Thursday, August 27, 2015

Monkey Cookies And Some "Face" Tips

I like how these Monkey Cookies turned out but I admit it, I'm not a skilled artist and by far, my biggest cookie decorating insecurity is making faces.

Eye placement, proportion, realism, these are all things that trip me up and stress me out. But I won't deny a cookie request because of this, and have learned a few tricks that help me face making faces.

The first trick is study your subject —  Look at pictures, drawings and sketches and find one that is simplified and showcases what you want your final product to look like.

The second trick is to sketch a design — Trace your cookie cutter onto a piece of paper and using just a pencil, decorate it. Take your time, erase if necessary, and get the design exactly how you want it.

The third trick is to cut a guide that you can trace onto your cookie with an edible marker — There's no shame in doing this and it helps keep all your cookies uniform.

The final trick is when it comes to adding the eyes, nose, mouth and other face features, add them onto a plate first — You don't want to ruin a perfectly good cookie with a failed test run,  so drop those eyes and other features onto a plate first and get them right before you add them onto your cookies.

Here's how I made these Monkey Cookies:
I baked my cookies and sketched my design.

I cut a guide for the face that I traced onto the cookies with an edible marker.

This guide will make the decorating so much easier and keep all my cookies uniform.

I outlined the guidelines with light brown icing using a #2 tip.

Using the same icing and tip, I immediately filled in the lines.

I also outlined and filled in a moon shape on all of the ears.

While the face icing was still wet, I dropped on the eyes, nose and mouth using thinned black icing and a #1 tip. Then, using my scribe tool, I added a tiny drop of blue icing to each eye. I also used my scribe tool to draw through the mouth and elongate it on both sides.

The final step was to outline the rest of the cookie with dark brown flood consistency icing using a #1 tip. I used the small tip because the areas around the ears and under the chin are narrow and I wanted to be sure to have good control.

Let the cookies dry completely before serving or packaging.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Thank You Good Sam!

One of today's meals courtesy of Good Samaritan Hospital. The slice of watermelon is the only thing on the plate not from the hospital. It came from The Oregon Food Bank.
Good Samaritan Hospital is a longtime partner of The Wednesday Community Meal — Twice a week, volunteer gleaners go to the NW Portland hospital's kitchen to collect leftover and extra food that we can utilize.

Usually it's a few containers of soup, rice and a couple entrees like enchiladas and baked fish, but this past Thursday, the gleaners hit the motherload and came back with more food than ever before. There were six full pans of baked chicken, three large containers of rice pilaf, well over a hundred buttery rolls, pounds and pounds of crisp watermelon chunks and just under 500 mini strawberry tarts.

Knowing the watermelon wouldn't keep nearly a week for today's meal, we handed out the cooling treat the next day to guests who came to Trinity for bags of canned food.  The rest though, we refrigerated or froze and reheated for today's meal.

The baked chicken in an orange sauce was especially good and many guests told us so.

"Thank you! That chicken was the best thing I've eaten in a long time. It was so flavorful and tender." said one man as he was leaving.

Because of the generosity of Good Sam and the work of our wonderful volunteer gleaners, we were able to serve 265 delicious, well-rounded meals today. We fed every single person who came to our door and made a lot of hungry people happy. Thank you Good Sam!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Raccoon Cookies

I love these raccoon cookies — They are cute, require just four colors of royal icing and the decorating is done all in one shot,  using the wet on wet technique of adding your icings one right after the other.  A beginning cookie decorator could easily tackle this design.

Another bonus is that because there are no fragile, sticking up parts on them, they are an ideal cookie for packaging and even shipping. These raccoons are currently en route, across the country, to the East Coast.  Here's how I made them:
The white cutter is my raccoon cutter. My husband found it for me online.

I traced my cutter onto a piece of paper, sketched out different designs and got a plan together.

I cut the mask shape that I wanted for my raccoons, out of of a piece of copy paper and traced it onto all of the cookies using an edible marker.

This guideline will be a big help when I add my icings and also keep the design uniform on all of the cookies.

Using the same edible marker, I also drew on where I wanted the eyes to be placed. I did this freehand. Now it's time for the decorating: Get your grey, white, black and blue icings mixed and ready to go. You want them all to be flood consistency.  Place the grey and white icings in bags fitted with #2 pastry tips. You need the most of these colors. Place the black and blue icings in a bags fitted with a #1 tip. You need a smaller amount of black and a very small amount of blue which will just be used for the eyes.

Working on just one cookie at a time, outline and fill the top portion of the raccoon with the grey icing.

Use a skewer or scribe tool to help evenly distribute it and give the cookie a gentle shake to help the icing settle.

Immediately add the white icing to the mask portion of the raccoon, keeping the eye areas open.

Use your scribe tool or a skewer to pull the white icing into the grey, creating the look of hair. Periodically wipe your tool off and try to work outward so that you don't muck up the white area with too much grey. You want the white to flow outward into the grey.

It will look like this.

Fill in the eye areas with black icing.

Use your scribe tool again to pull the black icing into the white.

Next, outline and fill the ears with white icing.

Use your scribe tool to pull some of the grey icing into the white ear.

Pipe a grey arch around each ear.

Add a dot of white for the eye.

Drop a dot of blue icing onto the white eye and then immediately add a touch of black by dipping your scribe into a bit of black icing and lightly touching it on top of the blue.
Finally, add a drop of black for the nose. I used my scribe tool to pull it outwards to give it an oval shape. Now it's time to move onto the next cookie.

Let your cookies dry completely before serving or packaging. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Unicorn Cookies

I have a love hate relationship with this unicorn cookie. I love how it turned out, but I really hated cutting out the cookies, thanks to a cutter with four narrow parts that trapped my cookie dough. 

A unicorn has to have its tail, horn and legs so I stuck with it (pardon the pun) and finally figured out a way to get the dough to release from the cutter. It did take some gentle prodding but now I know exactly what to do next time. 

Because these cookies are going to be shipped across the country, I kept the embellishments fairly simple and flat. For instance, a long flowing mane made from piped strands of icing would be pretty but I knew it also could be easily broken off, so I instead opted to use the brushed embroidery technique to add texture. I also chose to add a touch of gold to the hooves and tip of the horn with luster dust instead of sprinkles because it's finer and stays in place better.

Here's how I made them:
I rolled out the cookie dough and then chilled it in the refrigerator until is was cold and very firm.
Using lots of flour on the cutter didn't help the dough release. What did help, was coating the inside of the cutter with baking spray.

After cutting the dough, I placed the cutter over my lined baking sheet and gently eased the dough out with a soft brush. The brush didn't leave poke marks in the dough and worked like a charm.

Clean cut cookies ready for baking.

The cookie after baking. I did notice that the baking spray caused a bit more browning than usual but that's okay, I'll take it!

Outline and fill the cookies with white royal icing.

Use a skewer or scribe tool to help fill in all the gaps and give the cookie a gentle shake to help the icing settle.

One more to go and then these cookies need to dry overnight before adding more decorations.

Once the cookies have dried, add some piping consistency pink icing to the tail.

Use a square tip brush to pull the icing down and give movement to the tail.

Do the same to the mane. Clean your brush off periodically between swipes.

The mane and tail are done!

For the horn, I added spaced stripes of piping consistency lavender icing using a #1 tip.

Then I added more stripes to fill in the gaps.

For the eye, I added a drop of blue piping consistency icing and used a scribe tool to pull it out on the sides to create an almond shape. Then I immediately added the tiniest drop of black icing by dipping my scribe tool into the icing and lightly touching it to the blue base.

For the hooves, I brushed on some of the blue icing that I used for the eye.

Immediately, while the icing is still wet, sprinkle on a touch of gold luster dust.
I also added luster dust to the tip of the horns, the same way I added it to the hooves. I painted on a bit of icing and immediately sprinkled on the luster dust.
Let your cookies dry completely before serving, packaging or in my case, mailing.