Sweet Sugarbelle’s Colour Chart.

Callye, the incredible cookie artist responsible for The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle, developed a wonderful chart for mixing Americolor Gels. Not only does it make it easy to reproduce custom shades like my favourite “Raspberry” but it also saves on the number of colours you have to purchase in the first place since you only need a handful to create so many different and useful colours.

Check out her blog and be amazed at all of her creative cookie designs. I’m often scanning her ample catalogue of cookie creations for inspiration.

The original post with excellent printable colour charts can be found HERE.

SG.

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The Basics.

These are the items I can’t bake without and I highly recommend them for a novice baker if you’d like to ensure consistency and a professional result.

1 Nesting Cookie Cutters in Basic Shapes.

Rather than purchasing very specific shapes that limit your cookie capabilities, pick up nesting cutters in the basic shapes: round, square, oval, etc.  You can easily pipe flowers, words or patterns on these basic shapes to make a pretty impressive cookie platter.

Some of my favourites that are well worn:

2.  Pastry Bags and Tips.

I absolutely HATE washing pastry bags, however, not being able to waste the plastic “single use” bags, I wash them over and over until the seams fall apart.  Moral of the story, I can’t be bothered using the canvas bags as they’re even more frustrating to wash.   Any plastic pastry bag will do so find the cheapest ones in your area!

As for tips, I have Wilton (not a favourite but handy for projects that don’t require precision like flooding), Ateco (I find them superior to Wilton) and finally, the master of them all, PME.

PME Supatubes are superior for their Writers (I use sizes 00-3 the most) and I just purchased their calligraphy writers (23-25) but I haven’t had an opportunity to test them yet.  The icing does not curl when piping lines.  Their seamless design makes them superior when neatness is a top priority.  I’m not very good at piping words on cookies unless I’m using a PME tip.  Then it’s like I’m writing with a pen.  Wonderful.

3.  Multiple Sheet Pans.

I have many sheet pans that are constantly rotating through the oven, freezer or counter for decorating.  The more the better!  Be sure you don’t buy the dark non-stick kind as they tend to burn the bottoms of your cookies.  Regular aluminum is perfect.

4.  Silicone Baking Mats.

I used parchment paper for the longest time until I finally spent the $ to buy silicone baking mats.  They will change the way you bake.  NOTHING sticks to them and they can be wiped down with a clean damp cloth between batches.  Errant sanding sugar wipes right off.  They’re also handy to put under waxed paper while rolling out your dough to keep it from sliding around.

5.  Mixing Bowls.

I have multiple sets of mixing bowls.  Glass or metal are superior to plastic as it washes completely clean.  All plastics are notorious for oil film issues that can affect meringue and royal icing.  A variety of sizes is necessary as well.  Small ones for mixing icing colours to large ones for sifting dry ingredients should be in every bakers cupboard.  The more the merrier as well!  It’s frustrating having to stop and wash a bowl when you’re in the middle of a major cookie project.  Look for a restaurant supply shop in your area as they usually offer discounts if you buy multiples.

Be sure to check out garage sales for big bargains on baking equipment.  Unfortunately it seems that fewer people are baking from scratch so there can be some hidden treasures if you take the time to look.  I found an adorable vintage goat cookie cutter amidst a bunch of cookware in our building’s laundry room (there’s a makeshift library and a shelf for unwanted housewares).  It made lugging a weeks worth of laundry down at once quite enjoyable!

SG.

The Beginning.

I’ve been baking all of my life. Some of my earliest memories are of the incredible cakes my Mom would bake for my brother and me. From Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Cabbage Patch Kids to recreations of posters for plays I directed in high school, she can do it all. Both of my grandmothers are and were talented in the kitchen. My maternal grandmother was famous for her shortbread which often resulted in all of us tiptoeing into the kitchen in the middle of the night to sneak a coveted piece without her knowledge. She insisted we wait until Christmas Day before indulging but that never happened. My paternal grandmother comes from the waste-not-want-not style of baking. Candied orange peel, coconut cones made with mashed potato (sounds gross but divine dipped in chocolate!), the politically-incorrect Indian Pudding using a scant 1/2 cup of corn meal or even homemade Egg Cream Liqueur. Although, if you requested one of her recipes, she was notorious for leaving out a key ingredient or adjusting the quantities so it would never taste as good as hers. It was baking with these three women that taught me to love not only the results but also the process.

A few years ago I started baking cookies for family, friends and students (I coach for two high school teams as well as evening classes open to all ages) and kept getting requests for recipes, photos, techniques etc. After a recent request for my gingerbread recipe, I thought it was about time I compile a blog of my successes (and a few failures) along with inspirations I’ve found on the web.

Enjoy and happy baking!

SG