Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday Tips - How to Prevent Cookies from Spreading

Today's Tuesday Tip discusses the challenge of spreading cookies.  Here is just one of my tips to prevent that:

"Chill and rest your dough."

I have tried many different techniques to prevent my dough from spreading, the most radical one being altering my recipe.  That was a disaster I will tell you about another day.  Today I will discuss chilling and resting your dough.

After rolling out my dough between two pieces of parchment, I remove the top piece of parchment, cut my shapes and slide the entire slab of dough onto a cookie sheet.  I chill for a minimum of one hour before separating the shapes and baking.

I have heard from more than one baker that they chill their dough, then roll it out and cut their shapes.  That seems counter-intuitive to me - then aren't you trying to roll super cold/hard dough?  I have excellent results rolling then chilling.  Try it next time and let me know if you chill and rest, either before or after rolling.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday Tip - Working with Meringue Powder

Today's Tuesday Tip is a simple one, but one that made a huge difference to my success with #1 and #2 piping tips.

"Dissolve your meringue powder."

Meringue powder is a powdered egg white product, usually sweetened with some sugar and sometimes with the ingredients cream of tartar and vanilla.  It is wonderful product to use in royal icing (my icing of choice) instead of raw egg whites.

One of the issues I had with working with royal icing, especially, but not always, when working with smaller tips (#1 and #2) was clogging of the tips.  It was very frustrating.  Then I read about dissolving the meringue powder in a portion of the water required for the royal icing recipe.

Here is what I do.  Place the meringue powder in your stand mixer's bowl.  Add about half of the water required.  Mix it with a wire whisk and leave it for a few minutes.  Whisk it again before adding your confectioners' (icing) sugar and remaining water.  How much water?  Watch for the answer to that and other questions in an upcoming Tuesday Tip.

And get hands on experience at one of my workshops.  Details to follow soon!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tuesday Tips and being a Redpath Sweet Pro

In May of this year I received an email from Redpath Sugar.  Would I be interested in becoming a Redpath Sweet Pro at this year's Canada's Baking and Sweets Show?  I was honoured to get the invitation and I didn't hesitate in answering "yes!"  Not only do I love what I do, I enjoy sharing my knowledge, so I knew being a Sweet Pro would be a lot of fun!

The weeks leading up to the show were a whirlwind, with videotaping my Sweet Pro promo to preparing my demonstrations for the show.  I was scheduled to do two demos each of three days - Introduction to Decorating and Intermediate Skills using the theme of this year's Baking and Sweets Show, The Wizard of Oz.  I baked more than one hundred cookies, decorated about 40 for displays and the remainder I prepared to use at the demos.  I also made a large amount of royal icing which I prepped in all the colours I needed.  I packed my spatulas, paint brushes, food colouring, bowls, piping bags, couplers, whisk, scissors, lustre dusts... yes, it was like I was moving house.

Here is my car ready to drive to the "Big Smoke"
My nerves were in overdrive on the day I was scheduled to leave.  Would I run out of cookies or supplies?  Would I be to talk for 30 whole minutes?  Would I make a fool of myself on stage?  All those thoughts settled down once I started driving to Toronto, with the feeling of "whatever happens, happens".  I set up for my first demonstration and with both a camera person and assistant beside me, I began.  Soon 30 minutes were done and I could have spoken for another half an hour.  The crowds were amazing, standing room only!  I could see light bulbs going off for so many people in the audience.  I know I am not a fancy decorator, but I am efficient and practical and I have picked up a few tips making 20,000 cookies in the last two years, tips that I am happy to share!

After the first demo, I was so relaxed it was all about having fun!  On the second day my family came to watch.  This might surprise you, but they don't know a lot about the process of making cookies.  You see, they rarely see any part of it, mostly because they are not allowed in my Sweet Handmade Cookie kitchen.  You read that right - that is my rule.  It is a health board approved kitchen and I keep everyone out.  Also, they are not very interested in the subject of cookies.  I thought the demonstrations would be boring for them, but my family (my harshest critics) were fabulously complementary!  It made me feel terrific.

I also met a lot of local people who came to the show.  One of my friends won tickets to the show in fact and we had lunch together.  One local baker won the theme cake competition for the third year in a row!!  There was so much to see and do.  So many great famous chefs and bakers were there giving demonstrations.  And so much yummy food!  I finished my last demonstration on Sunday, packed up my things and headed for home.  It was a weekend I won't soon forget.  The Redpath crew were incredibly fun, kind and generous; the crowds were receptive, happy and inquisitive.  When I arrived home, my family had made me a beautiful and delicious dinner!

As a result of the positivity I received from the audiences, I am launching a new website feature, called Tuesdays Tips.  Watch this space every Tuesday for a new tip on how to make beautiful cookies easier than ever!  See you next Tuesday right here for a helpful and easy tip.

P.S.  Don't forget to follow me on Instagram for behind the scenes pictures as well as some more pictures from the show.