dust

I picked up a few things and wanted to share them with you. I’ve been immersing myself in decorating videos on multiple social media platforms and see over and over again the use of luster dust. Most of the dust used is either gold or pink, but there were a lot of different colors. Hobby Lobby just had one brand and I haven’t looked up any reviews on it. It’s Sunny Side Up Bakery Luster Dust. I think it’s their brand of baking equipment but since it’s the only brand they had, and since I had 40% off, I went for it. It was regularly priced $4.49. I’m looking for a link to it on Hobby Lobby but it goes to a wilton product. I think it might be mis-labeled on the website, it’s the same thing. I’ll link it anway here

I’m really, really excited to try this! I’ve been so busy with blog stuff the past week I haven’t had time to do any decorating. I’ve got another batch of royal icing in the works, then I’ll do some practicing with the luster dust. I’ll be posting pictures of all the cookies I decorate, even the bad ones, so you can see how I use the dust. Did I mention I’m really excited about it?? I’m also excited to get back to making some cookies!

Stencils

I’ve played around with stencils before and really love the uniform look I get with them. Since I’m still working on my free hand work with piping and, well, pretty much everything else, stencils can do for me what I still can’t do for myself. The stencils I’ve used before came from Hobby Lobby so I knew it would be ok to get some more from there. I purchased a set of letter stencils, and 2 other designs. I’m excited about these, too. The cookies I decorated with stencils before were well received, so looking forward to doing more! The stencils can be found here and here. The ones I already had purchased and the ones in the pictures below are here. Those are still a favorite 🙂

Here are some cookies I made using stencilefor our neighbors at Christmas.

Building Up My Arsenal

I know it doesn’t seem like much or maybe even warrant an entire blog post for 3 items, but my goal here is to show that I don’t have everything already. I’m still a beginner working my way up to the next level. I’ll share things I pick up here or there and probably be just as excited about the next goody!

In an upcoming post, I’ll be sharing what I’ve got on my wishlist for decorating. I’m sure it won’t be all-inclusive becuase I’m sure there are things out there I need and don’t even know it yet!

What are some supplies you have built up for decorating?

Thanks for reading!

Leah

 

Royal Icing Problem Solving (and my recipe!)

Royal Icing

Royal Icing Problem Solving

Royal icing is what gives the WOW factor to decorated cookies. It gives depth, dimension, and color, and can transform a plain sugar cookie into a work of art. Royal icing is also one of the most tricky things to get right in the beginning.

There are so many different recipes out there that give vague terms and amounts that are open to your own interpretation. If you are making a recipe for the first time, like royal icing, how do you know when enough water has been added? When is it over mixed? Does it need to be mixed? When I try to make a recipe, I want to know exactly what to do to replicate what’s in the picture. That’s what we’ll tackle today, making a great royal icing the first time!

Royal icing consistency is a whole other blog post, so I won’t be going over that here. I will be adding my own recipe and instructions at the bottom of the post.

 

royal icing

What is Royal Icing?

Royal icing is an icing that gets hard as it dries. Its used in decorating cakes, cookies, and other confections.

Here are the basic ingredients that all Royal icing recipes include:

  • Confectioners Sugar
  • Meringue Powder or egg whites
  • Flavoring/Extract
  • Water

The ingredients all serve a different purpose in the recipe:

  • Confectioners sugar ( or powdered sugar) is the base of the recipe. It’s what gives the icing its sweetness and body.
  • Meringue powder or egg whites cause the icing to harden.
  • The extract gives the icing its flavor. You can use any flavor to change up your recipes, although vanilla is the most commonly used flavor.
  • Water combines all the ingredients together.
  • Food grade vegetable glycerin or corn syrup is also added to some recipes to keep the icing from getting too hard as it dries.

The recipe is a balancing act of ratios. Most recipes call for a 2 lb. bag of powdered sugar to 5-6 Tbsp. of meringue powder. Two to Three Tbsp. of extract is used for 2 lbs of sugar, and if you are using corn syrup or glycerin, it’s usually 1 Tbsp. per 1 lbs of sugar. I like to add 2 tbsp. per batch.

stiff royal icing

How to Mix:

There are several different ways you can mix up the icing.

  • Sift the sugar and meringue powder together, then add wet ingredients and mix
  • Combine the meringue powder and water until powder is dissolved, then add to the sugar and mix
  • Add the extract to the water, then in the mixing bowl, mix the sugar and meringue powder together, then combine them slowly together and mix.

I’ve tried all of them and I prefer to mix the meringue powder and water together until the meringue powder is dissolved. I don’t sift the powdered sugar because it dissolves so quickly in the water I’ve never had a problem with it being lumpy. Then I add the water mixture to the sugar, add the extract, and right before I turn up the mixer I add my corn syrup.

 Common Problems:

There is nothing more frustrating than making a recipe, messing it up, and not being able to figure out what went wrong. Here are some common royal icing problems and how to fix them.

Icing won’t harden

The easiest solution for this would be not enough meringue powder and there’s not much you can do about it at that point. The ratio of sugar to meringue powder has to stay in that 1 lb. to 3 Tbsp. range.

Icing didn’t become “stiff”

Stiff icing is a must for certain types of decorating techniques, and most recipes will give you an end result of stiff icing. It’s a lot easier to thin it out than to go the other way. I had this problem multiple times, and I was under mixing my icing.  The meringue powder has to be mixed on medium speed for about 4-5 minutes to get that stiff texture. When I was first making RI I was thinking it had to be like a glaze, where you just mix the liquid and sugar and it’s done. Royal icing has to be mixed for it to get stiff.  

Icing crumbled after it dried

This could be a result of over mixing. If you mix for more than 5 minutes your icing will probably be crumbly and fall off the cookie after it dries. Again, not a lot to be done at this point.

Air bubbles

This is a really common problem that all decorators deal with. It’s so frustrating to decorate a beautiful cookie and see an air bubble rising to the surface! The best way to deal with this is before it’s even put in the piping bag or bottle. Let the icing sit for a while, tap the container on a solid surface to bring those bubbles up, then pop them. I use a spatula to wipe the surface and pop as many as I can without creating more.

Icing too thin

If you started out with thick icing and thinned it too much for flooding, this is a pretty easy fix. The easiest way is to add more stiff icing. If your whole batch is too thin, you can add some powdered sugar but you have to be careful of your ratios. If you just add sugar your icing won’t harden. A good thing to keep on hand is a small bag of sugar/meringue powder mix. You can do 1/2 lb. of sugar with 1 1/2 tbsp. meringue powder. You can add this to thinned icing and not worry about your ratios being off.

The Simple Cookie’s Royal Icing Recipe

royal icing

Ingredients

  1. 2 lbs powdered sugar
  2. 6 tbsp. meringue powder
  3. 2-3 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 3/4 cup warm water
  5. 2 Tbsp corn syrup

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the meringue powder and water. Wisk until combined.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the powdered sugar and water/meringue powder mixture.
  3. Turn mixer on low and combine.
  4. Add extract and combine until ingredients come together.
  5. While the mixer is still mixing on low, add the corn syrup.
  6. Turn mixer on medium and mix for 4-5 minutes. The icing will form stiff peaks when mixed enough. Do not mix for more than 5 minutes.

A few tips…

This royal icing recipe is easy to make! I’ve tried to take the guess work out of it for you.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors and extracts, the sky is the limit!

This royal icing recipe will keep for about 3 weeks in the fridge. Place plastic wrap on the icing, pressing down to get out all the air bubbles, then cover with an air tight lid. This keeps the icing from drying out and crusting over.royal icing

Stir the royal icing after it has been stored, it will separate but is still good to use.

Let the royal icing come to room temperature before using or coloring.

I recommend Americolor food gel paste for coloring royal icing. You can find that here.

 

Will you try it?

I really hope I’ve inspired you to try this recipe! I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to own a bakery or have an art degree to create beautiful cookies.

Thanks for reading and I would love to know if you tried my recipe!

Leah

Valentine’s Cookie Pictures: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Valentine's Day Cookie Pictures

Valentine's Day Cookie Pictures

I finally finished and photographed my cookies I made and I’m ok with how they turned out. Royal icing can be tricky to get right and as a beginner, I’m still working on it. This batch was too thin for some of the things I wanted to do but it was great for flooding and wet on wet technique. I’ll be doing an upcoming blog post on Royal Icing and letting you know all my mistakes so hopefully you won’t make them too!
Back to the cookies!

So here is the good, the bad, and the ugly! That’s how we learn, right? If I don’t want to post ugly cookies on the blog then I’ll have to improve, or that’s my theory anyway. My goal was to have a plan for the cookies I was going to decorate, and of course that didn’t happen exactly how I thought it would. I also wanted to stick with 3 main colors. Again, didn’t quite stick with that. Does white count as a color? I don’t think it does, so I’ll say I only went over by 2 or 3. I worked with pinks, red, green, and white. My main goal was to make several identical cookies for photographing – NAILED IT! My good cookies had at least 3 of each, some more. I kept working on it until I got it right… or ran out of cookies.

The Good:

My new technique I worked on this time was wet on wet roses. I really love how they look painted on the cookie, very feminine and delicate. I think these were my favorite cookies out of the batch this time around. When I made these cookies I was a little disappointed how the actual cookies baked. It’s a large heart cutter with a smaller heart to cut out the center.valentine's day cookies When they baked the center heart lost a little of its shape. If you look closely at them the outlines aren’t so great and my flooding could use work. More cookie goals!

Valentine's Day Cookie pictures

 

 

The small hearts received roses also and some wet on wet patterns. Those were some of my favorites.

 

Valentine's Day cookie pictures                                                                                              How could I forget kissy cookies for Valentine’s Day! I love doing these and  I’m still working on getting them to look just right. I liked the pink, but do prefer red for the lips.

 

 

Valentine's Day Cookie PicturesValentine's Day Cookie PicturesLOVE these arrows! They are very simple and I didn’t flood them like the rest, but I’m happy with how they turned out. It took me several tries to figure out exactly what I wanted on these. Remember I said I was going to show the good, the bad, and the ugly? Well, prepare for the bad and ugly part!

Valentine's Day Cookie Pictures
Sad Arrow Attempts 🙁

The Bad and The Ugly:

Yes, here are the very ugly and sad arrow cookies. I’m sad it took me that many tries to figure out what I wanted! They still taste great of course, just ugly. You have to close your eyes when you eat them 🙂

Valentine's Day Cookie Pictures
Sad Brush Embroidery 🙁

 

 

 

 

Here is another mishap for this batch. I talked about brush embroidery in the quick post from yesterday. I was planning on doing several cookies in this style but because my royal icing didn’t turn out, my brush embroidery didn’t turn out. You need stiff icing for it and mine was just too runny. Oh well, there’s always next batch.

Ok, One more good one…

Valentine's Day Cookie PicturesOn a brighter note, I tried some filigree and liked it. I really enjoy the flowing lines and curves of filigree and it’s another goal of mine to become proficient at this. For these, I looked at a stencil as I decorated. Eventually I would like to be doing this freehand but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

 

 

 

Things I learned from these cookies:

  1. Plan ahead! I knew I needed a plan of how I wanted to decorate the cookies and didn’t make one.
  2. Follow the recipe for Royal Icing exactly! Usually my icing is ok, this time it was not and I know what I did wrong. I added my water all at once instead of a little at a time like I was supposed to.
  3. Don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t turn out the first time. Keep trying to get better!

 

Any big plans to make Valentine’s Day cookies? I’ve got a couple of orders and I’ll not only be making a plan on how to decorate them but actually using it!

Valentine’s Day Cookies: Take 2! Check out what I’m learning this week…

Valentine’s Day Cookies: Take 2!

I love the look of Valentine’s Day cookies with hearts and red, pink, and white. It’s probably the #2 holiday for decorated cookies, right after Christmas (of course!). I’ve been checking out Pinterest for some non-traditional colors for cookies and I found some beautifully decorated cookies in black and grey, blues, and teals. They are all stunning. Cookie goals!

I’ve decided to try to keep my cookies to 3 main colors. After all, I am The Simple Cookie! I love simplicity and see beauty in clean lines. My first batch of cookies for Valentine’s Day were red, pink, and white with some black accents. I really liked how most of them came out and tried out some new techniques. I’m always so hard on myself when it comes to how my cookies turn out, especially when I’m trying something I haven’t done before. I want it to be perfect the first time! Anyone else like me? I may have to do it a few times to get it right but there is usually some improvement by the end of the batch.

Brush embroidery was the new technique for the first batch and I really enjoyed the end result after a few tries. I’ve seen a lot of cookies decorated with this style and it’s so pretty. It’s something I want to continue to work on and improve. I received the brush set I used for Christmas from my Hubby, the Wilton set made specifically for decorating. I was really happy with them and excited to use them again! You can find them here.

Valentine's Day Cookies
Part of my first batch of Valentine’s Cookies.

For the new batch, the goal is to make at least 3 identically decorated cookies for photographing. When I decorate, I usually never make the same identical cookie. I get so excited about the potential of the next cookie I don’t want to do the same one twice. I also want to try all the cool things I’ve seen other bloggers do and end up jumping from one thing to the next. This time the plan is to actually make a plan and figure out what colors and icing consistencies to make before I start. Then I’m going to stick to my plan! I’m sure there will be a few extras I can experiment with at the end.

I’ll be posting pictures of the fruits of my labor tomorrow so come back and see how I did!

 

 

Time to Make the Cookies! Here’s the recipe I use.

 

Time to make the cookies
As I began my search for the perfect (for me) sugar cookies, there were a few criteria I wanted this recipe to meet. First, I wanted a dough that tastes     UH-mazing! I wanted a dough that held its shape during baking, and produced a soft cookie. Probably most important to me was a dough that didn’t need to be chilled before it was rolled out. Really, who wants to wait for dough to chill? I can barely wait for the oven to pre-heat much less an hour for dough to chill in the fridge!

Where I found my basic recipe

There were a couple of recipe flops before I discovered The One. My go-to cookie blog and one of my big inspirations, The Adventures of Sweet Sugar Belle, has a basic sugar cookie recipe you can find here.

My Tweaks

Oval cut

After making the recipe a few times I tweaked it a little so I can get the cookie results I’m looking for. Instead of using 2 tsp of baking powder, it’s cut down to 1 1/2 tsp. I found they don’t spread as much. I also use 1 1/2 tsp of almond flavoring. The first time I made the recipe I used 2 1/2 tsp of almond flavor and then wished I hadn’t. Have you ever heard the saying Too much of a good thing is no good? Well, that was probably said about almond flavoring in cookies. Maybe not, but it certainly applies.

Sweet Sugar Belle’s recipe calls for 2 1/2 – 2 3/4 cups of flour. I think I’ve used  2 3/4 cup every time. Converting all my dry ingredients into weight measurements gives me better control over the outcome of my product. A scale isn’t something everyone has in their kitchen, but it’s worth getting if you want consistent results for any baking. You can find the food scale I use here.  Scale

 

My Results

After making the recipe ‘mine’ I’m really happy with my results. I get nicely shaped cookies that are soft and flat. They freeze well and the recipe doubles easily. My favorite part of course, they are delicious!

Round oval square
This is a double batch of round, oval, and square cookies.

My next post I’ll be going over supplies I love and can’t bake without.

I would love to hear your go-to recipe story!

Thanks for reading,

Leah

 

 

Preparing for the BLOG WORLD!

Here is a real life picture, messy table and all. Oh, and there’s the camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I did more research to prepare for my blog, specifically about cookie decorating, I immediately became overwhelmed. The more I researched the more I realized how completely ignorant I am of all things blogging. Not only that, but I felt really small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Realizing the only way to get over my overwhelmment (I think I made that word up) was to get prepared and buy some stuff.

I still hadn’t jumped into blog world yet, but here are a few things I did:
1. I bought more decorating supplies
2. I made a new batch of cookies with those supplies
3. I tried new techniques with those cookies
4. I took pictures with my new fancy camera of said cookies
5. Sent cookies to hubby’s work so I wouldn’t eat them all

After doing the cookie things, I did a little blogging research and that’s when I got totally overwhelmed. A Pinterest search on beginner blogging, then reading about 50 “mistakes new bloggers make’ posts was all it took to realize I’m going to have to make my own mistakes and just jump in head first. That’s what I did and here we are!

Maybe next year I’ll write my own “10 mistakes I made as a new blogger” 🙂

The camera my husband and I purchased this year is a Nikon 3400. We got the kit from Costco and so far are really happy with it. Although we’ve only had it for a couple of weeks and I haven’t gotten a chance to really do much with it, it’s a really nice camera and I’m excited abou it! The pictures I took of those valentine cookies were before I watched the “getting familiar with your new camera” video so they aren’t so great, BUT I did watch the video and I can already see an improvement!

Are you thinking about starting a blog? What things have you done to get prepared?

My next post I’ll be giving the cookie recipe I use, come back and check it out!