TUNDE’S NEEDLEPOINT COOKIES, TWO WAYS

Needlepoint cookies are probably one of the most challenging to make, however, Tunde (from Tunde’s Creations) shared a reasonably easy method to approach this technique. The secret is to use sugar veil lace mats as the starting point. Her hour-long tutorial taught how to make a few heart-shaped designs with the lace method, and finally she proposed the real challenge: make a large cookie in which the grid is fully piped by hand, then add a floral motif. Today I show you the little heart cookies, come back tomorrow for the floral.

I know that it seems like the most complex design ever, but by making the lace heart using a silicone mold, you kind of “cheat” your way out of trouble and the whole process is just fun: follow the design and fill the little holes with royal icing. In her tutorial, Tunde shared many variations for the pattern, but you can also search online or come up with your own. If you want to embellish the area around the heart, make sure to choose a cookie that is large enough. I could only do that in one of them, the others I had no working space around it.

It all starts with the basic lace. I will not lie to you, it took me three attempts, and quite a bit of frustration to make it work. I used frostflex sheets from Icing Images, but the drying time is crucial, as well as the amount of water you use to moisten the sheet. What worked for me: VERY little water, dehydrator for 1 hour, freezer for 10 minutes, room temperature for 5 minutes. Then they peeled off the mold. Make sure to set the mold down on parchment paper and peel the mold away from the lace, slowly. My first two attempts ended in the mess I show below. The problem was drying overnight, and using too much water. I also did not have enough material pressed into the mold. All in all, a nice recipe for disaster.

Once you master the lace issue, you are pretty much done. I air-brushed some color over the baked and cooled cookie, and while the dye was still wet, carefully placed the lace on top. If the edges don’t fully stick, don’t worry, that’s where the piping on the edges will help you. As you can see, some of the dye sipped into the lace. I was worried but in the end that was not at all visible.

Once you get to this stage, it is all a ton of fun! Use a soft piping consistency, and the finest tip you have, I went with a 00.

With the design fully finished, you can get piping consistency royal icing with a PME 2 tip and pipe a border around the heart, and if you have space, around the cookie surface.

I took a little departure from Tunde’s color scheme, and made a little cookie to celebrate Ukraine. Ukrainians don’t leave my mind, and my admiration for Zelenskyy is endless.

If you like to join Tunde’s group to profit from her monthly online tutorials, visit her facebook page with a click here.

FOLLOWING MY HEART

Yes, it is that time of the year, all we can think about in the cookie department is romance, hearts, reds and pinks. I have quite a few cookie ideas to share – as I followed several tutorials in the recent past – but today I launch this party with my own designs.

DESIGN #1
THE PUZZLED HEART

This cookie cutter was a gift from Tanya, my tent-baking friend. She used her 3D printer to bring it to life. Last year she made a stunning composition using it, and I decided to give it a try now. Several decorating methods were used: brush embroidery for the small heart off-center, texture with a fondant ball, wet-on-wet and air-brushing with stencil.

It is very important to use a recipe without any leavening agent when making a cookie puzzle in which the pieces should join together nicely after baking. I baked them slightly apart from each other, and used my default chocolate cookie recipe which has no baking powder. Once that is done, the decorating fun can begin. All the wet-on-wet and the brush embroidery can be finalized once the cookies are cold. The air-brushing requires many hours for setting the base, even better if you do it the following day. The texture is added about 30 minutes after flooding, but you must be gentle and carefully test it. You don’t want to break the skin, just form a nice rounded indentation. However, don’t worry if it cracks at certain spots, in the end it won’t be a problem.

DESIGN #2
MODERN HEARTS

I like this type of design because it is so exotic and unique. I used this set of cutter + stencil. Very high quality cutter, it comes with two stencils, I’ve only tried one of them so far. Cookies are flooded in different colors, then the pattern is air-brushed. All that’s left to do is pipe the design with a Wilton 3 tip, to get thick lines.

In a similar spirit, but with a free-hand approach, my duo of “Game of Thrones” inspired hearts…

I did not know exactly where I was going with them, but in the end, I loved the combination of gray and fuchsia. I flooded the cookies in white, piped a simple design, and then used luster powder + vodka to paint the different sections.

DESIGN #3
BRUSH EMBROIDERY

In this set I used chocolate cookies because I find that the brush embroidery looks particularly interesting with a dark background. Very easy to decorate, once you do the embroidery, just flood the center in any color of your choice, and add dots while still wet. I like to pipe dots of different sizes because then a random pattern looks nice. When the dots are all the same size, the spacing needs to be more carefully planned, as the ones below.

Same style in red and white, and a little departure using fine lines to make a lace ribbon in the center. After that the upper and lower regions are flooded with red. It is a bit more work, so making a dozen of those would be time consuming and tedious maybe. But I made only a couple, to practice the fine lines. I try to incorporate a design with fine lines in some of my weekly bakes.

Another style, super simple. Gray at the edges, white to flood the center, and when that sets a red food pen is used to make the red stitches. Easier than piping, but you can definitely pipe Royal icing if you prefer.


DESIGN #4
ZENTANGLES

Cannot stop making those at every change I get… They closed my latest post with the Gnomes, and now they show up again. The one above is my favorite Zentangle pattern because it is easy and fast to do, but it gives the impression of being labor-intensive.

Not quite zentangles, but in the same style of repetitive pattern…


DESIGN #5
LOVE MESSAGE

These were imagined by my beloved husband, and transformed into cookies by yours truly. It turns out that I have a little daily routine with Buck, our 14 year old Jack Russell: I hold him and keep telling him over and over… “I love you to pieces”. Phil thought it would be cool to make a little series celebrating different pets. I used a mini-projector for all except the kitten, which was – very bravely – drawn free-hand, from a cartoon I found online.

DESIGN #6
THE BAROQUE HEART

For this set of cookies, I used Cricut to cut a stencil exactly in the shape of the cookie. Then all that’s needed is flooding the base, allowing to to fully set, then air-brush the design. I used fuchsia from Sugarflair as the base, and air-brushed purple, which I also used later to make a beaded border. With PME tip #2.

The trickiest part is air-brushing. To minimize the possibility of smudging, I use a screen placed on top of the stencil, but that makes it hard to judge how well the dye is reaching the cookie. It is not very easy to get all cookies with exactly the same intensity of color, but maybe that’s part of their charm… never two exactly alike!

This closes the series of hearts I’ve made since the year started.
In the next blog post, I will share versions made following tutorials online.

Sneak Preview

COOKIE LACE DESIGN: FACING MY FEARS

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: I am not wild about piping fine lines with Royal icing. They scare me to death. But truth is, they can make a cookie very special and festive, so I’ve been forcing myself to try them every chance I get. Lace design – aka Needlepoint – requires that you pipe quite a few of those fine lines side by side. It is time-consuming and I won’t lie, a bit stressful. But I am so glad I gave it a try!

It all starts by piping a grid that will hold your pattern, so you must decide on how many rows of little squares you’ll need. I decided to keep my first designs simple and just do a central ribbon of needlepoint.

Small deviations on the angle of a piped line risk being propagated on subsequent lines and the final design will show it. You might notice that the right side of my ribbon ended up slightly bigger. But I am still pretty happy with it, as I never imagined being able to do it.

I was a little more attentive (and lucky) on the blue cookie below, so the outcome was better…

I wanted to have a little shine on the lace, so I sprayed Diamond Dust right after piping, protecting the rest of the cookie with this super complex baking trick:

You can also do the needlepoint in a special shape… Just pipe the outline and then carefully add the rows. It is best to start at the center of the heart and move up and down from there. The pink cookies had been flooded in white icing and painted pink once fully set. The blue one was flooded with Sugarflair Royal Blue.

It is amazing what some cookie artists can do with lacework, one of the very best is Tunde Dugantsi, from Tunde’s Creations. She has a Facebook group where you can get plenty of advice and troubleshooting, and her book “Cookie Academy – Lace Design” is a great source to get started. Very detailed instructions, templates to practice, and so many ideas! I highly recommend it. Mind-blowing stuff. I am just taking small, timid footsteps in that path, and hoping to get less stressed out about it. It is all in the consistency of the Royal icing. The finer the lines, the more you’ll need to hit the consistency JUST right. Even if you might not be interested in the more intricate piping of needlepoint, fine lines have their place in simpler designs, like the guitar below.

Lace Design goes well with Etching, I think. Royal Blue from Sugarflair is superb for those…

And even when the lines are not super fine, you can make interesting patterns. I confess I had no idea where I was going with the one below, but I ended up liking it a lot…

If you’d like to try it, practicing on parchment paper helps a lot to make sure the consistency is right. I know many people like tipless bags for this technique, but I could not make it work, I used a number 1 PME tip. Next time I will go for the 00. Because the worst that can happen is…. being forced to eat the evidence!