Ok, the cat is out of the bag. I like art. So when I hosted a painting party on New Year’s, I couldn’t help but bring some cookie treats. The people attending the party had each chosen an artist and I used some of their choices to help decide which paintings to put on the cookies. I also included an icing version of the artist’s actual signature.
All cookies were decorated with royal icing and/or painted with gel food coloring. The one below, for example, was done using a pointed tool dipped in icing and then dabbed onto the cookie. All I can say is, thank goodness this cookie is only 4 inches, because… I did not like this particular step. Next on my purchase list: a rectangular cookie cutter. I don’t own one, so I used a tupperware to cut the cookies out. And how awful it looks! Bumpy and uneven edges. One would think that I would have just used a knife, for pete’s sake. Alas. So here are some pretty paintings on really awfully-cut cookies.
(Sorry about Leonardo’s photoshopped leaf, but this is a G-rated blog, people!)
As a 99% vegetarian person, these are some ribs I can really get behind! It’s not that I have any moral problems with meat- I just don’t like it- but these “ribs,” I have no problems with. Vanilla cake, buttercream, fondant, royal icing, and sprinkles. Yummy!
STEP 1: Carve and cover the cake.
This is SO MUCH EASIER if the cake is frozen. I used a 16″ circle and then cut off the top and bottom parts of the circle. Then I cut some divots for the ribs.
After the cake is carved, cover it with buttercream.
Lay fondant across the cake and carefully press it into the divots and around the base. I used a really light color of fondant, but remember, you can’t put a light color of food coloring on top of a darker color. So if I wanted any “highlights” of this light color, it needed to be the base color.
STEP 2: Make rib bones.
I actually made these a few nights in advance so they were quite hard. Using a mixture of gum paste and fondant, I shaped the bones and put them on a long stick. Lay them out to dry. Flip them over every few hours so both sides dry.
STEP 3: Paint away!!!
This was the super fun part!! Mix up a batch of royal icing, and then color it a few different shades. As you can see here on the left, I began with a reddish brown. Of course, don’t cover it completely- let a little of that light brown show through. I then added some black, and then some grill marks. Finish it off with black sprinkles, and then pour on some red royal icing to simulate barbeque sauce! A feast for all- vegetarians included!
I also made some cookie fries. Very simple- regular cookie dough just cut into strips, with a little brown dust added to the tips. With a little cup of royal icing barbeque sauce, you could just dip your cookie into the icing! I also brought these cookies to the party. They were designed by SweetAmbs- check it out on facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/SweetAmbsCookies/videos/1072039919490079/?pnref=story
How to impress someone with your decorating prowess: Tie-dye a cookie! They’ll be amazed, and you, meanwhile, will be sitting there like, “Well, I just dragged a toothpick through the icing, so…”
STEP 1: Make royal icing.
You’ll want at least one color of thick consistency (to outline the shirt). You’ll also need a bag of each color in thin consistency.
STEP 2: QUICKLY pipe the colors onto the cookie in whatever pattern you want.
STEP 3: Drag a toothpick from the center circle outwards. Take a new toothpick each time, so the colors don’t run together.
Step 4 (optional): Wear bell-bottoms and sing to yourself whilst placing flowers in your braided hair.
Just joking. I’m a child of the 80s and have no idea what happened in the 60s. Actually, I don’t even know if tie-dye is from the 60s, but simply judging from a lifetime of Homecoming Week Spirit Days, usually with a “Decades” theme, most people agree with me.
The royal icing crusts quickly. Do not take your time piping the color on, because you’ll find it will start crusting almost immediately and you won’t have a smooth finish. Just throw it on there, I promise! And don’t delay with the toothpick-pulling, either. Time is your enemy in this case. 🙂
You’ll see some flecks of green in the step-by-step photo above. This is because the bag of royal icing I was using had already started to crust around the top of the bag, and the crusty bits fell off into the fresh icing. Try to keep the top of your bag facing upwards so this doesn’t happen to you! Do not let the bag droop to the side! Go ahead! Give it a whirl! And if you try it, post a photo in the comments below– I’d love to see them!
For what follows, I ask in advance for your forgiveness. Some of the plays-on-words are simply indefensible. If, however, you like baking, hockey, and a healthy sample of eye-roll-inducing puns, this is the place for you.
ASSISTS: Though the baker alone normally gets accolades for her work, many times, the work cannot be completed without assistance from a teammate. In this case, the teammate is said to give an assist to the baker.
CHECKING: Checking is a defensive technique bakers employ to ensure their work is of a high quality. (Some bakers who work offensively plunge ahead in their work without considering the “what-ifs.”) The following situations represent a few examples during which one would see checking amongst bakers: Is the oven off? Are the eggs still fresh? Is the oven really off? Wait, how many cookies did the lady want again? Wait, she’s picking them up at 3, right? Am I SURE she said she wanted yellow with brown trim, because that sounds awful but I have to make what she asked for? Am I DEFINITELY SURE the oven is off?
(Side note: I am a world-class checker. If they gave a Conn Smythe for checking alone, I would win it every year. I check to make sure I’ve checked everything there is to check.)
CLUTCH: Every baking team needs a person they can count on when the clock winds down and the project isn’t yet complete. This person, who always manages to “find a way,” is called clutch.
DEKE: Originating from the word “decoy,” a baker performs a deke when she uses amazing savvy and skill to fake out a customer with a deceptive, but delicious, product. A cupcake filled with an unexpected raspberry creme, or a chocolate chip cookie that actually has an Oreo inside, are examples of dekes.
EXTRA ATTACKER: On very rare occasions, an additional helper will unexpectedly pop into your kitchen. These helpers are called extra attackers. They should be useful in helping your team accomplish the goal, although it must be noted that not every team successfully utilizes extra attackers, no matter how much talent the team seems to possess up front.
DELAY OF GAME: When a member of the team intentionally causes a stoppage in decorating, this is a delay of game penalty. Examples of infractions include: buying and delivering the baker a tasty lunch, texting the baker a question which requires a response, or distracting the baker with funny Internet videos.
GOAL: During the decorating process, a baker will have several goals. “What’s my goal? To be the best Johnny on the team.” Wait… that’s something else… Anyways. A baker’s goals might include, but are not limited to, the following: Be prepared with the supplies. Don’t screw up. Don’t drop anything. Don’t mess up the date/time/name/colors/anything else for the pickup. Make your lines neat as a pin and your floods smooth as silk. And lastly: Never give an inferior product to a customer. So, in short: “What’s my goal? To give all customers superior products.” I really feel like I could be in a commercial or something…
HAT TRICK: When the baker completes three separate orders all on the same day, she is said to have completed a hat trick. When all three orders are picked up within twenty minutes of each other, this is a natural hat trick.
HEALTHY SCRATCH: A full roster of cookies always includes a few extras, in order to allow for any breakages that occur along the way. Cookies that have been fully decorated but end up not being used are referred to as healthy scratches. They are functional, but represent the bottom tier of your decorating ability, and should only be used in case of an emergency.
ICING THE PUCK: When icing a puck, it is recommended to outline and flood the cookie, and then draw on criss-crossing marks once the icing is hardened. To properly ice the puck, flood the top part of it with a slightly lighter black, and a super dark black on the bottom, in order for it to look more 3D.
INTERFERENCE: When a person deliberately prevents the baker from working, interference is called.
INTERMISSION: While decorating, a baker is allowed to pause and take care of unrelated business. These pauses are referred to as intermissions. It is advised that one should not take more than twenty minutes for an intermission, because it is all but guaranteed that the baker will lose her focus and drive after that point.
LINE CHANGES: It is naturally easiest to decorate cookies closest to you on the tray. Once that line of cookies has been decorated, they shall be moved to the back of the tray, and the un-iced cookies shall take their place. When lines of cookies are exchanged, the cookies are said to make a line change.LOCKER ROOM: No matter how hard you prepare and train, cookies break. You must not blame yourself or your teammates. A good baker has extra cookies waiting in the wings for their moment to shine (see: healthy scratches). A damaged cookie is sent to the locker room to be checked and possibly await reparative surgery. A cookie beyond repair may simply be thrown away or eaten.
NHL: The National Hobby-Baker’s League, or NHL, is a group comprised of hobbyists who have other careers but choose to decorate cakes and cookies for fun. NHL members simply create for family and friends, and enjoy trying out new techniques. This is in contrast to the NFL, or National For-Profit-Baker’s League- a much more popular and profitable league than the NHL.
OFFSIDES: If a baker doesn’t pipe a border around the edge of her cookie, the icing will flow offsides. Always use a tip #3 or 4 to avoid offsides icing.
OVERTIME: Overtime occurs when the given time-limit has passed and the baker is now working under extremely stressful conditions. Sudden death overtime occurs when the customer is actually at the baker’s doorstep and the project is then “suddenly” complete, or, as complete as time and conditions will allow.
PENALTY: A penalty occurs when a teammate violates the rules. Different levels of penalties occur, depending on the severity of the violation. A two-minute minor penalty is assessed when, for example, a teammate nonchalantly eats a cookie the baker had been planning on giving to a paying customer. A game misconduct penalty is much more severe and results in ejection from the kitchen. One theoretical example might be, say, when the baker has just finished an Easter egg cake that took hours and hours to complete, and briefly set it on the floor to get something, and the dog, who normally abhors people food, chose that moment to have a taste. And, enjoying his taste, perhaps the dog then licked the entire front of the cake, making it inedible for the baker’s family’s celebration. In this case, the dog would receive a game misconduct penalty and would be permanently thrown from the celebration, while the baker would probably become so angry that she couldn’t even be subdued by her own grandmother. (But again, this is all theoretical.)
PENALTY BOX: Sometimes, no matter how much love and encouragement you give to a cookie, it ends up misbehaving. Its flooded center may be riddled with bubbles, or the icing my flow offsides (see: offsides). A misbehaving cookie shall be set aside in the penalty box until it can be dealt with at a later time.
PENALTY KILL: A baker goes on a penalty kill when a situation arises that puts the baker in a lurch. At this point, the baker cannot let up pressure and must push on, despite the difficult circumstances.
PLAYOFF BEARD: A playoff beard is a superstitious practice where the grower does not shave his beard until the goal is achieved. For obvious reasons, this practice is more common among male bakers.
POWER PLAY: At times, a baker may receive an unexpected advantage: a family member dropping in and offering help, or calling from the store and offering to pick up supplies, or a customer calling to say they will be late picking something up. These unexpected advantages, called power plays, are not common and must be treasured.
RESURFACING THE ICE: Once a cookie is flooded with icing and has fully hardened, a baker may coat the surface with a mixture of alcohol and shimmery dust. This technique makes the surface shiny and is called resurfacing the ice(ing), or, in colloquial terms, using the Zamboni. (see photo of Resurfacing the Ice(ing) below)REVIEW OF PLAY: If a customer picks up a cookie to carefully inspect it, this is called a review of play. These are stressful because while a baker’s product might look perfect from afar, there may be inconsistencies up close. For this reason it is always advised to leave one’s very best products on the top layer when giving the box of cookies to the customer. In this way you will assure yourself that any reviews of play are guaranteed goals. (See goal.)
TIMEOUTS: After flooding cookies with icing, it is necessary to take a timeout. Timeouts last a minimum of 24 hours, since the icing needs that much time to dry completely. Bakers are allowed to use the timeouts as they wish, including making line changes or resurfacing the ice(ing).
Ahh, the Super Bowl. My favorite game of the year! Because it’s the last football game that I have to hear about for a while! (Kidding! Kidding!)
It’s not that I completely despise football- it’s just that I don’t understand it, and from my uninformed opinion, it’s nothing that the introduction of a strictly enforced limit of whistle-blows wouldn’t fix in a hurry. In an attempt to understand and to participate in the hype, I recently attended my first game- Bears vs. Packers! It didn’t go well for the Bears (did that need to be explicitly stated?), but it was quite a learning experience, and, I have to admit, a lot of fun. 🙂 Going to a Bears game had been on my bucket list and so my kind aunt, mother, and sister accompanied me. I wrote about this experience in my “30 While 30” blog, and will paste a bit of it below:
Earlier that morning, my aunt had piled us into her car and then zoomed off to catch the bus that would take us directly to the stadium. As soon as we sped away, she began a rousing version of “Bear Down.” My mom quickly joined in: “Bear down, Chicago Bears. Dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah, dah VICTORY…” They proceeded with the song and missed the majority of the words, but certainly had an unmatched spirit… and volume. As soon as that was finished, they began an in-depth, complex explanation of the game of football. In the backseat, I listened for about two sentences, and then stared out the window. What an ugly, gray day, but at least it wasn’t precipitating. A few minutes later, I looked at Elizabeth, who was looking at her phone. Miraculously, the ladies in the front were still going! Elizabeth and I exchanged glances and rolled our eyes. I thought about stopping them, but then I got curious and wanted to see how long they would go, and I am happy to report that we made it a full twenty minutes without a pause.
I hadn’t paid full attention to their explanation because I actually understand the game already: you are trying to get your ball all the way to your set of yellow posts (but you have to be careful, because every once in a while, they switch which posts are yours). You can choose to kick it in, throw it in, or run it in. These are all worth various points. There are about three players on each side that are important (one guy throws, one guy runs, and one guy catches)- actually four if you count the kicker who, let’s be honest, spends most of his time watching the game. Now, while these important people are working together to score the points, the rest of the men generally try to knock each other over. Usually these men also have copious amounts of hair.
Football has the interesting ability to elongate time- the quarters are meant to be 15 minutes, but everyone knows that games actually last for 3 hours or more, which means that 1 minute (in the regular world) = 3 minutes (in the football world). They seem to accomplish this by calling hundreds of timeouts and also by breaking little rules, which causes the refs and/or coaches to cast colorful flags into the wind. The flags are different colors depending on the crime.
Each time your team has the ball, you have four chances (they call them “downs”) to get your ball to your endzone. Sometimes, when they can’t quite tell if the ball went far enough, they bring out two people holding orange sticks with a chain connecting them and they measure the distance the ball went. This will tell you if you’re qualified to take another turn. This is one of the major ways in which they manage to elongate time in Football Land. (It is unknown as to why, in an era in which they have remote-controlled cameras literally flying and capturing the game from above, they still choose to measure something as important and potentially game-changing as a “down” by using two men holding sticks.)
While all of this is happening on the field, many things go on on the sidelines, as well. They allow some players to exercise on stationary bikes, for example (probably the kicker, because he doesn’t do a whole lot and I’ll bet he gets bored). There are a lot of other things happening on the sidelines, too- usually lots of arguments, flying clipboards, and red-faced coaches who look like surely they will have coronary attacks within minutes.
Unfortunately, that game failed to convert me into a sports fan. So when I realized recently that I haven’t posted anything from this blog in over a month (and that is bad practice for building readership! 🙂 ), I decided I needed to change that! So here I am, going with a Super Bowl theme! Enjoy!
Building the Base
I went to Home Depot and asked if I could buy astro-turf in, say, a 4 by 2 feet section. The man laughed and told me it was sold on a 12-foot roll. So- does anyone need any astro-turf? I have a lot of extra!
I also bought some styrofoam and taped the pieces together. I cut the astro-turf to fit, and glued them on the sides. Then I used white tape to make the lines on the field. Ta-da!
Creating the Cookies
For an in-depth explanation of how to create jersey ones, check out the hockey jerseys I made here at this link.
The last step was to attach sticks to the back of each cookie, and then insert the sticks into the styrofoam. This is very simple, though I forgot to take a photo. Put several candy melts in a piping bag, microwave it on half-power, and then cut off the tip. Pipe a line on the back of the cookie and set the the stick in the melted candy! It’ll be hard within five minutes and ready to use.
One cookie that didn’t make it onto the display: My Elvis Patriot. C’mon, you can’t deny it- he looks exactly like The King!
Complete with a deflated football. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 🙂
I realized recently that I’ve never written a cookie post! Which is odd because for every cake I make, I probably make two batches of cookies. Hmm. So why haven’t I written about cookies? Oh, yeah: because decorated cut-out cookies are a plot designed to suck away every moment of your life, coat your entire body in powdered sugar, give you tendinitis, and clutter your kitchen almost beyond repair.
But, they are SO DARNED CUTE that I just can’t help but make them! The problem is that by the time I finish, I can’t stand to look at them anymore, much less write about them- all I see are the wasted hours of my life, hours that could have been better spent, say, watching Netflix, or something equally important. (Eh, who am I kidding– I totally watch Netflix while decorating cookies.)
In any case: the time has come for me to write a post about cookies. And since I am now on winter break and have some free time, it is the perfect chance! My inspiration for this project came this past October, when I entered a Blackhawks Halloween contest after having spent hours and hours carving 25 pumpkins (that’s unfortunately not an exaggeration), only to find that the contest was closed at the time of my submission. (Helpful hint to the fine BH organization: Next time, can we please have a closing date, or at least can you remove the functional submission link? Thanks. From, Kathryn-Covered-To-Her-Nostrils-In-Pumpkin-Goop.)
After having missed that contest, I devised a Christmas plan, in case they announced another one. And this time, I would be ready, darn it!
So here I am, the day before Christmas, twiddling my thumbs. No contest. … So, does anyone want some cookies??? 🙂 Or a homemade tree on which to display cookies? Might I suggest using this as a display of Christmas cookies that each have a relative’s name on it? Wouldn’t that be a nice treat for your holiday dinner! You can use the method outlined below and place each name on a Christmas cookie. It would be so lovely!
MAKING THE TREE
The first step in this project was to build the tree. I looked at every craft store possible for a pre-made tree that was to my liking, but I couldn’t find anything. Luckily, my dad is pretty handy with a drill, so we were able to put something together with dowel rods. Drill the holes in the large center pole, stick in the dowel rods (which had already been measured and cut to create the typical “tree” shape), paint the whole thing, and cover with Christmas greenery. Ta-da!
DECORATE THE COOKIES
The way you do this part of course depends on whatever you’re decorating. In my case, I wanted a red outline for much of this jersey, but not the bottom, since the actual ones are white on the bottom. Had I outlined the entire cookie simply in red, you would be able to see the red outline around the white and it would look silly. You’ll need a hard consistency royal icing (I use Wilton’s recipe) to pipe the outlines. As you can see below, I piped the outlines and then added the stripes and collar.
I used an awl to poke a hole through the top of each cookie so that I could put them on the tree later. I then outlined that hole using the thick consistency red royal icing. Once that was done, I flooded the cookie with thin consistency royal icing. Once it’s dry 24 hours later (see, I told you these are a pain), you can decorate the top of the cookie. WRITING THE PLAYERS’ NUMBERS
Perhaps there is a better way of doing this part, but I do not know what it is. I wanted the numbers to have the font they really do on the jerseys, rather than just be done in my handwriting. But to accomplish this, I needed a “double row” of thick royal icing. And when I piped a double row, it looked completely ridiculous. (See first picture below.) So I wet a paintbrush and sort of coaxed the two parts to come together and form one cohesive line. It worked somewhat, though the edges are still not perfectly straight.
MAKE THE COOKIES SPARKLE!
The top cookie on this “One Goal” hockey tree is the Stanley Cup. I don’t own a cutter for this so I tried to eyeball it. I covered the cookie in gray royal icing, but what a huge difference a little luster dust makes! They make metallic dusts in a variety of colors. And a little goes a long way! Simply mix with a splash of lemon extract and paint it right on.
Upon first glance, my dad huffed at the tree and said, “Well I don’t like it because Corey’s on the bottom.” (Had he been given the opportunity, he says, he would have played goalie, too.) I explained to my father that in my tree, the goalies are on the bottom center, like a strong foundation, surrounded by the defensive players. The forwards are on the top half, and furthermore, the centers are in the center, the right wings on the right, and the left wingers on the left.
What ideas do you have for recycling this tree? Right now I’m leaning towards using this same cookie cutter to create an array of “ugly sweaters,” each one labeled with a guests’ name. Maybe it could be cute for favors for a Christmastime bridal shower or baby shower? What do you think?