MONTREAL CONFECTIONS & PYOC

If you are a cookie baker, I am sure you are familiar with the acronym PYOC: Paint Your Own Cookies. But what you may or may not know, is that the person who originally invented those was Marlyn, from Montreal Confections. Nowadays, many bakers sell kits to make them, others sell boxes with this kind of cookies, but she takes no credit and makes zero profit from it. Incredibly unfair, if you ask me. Over the years, she’s been sharing many tutorials that show her technique. For one of her Easter versions, click here.

The most basic way to do a PYOC, is to flood with white Royal Icing, and pipe a design with black right away, using wet-on-wet. This way the black lines will lay flat with the icing and make it easier to paint, either with M&M as the source of color, or with food pens. I’ve made a few sets in the past year and offered them as gifts with food safe pens alongside (this is a good option). Usually I send one or two cookies already painted, and several others as a white canvas. If you have kids around, a little afternoon of painting cookies can be a ton of fun…

If you watch the video I linked in the beginning, Marlyn shows how to incorporate M&M’s in a cookie design, so that the person can simply use a brush and water to get some paint from the surface of the candy and use that to paint.

A similar way to do PYOC is adding the black outline (with piping consistency) once the flooding is set. This way the lines will be a bit tridimensional. It will give the cookie a stained glass feel. A little trickier to paint, but I like the way they turn out.

Finally, you can also flood the cookie, let it fully set and draw the design with a food safe pen… As I am no Monet, I resort to a mini-projector to make the designs…

The possibilities are endless, you can draw animals, flowers, or even stick with abstract motifs. All you need is a source of color, and release your inner Van Gogh…

Whatever you do, if you make a set of PYOC and share your masterpieces online, don’t forget to give credit where credit is due…

Marlyn’s Facebook Page

Marlyn’s Instagram

Marlyn’s Youtube

Marlyn’s Patreon siteaint

EGGSCELLENT EGG HUNT: ONLINE CLASS WITH AMY

Today I share the outcome of yet another zoom event organized by Amy, from Seriously Sweet at Davis St… This time the whole set was Easter-inspired, and I am absolutely smitten by this collection… Several different techniques were used to make them. We finished the six cookies in under 2 hours, they went by so fast. Yes, we had fun! I invite you to join her Facebook group, so you consider joining us next time.

Before class, we were supposed to bake the cookies, have two of the Easter eggs iced in white and fully set, and make a few Royal icing transfers using the templates that Amy designed and shared earlier. A few more details as fondant decorations, and we were all set!

Below you see some of the steps involved for a few of the cookies.

The lamb used thick icing pressure-piped to make the wool appearance. And the eyes were Royal icing transfers, super cute… The watercolor egg used a technique new to me, coupling luster powder with everclear sprayed with a little atomizer. So cool! The wooden sign used royal icing sculpting, and the egg a nice wet-on-wet pulled with a needle.

To me, the trickiest technique once again was using the stencil coupled with thick royal icing. The present version was a little more complex than the one we made for Christmas cookies because we now used three different colors at the same time. I barely managed to get the design to show, as you can see in the photo below, on the left.

I loved them all, and everybody did well in the class, even those who were just beginning to decorate cookies, because Amy goes at a nice pace, and explains everything in great detail.

It is hard to pick favorites, but my heart flips between the two below…

And to add my own interpretation to my favorite cookie of this series, I made a batch of chocolate dough and used it for the sheep, in a way that considerably reduces the amount of Royal icing. It does not have the same dramatic look of Amy’s version, but if thick icing is a concern for those enjoying your cookies, this version might please you.

All you need is to ice the body in white, wait 20 minutes or so and add texture with a fondant ball…

Once that is done, pipe and/or glue your decorations and you are done!

Amy, thank you for another great class, I can hardly wait for the next!

DIWALI-INSPIRED GINGERBREAD COOKIES

When I look outside and it’s all covered in snow, I miss the colors of Spring. In this batch of cookies, I brought vivid colors to play together. Inspiration came from my friend and former graduate student Aritri. I think she would have loved them. She was The Queen of Color.

To make these cookies, I used a paisley-shape cutter, and flooded with purple or turquoise. Let that set for a few hours, then made small batches of several colors of Royal icing, piping consistency.

Once that is done, it’s all a matter of letting the patterns freely form…

The candy corn is a nice shape to play with also… The cookies below were designed to minimize the amount of icing. This first cookie was sprayed with PME pearl luster, and the set below painted with TruColor Blue Turquoise.

I hope you like these cookies, I really loved making them…

SMILE FOR THE CAMERA!

LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW!

We have not had any snow yet, but to quote a certain series… Winter is coming, better be ready for it. And for snowmen, nothing brings more happiness than plenty of snowflakes falling from the skies above.

A gingerbread cookie, with a simple decoration, flood the base in red, the globe in light blue, and let it set. Then pipe the body with thicker icing, add black pearls for the buttons, and let that set for an hour or so (thicker consistency dries a bit faster, and if you are gentle enough you can continue with the additional details). The snowballs should be added in stages so they don’t join together. Finally, the arms, scarf, smile and blush on the cheeks close the design.

Moving on, a little series I really enjoyed, inspired by Kathy, from Art Projects for Kids.

I love their different expressions and movements… Starting with flooded rectangles fully set, I drew the different snowmen with a food pen, then used Sugarprism watercolor to add the background. While that was still wet, I showered some white non-pareils.

Another very simple design for a snowman, uses a cookie cutter from Sugarbelle, in which each shape comes with appropriate stencils to help you decorate.

Two colors needed, white and blue. Starting with the band on the hat, so that you can add sanding sugar to that part, the rest is quite straightforward.

The stencil really helps quite a bit. I have a hard time judging how to space details in a cookie, so for me a set like this one from Sugarbelle makes life a lot easier.

From the same set, this little angel also materialized in our kitchen….

Closing this post, how could I not include Snowmen Macarons? These were filled with Pistachio-Lemon Buttercream, a slightly more decorated version from the ones I made last year.

After baking, all details were added with Royal icing in bright colors, plus the mouth and eyes with a food pen.

I often like to pipe some mini-macs just for fun, these were air-brushed with a stencil.

I loved making these! Some were a bit chubby, some had funny expressions, but they turned out as a happy family. And they have a message for you, now that a new year is about to start…

ZENTANGLE STRIKES AGAIN

If you don’t know the meaning of zentangles and how I like to adapt them for cookies, read my previous post on the subject. Today I share a few more, and include my first adventure with Instagram reels showing how I make my very favorite kind because is is so simple and the end result always pleases me. The cookie can be left simple or further decorated with fondant, modeling chocolate, or Royal icing transfers. Below, fondant stars painted silver. Purple and silver, the colors of our university, in the zentangle way.

I like the intensity of the purple but this type of design works well in any color…

A second addition of the same pattern inside each little square changes it completely but it is still quite straightforward to do…

A variation on the same type of curved line…

And now for a few adventures on patterns and colors, some turned out the way I wanted, some I consider “work in progress”.

The one below is my representation of a brain with insomnia: busy with many thoughts, not necessarily connected…

Here’s looking at you, kid!

Whenever I make sugar cookies, I always make sure to flood a few with any color I have leftover. Then, all I have to do is choose a pattern out of the thousands available out there, or make a composite design. I love the zentangle path…

ZENTANGLE COOKIES: TANGLED UP IN ZEN

Have you heard of zentangle? It is an art form that uses repetitive patterns, ideally on a 3.5 inch square piece of paper, or as zenganglers call it, a “tile”. I’ve always enjoyed doodling, much to despair or my Mom, as I would do it on the wall by the phone (remember landlines?) with a pencil. We’ve had quite a few heated arguments those days. I would be on the phone for more than 3 hours, talking to my boyfriend Roberto late at night, and next morning my Mom would wake up and have a royal fit when she saw my “art” on the wall. Fun times. Fast forward a few decades and doodles turned into zentangles, what was a wall became a cookie. All you need is a smooth base of Royal icing, fully set. And a fine tip food-safe pen. Embrace the patterns and have fun!

The classic pattern is black and white, and you can design your own little tangles or search online for ideas. The Tangled Universe is waiting for you!

I like to use other shapes also, rectangular and candy corn are favorites or mine, but pretty much anything works.

The pumpkin design is not exactly a zentangle, but it has repetitive patterns that are also quite soothing to draw. For the design above I used a mini-projector.

Free hand also works, just don’t be too concerned with perfection… in the end it all works fine, I promise.

I like to add a little color to a zentangle pattern, even if not traditional… Another way to bring color is to add it to the background, as I show in the cookies below.

For this cookie, Americolor Cork was used in the background, and the Zentangle pattern worked as the petals in the flower.

It is quite amazing how much the pattern changes if you do it black and white or bring a very assertive color to play.

These two above might be my favorites, maybe. The contrast of bright orange with the pattern makes my heart sing!

That could be a nice cookie platter for a dessert table, with a Halloween vibe…

So many patterns… so little time! I have a long list of zentangles to “cookie”, so expect to see more popping up in this baby blog of mine.

AUTUMN LEAVES

In my previous post I shared a slightly unusual take on pumpkins, and now I bring you a black and white alternative for Fall-inspired leaves. The basic idea is very simple, and you can do anything you want for each pattern. Don’t worry about it, don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s not about perfection. If you really hate one particular section you made, go ahead and paint it black… Inspiration came from this Instagram page.

The whole process could not be simpler… just flood the cookies with white Royal icing, and allow it to fully set, overnight is best. Then, divide the leaf in sections using a food-safe black pen, with a fine tip. Create different patterns for each of the sections, pretty much anything you imagine will do.

You can make the cookies big or small, it’s very relaxing to draw the patterns, time flies by…

Leaves are definitely one of the top shapes for cookies during this time of the year. No matter your preference, there is always a style out there for you… I actually like to mix and match, modern and traditional on the same batch.

The same basic idea can be applied to many different shapes of cookies, either decorating the whole area of just a small portion. Colors could be fun too instead of black and white. Once again, as usual with cookies, one simple method and so many things you can do with it!

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!

CAT IN A TEACUP

Teacups are cute. Cats are cute. When you join them both, the Cuteness-meter goes nuts. I cannot take credit for the idea, I simply followed Marlyn in one of her video tutorials. You can join two cookie shapes if you have the appropriate cutters. I did not have anything that would work well, so I cut them by hand.

I made some with my default chocolate cookie recipe, and some Sugar cookies flavored with Elderflower (Olive Nation essence). Once the cookies are baked and cooled, the basic design is added with a food pen, and sections are piped with Royal icing.

The spoons are baked separately. To decorate them, I used Gold royal icing coupled with gold air-brushing.

The fine gold lines really make the design come to life. I was terrified of messing up the cookie in this final step, but overall I am pretty happy with the outcome.

These cookies were part of a gift for dear friends who are cat-lovers. So in the package a few other kittens were included.

I think what I love the most about cookies is making up a gift-set. Thinking about a theme the person will like, a color scheme, I find the whole process absolutely wonderful.

A WELCOME TO FALL

It is that time of the year. Temperatures will drop, and the trees will soon change color. These cookies are my little shout out to Autumn. Some inspired by Marlyn, from Montreal Confections, and adapted to my skill level.

I fell in love with these cookies the moment I saw the video by Marlyn. The challenging part for me was piping the basket, and I do need more practice, but overall I am happy with the outcome. You should definitely see Marlyn’s version, because she added a little bear peeking from inside the basket, the cutest little detail (Instagram entry here). I simplified it by using fondant flowers instead. The chocolate dough is my default, by the way. I sent these cookies to a dear friend, and used the smallest amount of chipotle, as I did not know her take on the pairing of cocoa with pepper…

The cookie cutter I used was this one. It all starts by piping an outline for each balloon section, and piping the basket weave. Then, flood the different regions according to your choice of pattern (dots, swirls), and you are almost there. Some fondant decorations and additional piping is all you’ll need. I had some leftover Royal icing which I put to use in my Hexagon Ode to Fall. I had no idea where I was going with it, but I liked it a lot. It ended up with an ET-meets-Aztec aura…

Another cute cookie project conceived by Marlyn (her creativity is unreal), involves the candy corn shape. Recently I got a special cutter that makes four small cookies at a time. It is what I’ve used in this fun batch. Check her IG post for all details.

This is a much simpler project, although it does require the piping of fine lines as a starting point. You can get by without them, but some of the visual impact will be lost.

The final detail is a little luster powder in red or pink to make the cheeks blush. I tell you, my friends, cookie decorating is all in the small details, and if you follow the artists out there, you will learn a ton from them.