Friday, February 21, 2014

Inspired by Turquoise: Pirate-themed Cookie Tutorial

 Pirate Girl and Ship Cookies

Ahoy me hearties! I'm very excited to share this 'tutorial' for pirate cookies that I made a couple of days ago. But before we get into the how-tos, a bit of background.

Last week, I made a big batch of turquoise icing for this set of christening cookies below. Working on this set, I realised that I'm a lot more comfortable piping patterns, than I am creating people and faces. I rarely do character cookies, and can't remember if I ever tried making any people-type cookies, prior to these angels.

Turquoise Christening Cookies

I had some leftover turquoise and white icing from this project, plus extra cookies, and I wanted to put it all to use. I started thinking of designs, and whenever I think turquoise, the first image that pops to mind is the ocean. The first time I saw this gorgeous colour in nature, was as a young girl at Dubai's Jumeirah Beach. I clearly recall feeling awestruck that water could be this mesmerising shade, and it's a fascination that still endures. From there, it was an easy leap to do something pirate-related, also because the little person in my house is pirate-mad at the moment.

Supplies Needed:
Sugar cookies - round or square.
Edible food pens (or toothpick, to mark out the design).
Royal icing, in turquoise, black, brown, flesh tone, white and pink. Consistency should be between flood and piping.
Piping bags & tips (I used Wilton tips #1 and #2).
Thin paintbrush (that is reserved for decorating purposes).
Food colour in red, orange or gold.
Gold and silver lustre dust (optional).

I began this project by sketching out some ideas. I don't normally do this, but when the design has several parts, it's better to have a guide. I then marked out the design onto the cookies with edible ink pens. If you don't have these, you could still gently mark out the sections with a toothpick or a scribe tool. It would be harder to see, but it'll do the job.  

To get your icing colours and bags ready, I recommend watching this terrific video that, pardon the drama, changed my life :) Honestly, it saves me loads of time. So for this project, I just turned some turquoise icing into brown, and then turned some of that into black. I tinted some of the white icing into the flesh toned icing, and a bit of that into the pink.

A note about the icing consistency: normally, you'd have a piping consistency for outlining and details, and a flood consistency that's runnier for filling in. To make life easier, I just stuck to the one consistency somewhere in between the two - the best way I can describe it is as between toothpaste and shampoo. It also works because each part of the design is quite small. So you outline and fill with the same piping bag, and run a toothpick along after you've filled in the areas, to even out the icing. 

These cookies require a bit more patience than usual as you can't pipe all the icing in one go. Couple of reasons for this: one, is to avoid dark colours bleeding into the light ones; so I piped the dark areas first and let them dry for 30-40 minutes before adding the lighter colours. The second reason is to create dimension ... or is it definition? Or maybe both :) This is a technique I've picked up from the top cookiers around, and that I've applied here to the pirate hats and the ocean. It's just a matter of piping in sections and letting each section dry before piping the adjoining areas. You'll see what I mean as we go along.

Girl Pirate Photo Tutorial:

Girl Pirates Cookie Tutorial
1. Outline and immediately fill in the pirate hat. Leave to dry about half an hour.
2. Pipe in the brim of the hat.
3. Add the t-shirt. (See, now it occurs to me that I could've done this the same time as step 1. Hopefully, I've saved you some time :D)
4. Once the hat has had at least one hour drying time, add the face icing, leaving gaps for the eye and mouth. Leave to dry for 30 min.
5. Add the neck and the white icing. There are a couple of ways of doing the eye: one is to pipe a dot of black icing as soon as you've piped the white icing; the black dot will sink into the white. This is what I did, and thankfully it didn't bleed much. Alternatively, you could wait for the white eye to dry before painting on the black part with food colour or drawing it with an edible ink pen. Optional: If you've piped the black dot on, immediately add a tiny white dot over that.
6. Pipe the hair. I gave one girl curly hair, and the other straight. The only problem with using a thinner consistency of icing is that you can't pipe the hair in one go; if you try to do this, the icing just melds into one blob. So pipe alternate strands, and once they've dried a bit, fill in the gaps.
7. Final details: you can either pipe or paint the eye-patch on. Use the thin paintbrush dipped in black food colour to do eyelashes (optional), and the smiley face on the hat. I used edible food pens in orange and gold for the other facial details: mouth, nose and freckles. Alternatively, use the thin paintbrush and paint these details on. The scarf is also optional: I piped it on with the pink icing and added the white dots immediately.

 Pirate Ship Photo Tutorial:

Pirate Ship Cookie Tutorial
1. Pipe the body of the ship and the lines for the masts. Leave to dry for half an hour.
2. Pipe alternate sections of the water. Leave to dry.
3. Fill in the remaining sections. You can see that you've got the effect of waves now. We wouldn't have that definition if it had been piped in one go.
4. Pipe the sails. Once the waves are dry, you could add a touch of white icing randomly to look like whitecaps. I used the paintbrush to drag it along the bottom of the ship to resemble spray.
5. Final details: Pipe the black flag; once it's dry you could paint on the X with a bit of silver dust mixed with a few drops of water. Mix gold dust and a few drops of water, and paint on the portholes and some random lines.


Pirate Girl and Ship Cookies

Comparing the cookies to the sketches, I think the ships turned out way better, especially after adding the details with gold. I'm going to need more practice to get the faces to turn out exactly as I picture them. But this project got me out of my decorating comfort zone, so it was a good learning experience. It was also great to take the simplest of cookie shapes and come up with a creative design. It takes patience, but it's really rewarding to make your vision materialise bit by bit. Please note that this tutorial is how I went about making these cookies and is just a guideline; if you've got a better way, go for it (and let me know too!)

Pirate Girl and Ship Cookies

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

French-inspired Valentine's Day Eiffel Cookies

I've had France on my mind recently, for a couple of very good reasons. The first is a French film called The Intouchables. I had wanted to write a bit about this incredible movie in this post, but as I began, I felt that a movie as fine as this was, and that I enjoyed so very much, merited its own post. So I will come back to The Intouchables later, and move on to the second reason I've been thinking of France.

Ruby Red Shoes by Kate Knapp

My husband picked up this enchanting book for our daughter from the library. It was the illustrations that caught his eye and had him bringing it home. It is a very recent book by an Aussie author, and is about a young hare, Ruby Red Shoes, who lives with her grandma and is going on holiday to Paris with her.

I sat down to read it to my daughter Kris one bedtime. She was a bit skeptical as she is with any new book that she hasn't chosen herself. But on the first page itself was something that captured her attention immediately: the grandma hare's name - Babushka Galina Galushka! The moment I read that aloud, Kris went into a fit of giggles and couldn't wait to hear more.

To my pleasant surprise, what followed was a charming and humorous tale of young Ruby's escapades in Paris. You can feel the author's love for Paris in every page with her vivid descriptions of Parisian life and the gorgeous illustrations (she's also the illustrator). I thoroughly enjoyed it and so did Kris, but at four, she is too young to fully understand and appreciate the depth and charm of this lovely book. But at least we got to introduce her to a new country, a new city and bits of its fascinating culture.

The next morning, Kris was bubbling over about the book. Hubby decided he'd draw her a picture from the book. Both of them love to draw and that's one of their usual father-daughter activities - him teaching her how to draw different things. He started drawing the Eiffel Tower, and as he began, I remembered an old purchase, and immediately dashed off to the kitchen .... to return triumphantly with this: an Eiffel cookie cutter!

Eiffel cookie cutter

Kris was suitably impressed.
In awed tones, she asked: "Did you get it in Paris?"
My disillusioning response: "Ummm, actually I got it at Sydney Fish Market."

Crazy, but true! We had been to the main fish market a couple of years ago when my family was visiting. Among assorted varieties of seafood, you also have the odd stall selling knick-knacks at the fish market. So while the fish-lovers went nuts buying seafood, I went nuts buying cookie cutters! Anyway, the Eiffel cutter had been buried and forgotten in my cutter collection since then, but digging it out a few days ago triggered some ideas. I had been wanting to bake something 'love'ly with Valentine's Day around the corner, so I thought with all this talk of France and Paris in the house, why not do some French-inspired cookies?

Hand-painted French-inspired Valentine's Day Cookies

You can use any rolled cookie recipe for this. I used the basic sugar cookie from Glorious Treats. My Eiffel cutter being fairly small and slim, it doesn't leave a lot of cookie surface area to comfortably replicate the details of the real Tower. And in all honesty, even if I did have the room I probably wouldn't have gone with the actual lines, I just wanted to have fun! I thought of outlining the tower in roses. The hitch here was that piping roses that tiny would be next to impossible. So I thought, why not try painting? I remembered a post read long ago, again on Glorious Treats, that I felt would work perfectly here.

Hand-painted Eiffel cookie

It was great fun, hand-painting these cookies. I used regular supermarket liquid food colours for this project, and a paintbrush and palette that are expressly reserved for decorating purposes. I found painting a lot easier than piping, though you do need to be mindful of how much colour you get onto the brush; too much and you get blobs.

I also wanted to include some sentiment cookies, and I thought since they're French-inspired after all, I should convey those sentiments in French. Now this is one of those areas in decorating that gets me really nervous - text! I hate having to pipe out names and messages. But I have to say again, painting was a lot easier than piping.

Hand-painted French-inspired Valentine's Day cookies

This was the first time that I've tried painting on cookies. You do need a bit of patience to get it done, but I think it's well worth the effort. It took me about 15-20 minutes to complete each painted Eiffel cookie, and half that time per sentiment cookie. For the other Eiffel cookies, I just outlined them in bead piping and tried out this incredibly easy technique for tiny royal icing roses from Sweet Sugarbelle.

Valentine's Day Eiffel rose cookies

A couple of weeks ago while I was first considering ideas for Valentine's Day sweets, I was headed in a completely different direction. It was only reading that darling little book and the following events that sent me down this hand-painted path :) It's funny where you find your inspiration sometimes. Hopefully I've inspired at least one other person to try this out!

French-inspired Valentine's Day Eiffel cookies