Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Happy New Year!!

Although this post is a week or so late, I still want to wish everyone a Happy New Year!  As everyone begins to get back into the grind I have found myself in a bit of a baking slump.  I have a million and one new ideas to create and share but just don't know where to begin. We have Chinese New Years approaching on January 31, the Year of the Horse and soon following will be Valentine's on the 14th of February.  

To get myself back into the swing of things I decided to work on a few cookie decorating techniques that I'm not all that comfortable with but would like to master or have never even tried at all.  

First up:
Cross-stitch Patterns (or lace) - is a bit of a tricky technique, as you need to have the right consistency royal icing, a steady hand, lots of patience and you better know your numbers! This was my first attempt at cross-stitch and definately won't be my last.  The icing wasn't as elastic as it should be, but I'm sure that can be solved by adding some piping gel to the royal icing beforehand.  As for my wobbly lines...that is gonna have to be a work in progress.  If you want to see a pro cookie decorator do this, try watching this video by Haniela who is not only an awesome cookie artist, but she does most of her work with just a regular grocery store zip-seal bag! 
Cross-stitch Technique
Second up:
Royal Icing Transfers - I love the way this turned out; no pun intended.  I have always wanted to purchase a Kopykake projector but with the price being a bit steep for a hobby decorator such as myself, royal icing transfers are the way to go.  My first attempt a couple of months back didn't end well and I never tried again. No beginnings though, right?  

I started off by printing a template of the famous pop art "Love" logo in numerous sizes.  Once printed, I slipped the paper into a sanitized sheet protector, and basically traced the logo with a 1.5 PME tip and 10-second royal icing.  When dry, these can be applied to wet royal icing, fondant, *buttercream etc.  For those worried that the sheet protector isn't FDA approved, you could use parchment paper, wax paper or even an acetate sheet.  I find parchment ripples from the moisture, wax is a bit too difficult to see through and the acetate isn't readily available.  I've read that sheet protectors are safe to use, so I went ahead and tried.  

This technique can be done with various images or logos or even free-hand if you like.  It is a great way to add dimension to a cake or cookie.  Once piped, let these dry completely before handling.  Also, they are quite delicate so handle with caution.  These transfers can be stored in an air-tight container for future use.  I made quite a few of these and will be using them on future Valentine's Day cookies.  Keep an eye out for that soon!

*buttercream - the fats in the buttercream will start to dissolve the transfer after a few hours, so serve your guests immediately if using, or apply to surface right before serving. 
Royal Icing Transfer

Third Up:
Silicone Molds - Fondant decorations don't necessarily have to be used with cakes or cupcakes, but can be used on cookies too.  I recently ordered a few handmade, food-grade, silicone molds from Christine's Molds, hoping to broaden my decorating skills.  These molds can be used with fondant, chocolate, gumpaste, or even clay for the crafty person.  

If using fondant, be sure to dust the mold with cornstarch, brushing away any excess to prep the mold. Knead your fondant until soft and pliable, roll into a ball and press firmly into the mold, making sure to push into all nooks and crannies.  Using a cornstarch dusted fondant roller, roll over top to ensure there are no gaps between the fondant and the mold.  Trim any excess fondant, so the fondant is flush with the mold and you have a smooth, even surface. Place in the freezer for five or so minutes to firm up.  Once firm enough to handle, flip the mold over so the fondant is facing your clean surface, and slowly roll the silicone mold back. The fondant piece should pop out without any problems.  Let air dry completely before painting or airbrushing.  

Fondant Decoration using Silicone Mold
Royal Icing Stencils - These are my favourite of the bunch.  It is so simple, anyone can do it. All you need are a few pre-iced cookies (royal icing base should be completely dry before attempting this), stencils of your choice (I got mine here), piping consistency royal icing, and an offset spatula.  Arrange the stencil how you would like it to appear, scoop a generous amount of royal icing onto the back of the spatula and carefully spread over the stencil. Wipe off any excess icing from your spatula onto the side of a bowl or clean towel, and wipe the stencil once more, leaving behind a thin, even film.  Slowly lift the stencil from one corner, making sure not to smudge the still-wet icing.  Let dry.  You can now paint the stenciled icing, or leave as is.  

Royal Icing Stencil 

Tomorrow is another day for cookie experimenting.  Next week will be frosting recipes.  I've got my tastebuds set on some chocolate chip cookie dough frosting, as well as some chai vanilla bean frosting.

Happy Baking!

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