Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #27: Circles

 

What could be more simple than a circle? Nothing, unless, of course, you are trying to pipe one! Few skills have proven more universally elusive to cookiers than the ability to pipe a perfectly round circle. That's why, in this challenge, I am going to ask you to face your circle-piping demons and master the "simple" circle once and for all!

Of course, you will be handsomely rewarded for your efforts, as you will not only acquire an essential cookie decorating skill, but you will also have the chance to win an incredible prize! That's right, one lucky challenge entrant will be chosen at random from among all of the entrants to win a grab bag of cookie decorating supplies (valued at about $150), donated by Cookie Connection founder and owner, @Julia M. Usher. Grab bag goodies include two @LilaLoa cutters (a rose and a plaque), a set of three bakery-themed cutters from @Anne Yorks of Flour Box Bakery, a “Live. Love. Cookie." dish towel, the @SugarVeil “Burlap” mat with mini spreader tool, and @Creative Cookier’s INNOPINK Sealing System for tying up piping bags, all presented in a fancy-schmancy Cookie Connection tote bag! [EDITOR'S NOTE: I may even throw in a few extra treats at the eleventh hour! Perhaps a compass or two?! ]

Grab BagADJ

Now that we have you all fired up about the prize for this challenge, let's talk about those pesky circles . . .

We've all imagined it: a perfectly round, perfectly puffy layer of royal icing sitting atop a perfectly cut and baked circle-shaped cookie. The reality, however, is often a wonky amoeba-shaped blob of royal icing atop what was a perfectly baked circle-shaped cookie. (The struggle is real, people!) The question is: how do we make those perfect circles in our mind a reality?

The answer lies in two things: finding the technique that works best for you, and then committing your newly acquired circle-piping skills to "muscle memory."

There are several techniques that people have found to be successful in piping circles, but there are a few techniques that stand out. Most people recommend starting with a template of a true circle, such as a circle cookie cutter or a drinking glass turned upside down, and then tracing that circle onto a naked cookie with either a scribe tool or an edible marker. This way, you merely have to carefully pipe along the line. The next thing that many people recommend is keeping your piping tip raised well above the surface of the cookie, like 1 to 2 inches (2 to 3 centimeters), and letting the piping line fall gently and naturally around the edge of the cookie. After the outline is piped, instantly flood the circle, cleaning up the curves with a scribe tool or back of a spoon. Piece of cake, right?!

For reference, here are several video tutorials to help you visualize what I am describing:

Now, everyone has different issues with circles, and different questions about how to improve. There was a great discussion here in one of the forums on Cookie Connection on exactly this topic, and I encourage you to take a look. Perhaps your specific circle-drawing problem is discussed.

Finally, after you have figured out which circle-making technique works for you, the next thing you need to do is practice, practice, practice. The key to creating perfect circles every time is to create "muscle memory." Your hands need to practice, and ultimately "memorize" the proper angles, height, and speed for piping circles to make sure you can execute every. single. time. Perhaps you might even try practicing your flooded circles on something like a Notta Cookie or a printed-circle template placed under a piece of wax or parchment paper. And so, with that goal in mind, let's talk about the rules for this challenge.

Rules:

1. Create a set of at least 12 circle cookies. The cookies must be circles of at least two inches (or five centimeters) in diameter, but can be of various sizes.

2. The circle cookies must have fully flooded circular bases, AND must be completely unadorned around their edges. No ruffles, dots, or other decorations can be used to obscure the edges! Here are some examples:

Simple Silly Snowman Platter by Bakerloo StationSimple Silly Snowman Platter | Bakerloo Station

Elegant Monogram Cookies by Coastal CookiesIMG_0447

Wings and Flowers by Teri Pringle Wood (NOTE: Your cookies cannot have dots or any borders around their edges; this example is here primarily to demonstrate what is meant by a fully flooded round base.)IMG_20170731_083640_094

Grill Cookies by SweetAmbsgrill2

Autumn Leaves and Acorns by Aproned Artistgive thanks group shot

3. Your set of 12 cookies must be a coherent set, where the cookies relate to one another in some way. They can be based on any theme or style that you choose, however, simple, solid-colored flooded cookies will not be accepted for purposes of this challenge. "Bonus points" for creating a circle-based design on top of your flooded circles!

4. Your main photo for your entry must be taken from directly overhead, like my Simple Silly Snowman Platter example above. Additional pictures of your set that are taken at different angles may be included as attachments in the comments to your entry. In the comments to your entry, please also describe the technique(s) you used for getting your circles as perfect as you did in your photo , or any challenges you encountered. We always love to hear about lessons learned and new techniques!

5. As always, we ask that you make a brand new set of cookies for this challenge.

6. Think outside the box, take some healthy risks, and HAVE SOME FUN.

To enter:

  • Please post an image of your cookie set to the site under the Practice Bakes Perfect clip set no later than April 1, 2018 at 5 pm central.
  • Because these challenges are ongoing, we ask that you put "Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #27" in your photo caption AND in a tag, so that we can tell the challenges apart from month to month. Please use the main title field to uniquely name your cookies as you normally would.
  • Please also assign other relevant clip sets and tags to your images, as you normally would. (Meaning don't just use the Practice Bakes Perfect clip set and leave it at that, or your photos won't easily be found with keyword searches.)
  • You can enter more than once, but please post only one clip of each distinct entry/cookie set. Multiple clips of the same entry/cookie set are not allowed unless added in a comment beneath the one primary clip.

After the challenge has closed on April 1, we will announce the winner in the Saturday Spotlight the following weekend (April 7). The next challenge will be announced after that Spotlight.

And one last thing . . . This is NOT meant to be a competition. The only person you should be competing against is yourself. Period. These challenges are intended to inspire the artist in you and push you to be the best cookie artist YOU can be at this snapshot in time. Remember, the whole point of this exercise is to get you out of your comfort zone - to "take healthy risks," as my wise-beyond-his-years son always reminds me. Plus, prizes are given entirely at random, so healthy risk-taking has its own rewards!

I would love to chat with you as you journey through this process, so if you have any questions about the challenge, are having trouble getting started, need help bringing an idea to life, or want technical advice, please leave a comment below or send me a Cookie Connection private message.

Christine Donnelly began her professional baking career at 16, when she was hired on the spot at her local bakery to work the counter and decorate cakes. After detours to college and law school, she worked as a trial lawyer in Chicago for many years, ultimately leaving that career to become a stay-at-home mother to her two children. In her “retirement,” she continued to bake at home, at last finding her preferred artistic medium in decorated cookies. In February 2013, Bakerloo Station was born with a presence on both Facebook and Instagram. Christine makes cookies to balance her left brain, to inspire and share creative ideas, and to feed those needs that only art can satisfy.

Photo credit: Christine Donnelly

Note: Practice Bakes Perfect is a bimonthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Christine Donnelly that poses inspiration or challenges to get you to stretch as a cookie artist - for practice, for prizes, and for fun! Its content expresses the views of the author and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. Catch up on all of Christine's past Cookie Connection posts here.

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*** Hey, everyone, please note that this requirement was also just added ***

In the comments to your entry, please also describe the technique(s) you used for getting your circles as perfect as you did in your photo , or any challenges you encountered. We always love to hear about lessons learned and new techniques!

"wonky amoeba-shaped blob of royal icing atop"
I think I fell in love with this description

Wonderful challenge! Already have an idea, so let's see when time allows to get started! As always I am looking forward to see what everyone else comes up with.

Just one question @Bakerloo Station! You mentioned that all 12 cookies must be related. Would 12 cookies with the same design or (for example) 3 designs and four cookies each count as well? Or do they all have to be different in some way?

GinkgoWerkstatt posted:

"wonky amoeba-shaped blob of royal icing atop"
I think I fell in love with this description

Wonderful challenge! Already have an idea, so let's see when time allows to get started! As always I am looking forward to see what everyone else comes up with.

Just one question @Bakerloo Station! You mentioned that all 12 cookies must be related. Would 12 cookies with the same design or (for example) 3 designs and four cookies each count as well? Or do they all have to be different in some way?

Yes, all of the cookies can be of the same design, like the monogram cookies above. or you can do a few different designs, but then they should all be related in some way. NO WONKY AMOEBAS! 

Tracy Merlau posted:

Woot! Woot!  

As a beginner (6 months of self teaching), I am so excited about this challenge.  This will be my first participation.  Since I have only had the YouTube “crash course” of cookie decorating this gives me a foundation to build upon, even if I don’t like them enough to post!

 I aspire to be like Julia, Teri Pringle Wood, Georganne Bell, Haniela, Amber Spiegel...(I could honestly go on and on) and so many others of you in the cookie world, thank you to everyone in this community for sharing your wonderful creations, ideas, and advice!

Your enthusiasm is contagious @Tracy Merlau! I am so glad you will be giving the challenge a go. I can't wait to see what you create!

Tracy Merlau posted:

Woot! Woot!  

As a beginner (6 months of self teaching), I am so excited about this challenge.  This will be my first participation.  Since I have only had the YouTube “crash course” of cookie decorating this gives me a foundation to build upon, even if I don’t like them enough to post!

 I aspire to be like Julia, Teri Pringle Wood, Georganne Bell, Haniela, Amber Spiegel...(I could honestly go on and on) and so many others of you in the cookie world, thank you to everyone in this community for sharing your wonderful creations, ideas, and advice!

Can't wait to see what you do! And thanks for the shout-out! 

Świetne wyzwanie   . Jestem ciekawa, czy podołam. Robiąc linie koło, nie robię konturów ponieważ je widzę w głowie, nigdy nie sprawdzałam , czy to są idealne koła. Jest okazja aby sprawdzić

So my question is; Many of us hide "imperfectly" piped circles with pretty borders of pearly dots or ruffles. Do our cookie circles

have to be flooded with a break before the edge of the cookie? Can we add an additional decorative border between the piped background and edge or does that defeat the purpose of the challenge?

 


 

Kathy Andersen posted:

So my question is; Many of us hide "imperfectly" piped circles with pretty borders of pearly dots or ruffles. Do our cookie circles

have to be flooded with a break before the edge of the cookie? Can we add an additional decorative border between the piped background and edge or does that defeat the purpose of the challenge?

 


 

GOOD QUESTION! My feeling is they should be borderless, as otherwise we defeat the purpose of the challenge. But I'm tagging @Bakerloo Station for her opinion/the final word, and to put some more specific parameters around borders.

**** IMPORTANT RULES CHANGES  HIGHLIGHTED IN BLUE****
(The change to point two was added on 2-14-2018; the one to point four was added on 2-13-2018; both are also now reflected in the post above.)

2. The circle cookies must have fully flooded circular bases, AND must be completely unadorned around their edges. No ruffles, dots, or other decorations can be used to obscure the edges! 

4. Your main photo for your entry must be taken from directly overhead, like my Simple Silly Snowman Platter example above. Additional pictures of your set that are taken at different angles may be included as attachments in the comments to your entry. In the comments to your entry, please also describe the technique(s) you used for getting your circles as perfect as you did in your photo , or any challenges you encountered. We always love to hear about lessons learned and new techniques!

Hi Christine, I just want to make sure whether I understand the following completely. 

 "Bonus points" for creating a circle-based design on top of your flooded circles!

Does this mean,  for example like a target of curling of Olympic games?   They have circles inside of circles and the center is 5 circles of Olympics.  

Ryoko ~Cookie Ave. posted:

Hi Christine, I just want to make sure whether I understand the following completely. 

 "Bonus points" for creating a circle-based design on top of your flooded circles!

Does this mean,  for example like a target of curling of Olympic games?   They have circles inside of circles and the center is 5 circles of Olympics.  

Yes, she means any circular pattern on top of the cookie. (You just gave your idea away, BTW! )

Julia M. Usher posted:
Ryoko ~Cookie Ave. posted:

Hi Christine, I just want to make sure whether I understand the following completely. 

 "Bonus points" for creating a circle-based design on top of your flooded circles!

Does this mean,  for example like a target of curling of Olympic games?   They have circles inside of circles and the center is 5 circles of Olympics.  

Yes, she means any circular pattern on top of the cookie. (You just gave your idea away, BTW! )

Oh, I see, thank you, Julia.  I understand it fully now and I have another idea    and probably more  I want to practice circles, piping is really hard for me. 

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