New Year's cookies in June?
Why am I showing you these cookies now? Because this is where I got the idea for this next challenge. I love this set because of how it came about. I have a good friend in my town who also decorates cookies. We decorated and decorated all through the Christmas holiday last year, and after the big day, she was headed out of town. Before she went, she dropped off a few cookies that she hadn't gotten around to decorating, so they wouldn't go to waste.
Well, you can see that it was an eclectic collection of cookies: two Hello Kitties, a circle and some stars, three snowmen, and a goose. And the only cookie decorating occasion in sight was New Year's Day! Let me tell you, I had SO MUCH FUN figuring out how to use all of these cookies in one set, and I really could not be more pleased with how they turned out. I mean, three snowmen and a goose? Crazy!
So here's your challenge.
I'm going to give you five cookie shapes. You need to pick at least three, and as many as all five, and decorate them as one set - that is coordinated together! Some logistics: I will provide you with a template for all of the shapes so that you can hand-cut them if you don't have all of these crazy cutters. I will even give you some hand-cutting pointers in a minute! (See below.)
You may make one of each of your chosen shapes, or multiples of them as needed, but you need to use at least three of the different shapes. Also, while it is fine to adjust the size of the cookies, or to use the cutter (if you happen to have it) instead of hand-cutting, we are not looking for you to combine the shapes. It is meant to be as if I dropped by your house with these . . .
. . . and asked you to make something of them!
For the purpose of this challenge, I baked these tonight. I also hand-cut them, because I don't have all of these cutters. These are cutter shapes that I solicited from a few cookie friends, without telling them what I was up to! They sent me pictures of cutters and I came up with this mix above. You can find the pdf template with all of the shapes in the attachment at the end of the post.
So, let me tell you about the ways that I hand-cut cookies.
I do it a lot, because I'm forever making funky art cookies. I know that some people avoid it - so this is the perfect opportunity to practice!
- Start with dough that has been rolled out and chilled. I usually pop it in the freezer for five minutes.
- I used to use a sharp paring knife, and that's what you should use if you don't have an X-ACTO knife.
- For the paring knife method, cut out the template from paper. I just used regular printer paper, but I've also used file folders or thin plastic, depending on how often I wanted to cut out the shape.
- Put the template on the dough and cut around it with the knife.
- If you find that the paper sticks to the dough, you can lightly dust with flour, or lightly spray the paper with cooking spray and wipe it off with a paper towel.
- My hand-cutting method now involves an X-ACTO knife, and I put the template right on the chilled dough and cut through the drawing of the image and the dough at the same time. I often use tracing paper over the sketch of the image, and then use that paper as the template. Tracing paper has the advantage of not sticking to the dough as much too.
- Here is the gnome after I cut it out with the X-ACTO knife. I leave the paper on the cookie until I transfer it to the cookie sheet, to help the cookie hold its shape.
- I happened to have a fleur de lis cutter. But it's mini, so I made a few extras . . .
- Here are the shapes ready to bake!
By the way, I have to give a shout-out here to Jill Wettstein of Jill FCS. She put together a great little hand-cutting tutorial on her Facebook page that really was a big help to me when I was starting out!
And of course, there will be prizes!
Julia has graciously and generously rounded up some great things that will be awarded to one participant in a random drawing. [EDITOR'S NOTE: An extra special thanks to Ribbon by Design for seeking me out at CookieCon to offer up their wonderful part of this prize!]
- Five rolls of ribbon from Ribbon by Design, perfect for tying up cookie bags!
- American Tradition’s zig-zag interlocking brick cutter
- Mason jar cutter
Estimated retail value: $42
AND, as an added bonus because this is a hard challenge, I will be contributing to the prize pot as well - with a few cookie cutters that I have designed and will have made. Details on that are in the works!
- Please post an image of your cookies on the site under the Practice Bakes Perfect clip set no later than July 6, 2014 at 5 pm central.
- Because these challenges will be ongoing, we ask that you put the number of the challenge in your photo caption (subtitle field) AND in a tag, so we can tell them apart from month to month. As noted above, this is challenge #2. Please use the 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 Challenge 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. Multiple clips of the same entry/cookie are not allowed unless added in a comment beneath the one primary clip.
Once the challenge closes on July 6, we will announce the winner and host the Saturday Spotlight the following weekend. But you can expect Challenge #3 around July 7. And don't worry, next month will be an easy one!
Last but not least, these challenges are meant to spark conversation and learning. If you have a question, or if you need help getting started or just want to run an idea by me or the group, please comment below. I love to troubleshoot, brainstorm, and talk technique, so please don't be shy!
Rebecca Weld came to cookie decorating from gingerbread house making. As a "real" architect, busy business owner, and mom of two small kids, Rebecca discovered that gingerbread houses had a way of getting out of hand, and that cookie baking offered her a more manageable artistic outlet. Always eager to be a part of the cookie conversation, Rebecca maintains an active Facebook page as The Cookie Architect, as well as Pinterest and Instagram presences. She makes cookies to inspire herself and others, to feed those needs that art fills in all artists: expression, sharing, stretching yourself.
Photo credit: Rebecca Weld
Note: Practice Bakes Perfect is a monthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Rebecca Weld 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 Rebecca's past Cookie Connection posts here.