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Live Chat with Andrea Walters, CookieCon 2018 Instructor

Andrea's chat has officially begun!
Welcome, Andrea! It's so great to have you back for a second chat. I so enjoyed the one we did earlier this year with your fellow Food Network Challengers, but it will be nice to get to know you more personally today!
Good morning!!!
Welcome to everyone joining us today! Great to have you here too! Please start teeing up your questions for Andrea!
Before we dive into Q&A, just a few housekeeping notes for newbies to our chats: questions are answered in the order received, but they will not post to the public/viewable area of the chat until Andrea reads and answers them. We'll work through questions that were logged in advance first; then start working on questions asked live during the chat. That said, please be patient and do not re-post the same question. It may take some time to answer your question, depending on where it sits in the queue. But I will personally make sure every question gets answered before we're through.
Also, please ask just one question at a time (per post); it's easier for our guests to keep up and others to read the chat transcript if they're not hit with too many questions at once. Thanks!
To kick us off (and to stimulate some questions), I'm going to post a few recent cookie photos by Andrea . . .
This set showcases some of her lovely handwriting, a topic which we'll be sure to explore in some detail.
I see some interesting textures on this cookie that we'll have to ask Andrea how she achieved!
And the last one (for now, anyway) - a seasonal beauty!
So, Andrea, as others are formulating their questions for you, I have a couple to start. First, for those of us who might not already know you and follow your every move , can you give us a quick overview of how you spend your time in the cookie world? For instance, how much time is spent fulfilling cookie orders vs. doing events like CookieCon vs. teaching in general vs. other activities?
Great question, JULIA! For the past four years, I've really focused on filling cookie orders locally! Since I appeared on Food Network, my community has noticed my work and has given me some amazing opportunities locally! I've been a guest on a local newscast a few times, helped with a big live culinary challenge and been invited to holiday gallerias. Since teaching at CookieCon, I've fallen in love with teaching and hope to explore opportunities very soon!
Do you have a home-based cookie business, or one outside of the home, and why did you opt to operate this way? How many orders (of what average size) do you typically do during an average week?
JULIA, I have a home bakery! I'm fortunate in my state that we have fairly lenient laws which allow me to work from home. I have a dedicated cookie room that helps keep my home and family sane! When I first started doing cookie orders, I tried to limit myself to 16 dozen a week. Since I've become much more efficient and much faster, I take on a lot more these days! 500 cookies in one week no longer phases me!
Phew - 500 cookies! I'm exhausted just reading that!
Where are you located?
I am in Wichita, Kansas
Literally the heartland of the US
Good morning, Beth, Buttercup, Debbie, Kristy and Pam . . .
FYI, you ladies are showing up as "guests". If you wan to ask questions of Andrea . . .
wan = want
. . . you'll need to join and log in to the site; otherwise, you will only be able to observe. Joining is free and done on the home page.
DIYDiva, MaryLiz, rubiosix, SoCuteCookies, and VickiCookies - welcome too! You are good to post questions!
Hi Andrea! I love your work! I would love to be able to one day pipe beautiful script on my cookies. I am looking at getting a projector and I know that a lot of people use AAXA projectors, in particular the KP-101-01 model. But I've heard that there is now a 1080p and wireless model available. What projector/model would you recommend?
Hi, SWEET PRODIGY! Thank you so much! I love writing on cookies, but it took me a long time to become fairly good at it! Tons of practice and lots of failures! My first investment was a Kopykake projector and it worked great! But, I hated having to print everything! So, I invested in the aaxa pico projector, and it was amazing! But after a year or so, my cords started giving out on mine. SO, long story short, I invested in a bluetooth wireless projector. I believe they are often called "Idea" projectors. Mine is an off-brand purchased from Amazon, and I've had such great luck with it! Look for refurbished ones on eBay too!
Andrea, I'm going to post a live question now, out of order, as it's pertinent to your comment about 500 cookies. Here it comes!
What’s your timeline for completing 500 cookies in a week?? How do you break that down each day?
I'm such a Type A planner, SoCuteCookies!
We'll come back to the advance (already entered questions) after Andrea answers this.
I know exactly what I need to accomplish per day to get me to 500 cookies without going crazy!
I typically bake on way day. Flood on a second day and will break my detail work down if I need to into two days
BUT, I also work extremely fast!
So this means you must have all your orders pre-booked at least a week prior. Is that right?
Oh yes! My customers are great and usually book a month ahead!
I rarely take orders with less than a week notice!
On the issue of being "fast", what's the typical complexity of your cookie designs and the average time that you can decorate one, from baking through packaging? Any idea, just for a frame of reference?
I work fast but still do fairly detailed work!
I "forgot" an order this week and had to do 6 dozen cookies from start to finish in one day.....which I did. Even while being a mom!
Here's another live question, related to the tail-end of the process and how to manage it . . .
General question . . . I always seem to take a long time to box up finished cookies. What is your process?
I do not heat seal my cookies unless a customer requests it. So, that speeds up my process! I layer my cookies in bakery boxes with parchment paper. No real complexity to how I do it!
Okay, back to the advance questions until we get more live ones . . .
Do you always use your dehydrator for each order?
GREENCAPRICORN115: I LOVE my dehydrator! I don't always "run" my dehydrator for each order, but I do store my cookies on the racks inside of it, every single order! If I'm doing a lot of sections (like pumpkins), I will run the dehydrator to hurry the process along! It really is a great tool.
Andrea, for this next question about pop-ups, can you first describe to all what you're doing with pop-ups? When? where? what you typically bring to them? I am not sure we are all aware that you're doing them.
Here's that question . . .
How did you make your pop-ups so successful?
Pop ups are such fun!
I was first invited by Pottery Barn to host a pop up in their store, so I did! They advertised me and I did as well.
I took about 150 cookies to my first pop up and did really well! So, they invited me back! I sold out the following two times. I had a line of people waiting for me, so it was pretty awesome!
Yes, I was wondering about securing venues for pop-ups, as I imagine some have food service/department of health and/or licensing requirements if selling food, no?
And Pottery Barn in my city found me through instagram because of my local hashtags!
Correct! In my state, I can sell cookies at venues but I cannot allow them to be sold wholesale by another compan.
Here's Andrea's earlier/advance answer to the question too . . .
That's such a bizarre and counter-intuitive rule.
GREENCAPRICORN115: My pop-ups are so fun! I have had great success because I have amazing customers! It took me a while to catch on to Instagram and using the proper hashtags for my city. Once I started using them, locals who were not my customers yet started following me and showing up! It has just grown from there. I'm doing another one very soon!
If I wanted to have a licensed commercial kitchen, I could sell wholesale, but I stay too busy as it is!
I am posting both live and advance questions at the same time (two), as they ask essentially the same thing . . .
Margins in wholesale not so good either unless volume is massive.
I have a guess, but what’s your favorite season to decorate cookies for?
Which holiday or event do you enjoy making cookies for the most?
GREENCAPRICORN115: My favorite holiday for cookies? I would love to say Christmas, but it's such a busy and chaotic time in regular life . . . sometimes the cookie business becomes difficult! Fall is by far my favorite season, so when I can start decorating pumpkins, I'm a happy girl!
Yay for fall! Though it still feels like summer here (90-something today!)
I'm sitting with windows open and a very cold 50 degrees!
Lots of advance questions from GreenCapricorn - she must be a super fan!
Which do you prefer more and why - airbrushing or handpainting?
GREENCAPRICORN115: Airbrushing or painting . . . hmm. That's a tough one. Since I am fairly busy these days, I do find myself airbrushing more! I'll never forget attending The Blyss sisters' class on airbrushing at CookieCon. It was literally cookie-changing for me! I followed up with learning from Todd and Tammy of 2T's Stencils and truly learned how to airbrush correctly! I love how much dimension you can add to cookies with both styles!
Another from GreenCapricorn, and then I'll switch to live questions for a bit.
What is a tool you use on nearly every order?
GREENCAPRICORN115: What tool do I use on every order?! Yikes! That's a tough one! I use scribes all the time! And I prefer the plastic inexpensive ones in that lovely yellow color! I use Sweet Sugarbelle scribes too!
I use turkey lacers for scribes - talk about cheap! LOL.
I have a few of those!
Here's a live one from SOCUTECOOKIES . . .
Do you think the consistency of your icing or the dehydrator helps more with getting your perfect puffy icing look?
I definitely think my icing consistency!
I had a solid year of failures when I first started and I experimented a lot and finally found what works for me!
Can you describe that consistency for those not familiar with how you work?
I use a traditional royal icing but I do add corn syrup!
I use a thicker flood consistency (sorry, I don't count my icing)!
What visual or tactile cues do you look for then to gauge the right consistency?
I don't count either . . .
My flood consistency barely flows off the spoon, so its definitely thicker!
I count faster or slower depending on how much sleep or coffee I've had!
At Cookie Con I showed a video in my class of my piping consistency!
Ok, chat guests, I have no more live questions and just a few more advance ones, so please tee up your questions for Andrea!
TONS of more time! Hit me with questions!
Do you still freeze all your cookies before decorating them?
Again, I did not know you froze cookies before decorating them. At what stage do you freeze - before baking or after?
I bake my cookies and freeze them directly after baking!
And here's why . . .
GREENCAPRICORN115: I do still freeze my cookies prior to decorating! Even if it's for 12 hours, I still freeze them! I feel like it solidifies my butter after baking and gives me a nice clean cookie to decorate!
Interesting. How does your result differ if you don't freeze? Have you done any controlled (or uncontrolled) tests to see?
Sigh. After Cookie Con, I was making cookies for GoBo and didn't have time to freeze. I found that I had bleeding in my icing!
That rarely happens to me, so I attribute it to not freezing my undecorated cookies.
I also tend to have a softer sugar cookie, I love how freezing them firms them up!
Interesting again. I know some people "dry" their cookies (i.e., let them sit one day at room temp) before icing to avoid bleed; I've just never experienced this . . .
Here's a live one!
Hi, friends! Good morning, Julia, and Goood morning, Andrea! How do you store all your dough? Do you roll it out first and then freeze?
Isn't it amazing how different we all are in decorating and processes!
I roll my dough between deli sheets and pop them in my freezer prior to cutting!
Yes, I said deli sheets! They are about 8 x 11 in size and fit my freezer perfectly!
I use a mixture of shortening and butter in most recipes, and bake to a crunchy state (I prefer that texture), so that may account for my different experience with "butter bleed".
What containers would you recommend to fit that size?
Yes! I prefer a softer cookie, so mine are just slightly browned!
Containers for after they are baked?
I use freeze ziplock bags and freezer Tupperware!
Do you use two consistencies for outline and flooding or one?
One! I outline my cookies first then cut my bags opening larger to flood!
No, sorry, for the freezer. I think you just answered it as I typed thank you
What does your typical shopping list look like for a week of 500 cookies?
I don't put my dough in a container for the freezer, just toss my deli sheets in!
Fun question!
Ha! I'm a strange one! I buy my flour in bulk from Sams! But truly dislike the bulk sugar from there. SO, I buy smaller containers from my local Kroger or Aldi.
I also stock up when sale prices dip down! Because, we all want to make more money!
I also stock up when sale prices dip down! Because, we all want to make more money!
I also prefer Sams brand butter or Kroger brand over Land o Lakes. Yep, I do!
Do you purchase from any wholesale bakery suppliers - you may be able to save even more, especially on more expensive ingredients - butter, flavorings, etc.
I do not! I started making my own Vanilla last year and cannot imagine going back to store bought vanilla!
Two related questions coming at once . . .
How long do you feel a cookie will still be fresh once it's defrosted? I did a little test with bagging cookies and didn't think they were as good after just one week, but it seems some go much longer.
I found that my cookies don't taste as fresh after one week (bagged). How long do you both think they last?
I rarely find myself baking in advance. So, my cookies are prepared and delivered for the event in a few days!
If I heat seal, I find cookies have been good for 2 plus weeks without issue
Again, completely differs from recipe to recipe!
DIYDIVA - If you are also asking me, I don't like freezing baked cookies, as I can always taste some "freezer" in them. I don't serve the public now, but I never froze when I had my bakery either.
And please know that my freezing is not for long term storing of cookies! Its to firm them up, so they may only be in the freezer for 12 hours!
DIYDIVA - Yes, every recipe has a different shelf life. I find that highly flavored ones, like gingerbread, might be pushed a bit longer, as the flavor masks any staling effects.
I rarely, if ever bake cookies ahead of time these days.
DIYDIVA - But typically I liked to bake to order and made sure the customer was getting the product within one week of baking for maximum flavor and freshness.
DIYDIVA - I do freeze my unbaked dough for months on end through - super packaged to avoid freezer burn, etc.
Yaaaay! I have finally been able to sign in. I’ll have to read the rest later, but at least I got it to work!
Welcome Crust and Crumb!
Great! Yes, the transcript will be available for posterity under this same link.
Back to some advance questions while others type their live ones . . .
Where do you get your paint brushes from?
through = though in my earlier comment about packaging dough. (My, how I hate typos! )
GREENCAPRICORN115: Paint brushes! Sigh. I feel like I'm always on the lookout for a great paint brush, and I've never found any that I love for more than two days! I do purchase my brushes from Hobby Lobby and Michaels, but I'm still searching for some keepers!
I was also curious about events like GoBo. Seems all those cookies would be a few weeks old by the time the are sold.
Hmm. My cookies arrive the week right before the sale! Not sure!
Yes, they probably are more than a week old at that point. The cookies will probably taste fine to most at a couple to three weeks, but not at their prime, in my opinion anyway.
Hi, Andrea! I am catching up with the chat... so you freeze the cookies after they are baked, even just for 12 hours. How long do you need to wait, after they are out of the freezer, before decorating them?
Welcome, Manu - all the way from Thailand!
Once I take them out of the freezer, I put them on my pans for decorating and they are ready to go within 10 minutes!
Interesting again!
I don't freeze decorated cookies, so that is completely different!
I don't either.
I loved your recent Frankenstein cookie - how did you achieve that texture on his face?
Andrea - where can I find this Frankenstein cookie? On your IG page. Would like to post a link, if possible.
And, also.....when I freeze cookies, I stack them with top of cookies to top of cookies so that the bottoms are never touching cookie tops.
I almost missed the chat, as always ! It is 10:40 p.m. here!
Ahhh Frank
temp 8
Cute! Thanks!
Frank was actually created from a mold!
Who made the mold? Can it be bought online?
A super fun company was at Cookie Con called Artesao
They are on social media and linked to their site! The molds they sold were incredibly detailed!
Oh, yes, she's been a sponsor of some Cookie Connection challenges. She has great molds.
Is there a “best” way to store icing? Sometimes when I leave icing on the counter for a day or so, the coloring starts to separate in the bag and then I need to mix it. Am I doing something wrong with the icing to have it separate?
Artesao Unique & Custom Cookie Molds
Ahhh Royal Icing. It loves to seperate!
I don't bag my icing until I'm ready to use it. Once it separates you can massage the bag or just rebag it!
I also love First Impressions Molds - they have some VERY fine molds, mostly filigree, gems, jewelry, and that sort of thing.
Once you freeze the dough in the deli sheets, how long do you wait before cutting and baking?
I typically flood my cookies, then use the remaining icing to be my piping base so I will remix anyway!
Alrighty. Just wanted to make sure it wasn’t just me making a mistake. Haha
Katie, I freeze or chill for 15 minutes to a few hours, depending on if I'm ready to bake!
Thank you, Andrea, very interesting. I let sit my cookies one day before decorating, but a couple of time I experienced butter bleeding, still couldn’t figure out why...
Freezing my dough just makes it easier for me to cut and pick up!
I saw someone posting something about “Botox” or injections after CookieCon. Is there a way you can explain? I’m assuming you just pipe in more icing before it can dry to make the icing more puffy?
Manu, experiment and try freezing your baked cookies!
Ahh botox! I talked about this in my Cookie Con Class!
I rarely get craters or holes because I fill my space well, then go back in with my piping bag and inject more icing (like botox)!
I think Arty Botoxed at one of the first CookieCons.
Botox works! I’ve been botoxing all my cookies since returning from CookieCon and it’s made a big difference! Thanks for the great tip
I so wish I could have been there!!!
I will, Andrea! BTW the
Manu, did you have more to add to this comment?
Ahhh, I've received great feedback about my Cookie Con Class
How many batches of icing do you typically make in a week?
Glad it was helpful to so many!
How many bathces of icing?! This week I think I made 8 batches?
And believe it or not, I'm the one that refuses to make a double batch of royal icing! I prefer to make single recipes
I think the following question is related to Botoxing, though not sure . . .
Do you do that immediately after finishing the flooding or that cookie?
Botox is actually referring to piping or detail work!
You often see people have crater issues with detail work, this is where I use botox!
Thank you! It was related to botoxing.
...I was writing that I have watched the episode of your cookie challenge (somehow it has been on YouTube for few days!) Just wanted to congratulate... it must have been very hard!
Ahhhh! I didn't know!
Do you flavor your icing?
I'll have to go look! I had a BLAST filming for Food Network!
It was definitely a Bucket List experience!
I do flavor my icing! I flavor my dough and my royal icing with Vanilla! I personally do not like Almond, so I avoid it at all costs!
Manu and all, we had a live chat with Andrea and other challenge finalists back in January of this year - all about their Food Network experience. You might want to visit that link for more info. I'll try to locate it as Andrea answers the next question.
I watched last year I guess few days after it was broadcasted, but then it was removed
When vanilla prices skyrocketed,I knew that I couldn't keep making a great profit with those costs! So, I experimented with making my own vanilla in my Instant Pot!
How soon do you make your colored icing before using it? I hear it’s best to make it and let it sit for a while to keep from bleeding.
And I LOVE the smell and taste of homeade vanilla!
I don't pre-mix my colors for them to develop unless its red, navy or black! Those colors need to deepen and have time to develop! So, I will mix them up in a Tupperware and let them sit!
I’ve been considering making my own vanilla because of the outrageous price increase - where do you buy your vanilla beans and what is your favorite process?
I'm a little bit of a vanilla snob. I will not use imitation vanilla. I also won't use Mexican Vanilla. SO, I purchase Vanilla Beans from a supplier in California and make my own!
Do you ever see yourself not making cookies one day?
GREENCAPRICORN115: I am asked this a lot! I don't know that I will always do custom work, but I'll definitely always make cookies! It took me years and years to find something that I can truly enjoy doing, and which allows me to use my artistic gifts and bring joy to others . . . all because of a cookie! It sounds hokey, but it's so true! The day that I stop enjoying creating cookies is the day that I'll simply stop selling them.
How thick do you roll your dough ?
GREENCAPRICORN115: I roll my cookie dough 1/4" thick. I love love love my Joseph and Joseph rolling pin!
There are some great recipes online for Instant Pot vanilla. I experimented with Bourbon and with several brands of Vodka. I prefer vodka very much! It takes an hour to make in the pressure cooker and then I let it sit for about 24 hours or more before using it! I LOVE IT!
What's so nice about that pin? Just curious.
I love my Joseph and Joseph. Its a solid wood rolling pin with the discs on it to roll to perfect depth! I know that several brands offer similiar now, like Sugarbelle and Cookie Countess. All same concept!
But I much prefer a wooden rolling pin over a plastic one
Here's the link to the January chat with Food Network challengers: https://cookieconnection.julia...s-cookie-challengers
When you make your vanilla is is brown or clear? Clearly I know nothing about making vanilla. Ha
It is brown!
I don't trust clear vanilla. LOL
I know lots of people use Mexican Vanilla. I ocassionally use it for my personal baking but it has a floral smell and taste to me.
I love Vermont Rolling Pins, mostly because each is a work of art:
They are gorgeous! A vermont Rolling Pin is on my wish list!
I use an old rolling pin that lost its handles most of the time!
Thanks for the link Julia, I missed that chat!I love that rolling pin too. I
I collect rolling pins too! I love old ones and have them displayed in my cookie office
I have the Cookie Countess roller and Loooove it!
My mom was a big time baker, so I consider rolling pins a link to her and my youth!
Me too - I collect red-handled kitchen implements (to go with my kitchen), so all my vintage pins have red handles!
Your cookie room/office is beautiful - what is your favorite piece in there?
Ohhhh pretty!
Do you have a picture of your cookie room? If you it's online and you know where it is, I can try to locate it while you answer.
Thank you for all your answers and time, Julia and Andy! This was wonderful.
Gosh! That's hard, Katie! I would say my old crock with rolling pins in it is my favorite. It was my moms crock and a few of her rolling pins. BUT, I also love my ginormous wall hanging Gingerbread man and HUGE mixer
I've posted photos online before, I'll have to go look for it!
Thanks for joining us, Crust and Crumb, and everyone!
Maybe we hold on and post it in your follow-up Cookier Close-up interview - that is, if you're still game for that?
I bought the Joseph, but Vermont Is on my list
I have the dark walnut pin with guides at 3/16-inch, made to my thinner than usual rolling depth!
Thank you so much! Nice ‘meeting’ you, Julia, thanks for answering all our questions, Andrea! xoxoxo
Hugs, Katie!
Nice to "meet" everyone too! Thanks for all of your great questions, and for keeping this chat lively!
Thank you all so much! It was fun as always!
Thanks most of all to Andrea for answering a TON of advance questions and for being so open with all of her "trade secrets" today. I really appreciate the sharing, as that is the only way we all learn and grow!
Thanks all, and have a great weekend.
Thank you!
I learned from so many, I love to share my knowledge!
Andrea, I'll connect with you via email re: the Close-up! Cheers!
Have a great day!
Ditto that. We are always learning from so many sources, not just cookiers. Influencers are everywhere!
Closing the chat now! Thanks again!
This chat has ended.
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