PAINTED BUTTERFLIES

A couple of weeks ago I spotted something on Instagram and fell in love with it instantly. It was in the page of one incredibly talented baker, Mary Mansfield, check her work here. I dropped her a message asking some details about her painting technique, and she was adorable, super helpful. So I took a deep breath and tried it myself. Basically you flood the cookies with white Royal icing, let it set for a day, and then use diluted gel dye to paint them. I tried Everclear and I tried water. Everclear has so much alcohol in it that it dries super fast and gives the icing a matte finish. I had trouble controlling the intensity of the color and their mixing, so I ended up switching to water. But you should figure out what works best for you.

This is your white canvas… I went with small cookies, because the smaller they are, the less likely I would mess them up beyond recognition as butterflies. Or so I thought. Once they are flooded and totally dry, you can gather your weapons of choice and start playing. My favorite of all was this blue baby. Reminds me of some that used to be common in Brazil.

You can use sharp strokes with the brush, or add a little water or alcohol to the surface of the icing and then do a kind of watercolor painting touching the dye on that wet spot and moving it around. Things sometimes get a bit out of control. I told Phil that this painting is similar to driving on icy roads: you slide here, you do a save there, you almost crash, but in the end it’s all good. If not happy with the outcome, follow my advice to quickly eat the evidence. As to the body, add it after the paint is dry, using toothpaste consistency royal icing. Let it dry and if desired, paint it.

So here are my 12 little butterflies, in different tones and styles…

THE RED SERIES

In some cases I painted the bodies because they developed craters, a real nightmare that I’m not that good at avoiding. Additionally, when the paint dried on the wings, I went back on some and added a few details with silver or gold luster powder.

THE BLUE SERIES

And the final four, which in fact were the ones I made first, so I was struggling a bit. Particularly with the one of the top left, there were “issues.” I went through a few “Oh, NO, what have I done?”, but decided to keep it. It also developed a huge crater, the poor baby. One abused butterfly.

You might think this is too time-consuming, but in fact the dye dries so fast that you cannot spend too much time fiddling with it. Decide what you want to do, pick a set of two, three colors at most to work on a single cookie, and hope for the best.

Butterflies are one of my favorite subjects to “cookie.” I have a few more examples to share in the near future, using different techniques. So hopefully I’ll see you back here soon!

THE MANY FACES OF THE OREO COOKIE

As I just published on my regular blog, this is a cookie recipe I am quite fond of. It has a grown-up aura due to the chipotle heat (but kids love it too), and it holds any pattern during baking, making it perfect to play with patterned rolling pins and cookie molds. In my original post I shared simple cookies imprinted with a fondant mat (check it out here). Now let me show you a few variations using the same exact dough.

OREO STYLE COOKIES

You can use a patterned rolling pin and cut rounds, filling the with the traditional Oreo-type cream. I used the filling recipe from this post. Simple and delicious. A little gold dust with vodka, Everclear or lemon extract to paint the design, does a nice job.

You can also use a little impression gadget made for fondant (this set from Wilton is wonderful) and go with happy colors. They are all luster dust from Oh Sweet Art, my favorite brand.

For a totally different look, they can also be cut in small squares. I love this patterned rolling pin, very modern. All my patterned rolling pins were bought at etsy.com. Do a search for embossed rolling pins and get busy!

You can also keep it very simple, roll the dough, cut and just add a brush with gold in the end.

ICING ON THE COOKIE

They can also play the role of the traditional sugar cookie, the sweetness of the icing goes well with the chocolate base.

For this version, I flooded with white, let it set overnight, then used a stencil to paint a pattern with the air-brush. A little black pen makes the design pop. I am quite fond of the hexagon shape.

In this final version, I flooded the flowers and leaves (for flowers I used fuchsia from Sugarflair and Tulip Red from Americolor), let it set briefly (maybe 30 minutes), and added details with piping consistency icing. A little Diamond dust to finish them with some sparkle. Because… I am addicted to sparkle.

I hope you enjoyed this small collection of cookies, and try the recipe, using it in any way you like. You might have to play with the amount of chipotle, so I advise you to start with the small amount and see how you like it.

STAINED GLASS SUGAR COOKIES

I am hopelessly in love with this technique. I won’t lie to you, these cookies are a bit involved, as you need to take your time with each step. But mostly it is waiting time for the base to set, then the lines, when finally the real fun part starts: the painting!

Keep in mind that for any design you choose, you will need to pipe fine lines with Royal icing to set the boundaries of each section. My advice is to keep it simple. Obviously, at first I did not follow this rule and decided to make a peacock. It did not have a happy ending, which explains why you will see no peacock in this post.

I flooded the cookies with white Royal icing, and allowed it to set overnight. Then I projected an image on the surface, and drew with a fine food pen. I should not have used black, a lighter color would have been better, so that is my advice #2 for you. After that, grey Royal icing that was used to pipe the lines (using white would work too, I just wanted to give it a head start for the final color). I still struggle a lot with that piping consistency, and my lines are never as smooth as I would like them to be. But I think I’m slowly getting there.

Once you pipe the lines and they are fully dry, you can paint them with silver or gold luster dust diluted with vodka, and then fill the sections with colors. This step can be omitted if you prefer to leave the lines white or maybe use another color. I wanted to go for a more “metallic” look to mimic the traditional stained-glass motif.

The stained-glass effect is obtained by mixing corn syrup, water, and gel dye. It is a trial and error experience. Place a tiny amount of corn syrup in a watercolor palette, a tiny amount of the color you want to work on in another spot, and a small amount of water in another spot.

Wet the tip of a brush with the water (you’ll need very little water, so dry the excess on a paper towel), and make a diluted mixture of corn syrup and food dye. Soon you will realize how much to add of each component. If it is too light, add more dye, if it is too runny, add more corn syrup. The abstract flower I painted with luster powder + vodka, for a slightly different look.

I am definitely going to use this technique again in the near future, as I need more practice with the fine lines. But of all the cookies I’ve made recently, this stained glass trio of flowers might be my very favorite.