Mark Twain once said:
“All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.”
As a cookie decorator I have more ignorance than I know what to do with, but I also have confidence that over time I’ll learn.
And success will follow as I finally venture into actually decorating cookies.
Today I practiced outlining and flooding on my square and round cookies: These are the most basic techniques for decorating cookies. I’ve done this before but there are still some aspects of it that I need a good amount of practice with.
I started with a few of the round cookies.
Three is the most I’ll work with at a time. There are cookie decorators who are able to outline and flood 8 cookies in a row but I’m more comfortable working with 3 at a time on my turntable.
Before I begin I gather all the tools I’ll need and put all my icing right next to me.
For the most part outlining and flooding the cookies is not that difficult. There are times, in my limited experience decorating cookies, when I’ve had to play around with my outlines because they haven’t come out perfectly straight.
That’s OK with me though. In the end it all works out.
I go through a lot of toothpicks and I keep them close at hand. Not only are they handy to finish filling in the cookies once they’ve been flooded and to pop any stray air bubbles I find, but they’ve saved me from many a screw-up as well.
As I’ve been taught, I start to outline with the tip just above the cookie: Not quite touching it, but very close to the surface of the cookie.
As I apply pressure and start to move around the cookie, I bring the tip up and away from the cookie so the royal icing drops and I can control the pattern.
So far, so good.
As I’m getting close to the spot where I started the outline, I lower the tip again and attempt to finish the outline right where it began.
I know that the outline should be seamless.
Mine usually isn’t but I’m getting better at it. Sometimes I end up with a little ball of icing and it drives me nuts, but I use a toothpick to make it look a little prettier.
I’ve outlined all three cookies on my turntable at this point.
Now I should flood all three cookies but for reasons unknown to me, I usually don’t. Most of the time I flood one cookie and reach for my toothpick immediately, in a state of panic, thinking the first one going to dry if I don’t finish filling it in right then and there.
I know, I have issues.
But I do just what I tell myself I’m not going to do: I reach for the toothpick before moving on to the next cookie.
Somehow, it works for me.
I fill in all the little gaps until the cookie is completely flooded.
And then I move on to the next cookie.
I can never figure out why I always have tiny little air bubbles. They are my nemesis. I swear that no sooner do I have them all popped, and another one will mysteriously make its way to the surface.
They taunt me.
Once I’m done with the first three cookies I put them on my cooling rack and under the mesh tent to start drying.
My toothpick stash comes in handy on the very first one. I know this is not conventional, but let me tell you how I correct that less than perfectly straight outline below.
Once I’ve finished the outline I use a toothpick to gently “nudge” the icing into place, trying to make it as straight as possible. And I remove a little of that unsightly ball of icing while I’m at it.
Hey, it’s not the most conventional method but it works and until I can consistently produce straight outlines, I will keep a boatload of toothpicks nearby when I decorate cookies.
I have also been known to actually remove an entire part of an outline and re-pipe it.
Somehow I totally rounded off one of the corners as I was outlining the cookie below. Most likely I was getting a little too happy with myself and went too fast around the corner.
I know I need to slow down.
It looks ugly so I take a toothpick (I’m telling you, I should have stock in these things), and I actually scrape off the part I’m not happy with.
If I were in cookie decorating school, I’m pretty sure the teacher would have given me a big fat zero for this little charade.
But I do it anyway.
Once it was scraped off I re-piped that area.
And once it was flooded you couldn’t even tell. It was my little secret. No harm done.
I continued outlining and flooding a number of the squares and circles.
And I decided I’d even flood one with a contrasting color.
I’m living on the edge, I know.
After that I just started playing around.
I waited a few hours for the icing to dry and then I added a few simple designs for some much-needed practice.
Some came out better than others and I know that I need some serious practice making little dots and lines; it’s hard to get the little dots all the same size, and I kept leaving little trails with the lines.
Those are a few things I need to work on for sure.
Regardless of how the cookies look, I like them because I know how hard I’ve worked to get them to where they are.
And Sal usually gets to eat them all so he could care less what they look like.
For the most part he’s content but every once in a while I do leave him a sticky note saying something to the effect of, “You can eat these because they’re a disaster, but please don’t eat the ones in the other container; they came out really cute so I’m bringing them to work”.
I’d share with you the notes I wake up to the next morning but I’d prefer to keep my blog on a PG-13 level.
This poor guy below is a mess! He started out as a smiley face and then everything went to hell.
I was just having fun.
As my cookies dry I’m deciding what I can do next.
Although I don’t have outlining and flooding down to a science yet, it definitely gets easier the more I practice and I want to move on to something a bit more difficult.