The entire Hidden in the Garden cookie set by Fernwood Cookie had me mesmerized. Seriously. I studied these four cookies for a long time and instantly knew Kerri Roy, the woman behind the cookies, would be my next How DID You Do That? victim. There is so much going on in terms of techniques, like that stone face! Or the hedgehog’s quills?! And the moss?! Come on! I just had to pick her brain about the whole lot. And so follows a slew of questions for my inquiring mind, and yours too I assume, with Kerri Roy of Fernwood Cookie.
Melissa Joy: Kerri, thanks for agreeing to an interview! I know I was not the only one in awe of your entry in the Practice Bakes Perfect challenge. Incredible job!
Kerri Roy: Thank you so much for having me, Melissa! I’m honored to be here. Not much is better than receiving so much positive feedback on a cookie set that I had fallen in love with myself.
MJ: Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, can you tell us why you chose a garden theme for this set? Did you design the images from scratch or did you find specific inspiration somewhere?
KR: It is a rare occasion that my cookie designs come only from my own head, without any outside inspiration - this is one of those occasions. I think I went in the direction of a garden theme because of the original gnome cutter shape. I first drew the snug hedgie on the pear and went from there. It soon turned to a forest floor type of feel, something I’m immensely drawn to being of the Pacific Northwest - one might say I’m obsessed. Of course, we don’t have hedgehogs around here . . . but he fits right in, right? These are the types of things I would prefer to find hiding in a garden rather than snakes and spiders. So, is it a garden or forest floor? Around here, they are easily one and the same.
MJ: The passion you have for your surroundings definitely comes through in much of your work! Let’s start off with the cookie I’m most curious about, the Moss Man. Really fabulous! I’m dying to know how you got the dimension of his cheeks, mouth, and hair. Is that an icing trick, or was the cookie dough itself bumpy like that before you decorated it?
KR: That Moss Man was a series of trial and error, figuring it out as I went. I first started with piping the raised facial features on the bare cookie using thick white icing. Once that dried, I painted on thin gray/green icing with a paint brush.
KR: It took at least three layers to effectively cover the base cookie color and the white icing features, in order to meld the features into the topcoat. It was a little difficult to get the coverage I needed. If I were to do this again, I think I would flood the cookie in the gray/green color first, then add the features in the same color, followed by the painted coats.
MJ: What technique did you use to give him that stone-like appearance?
KR: Once all those layers were dry, I slightly thickened that thin icing; then I dabbed it on with a paint brush and kept doing so as it dried, giving it that rough texture. Next, it was a matter of rubbing in some gray petal dust here, painting some deeper gel dye shading there, and following up with some highlights of white powder color and white scratch marks for good measure. Whew! What a process.
MJ: It turned out so great! The Moss Man and some of the other cookies have fantastic moss detail. I’ve seen a few other cookie artists do something similar . . . how did you accomplish your take on it?
KR: That cookie moss is the best thing ever invented!! (Have I mentioned my love for the Pacific Northwest? I have a thing for velvety moss too.) It’s a combination of crushed graham crackers and food coloring. I followed the instructions on Mike Tamplin's blog, SemiSweet Designs: http://www.semisweetdesigns.co...listic-moss-cookies/.
The only thing I did differently was to give the crackers a buzz in my food processor - I couldn’t crush them as finely as I wanted with my rolling pin.
MJ: There is detailing on several of the cookies, like Toadstools (below), that shows shading or definition. Did you paint it on in layers or use food writers to do so?
KR: All of the detail was painted with gel dye, as well as bronze luster dust. I hear a certain someone has a thing for lustering all of her cookies . . .
MJ: Hmmmm, might that be one of our Cookie Connection contributors that has a thing for luster dust? The Naptime in the Garden cookie has the sweetest little hedgehog. I adore him, and I love what you did to make his quills! I think I know how you achieved this, but why don’t you break down how you did those sprinkles . . .
KR: Those sprinkles are easy-peasy! Just pipe your chosen color of royal icing in thin strips on waxed paper. Let dry; then roll up the waxed paper along the length of the icing strips, inward from the ends, breaking the strips however small you want. Carefully un-roll into a container, and there you have it - custom sprinkles in any color and size you want. I learned this technique from The Bearfoot Baker: http://thebearfootbaker.com/2014/01/diy-sprinkles/.
MJ: We can’t leave out the last cookie of the bunch, entitled Maybe this Fern Will Hide Me, consisting of a shy snail. The dew drops on the fern leaves, as well as on some of the other cookies, is the perfect accent! Is that isomalt? If so, how was it to work with? I know nothing about it!
KR: Yes, it was isomalt. I’ve used it once, and I think I know just as much about it as I did before I started! I can make mean salted caramels and brittles, but in general, when it comes to cooking sugar substances outside of the baking norm, I kind of fall short! I had to google some information, but I mainly had to wing it. The powdery/crystal substance came in a bag that told you nothing more than to cook it in a saucepan with 10 parts isomalt to one part water. I wanted only a tiny bit, so I had to go with a tablespoon of isomalt and a drop of water! I wound up microwaving it in a silicone muffin cup until it melted. It worked quickly. I used a metal skewer to drop it on some silicone to cool. I first used waxed paper, but that left a little waxy cloudiness on the underside of the drops. To attach it to the dry royal icing, I dabbed the underside of the drops with vegetable oil and set it on the cookie. It was difficult as the drops were a little tacky. I’m told the drops will adhere if left to dry overnight. As I was planning on shipping these cookies, I only left them on for purposes of photographs for fear of them having some kind of adverse effect inside a sealed bag. Now I’m sure you’re all going to want to run out and try isomalt, right? Good luck. I’m still scared of it.
MJ: Well, the effect is fabulous, so thanks for going the extra mile for us. Again I have to say, I love this set!
Last but not least, my final question for you - the one I like to ask all of my interviewees . . . what is your can't-live-without baking or decorating tool?
KR: My first thought, since I don’t actually own a scribe tool (what?!! I know, right?!!), would have to be my boo-boo stick of all things! I use it to move around flood icing when needed, but I tell you - it’s not called a boo-boo stick for nothin’! But then I thought - are piping tips a “tool”? Then it’s definitely tips! I cannot go tip-less like some have, and using sandwich bags with a corner snipped off just doesn’t work for me.
MJ: Kerri, once again, thank you for taking the time to break down all of your work on this great cookie set. I know I wasn’t the only one who loved it on Cookie Connection! I’m looking forward to your next creation!
KR: Thank YOU for having me, Melissa! You, your whimsical cookies, and these blog posts are a JOY!
Photo credits: Kerri Roy
Melissa Joy Lacasse has always had a passion for baking just about anything, but something clicked once she received a cookie decorating kit years ago. This pastime that started as holiday cookies for family and friends eventually turned into Melissa Joy Fanciful Cookies, a Facebook page, and most recently, the blog melissajoycookies.com. While Melissa enjoys the creative outlet that cookie decorating brings, she finds that sharing with others, whether via bakery box or virtually, is always the most rewarding part of her cookie journey.
Photo credit: Melissa Lacasse
Note: How DID You Do That? is a regular Cookie Connection blog feature, written by Melissa Lacasse, which reveals through in-depth interviews the inside scoop behind cookiers' unique designs and technique innovations. Its content expresses the views of the author and interviewee, and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. To catch up on all of Melissa's past posts, click here.