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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Stencil, Stencil, Toil, and Trouble...

This has been another week of experimentation, projects unfinished, and unexpected projects finished.  The Memorial Day cookies never got finished.  I got base coats on them and then I put an extra project on myself that needed to be finished by Monday night...so my husband got to eat the base-coated Memorial Day cookies.  I'm sure he was quite happy about that!

I completed two sets (6 dozen) graduation cookies for a friend and a family member.  Once they receive them, I'll post photos.  I made extra plaque cookies and ran out of decorating time...but I knew I would use them to practice with some of the cool stencils I have acquired as well as some new powdered food coloring I ordered from DesignerStencils.com.  The use of those plaque cookies are the subject of this post.

With anything new, you have trial and error.  I did watch a youtube video from Designer Stencils which described the many ways to decorate cookies using their stencils and other products...as well as pie crusts, cakes, and chocolates.  Unfortunately, I apparently have retention issues!  It wasn't until I was trying to figure out what I'd done wrong that I went back and re-watched the video...head smack...well, there it was...my glaring misconception!

So, I think the easiest thing is to post a picture and underneath, I'll describe what I was going for, and what I ended up with!  Some mistakes are here and some mistakes are in my husbands tummy.

A swirls and stars stencil with royal icing
This was take 3 on using this stencil.  I have used small stencils with royal icing a few times in the past.  I find I do better with the smaller adhesive stencils.  This particular stencil is quite large, so holding it in place while I "troweled" the icing caused me to break the first cookie, smudge the second cookie when the stencil moved, and 3rd time was the charm.  I embellished it with some dots and it actually ended up being part of the graduation cookie package because it was the proper school colors of one of the graduates!

A powdered food color, dabbed on dry royal icing
with a stencil daubing brush on a cookie using a Karen's Cookies Exclusive Cutter
This, too, will be found in the grad cookie packet.  I almost didn't send it because it was the first one I tried using dry food color (which I thought I remembered was okay to do).  I ended up liking the soft look, despite the few streaks caused by the barest stray bit of powder.  There's nothing to really make it adhere...but I think the coastal air was so humid that it allowed it to "set" somehow...and so, I embellished it for the grad with the year and her name and an outline and I liked it...so it's in the package.

Large Scalloped Cutter from Karen's Cookies base coated with RI
and dry powder stenciled with the same "technique" described above
This was the second cookie I stenciled using the powdered food color and a pounding brush.  I was trying to make this orange and yellow but in the end you can't really see the yellow in the photo...it's on the outer edges of the frills and a lot of the embellishment covered up the delicate color.  Also, there was so much excess powder (it was less humid the day I did this) that I ended up sort of "coating" the cookie with a pale orange using a big fluffy paint brush...one that almost looks like a make-up brush.  Again, I know it's not the proper technique...but I liked it anyway.

The same stencil used in picture #1 with a wet technique
using powdered food color made into a paste with vodka
(or you can use any alcohol based clear extract)
By the time I did this cookie, I had gone back and re-watched the videos on youtube and on DesignerStencils.com's web page.  I knew, by this point, that the dry powdered decorating was generally done straight on the dough and it was baked in (duh - that would be why the powder didn't stick well to an iced cookie) and I realized I should be making a paste or paint-like consistency if I was using the powdered colors.  I used, for this blue based cookie, a Crystal Colors brand powdered food color called Poinsettia.  The blue base really deepened the red.  I used a small flat stencil brush with fairly good results for a first attempt.  Again, the large stencil (and my attempts at not getting red food coloring on my fingers) made it difficult to hold the stencil in place...I see some smudges - but not bad for a first attempt.  I had leftover red in my palette so I decided to brush the edge of my cookie which was not iced.  Then, some outline and dots accented it nicely.  I was happy with it...for a first try.

Another of my new Karen's Cookies plaque cutters - stenciled with
Crystal Colors Charcoal and Lime.
This cookie was an attempt at using up some of the leftover green and black piping icing...so I stenciled two colors using an adhesive stencil.  I think it is a Martha Stewart stencil.  I used the powdered color with vodka and made the paste a little thinner this time. Better.  I wanted to make a Thank You cookie for someone...and this didn't exactly turn out the way I wanted but it was a pretty decent stencil job, so I am including it in the post.  If my green icing had matched the green stencil coloring, I'd have been pretty happy with this cookie!  Oh well.

My first ever attempt at painting a "scribble rose"
I had this rectangular scalloped edge cookie with a base coat of blue sitting in front of me waiting for inspiration.  In walks the teen, asking what I was going to do with that cookie.  I said I was thinking about trying to paint some scribble roses.  He, who never shows much interest in my cookie activities, perked up and moved in...suggesting white roses.  I told him I didn't know if I had white food color and, if I did, how it would look with the blue showing through.  I found a small bottle of AmeriColor bright white so added it to my palette.  The first scribbles resulted in a look of horror from my "helper".    I told him they were SCRIBBLE roses.  I did the 5 on the upper right side (just white - and added some vodka to thin it out and make it less startling white) and it just looked wrong.  I let it dry and went off to read some of my book and relax my head and my hands for a bit.  When I went back to it, I knew the white was not going to work for me so I got a bright pink color and used it both diluted and straight up for some shading.  My leaves were then painted with leaf green and lined with forest green, each with a drop of vodka to thin them out. All of this cookie used AmeriColor gel colors.  I used some of the bright pink color and painted a line around the base of the blue and then added my usual dots.  After they dried, I decided I needed a heart, so I used some leftover royal icing.  I also made a shaky attempt at some scrolls by the heart.  It is the bane of my existence that I can't do scroll work.  I need to just get some parchment paper and practice...so far too lazy.  Again, oh well. (When this was almost finished the teen walks in again and informs me that I did it wrong.  He instructed me in how he learned to paint roses...5 years ago as a Freshman in art class.  Now, this is the "child" in a man's body who can't remember to take out the trash, and other daily activities...but he can clearly articulate how to paint a dang rose.  Hmmmm.....)

Another Martha Stewart stencil with royal icing

I though this looked familiar when I pulled out the stencil...sure enough, when I was looking back at the graduation cookie pictures, there it was...I had used it on one of those cookies.  It works very well because it, again, is adhesive and doesn't have a lot of big space to smooth down.  Some dots around the edge and viola!

The last cookie of the day - Martha Stewart adhesive stencil with
black royal icing
As with anything, the more you practice the easier it gets.  By the time I got to this cookie, I had the stenciling down - the right pressure, the right amount of icing...but still, I see several spots where things went awry.  My husband tells me if I would quite pointing out the things that are wrong, most people will just go "oh, pretty cookie" and take a big bite out of it and there go any mistakes - not to be worried about ever again.  I know he's right, but, I also know that my cookie decorating friends are surely seeing the same things I see. My current mantra is a simple "it is what it is" as I try to accept that which I cannot change.  Some days it is harder to live by than others!!!

Thanks for reading along.  I hope you try stenciling your cookies.  You really don't even have to go to the effort of baking...you can turn over a store bought cookie, pipe and flood the flat bottom, and practice on that after it has dried.  For some reason, that would make me happier than practicing on parchment paper.  At least my family would get to eat my learning projects!

If you have any comments or constructive suggestions - I would love to hear them...I do moderate comments, so you won't see them immediately.  I try to reply to all comments!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

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