Friday, September 5, 2014

Ten Things Your Baker Wished You Knew

Oh hey. Yeah, it's been a while.  Life got in the way and then I lost my password and it turned into this whole issue that I didn't even have the energy to deal with.

Then I lost my camera and in a fit of rage, not only did I find my camera, but I found my password.

So, here I am.  "Hey Ya'll"

Today's Topic: Ten Things Your Baker Wished You Knew or as I like to call it, "How to correctly order Cakes and Cookies".

1.  Never, ever contact a Specialty Baker the day before your event for anything because your Pinterest idea failed and now your only option is a dessert from Walmart.  The answer is no.  It should be no.  This is a skill that has taken hours to learn and develop an artistic style.  Respect that.  We're not trying to be rude, but we just can't pull rabbits out of hats.

2.  Now that you have given at least early notice (from 2 weeks on and that is IF we are available), let's plan your goodies.  Do NOT send us a photo of someone else's work and say you want this.  If that is the case, then go to THAT person.  We are all artists.  We can take the exact same theme and each person will do it differently.  That is what we LOVE about creating special sugar art projects. When your order says to pick up at 2pm, DO THAT.  Cookies such as these take at least 3 days to create and if you show up 4 hours early, I might not be finished.  Don't show up late without contacting the baker.  They may leave and go on with their personal life.  We have them, you know.

3.  Give your decorator the artistic license to make you a wonderful and very special event treat.  Try to provide a copy of the invitation or a piece of the party ware so the colors can be matched.  That really helps more so than saying, "Red and Blue".  That tells me nothing.

4.  Understand we are not mind readers.  Discuss your vision for your party.  Never try to micromanage a creative person.  Bakers/Decorators/Sugar Artists do this because we love it.  Ease up.  Don't be THAT person.  Please, for the love of God.

5.  Learn something about the Artist's work.  If it speaks to your heart, then go with that, if not then find another one.  Everyone has a match.  Don't be offended if a baker does not want to work with you.  It's not you, promise.  It's just that you're not our match.

6.  Don't ask us to create a Trademarked Character any longer, because we can't.  It's the law.  Go explain that to your child that "no, she can have a Blue Snowflake Cake, but unless it's a plastic toy, there will not be an Olaf on her party cake".  Sorry, we don't like it either, but those movie people are pretty protective over their shiz.

7.  Never ask your baker how they make their item or try to get the recipe for it.  Really?  So, rude.

8. Once a product leaves the Designer, it becomes the responsibility of the event holder to make sure a product be delivered correctly, if not please let us do that for you.  Most charge a nominally fair fee to make sure your cake is tabled properly, especially when dealing with tiered cakes.  Do that.
9.  Why are specialty bakery products so expensive?  You are paying for edible art, made with QUALITY ingredients, you are paying for "I did NOT get these at Walmart", you're getting cool person points...those things cost money.

10.  And while we're talking about expense...shipping cookies is crazy expensive, not only for the postage, but the packaging, too.  Then we hand the box over to the postman, say our cookie prayer, and do not breath until the box is hopefully received...and still there may be a broken cookie.  Please, don't throw a fit and demand a refund.  It happens.

Proverbial, that's the way the cookie crumbles.

This is Home Girl and I'm glad I found my password.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Stained Glass" Cookies

I received quite a few requests to please explain the technique I used to achieve a stained glass effect on a cookie, so to be nice I decided that I would do that for you all.

It is almost Christmas after all.

Remember though, it is NOT my intention to ever become a tutorial writer.  I don't mind sharing here and there, but there are already awesome cookie artists out there that cover pretty much anything you could ever want.

I learned cookie artistry by researching techniques and mastering them.   I don't mean to sound crass, but seriously, do your own research.  Play around with different techniques and never feel limited to only cookie icing be it glaze or Royal.

Be adventurous and use BOTH.

Anyway, last Easter I made these cookies and I was thrilled with the way they came out.  I had seen the technique used by Corriecakes  and I knew I had to figure out how it was done.

So I did.

I was hoping that I would get to make them this holiday season and my prayers were answered.

This technique is super easy and works up quickly.  First off, roll, cut, and bake your shapes.

Go wild and use whatever shape your heart desires.

Make some marshmallow fondant.  Flavor it with something crazy like bubble gum.  You can use commercial fondant, but just know that crap is nasty.  Just stop being lazy and learn how to make your own.

Roll and cut the fondant with the same cutters you used for your cookies. Make a few extras just in case.  Let the shapes sit for about 15 minutes to become firm.

Lightly paint the cookie surface with corn syrup and then adhere the fondant to the top of the cookie.

Use a detail consistency (Thick Shampoo) Royal Icing to outline your designs making sure that you connect all the areas so that your stain will not run into other areas.

Make your "stain" in little wells of an artists palette or a styrofoam egg carton like me, using 1 Tablespoon Corn Syrup, 1 teaspoon water (or Cake Batter Vodka), and desired coloring.

Mix it, mix it good.

It should be thick enough to stay on a paint brush, but will immediately run when touched on a surface. Using your paint brush, lightly fill sections with desired colors.

These cookies will dry with a shiny, hard, candied effect.

Bada Bing

Badda Boom.  

You know you live in the South when you see names like Miss Martha, Earlene, and Skip....

This is Home Girl.

Now go make your own cookies!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Meet and Greet Monday: She Bakes

The weeks leading up to the Christmas Holidays are always the busiest of times in the baking and sugar art world.

Go figure.

That is why I did not write Meet and Greet last Monday as EVERY one of my Cookier Friends is so busy and I knew that adding "one more thing" to an already full plate would be enough to send someone over the edge.

I won't be the responsible party that makes a baker lose their shit.

NOT that I know what it's like to lose my shit...

Tennessee Country Christmas
I thought it might be nice to just feature myself today as a Cookier "Interview-ee".  I think I am still narcissistic enough to pull it off and that way I did not have to bother anyone that is deep in the throws of decorative holiday cookies.

Hope you enjoy this post as I rarely every let people get to know me on a deeper level...even if it is just about cookies.

Vintage Themed Holiday Cookies
She Bakes: Let's give a rousing sugar welcome to "Home Girl" from She Bakes!!!  (This would be me.)

Home Girl: Thank you, so much for having me this morning!!  I'm glad I could pull myself away from the design bench to do this interview with you!!  I still have so much to do, so let's get down to business and answer these burning questions!!  By the way, do you have my requested Venti Starbucks' Salted Caramel Mocha Latte with a double shot??  Oh, good.  Thank you!
She Bakes: How did you fall in love with baking?

Home Girl: I fell in love with baking and decorating at a very young age.  My paternal grandmother, "Mutti" was from the Black Forest region of Germany and she baked these amazing cookies called Almond Spritz.  She would also take me and my little sister into a local place named Plaza Bakery (in Virginia Beach, Virginia) where they have the most wonderful Cakes, Cookies,  and Petit Fours.  My personal favorite is an Almond pound cake with Lemon or Pineapple Curd nestled in between the layers of dense, moist cake and covered in fluffy white, almond decorator icing.
She Bakes: Just for my own survey, did you ever have an Easy Bake Oven as a child?

Home Girl:  I did!!  I received my Easy Bake Oven for Christmas in 1977 at the age of six.  It changed my life forever.  Notice that my parents were also nice enough to get me a stand-up mixer, too!!

(See that Teddy Bear in the photo?  I wish I still had him.  He was an 18 inch Steiff and would be worth a lot of money today.)

Home Girl circa 1977

She Bakes: Name your top five Cookie Artists that you swoon over in no particular order.

Home Girl:  I can only name five?  Seriously?  Well, the first cookie blog I ever laid eyes on was Cristin's Cookies. I just adore her work and she is seriously one of the nicest people that walk the planet.  Of course, there's The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle and Lilaloa both of whom I learn so much from.  I might be slightly obsessed with Arty McGoo and her amazing work.  A new Top Five Cookie Artist for me is Mike from Semi Sweet Designs.  LOVE, LOVE, FREAKIN' LOVE his work.

I could seriously go on and on and on...there are just so many incredible sugar artists out there!!
She Bakes: What is your "goto" sugar cookie recipe?

Home Girl: I fell in love with this cookie recipe about 4 months ago and never looked back.  It's light and dreamy, works like a champ, and never needs to be chilled.  Why mess with what I consider to be perfection in a cookie?  I use to rely on a cookie made with granulated sugar, but since switching to one  that uses powdered sugar, I have found that I much prefer the flavor balance.
She Bakes: From what I can gather, you're also a restaurant trained chef...what is your favorite cuisine to both cook and eat.

Home Girl: That's a difficult question to answer!!  I am well versed in all aspects of cooking, regional and worldly cuisine, and baking, but I would have to say my most favorite is All Things Italian.  Northern Italian, more specifically.  I love, love, LOVE a good cream sauce with properly made delicate veal, slices of Prosciutto, and sweet, fresh garden peas with the proper hint of garlic and cracked peppercorn.  I serve this with Cesar Salad, made from scratch croutons baked in butter, sprinkled with fresh grated Parmesan Cheese, and a house-made dressing.  There might be a Tiramisu for dessert if you've been very good.
She Bakes: What is your most favorite thing about cookie art?

Home Girl: I love how creating a set of cookies relaxes me.  It's my therapy.  I turn on some music, go into my design room and get completely lost in piping icing onto a small surface.  It truly completes me and makes me blissfully happy.  I also love the look on someone's face when they see their cookies.  That's pretty awesome.
She Bakes: If you could send cookies to anyone famous, who would it be and why?

Home Girl:  Khloe Kardashian.  Without hesitation.  She deserves to smile considering how this past year has been so difficult for her.  Out of all my Kardashian sisters, she is the one I identify with the most and she's a shining example of how to gracefully deal with other people's bullshit and not jump on that train to Crazytown.  I give her "mad props" for that.  She's keeps it classy, yet gangsta.  (If anyone has that Koko connection, PLEASE hook a sista up so I can make cookies just for her!  It's on my bucket list!!!)

Let It Snow, Please!  
She Bakes:  Word on the street is that you're physically disabled.  Care to discuss this part of your life with us?

Home Girl: This past year I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Osteo-arthritis in all my major joints such as my hips, knees, feet, ankles, neck, back...pretty much everything BUT my hands, thank God.  I am very limited as to what I can and cannot do.  This coming New Year will be hard for me as I venture into medically necessary treatment that I do not want to do.  It's not gonna be fun, but I'm a fighter and I'll just kick this shit's ass, too.  It makes me sad that I can not work in a commercial bakery anymore, but I do what I can with my home oven.
She Bakes:  Outside of baking and decorating, what are your other passions in life?

Home Girl:  There are so many!!!  First and foremost is my relationship with My Divine, My God, and becoming more connected to my spiritual world. Right behind Him are my seven children ranging in age from 26 to 11.  I love photography, sewing, quilting, all things foodie, and living in Olde Towne, Portsmouth, Virginia.  That's how I became "Home Girl".  Passion for me, is in the creation of a "home".
She Bakes: That's all the questions I have for you today, Home Girl!  Thank you so much for taking time out of your extremely crazy busy week to talk with us!

Home Girl:  Not a problem, at all.  Thank you.  You'll be leaving now, right?

Ho Ho Ho

This is Home Girl...I mean, She Bakes....I get so confused.

Now, leave me alone so I can get all these cookies finished!!!!