Live Chat with LilaLoa - Our CookieCon 2020 Series Begins!
On October 5, we're kicking off a live chat double feature at 10 am (central) with CookieCon 2020 keynote speaker @LilaLoa (aka Georganne Bell) marking the start of this year's CookieCon Speakers Series! Shortly after Georganne's chat finishes at 11 am, we'll pick up with @LeslieM (aka Leslie Marchio), owner of Four Peas and a Dog and second-place winner in Julia's recent 3-D Cookie Art Competition™. (Leslie's chat, which can be found here, concludes our recent Cookie Competitor Chat Series.) Two awesome cookie decorators all in one day - how thrilling is that?!
Since we're in Georganne's chat room, let's stay focused on her! You all know and love Georganne for her wildly popular blog, LilaLoa, and cookie book. So we'll, of course, want to hear how she's planning to grow and change (or not grow or change) her publishing platforms in 2020. Maybe, if we're lucky, she'll even give us a glimpse into what she's hoping to convey as CookieCon 2020 keynote speaker?! But, Georganne is obviously both multi-faceted and multi-talented, so prepare your questions to run the gamut!
To help you formulate questions for the chat, please read Georganne's bio below, and also the following chat guidelines. We look forward to "seeing" you on October 5!
(1) 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.)
(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 Georganne's bio and other information below.
Georganne Bell is the sugar artist behind the popular cookie decorating blog LilaLoa and author of The Cookie Companion: A Decorator’s Guide. She began her journey into sugar through cakes, but quickly switched to cookies when she moved to South Korea and discovered that her oven was the size of a bread box. Georganne has been teaching the basics of sugar cookie art all over the world, including on television, and her cookies have appeared in magazines such as Cake Masters and American Cake Decorating Magazine.
A mix of innovation, science, and sugar, she continues to create cookies, design cutters, and teach local cookie decorating classes while raising her four young children and river-rafting on the weekends. She also gives plenty of unsolicited advice and occasionally does laundry before it becomes strictly necessary. You can visit her at www.lilaloa.com where she will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about decorating cookies. (Please also check her out on Facebook and Instagram.)
Hi, Georganne! It's wonderful to be chatting with you again - especially so close on the heels of the Cookie Cruise that we both recently attended! I trust you made it home safely, and I hope you are thoroughly recovered!
Before we jump into questions with Georganne, some quick housekeeping notes about these chats!
First, questions are answered in the order received, but they will not post to the public/viewable area of the chat until Georganne 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.
Okay then! We're ready to get started! I'm sure you're all familiar with Georganne's work and her blog, LilaLoa, but I thought I'd post some of her charming cookies anyway to kick things off and to stimulate some questions. Here goes . . .
GEORGANNE: You've taught in so many different circumstances - at CookieCon, in foreign countries, and now on Creative Cookier's recent cookie cruise (aka CookieRehab Ahoy III). What's your favorite teaching format, and why?
JULIA: All of them. Is all of them an option? 😂😂😂 My very favorite classes to teach are small group, full day classes. I like when the classes are small enough that it feels like we are all family and hanging out together. And the full day classes give us enough time to really dive into the cookies and all the many nuances of royal icing techniques.
JULIA: Ha ha ha! Teaching on a cruise is a little bit like decorating on a roller coaster that you can't get off. While the movement of the ship made fine detail work very challenging, I think it also helped people feel a little more adventurous. If things didn't work out -- that's okay, you can just blame it on the ship! As an instructor, it was absolutely fascinating to see how the other instructors organized their classes. It has given me a lot to think about!!
LORABELLE: I'm not certain I completely understand what you're asking - so please feel free to clarify if I'm going in the wrong direction! The easiest way to give a cookie dimension is to flood in sections. For example, right now, it's fall and everyone is making pumpkin cookies. You could flood the entire cookie in orange icing at once and it will look flat . . . OR . . . you could flood every other segment of the pumpkin, wait for those segments to crust over (about 15-20 minutes), and then flood the in-between segments.
We are onto live questions everyone, so answers may take a little time to type. Please be patient, though please do start sending questions. Simply go to the bottom of this screen and type them into the comment box; then hit the blue "Post" button.
Georganne, back to your comment about the cruise and watching how other instructors organized their classes. What particular things, if any, did others do differently than you, and why, if at all, did those things give you pause?
JULIA: This is something I've been thinking about A LOT in the last week! I don't know that I originally put a lot of thought into the way that I organized my classes. I kind of teach with the same brain patterns that I decorate -- a little organization and a lot of reckless abandon.
It was FANTASTIC to see so many other different ways to teach classes! Some of the instructors really allowed a lot more creative freedom than I normally do in my classes. And some of them were sooooooo well thought out and organized to a perfect "T" (Like yours!!)
Usually, I teach MANY more techniques in any given class, and allow people to apply them however they want, bounded only by the tools we might have in class. But, the flowers on these cookies were much more defined than usual.
ASHLEY: This is actually something I struggle with. When I design a set of cookies, I generally start with a theme. I take out my notebook and a pile of cutters and start sketching designs on cutter outlines. When I feel that I've exhausted my ideas on the subject, I will go back through and cut every design I'm not madly in love with. And THEN I'll try to narrow it down further to THREE challenging/star designs and 2-3 background designs. Sometimes I'm too in love with designs to cut them...but that's what I try to keep it to. I feel like if you have TOO MANY STARS...they all get lost.
JULIA: I LOVED the way your class was organized! I took a lot of notes about the way you prepared for you class -- with the students and with the tools. I learned so much from your class -- and only half of it was the icing techniques!!
At my Wilton class next weekend, students will have a LOT more leeway; they also start with the baking there, because Wilton has loads of oven and making the curvy shapes is pretty interesting/challenging.
Just kidding. (Kind of. They really won't.) I've spent a lot of time thinking about the cookie community, how it's changed over the last decade, my conversations with the many decorators I've met and what I would tell each of them if given the opportunity. It's DEFINITELY still a work in progress!
ASHLEY: Everywhere!!! Sometimes it's color, or patterns or magazine articles even. It might be clothing, or the way something is randomly placed next to something else in the grocery aisle. In general, I try to keep track of anything that surprises me in a good way. I'll take photos, or make lists. I have stacks of ads I've torn from the newspaper or magazines. Sometimes I'll just look through all of them until I have too many ideas. Sometimes, when I have a theme I know EXACTLY which piece of inspiration to go back to. I think it's really important to continue seeking inspiration of all kinds. NOT just inspiration for what you are currently working on. Build up a treasure chest of inspiration so you can come back to it when you need it.
SWEET SUE: Second, I actually started making cakes. When I moved to South Korea, most people don't even have ovens. I was lucky to get an apartment that had an oven, but it was TINY. I could only bake 6 cookies at a time. Cakes were right out. I started decorating cookies and never looked back!
JULIA: Cakes are a HUGE investment in time and energy. It could take days/weeks to create ONE piece of sugary goodness. And if something goes wrong (and SO MANY things can) it's all for nothing. Cookies are quick and you can make many extras -- you know, just in case you mess up or get hungry. Also, I'm really bad a planning details. With cake -- you have to be soooo careful and so thoughtful. Quick and reckless is more my style, and I had no idea how well it would fit with cookies!
I am especially fascinated by the mix of designs and the color palette. I especially like the section of your blog with all the different color palettes. Colors is the most difficult part for me in designing a cookie set!
JULIA: Oooh! That's a good question! 1. Less is DEFINITELY more! Color can make a completely random set of cookies look cohesive. There is a temptation to add more colors with more designs. But honestly, the more designs you have, the more you should limit your palette. For example, in this picnic set...can you see that the watermelon seeds are actually blue?
I love the tip in your book where you say to mix a small amount of the darkest color into all of the colors! It has made such a difference in my colors when I do that! The colors seem to be much more cohesive!
And my last color tip -- If you don't feel confident in a color palette -- get help! I have a whole section with color palettes. But you can also use your theme and the words "color palette" to search google images for a TON of great inspiration!
Good morning. Hope to c u at CokieCon. I'm near Louisville. Will be my one and only CookieCon experience. Tips? Advice to get the most out of it? As for now, I think I've done all my prep work and the next step is being at the right place at the right time for registration.
Louisville is AWESOME! A stop at the Hotel 21C and restaurant Proof is a must. It's a boutique hotel where all the art on the walls (and floors and in elevators . . .) is curated and constantly rotating . . . tons of cookie inspiration there.
THE BAKERY FAIRY: Yeay!!! You are going to LOVE CookieCon! First -- you should understand that it's overwhelming. Just know that going in. There is A LOT going on at CookieCon. It's not actually possible to do everything. Look through the schedule online and pick 3-5 things that you absolutely don't want to miss. Set alarms on your phone for them. Don't miss them. And then let yourself enjoy the rest of the time! If you don't know anyone else that is going, MAKE A PRE-FRIEND. Get into the Facebook group for attendees and reach out and start having conversations online so you will feel connected to some of them before you get there!
THE BAKERY FAIR: Also, brings snacks. And something to take notes with. Write your name and email/phone number on the thing you are taking notes with. Every year someone loses their notebook and all their hard gleaned treasures!
Agree with all G just said - CookieCon is also adding even more options this year with some smaller hands-on classes that are happening during the event, not just as pre-classes. So there will be much to do.
THE BAKERY FAIR: Also, if you can... look into the Add-On Workshops. CookieCon has the largest gathering of talented cookie decorators teaching hands-on classes. And since they are basically all COMING TO YOU...you'll never have a better chance to get direct help with your decorating!
Reg opens very soon. Add-on workshops - the really intensive hands-on classes - go on sale on October 16, if I am not mistaken. I am teaching a couple on Wednesday and would love to see many of you there. All skill levels welcome!
SWEET SUE: I think that they seem difficult because those colors in particular take time to develop. They get deeper and darker as they sit. Also...my best advice for deep or dark colors is to add MORE THAN ONE different color to it. For example - if you are making a deep red, use Super Red and Red-Red together to give it more DEPTH. Sometimes our eyes say the color isn't right...but we can't figure out why...so we keep adding more food coloring and nothing changes. It's depth that we're looking for.
Some people let those two colors sit overnight before they use them, so they get more saturated. But I usually work with Chefmaster for those colors, and it colors pretty intensely straight off the bat. Though I don't use it as sparingly as you might think.
ASHLEY: Just one? On a personal level - don't take yourself too seriously. Be reckless and experiment. Give yourself permission to fail horribly...sometimes we learn and grow more in our mistakes than in our successes. With cookie decorating -- MASTER ICING CONSISTENCY. Nothing will look right if that is wrong. Also, try adding just a little more icing to your cookies. I find that the number one thing I tell students in my class -- add more icing. The cookie needs to have enough icing that it can all flow together.
I keep going through equipment... once again need a new kitchen sink hose... used a lot but it is my kitchen sink at home... not an industry environment - any advice for best durability on kitchen sink hose/faucet combination?
THE BAKERY FAIRY: I **wish** I knew the answer! I feel like home sinks just aren't built for people who use them. My best advice is to find a local plumbing supply place near you and find someone there who REALLY knows what they are doing to advise you. I've recently remodeled my kitchen and I talked to over a dozen people before choosing a new sink/faucet. And only time will tell if it was a good choice or not! 😂😂😂
I do have commercial-grade sinks in my basement, which is where I do my cookie work. Deep, stainless steel ones - very utilitarian. I have much more fashionable one in upstairs kitchen, but it too is very functional as it is very deep. Depth is key on the sink, if you ask me, and a surface that is not easily stained with food coloring.
in my other home, I had faucet that would turn on just by passing my hand under the faucet - great when working with chicken or fish and especially chocolate or icing - and would turn off the same way - I had handles but loved the ease of turning on faucet without hands
A question more related to cookie dough than to the decorative part . . . congrats on the release of your chocolate cookie mixi!. Such a great accomplishment! Your no chill and no spread chocolate cookie recipe is one of the most used by cookiers, reading from the comments here and there online, so I wasn’t surprised to see a ready mix released. I wonder if you could you briefly tell us more about the behind the scenes and if that was a long process . . .
MANU: When I originally came up with the recipe for the chocolate cookies, I made dozens and dozens of batches of dough. I kept track of the changes I made in a notebook and how it affected the cookies. It was INVALUABLE information! Because of all those experiments, I'm now able to easily troubleshoot what goes wrong with other recipes, or people who are having a hard time with my own recipes.
MANU: And when I was working on the ready-mix for the chocolate cookies, I used a lot of that same information to experiment with the all-in-one recipe mix. I knew there would have to be changes because the butter wasn't creaming with the sugar, but I have to say - I was surprised at how long it took me to figure it all out the second time around! 😂😂😂
Everyone, I am going to take a small break, and then will be back on at 12 noon central for the second part of this double feature - with Leslie Marchio, the amazing second-place winner in my recent 3-D cookie art competition. Also, a fearless TV cookie competitor! Hope to see you then!
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