Happy New Year! Perhaps (wink, wink), your New Year's resolutions include improving your cookie game by entering more Practice Bakes Perfect Challenges in 2020. In fact, on the Cookie Connection calendar, I believe 2020 is the Year of the Healthy Risk!
And speaking of new years and healthy risks, I have a bit of news myself. As you may have seen in @Julia M. Usher's earlier post, after five years and 30 challenges, I will be stepping down as host of Practice Bakes Perfect (PBP) after this challenge.
Back when I posted the cookie below (in May 2014!) as my very first entry in the very first PBP Challenge hosted by @RebeccArchitect, I never could have dreamed of how big these challenges would become, or that I would be the host, or that the challenge would continue for years and years.
Crewel Flowers Plaque by Bakerloo Station
I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to be such an integral part of this Cookie Connection community, and have thoroughly enjoyed hosting the challenges and interacting with all of you in such a constructive, creative way. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end, and it is time for me to turn my focus to some other projects that I have been either juggling or putting off, including re-engaging in the practice of law, volunteering for one of the 2020 US Presidential campaigns, and, last but not least, learning to play the beautiful guitar that I got for my last birthday! I will still be making cookies in my spare time and posting them here on Cookie Connection and my other social media, so you will not be entirely rid of me!
I may be a little sad to leave this PBP gig, but I am very excited to be handing over the reins to the extremely talented, creative, and downright lovely @Sweet Prodigy, aka Christine Dutcher! Christine (yes, we even share the same first name and last initial!) has been participating in these challenges forever, and I am certain that she will not only seamlessly take the reins, but also elevate these challenges to new heights. So, please join me in giving Christine "Sweet P" a warm PBP welcome! [EDITOR'S NOTE: Oh, this post tugs at my heartstrings! I am both sad to see Bakerloo go and thrilled to have Sweet P on board! Thank you from the bottom of my heart to both of these ladies for stepping up to serve this community! If you missed my earlier intro to Sweet P, do check it out here. Of course, you'll be learning a lot more about her once she officially takes over at the conclusion of the #38 recap! ~JMU]
All that said, let's get back to our challenge, which will be not so much a challenge as a farewell collaboration! What I would like to do is create a virtual cookie "quilt" out of all of your entries to this challenge, so the more people we can get to participate, the better!
Even though this will be a different sort of challenge, there will still be a PRIZE awarded to the one lucky participant chosen entirely at random from among all of the entrants. (Remember, the more times you enter the challenge, the more chances you have to win!) Our lucky winner will receive a HUGE $100 gift certificate to Confection Couture Stencils, donated by Cookie Connection founder, @Julia M. Usher. Recall, Confection Couture Stencils sells @Julia M. Usher's gorgeous line of cookie stencils and other related products for every season and occasion.
Just think of all of the spring holidays you could buy stencils for with that big ole gift certificate!
So now, let's talk about the rules for this challenge. As I said, this is going to be a collaboration, so the rules are very straightforward. However, I really want you to put your very best effort into it, because I would like to feature every entry in my special final recap. The theme for our collaboration is "cookie connections." Put simply, I want you to make a single, square cookie inspired by what the term "cookie connections" means to you. In creating your cookie, I would also like you to use something, ANYTHING that you have learned from any of the previous 37 Practice Bakes Perfect Challenges. It could be, for example, the edible lace you learned to make in Challenge #21, the roses you mastered in Challenge #16, or the Lambeth piping you tackled in Challenge #33. Maybe you learned something new from a fellow cookier who commented on one of your challenge entries. Even that could be your inspiration for this challenge. Really, when I say you may use as inspiration "anything" from the last five year's worth of challenges, I mean ANYTHING.
At the conclusion of this challenge, I will pic-collage all of the entries to make one large, virtual Cookie Connection quilt, to be revealed in the recap for this challenge.
Sound fun?! Well then, let's get started! Here are the specifics:
Rules: PLEASE READ THEM CAREFULLY. Nothing makes me sadder than having to disqualify a fabulous cookie because someone failed to read ALL of the rules!
1. Create a single square cookie, of any size, based on the theme: "cookie connections."
2. Use one or more technique(s), idea(s), or inspiration(s) from any of the prior 37 Practice Bakes Perfect Challenges in creating your cookie.
(But feel free to add additional photos/views of your cookie in the comments to your entry! Also, note the crazy amount of spread I got when I baked this 6-inch cookie, so beware when making large-format cookies!)
5. Your entry does NOT need to look like it was stitched or embroidered (like my example cookie above) to mimic a real fabric quilt, although of course it can!
6. Your design must be completely original, and not a copy of any other artist's design. (In my eyes, the more original the entry, the better! And, remember, no copyrighted designs may be used without written permission.)
7. As always, we ask that you make a brand new cookie for this challenge.
8. Think outside the box, get creative, and immerse yourself in this challenge by taking some healthy risks. Perhaps this should be Rule #1, but . . . HAVE SOME FUN.
- Please post an image of your cookie(s) to the site under the Practice Bakes Perfect clip set no later than March 8, 2020 at 5 pm central. (Note: I've given more than the usual time to allow you to also focus on Julia's Cookie Art Competition™ in Austin and CookieCon, both at the end of February.)
- Because these challenges are ongoing, we ask that you put "Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #38" 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. Multiple clips of the same entry are not allowed unless added in a comment beneath the one primary clip.
After the challenge has closed on March 8, we will announce the winner in the Saturday Spotlight on March 14. The next challenge will be announced about a week 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.