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Live Chat with Jodi Till, CookieCon 2018 Instructor

    Yippee! Our CookieCon live chat series continues in September, even after CookieCon is over (!!), with CookieCon presenter and repeat Sugar Show winner, @Jodi Till of Kids to College Cookie Creations.

    Chat Guidelines

    (1) Please feel free to enter advance questions now by following the instructions at the top of this chat page. (As always, it's super helpful for questions to be logged early, so our guests are able to prepare answers beforehand and to field more questions during live chat time.) To help inform your questions, please review Jodi’s bio (below) and explore her Facebook page.

    (2) Please note that any advance questions will reveal one at a time, in the order received, only after the chat goes live. Do not expect questions or answers to appear immediately.

    (3) Last but not least, as with all of these chats, you have a special opportunity to see inside the minds of some extremely talented decorators, so I encourage you to do your homework before jumping on the chat. Again, please review Jodi's bio below.

    I look forward to "seeing" you at the chat!


    Jodi Till grew up baking cookies with her grandma, aunt, and mom, which truly ended up being her most cherished childhood memory. In 2014, her sister encouraged her to make a cookie Facebook page so friends could order. Being a fresh empty nester that year, and seeing how expensive it was to keep two kids in college, Jodi accepted the proposal and posted the page “Kids to College Cookie Creations”. Her whim soon ended up turning into a full-fledged business, and now she concentrates on teaching others how to pass on the cherished memories of baking and decorating cookies together. Jodi has been a first-place winner in the Sugar Show at CookieCon for the last two consecutive seasons. She loves to teach cookie classes several times a week, bake mini pies, and also develop new cookie cutter designs for the cookie world. When Jodi isn’t cookie-ing, she can be spotted in the corner of a courtroom sitting in the court reporter’s chair or up on a mountain hiking with her husband. 

    Photo and cookie credits: Jodi Till

Jodi's chat was officially begun! Woo hoo!
Hi, Jodi! It's so wonderful to have you here with us today! I hope you've fully recovered from the CookieCon craziness by now!
Good morning! Yes, little by little each day, I'm getting my energy back. I have to tell you, that Monday with going back to work, my brain was in a deep fog, my body was still in bed, and my heart was back in Indiana.
Good morning to everyone joining us as well! I encourage everyone to jump in with questions. These chats are for you - and are always more fun and informative when people don't hang back on the sidelines!
Hi, Pat!
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 Jodi 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!
Hi, Danielle, jemabrownie, Oh Jupiters!, Renee and Suzanne!
As a reminder, everyone, Jodi's bio can be found under the "i" icon at the top of this chat room. If you don't already know and love Jodi, her bio is a good thing to read before we get too far into the chat. It may spur some questions for you too! Speaking of spurring questions, I'm going to post a few of Jodi's cookie images to start, as food for thought, beginning first with the adorable bunnies in her chat cover image . . .
Now this set is super regal!
More sweetness!
I could have sworn this guy was real!
And, one last image - for now anyway . . .
So, while others are formulating their questions, I must ask: How was CookieCon? What was your single greatest moment at the event?
Wow. How do you describe CookieCon? Great is too small of a word. For me it was a whirlwind of excitement and friends all centered around a craft I love. It's like being in the craft store where every aisle is cookie related!
Hmmm. I'm trying to think of just one greatest moment. I would have to say the first day when I was able to see cookie friends I've met before and then meet the new faces behind the cookie names I see on Instagram.
Can you tell us what your CookieCon presentation was about and share some of the key insights/lessons learned from it?
Sure. My class was called "Icing Science and Beyond". I really believe that having a working knowledge of not only HOW to work icing but WHY it acts the way it acts is the way to have mastery over our art. So we took a microscopic plunge into our icing and learned why we get holes and bubbles at the wrong times, how and why we can get our icing puffy, and the chemistry behind the process of making icing. It was fascinating and helpful to me, so I thought I'd pass it along. I hope I didn't bore people silly! LOL. We also watched videos on tips and tricks. One of them was "Botoxing" our cookies. It's where you can "inject" your icing after it sets, giving cookies a little "lift" or "filler" here and there. Here is a picture of my first patient. He had a filler done on his lips and cheeks.
So cute!
Now, back to your lizard cookie that I posted earlier! How on earth did you do his skin? It looks like it was stenciled/airbrushed - and done perfectly at that - but how did you stencil so neatly given all the underlying texture on the icing? How did you keep the stencil - if that's what you used - flat enough to stencil cleanly?
The lizard cookies were actually so fun to make because they all have different patterns and colors. For his skin, I searched high and low for a stencil with tiny markings that would be perfect, and I finally found it in none other than household cheap items! This lizard was made with "Grip Liner" -- the plastic/rubbery stuff you lay down in your cupboards! What I did for the snakes and other lizards (not pictured) was using those shower "Puff Balls" that you scrub yourself with. 😁. Both at the Dollar Store for only $1! In October, the cookie cutters will come out, and then I will be doing a video on how to easily make them. I ended up really liking to use those because they bend around all the icing texture, making it easier to get in the nooks and crannies.
Yes, I'd love to get into the business of conformable stencils - they would be better than the less flexible Mylar we're all using.
This was my contribution to the Sugar Show as an instructor, just for fun.
So curious about the Botox for cookies I heard about! Can you explain it a bit? Thanks!!
Hi, ZUCCHERO! Yes, with Botoxing, you're actually injecting a bubble within your icing. After you let your base icing "rest" for about 30 seconds, then you can stick your tip right within your icing and squeeze in a bubble or two to get a puffy look. It will stay like that if you're using a medium consistency -- about 30-second icing. I will be posting another video on Instagram soon where I Botox muffin tops.
Jodi - sending you a live question related to the above one. You may have already answered it, but if you have anything to add, great!
What tool are you using to "botox" your cookies?
Suzanne, no tool at all. Just my icing bag. You can use a tip or go tipless. You just inject it right into your icing and squeeze. It's kind of cool because you can watch the icing skin stretch as you squeeze.
Hi, Jodi! It was wonderful to meet you at CookieCon. Your session was so informative. Would you be willing to post it in the chat or the CookieCon Attendee Facebook group?? I can't wait to "botox" some of my cookies.
Well, hello, 3MELONS! Nice meeting you too, and thank you so very much. I actually tried to post one of the icing videos for someone on the CookieCon Attendee page, and because the file is so large, it will only do a small clip at most. I don't believe I can/should post the whole thing for the internet world, because you guys all paid the big bucks for a ticket. However, I will be posting short IG videos of some techniques in the near future. But if you have any Q's, you can always ask me on the Attendees page or privately.
You could post it to YouTube, mark it private, and then just share the link within the CookieCon group. That way, only CookieCon attendees could see it. Just a thought . . .
Okay, so we're onto live questions . . .
Hi Jodi! I must confess that I only discovered your work recently but was just amazed at how amazing your cookies look! Your designs, your colors, your icing - everything is just perfect. I also heard that you gave a very informative class on the science of royal icing at CookieCon. I would love to know how you learned all about the science of royal icing.
Oh, thanks for that tip! I'm not technology savvy.
Thanks so much, SWEET PRODIGY. I LOVE science. I actually started out as a biochemistry major in college when I was young and thought I could do anything. LOL. After my 2nd year of chemistry, the math that was required told me I better pick a different major. I ended up doing something totally different, but I've always been drawn to the inner workings of things. When it came to royal icing, the different problems that would arise caused me to want to figure out what was going on. I did a lot of reading research and my own little "labs," which were some of the video clips at CookieCon.
Craters seem to be a universal problem, especially in small areas. There are countless posts that discuss this and I what I have taken from all of it is that the icing needs to be thicker rather than thinner and that placing the cookie in a dehydrator or in front of a fan helps. Is there any other advice that you can offer?
Posting a comment while Jodi answers the above question.
Sweet Prodigy, Yes, craters. Thicker icing and a dehydrator does help.
And just for the record, your lesson at CookieCon was anything BUT boring! It was great information and more than one of us were discussing it afterwards!
Jodi's cookies are so elaborate and beautiful! How long would it take to make one of the bunnies, for example?
While Jodi answers this question, it's time for you all to tee up questions as we're out.
Sweet Prodigy, What is going on is the law of magnetic attraction. The icing pulls on each other causing craters.
Oh Juptier! I just adore you. Thanks so much.
Posting Suzanne's last question in case you didn't see it: Jodi's cookies are so elaborate and beautiful! How long would it take to make one of the bunnies, for example?
Suzanne, the bunnies don't take too long, as long as you have a sketch or template of what you are going to do first. Then it's just icing. These bunnies were airbrushed, so it took a little bit of patience there.
So, back to your CookieCon pres. You mentioned you did some icing tests of your own. Can you briefly describe what those tests were, without giving away too much of the presentation?
It sounds like many on the chat were at CookieCon. So I'm wondering if you have followup questions for Jodi based on her presentation there that you'd like to ask?
I've got three questions in the hopper - from Jema, Suzanne, and OhJupiter. Thanks! Once Jodi answers mine, I'll post those one at a time.
Well, it all started with those craters or holes that I started seeing whenever I would make eyeballs. I was doing a bunch of Minion eyes on a bunch of cookies. Most of them developed holes right where the two eyes were closest together. This caused me to experiment.
The experiments were doing icing drops at different lengths apart and various mediums -- dry icing, wet icing, etc. Hard to explain when you're writing fast. LOL. But that started me on some interesting developments and started my research.
Excellent - would love to see those results at some point.
I agree Jupiter’s comment, Jodi your class was really helpful because getting the icing right is a big part of making cookies! When you do use a dehydrator how long do you leave your cookies in?
YES, Jemabrownie, icing is something we all deal with, so we are better off if we understand it. I use the Cabela's 12 tray dehydrator for 10-15 minutes on 95 degrees. I also put parchment down on the tray so it doesn't dry out the underside of the cookies.
When you say you used grip liner for the lizard cookies, do you mean that you literally laid it on the iced cookie and then airbrushed over it (i.e., the grip liner was the stencil)?
Suzanne, yes, exactly! The cookie cutters will be coming out in a few weeks, and then I
oops. Then I will be posting a video of me doing it and the grip liner that I found.
I have a question related to your icing mixing tutorial from the CookieCon talk . . . I had never mixed my meringue powder (MP) separately, and this time I tried it and had trouble getting the sugar to dissolve properly without leaving little clumps. I've always used a KitchenAid mixer, as my hand mixing game is subpar. Would it be ok to do the MP mixing by hand and then transfer to the stand mixer on low for incorporating the sugar?
Jodi, can you first explain why you suggested to mix meringue powder separately and with what (water, I'm assuming). Just so people not at CookieCon have the appropriate context for OhJupiter's question.
So cool! What a great effect you got!
Jodi Till, just want to say your work is amazing. I am newbie to doing cookies.
OhJupiter, Sure. You can also just whisk the MP in your Kitchen Aid bowl by hand and then turn on your Kitchen Aid. Do you use enough water?
I'm assuming you said to hydrate the meringue powder separately to be sure it completely dissolves before adding the sugar?? Is that right? Again, just trying to give everyone the context of the last question.
Julia, you actually want to mix MP, water, and Cream of Tartar together with a whisk for about 45-60 seconds, and then add other ingredients. This makes your MP set up appropriately
Also wondering if you have a recommended brand of glycerin you use that seems to work well for you? I had tried one food-grade type, and it left a funny aftertaste for me.
Thanks, Trish P!
Also, please explain why you add glycerin to your icing - again, for those not at CookieCon.
We also have a great post in our Toolbox Talk section of Cookie Connection about the relative impact of adding corn syrup, glucose and glycerin to icing, with controlled tests showing the effects of adding the same amount of each to the same quantity of icing.
I like to use food glycerin instead of corn syrup because it's light, you only need to use a little (1 tsp for 2 lbs of sugar) and it gives a softer bite to your icing while also making it a little shinier.
I just use the Wilton brand, Oh Jupiter. I haven't ever tasted it by using only 1 tsp. If you use more, I've been able to taste it. Also, add a good flavoring in your icing.
I used the 1/2 c warm water recommended (if I copied that correctly . . . I was writing quickly) and ended up having to add more as it seemed too stiff. But I didn't want to mess with the ratios too much, as it was a bit different than the recipe I’ve been using. For context, part of the discussion was about the lattice work the protein strands develop when the MP is whisked separately and how the icing tension will be more resilient and less prone to breakage if hand mixed vs stand mixed. Apologies for lack of context. Was trying to type quickly
Oh Jupiter, your note taking is superb!
Using real egg whites or pure albumen powder also makes the icing more resilient and stretchy. I think the additives in meringue powder "dilute" the strength of the egg protein.
And more shiny . . .
When waiting for cookies to set so I can continue decorating, should I let them just air-dry or stick them in the dehydrator for a few minutes...Like if I am designing a cookie with multiple colors. Do I need to let the cookie set between each color?
Interesting! I’ll have to try that, thank you!
OH Jupiter, It was getting stiff before you added the powdered sugar? If that's the case, then you're whisking way too long. If you're talking about as you're adding PS, maybe you need to weigh your PS to make sure you're not adding too much. ??
Julia, YES! I wish I could use real eggs, but with my baking permit, it doesn't allow me to,
Albumen powder should be fine though - no risk of salmonella with it.
Jemabrownie, it depends. If you really need them not to sink in or possibly bleed, I'd let them dry until a good crust is on them. I like the dehydrator for a quick method, and then I'm able to finish the whole cookie faster.
Here's the link to the Toolbox Talk article about merits of adding corn syrup vs. glucose vs. glycerin: https://cookieconnection.julia...lbox-talk-corn-syrup
It basically concurs with Jodi - glycerin has greatest impact on sheen and bit, though you only need to add a very little or the icing may take forever to dry.
I've never tried cream of tartar in my icing. I thought it might make the icing unpleasantly hard to bite into when it was finished. Is this not the case? (I want my cookies to look good, but they HAVE to taste good!)
Yes. I read that article of yours, Julia. It was great.
bit = bite in my comment above
Thanks, though I didn't write the article - it was written by one of our site contributors, Liesbet Schietecatte.
Suzanne, Cream of Tartar is a stabilizer. It helps your MP work effectively so that you get the structure/volume. If you don't want to use Cream of Tartar, you can use lemon juice! I actually love the taste of lemon juice in mine, but kids don't like it as much, so I stopped doing it.
Jodi - after adding the powdered sugar (PS). And I don’t weigh it, no. Just added the 2# bag. Now I am wondering if I copied the PS correctly . And good call on the baking permit . . . I’m not sure TX would allow that either. Didn’t even think of that
Any more questions from those online?
I actually use lemon extract in my icing unless the order is for a group of very young kids (in which case I use vanilla). Does lemon extract have the same setting properties as lemon juice?
Oh Jupiter, gotcha, okay. Your icing will be pretty thick as you're adding the 2 lbs of PS. I like my base icing thick, because then I can add more of the base to my colored and watered down icing, if it ends up getting to runny. Thicker icing also keeps longer in the fridge/freezer.
Good point! I’ll try it again this week thank you!
Suzanne, no, lemon extract does not. The best tasting is real lemon juice from a real lemon. 2nd choice is lemon juice in a bottle.
Is there a way to prevent the magnetic tension when doing dots that have to be close together?
Jemabrownie, Yes! Either do one and let it dry before doing the other, or do them both and stick it in the dehdrator. As I showed on the video in class, you can also do it when your base icing is "just crusted over," but that's not 100% effective. Thicker icing works better also.
While Jodi's answering, tee up questions. I have none in the queue right now.
LOL A little break is good too. My hands are tired from typing so fast!
I for one am curious if you have any icing science experiments
What do you mean, Oh Jupiter? You mean that I'm working on?
oops, here's the full question . . .
I for one am curious if you have any icing science experiments waiting in the wings?
sorry. Last comment got sent before i finished typing. Ive got fat fingers
No prob. It's hard to type these chats. I can't wait until my site platform comes up with an audio or video version. Would love to have that integrated with the site.
Well, I had a lot going on right before CookieCon, so I was dealing with cutters being marketed, a new business name change where I had to sit through all these classes first, and then prepare for CookieCon, so I haven't thought about any others. But I'm sure more will come up as I encounter problems. LOL.
Dare I ask the perennial question about how you price your cookies...?
Suzanne, LOL. I'm not the one to ask, because I'm one of those that can't seem to charge higher like everyone else. Cookies DO take a LONG time to make, and my husband keeps reminding me, "Jodi, you are now making $3.50 an hour if you keep going like you're going." LOL I charge between $3.50-5.00 per cookie.
So while others are formulating more questions, I have some about the teaching experience at CookieCon . . .
Did it pose any unique challenges (with so many classes in a row), and how did you handle/prep for that?
I loved the opportunity to share my struggles and help anyone I can. I THOUGHT my voice was going to go out. I don't think I've ever talked that long in my entire life!
Yeah, that's got to be rough!
I’d be curious where you find inspiration for your designs? Are there certain accounts or industries you follow for pattern or trend inspiration outside the cookie world? For example, I have been following several paper designers and graphic artists but its always interesting to hear others inspiration sources...
But it was a great experience. I didn't have too much trouble with my voice. Some friends gave me some pointers.
Posting a comment while you answer the above question - in reference to the pricing point you made earlier.
Sigh. Yup, same story at my house ;-) . Not sure if scaling up to a store ront would even be worthwhile. There are local bakeries that charge next to nothing for their mass-produced cookies. I think most people are price-sensitive on baked goods because they don't value the custom work.
Oh Jupiter, Good question! All over. The button aisle at the craft store, nature is a big one. If you notice my cookies, they are mostly of the things I like -- like cute little baby animals.
Suzanne - I think we're also combatting the issue that they're consumable. People don't like to pay as much for something that gets eaten quickly!
Sadly . . .
I just added a few minutes so the chat doesn't time out on us unexpectedly, mid-comments.
For a newbie like me, what suggestions do you have, i.e. types of dough to work with and cutters to start with? Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
I didn’t even think of buttons! What a great idea! They all have the dimensional aspect!
Suzanne, That's actually why I started teaching cookie classes. I figured I'll teach the moms how to make their own cookies for the kids. Many of them actually say now they see why cookies cost so much.
Trish P's question will have to be our last, as we're almost out of time . . .
Thank you! This was very informative!
Thank you Jodi and Julia!
Trish, find a cookie dough recipe that will hold its shape right after you make it. Go on Pinterest and look up Decorated Cookie Dough Recipes. I think a good one on there is World's Best Decorated Sugar Cookie Recipe or something like that.
I just wanted to take a moment to thank Jodi for being on this chat, especially as she’s still in recovery mode from CookieCon! If she’s still game, I’ll be following up with an in-depth Cookier Close-up interview in the coming weeks, where we’ll get a chance to explore some of these topics and others in more detail - without having to type SO fast!
Cutters? Any and all are great. Have fun, Trish!
Thank you!!!!!!!
Thanks too to all on the chat today for asking such great questions and keeping the chat so lively! Much appreciated!
Thank you Jodi and Julie for this very informative chat.
HAHA! Sure! Thanks so much, Julia, and everyone! Nice chatting with you!
You're very welcome! These chats are always fun to do. I learn so much every time!
Thank you Jodi!
Thank you!
Okay then, I'm closing the chat room now! Have a great weekend everyone, and happy decorating!
This chat has ended.
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