Live Chat with Teri Lewis of tweets...cookie connection

Hi, Teri! It's great to have you here as one of the esteemed chatters in our CookieCon 2017 series! Thank you for joining us today! I'm eager to learn more about your distinctive style and use of chocolate on cookies, as I'm sure others are too!
Good morning, Julia, and thank you for having me. I truly feel humbled and honored to share my decorating techniques with the Cookie Connection community of cookiers! The talent and inspiration featured on your site is unbelievable. So, again, thanks!
Good morning to everyone joining us as well! I encourage everyone to jump in with questions. These chats are always more fun and informative when people don't hang back on the sidelines!
Though . . . 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 Teri 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 just ask 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 start things off, I'm going to post a few images of Teri's work. I'm hoping they'll fuel lots of questions!
Here's the first, which Teri described in her photo title as a "melted chocolate rose". Someone will need to ask Teri about that technique, as we haven't yet encountered it here on Cookie Connection!
And another set of flowers, again described by Teri as melted chocolate flowers . . .
Here are some which use modeling chocolate, which is typically a mixture of melted chocolate and corn syrup that is allowed to set into a dough-like consistency, ideal for modeling.
And one more for now, a closer view of the succulent cookie in the last post . . .
So, Teri, to set some context for the chat, can you tell us how long you've been decorating cookies, and how long you've had your business? What's the scale of your business - meaning roughly how many cookies, of what types, do you produce and sell in a week, on average? Thanks!
Sure! After spending three months on YouTube (following my cookie idols . . . Julia, Sugarbelle, Arty, LilaLoa, to mention only a few) in the spring of 2011 and practicing their techniques 15-18 hours a day, I opened tweets cookie connection in the fall of 2011. I am a home-based business taking no more than 10-12 dozen cookie orders per week and teaching one to three home parties, corporate team building sessions, or classes per month. Cookie prices start at $8 and can increase depending on the cookie size and/or design. (Chocolate floral designs average $15-20 each, and I charge $75-$200 per individual for instructional parties or classes depending on the event.) Packaging and shipping/ delivery costs are all additional fees.
Congrats - it seems like you're one of few cookiers who's charging what her cookies are worth!
When you describe some of your pieces as "melted chocolate roses", what do you mean exactly? I assume they are made with solid melted chocolate, but what do you use for molds for the petals? And/or how do you shape them?
Thanks, Julia! The title melted chocolate rose implies just that . . . the rose and leaves are created from melted chocolate candy melts. I literally pipe a thin layer of melted white chocolate on a silk flower petal or leaf, wait for it to set (10 min) and build the structure of a rose. Please jump in with questions . . . I would be happy to answer specifically how to build the rose, working from the outer petals to the inside petals and using a round cookie cutter to brace the petals while drying.
Do you typically work with real chocolate or candy melts?
If real chocolate, do you temper it, and, if so, can you give our members some quick tips for tempering chocolate successfully?
My cookie orders generally are 2-3 dozen so I use the Pico projector on my sketched images to maintain uniformity and save time.
I think you answered the above two questions in your previous answer, but for the sake of reinforcement . . .
The cookies are all made with a melted chocolate technique using white candy melts and handpainting the petals with luster dusts that are in dry and liquid form (with added Everclear).
The molds that I use for petals and leaves are silk flowers that I find at dollar stores, hobby/craft stores, and Walmart. I use various sizes of silk rose, daisy, or peony stems with leaves. You can use real flower petals or leaves to create your designs . . . but that gets expensive. The reason I like silk flowers is because they keep the actual shape of the petal and the natural ridges of the silk when you pipe the chocolate on them. I don't need to use wave shapers or molds to create realistic forms. I take the silk flowers apart and wash thoroughly before using. Then I pipe the melted chocolate candy wafers on to the top side or underneath side of the petals. There's no right or wrong side; it just depends on the shape you desire most for the flower design. I melt the wafers in a parchment cone or disposable piping bag (in the microwave) and keep the chocolate soft by laying the cones or bags on a heating pad during the decorating process. If I am working with modeling chocolate, I use fondant cutters or punches, PlayDough craft machines, and ball tools (i.e., fondant-shaping tools) to create my petals, leaves, or whimsical designs.
As I mentioned, I use candy chocolate wafers or candy melts (i.e., Wilton, Chocomaker, Merkins). They really have pretty great flavor, come in a variety of colors, and are very inexpensive, easy to use, and readily available at Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Walmart, or cake supply stores.
If I use real or pure chocolate, I will temper it first. Real chocolate is made with cocoa butter, and candy melts or imitation chocolate is made with other vegetable fats. Tempered chocolate has a glossy finish; it snaps when you bite it and it doesn't get soft when you leave it at room temperature. If you dont temper pure chocolate, it will melt or soften if not kept refrigerated, and the finish will be dull and molds will lose their shape. To temper chocolate, you need to properly use a heating and cooling process when melting the chocolate for design work. Since it is a longer process, I prefer to use imitation chocolate candy melts 95% of the time.
Wow - thanks for all of that great info. Now, can you tell us more about your modeling chocolate?
Again, I use candy melts and corn syrup to create modeling chocolate. It's a very simple process: 1 (12 oz) bag of candy melts to 1/4 cup corn syrup. Melt the candy slowly in a double boiler on the stove, or in a microwave on half-power for 30 seconds and repeat three to four times. Add the corn syrup into candy melts with a maximum of 15 to 20 strokes. Do NOT over-stir, or the fats will be released and the dough will get very oily. Spoon out the chocolate in a 1/4-inch layer onto plastic wrap, seal the plastic wrap, let the chocolate set for a couple of hours at room temperature, and then knead it until you have PlayDough consistency. The modeling chocolate can be stored in plastic wrap at room temp for up to a year. I did use fondant petal cutters to create the leaves for the succulent and the wings of the dragon fly. Again, I handpaint the finished designs with petal and luster dusts in dry and liquid form, and finish with disco dust.
That's the first time someone's pricing and setup has made sense to me. Thank you Teri
Definitely going to try this technique. When I arrived at this chat I thought I'd never understand just how this is done, but you've made it look easy enough to try.
Wow, I thought you had to BUY modeling chocolate! Thank you so much for sharing this technique!
So sorry, I just realized that Teri answered a question from Cookie Celebration that was in our queue before I posted the question. Here is the question . . .
I enjoy your hand painted cookies (as well as the sparkle ones!) and wonder if it was a long learning curve and what suggestions you have by way of technique and if you create your own designs or use a projector.
And here was Teri's response to that question, copied from above: My cookie orders generally are 2-3 dozen so I use the Pico projector on my sketched images to maintain uniformity and save time.
That's a genius technique.
Modeling chocolate is so easy to make and there are choclatetiers that have expert blogs to go over the dos and donts when working with chocolate...I like to refer to "wicked Goodies" book on Modeling chocolate for trouble shooting.
Hi, all! We're still working through questions entered in advance, so I will get to your pending questions and comments as soon as we are through the others. Thanks!
Again, I think Teri was answering this question, when mentioning the ease of using modeling chocolate, so posting the question now . . .
Never worked with modeling chocolate. Is it easy to use?
Hi, Teri! I liked very much your cookies with chocolate flowers. They look light, dainty, and the petals are very smooth. Do you prepare your own modeling chocolate? Is it easy to use compared to fondant? Do you use this medium because it tastes better than fondant?
Teri answered the first part of this question already, Manu. But here's the answer to the latter part . . .
Hi, Manu! Thank you! I love to embellish my cookie designs with different mediums that are whimsical and and tasty to eat. I do make my own modeling chocolate from candy melts and corn syrup (a very simple recipe, shared earlier) and find they are so much easier to work with than fondant! Fondant dries hard and is difficult to eat. Chocolate is delicious, stays soft to the bite, but sturdy on the cookie. I love using chocolate because it sets within minutes when molding and can be handpainted immediately. Since I love to handpaint my cookies with luster and petal dusts, the luster finish on chocolate is much glossier, more elegant and really magnifies the dimension in the design. The best part about working with chocolate: it stays fresh at room temperature for a year! (I keep it stored in plastic wrap and Ziploc baggies . . . out of direct light of any kind as it does melt easily!)
This live chat was a chance to go to see your work. The flowers in the photo below, downloaded from your FB page (I hope you don't mind and that I am not violating any copyright by posting it), are amazing! I wished I attended your demonstration at CookieCon to learn how you were able to achieve that outcome in the petals on the white flower. At a glance, they looked like wafer paper, but they are thinner and I am sure they taste better than wafer paper. Are they made of modeling chocolate or melted chocolate? Did you paint the petals of the other two flowers or did you use colored chocolate?
The pic I was talking about...
Manu, Teri answered a lot of this question above as well, but here is some further elaboration . . .
Manu thanks for checking out my chocolate work! I really love chocolate to work with because its so incredibly easy, fast-setting, and so different than other mediums . . . not to mention very yummy to eat! The flower petals in the white flower photo are actually made with melted chocolate. I will make a tutorial on my Facebook page to show how easy and how quickly these petals can be made. It is really best to use candy melts for this flower because the petals are so thin and will keep their shape with imitation chocolate much better than pure chocolate. I do assemble my flower petals on a piece of parchment paper, using a large round cookie cutter as the form for assembly. Once the chocolate is set . . . about 30 minutes . . . I handpaint the flower with white super pearl luster dust and yellow pearl for the center, and finish with gold iridescent disco dust. Once fully painted, I transfer to the cookie base.
Another set of yours that I really loved was the one with the witches. The texture of their hair is genius. Did you use isomalt or caramel?
Thanks . . . that was such a fun set! It was actually for a silent auction for the Global Downs Syndrome Foundation and all very edible. The hair was made with spun sugar . . . my kitchen was an absolute mess because I get a little crazy when working with the spinning process. The caramel color is achieved from cooking the sugar, corn syrup, and water mixture slowly and for about 10 minutes . . . just like the process to make caramels but no added cream. The droplets are the same sugar mixture, and they stay soft to the bite if you undercook the sugar-corn syrup mixture.
Your sparkles are especially sparkly; what brand/type do you use and to you use gel to have it stick or dry brush?
Cookie Celebration I like to use Americolor, Wilton, Chefmaster, a variety of colr gels to color modeling chocolate. Truthfully, I work with melted chocolate more often than modeling chocolate. To create sparkly..I love CK Gold Irridescent disco dust! It just sticks on the chocolate dry.
Do you use wilton or americolor tints?
Here's the question that Teri just answered. So sorry, all. We're having some technical difficulties which are making the questions appear out of order.
Your work is so expressive and impressive. Where do you get your inspiration....
Okay, Teri, I posted Bette's question. See above. It's ready for answering!
Thanks Bette, I get my inspiration from cards, magazines, the internet, and looking at water color artists work on pinterest. I also look for animated whimsical folks art on the internet. I had a flower business for I am a flower freak!
I love your techniques above using wafer paper to create the 3d designs as I like my recipients/clients to be able to eat the entire creation. Wafer paper doesn't let me do that although the flowers are nice to look at.
A whole new world for me today. Thank you for sharing so much. Definitely going to try this.
Getting my Michael's and AC Moore coupons ready as I type - to buy some candy wafers!
I agree with Manu; if Julia hadn't presented you and working with chocolate, I would have said these are really nice cookies using wafer paper but would not have spent much time exploring since I like a completely edible cookie. So glad Julia has made this introduction to your work. Once again, Cookie Connection is an invaluable resource.
Can't wait to see the tutorial!
Hi Cookie Celebration, None of my creations are with wafer paper. I generally use wafer paper with transfering photos or making small punches with squares, stars, confetti because, Iam just not a fan of the non-flavor of wafer paper
I think this next question from Cookie Celebration was already answered in part, but here perhaps not the last part so I am posting it again.
What brand of luster/petal dusts do you use. I've used Wilton's to-date but do not like the finish on my cookies. Wondering if it works differently on chocolate?
Some wafer paper comes flavored now, though I still think the papery texture can be a put-off.
I love Wilton's Luster Dust and with a Michaels' coupon it is certainly less expensive. I do really like CK's luster color and Crystalized colors that I get from my local Cake Supply here in Denver, Cake Crafts.
Okay, all! We're in need of more questions so please fire them up.
I'm still confused as to why people use wafer paper on cookies. If I can't eat it, why bother? That's why I am loving this chocolate technique!
I haven't tried the flavor wafer papers yet...I think its interesting and want to try soon. That's why if I do use's in small designs or designs that can be easily removed prior to eating the cookie.
I'm not completely opposed to the use of wafer paper, because it's easy enough to pull off. And it sure beats heavy, hard gumpaste or fondant flowers on cakes.
When you created that fabulous witch, did you pipe the melted chocolate into shapes right onto the cookie? I am loving this idea because it most likely dries a whole lot more quickly than doing this type of design in royal icing.
Is the witch piped chocolate? She looks like royal icing to me?
I say that because it's super hard to pipe chocolate that finely without it spreading once it hits the surface of things. So if it is chocolate - wow!
I don't like fondant either. I just don't get fondant and wafer paper. I used it for one of the Practice Challenges and it was fun, but I agree, small items only that can be removed.
I thought only the flowers were chocolate
Me too, Manu!
Actually, the witches body is royal icing, however you can easily pipe with melted chocolate. However, royal icing is much easier to create handpainted detail than chocolate. To paint on chocolate you always need oil based or dry color
Are most of your colors painted on or colored RI .....
The flowers, leaves and dots are all chocolate, just the cookie base is flooded with royal icing
Hi Bette, I do not like coloring icing...its time consuming for everything I do is with paint...and I don't use gels, just petal and luster dusts mixed with ever clear.
Oh, okay on the witch design. For the painting of the chocolate, are the Wilton and Americonlors oil-based?
Cookie Celebration, I think everything on the witch cookie is royal icing, except for the hair and beads, which are sugar. But, Teri, correct me if I am wrong.
No, because their bodies are all royal icing not chocolate
That's correct Julia
Exactly! Like the beautiful house part of that set, the detais in ri are amazing
There are different brands of powdered colors specifically for chocolate, but I don't use those. I will use colored candy melts to create the color of the design is piped on.
This question from Cookie Celebration refers to your earlier mention of Everclear to extend your powdered colors into paint.
What is ever clear?
Ever Clear is a grain alcohol that is 180% so it dries very quickly. It is expensive and not all countries or US states carry it.
More info on Everclear:
Love the spun sugar idea too. I can see that working in so many ways. Fun.
Can you use vodka?
Yes...I love the spun sugar...even if it hardens, it's like rock candy and kids love to eat it too!
Yes, most definitely you can use vodka...I just like how much faster everclear dries. But vodka is great!
While on the topic of pulled and spun sugar, I am guessing it holds up pretty well in your climate because Colorado is so dry? It tends to wilt here in Missouri in a matter of minutes, because our humidity levels are so high.
Is this the case for you as well? Just wondering if you've ever had the need to use isomalt for reasons of real sugar not holding up well.
I used the sugar technique on a cookie awhile back and sunk the design into wet royal icing, but having it layered on the dry cookie is a much better technique and look and I know the flavor is amazing.
I've used the hardened sugar in New York, during the summer, it stays a bit sticky here too during the warmer climates. But for climate controlled conditions and fast eating at a party, I like the idea.
Wow...that sounds like a great idea though...that's why I love experimenting and playing around with different mediums...our mistakes can turn out great new techniques!
I can't use real sugar even in the house in the summer here.
Any questions, anyone? If not, I have another one.
You mentioned you used silk flowers as molds, but can one also use other types of molds for making chocolate flowers? And should we be concerned about the food safety of non-food-grade molds?
Amazing work. This is so beautiful!
We are very dry here in CO, so keeping things soft is always my challenge. That's why I under cook my sugar mixtures
Here's that link from Cookie Celebration again. This time, hopefully it will hyperlink (I think the lack of a space caused trouble in the last post): https://scontent-ord1-1.xx.fbc...bdb25bda&oe=59A8F1C1
I mistranslated spun sugar with caramel in my question above.......
Spun sugar is pretty close to caramel, Manu. You have to bring the sugar syrup to nearly the same temperature in order to spin it, so they are close cousins!
Yes, Julia, you can use siicone molds for the flower petals, however, it's difficult to get the thin effect from the molds. I know the silk flowers are not FDA approved, so I do wash thoroughly. However, that's why you can pipe melted chocolate directly on real flowers and leaves.
Thanks! You have to be super cautious with real leaves and petals too though, as I've discovered. Only non-toxic ones that are pesticide-free!
A side question, does isomalt change the flavor of anything?
I do not ship my chocolate designs. Unfortunately chocolate melts with any heat or light.
I think Teri was answering this question from Cookie Celebration:
Do you ever have to package and mail these gorgeous creations? If so, HOW on Earth?
Teri, any thoughts on isomalt? Cookie Celebration had a question about it a few posts earlier?
I use melted chocolate to glue petals onto the cookie base as well as when assembling the flower shapes. The chocolate dries with in seconds
Thanks...I often create gift sets of 1-3 cookies and present them in BRP boxes...I love Kip and his boxes!
Teri, did you see Cookie Celebration's question in lefthand screen about isomalt? Please answer that one if you can before answering questions in the pending queue. We're getting your answers posted before I have posted the questions for others to see!
I can just see one of your 3D flowers in a BRP window box presented by itself as a gift! Just lovely!
BRP - love them!!!
Yes, I am making several wedding cookies this summer that will be displayed next to the cake and then making separate chocolate flowers to be placed on the cake. The only downfall or alert when using chocolate is temperature...Chocolate melts in sun or direct light or heat.
My thoughts on isomalt - it just tastes sweet, not very different than real sugar, so it's a good substitute in humid conditions. It will not wilt or cloud as fast as (or at all) as real sugar.
So sorry, everyone. Some confusion here. Here's the question that Teri just answered.
Good to know on the shipping question. But a great idea for cookies to be used quickly. Have you used these cookies on wedding cakes or as cake toppers in general? How long can the chocolate keep it's shape in general assuming the temperature conditions are carefully regulated?
Thanks Julia, I've honestly, never tried isomalt because our climate is so dry.
Do you find if you use molds that the molded product is too heavy and clunky in comparison to your layered flowers?
I think this question was already partially answered too, but maybe Teri has more to say on it?
Thanks...yes...I'm not a fan of molds because I like a thin look and really am not concerned with a realistic look either. I prefer to create a more impressionistic flower that has lots of wave and curvature for a whimsy look.
What do you use to glue the petals together and then to the cookie? Chocolate or royal icing?
Sure...I use chocolate. it dries very quickly, royal icing just doesn't hold or dry quickly enough.
Any problem with the chocolate staying adhered to the royal icing using the chocolate to attach?
Sounds like a really great class Cookie Celebration...we'll have to Angela's and Rebeccas designs and creativity!
No problem at all with the chocolate adhering to the royal icing and yet easily removed with a knife if the client doesnt want to eat the large embellishment.
One thing to add on attaching things to chocolate. The chocolate does set super fast, which is a huge advantage in some cases. But sometimes, when working on 3-D pieces (where I need some time to center things perfectly, for instance), I prefer to secure chocolate to chocolate with royal icing, because it gives me more time to get the placement right before it sets. Chocolate is not very forgiving in that regard. Once it's set, it's hard to shift things around.
I could just imagine a sweet collaboration with you, the Painted Box, and Cookie Lab!!! Can you imagine the creation?!
Any more questions, any one! We've got just 4 minutes left, so I think we can take one or two more questions, and that's it!
So much great information shared today by Teri!
Absolutely true Julia. My designs are much less precise, so if they fall in a wierd way, sometimes im Ok with the impressionistic look.
Wow, you have awakened my mind and creativity, Teri. Thank you so much. I have truly enjoyed this chat and have learned so much! I appreciate you taking the time to participate and share with us. It's quite a talent you have and I look forward to trying out the techniques as soon as I can.
So true about Teri! Her work is so distinctive!
Thanks Cookie Celebration...I love Chocolate and love olaying with different mediums!
Well, if there are no more questions for our lovely and talented host, then I want to bid her adieu with a HUGE thank you for sharing her expertise with us today.
Thank you Julia, once again, for this forum and your never-ending dedication.
Thank you so much, Teri for sharing your knowledge with us, you have been clear and inspiring.
Thank you so much Julia! This was such an honor and thanks for all the me anytime to trouble shoot or chat! tweet blessings!
We'll have an in-depth Close-up interview coming with Teri in June, so we'll pick up with more and different questions then, so stay tuned!
Have a nice day everyone!
Thanks, ladies, for your great questions too!
Awesome! Love the Cookie Connection community Julia has joined!
This chat has ended.