{Cookbook Review} Cookie Craft

February 23rd, 2008

Sugarcookies

I never really thought of myself as artistic – my sisters can draw and paint, but not me. Baking is where most of my creative energies find their outlet. And when people ask if I can make one of those elaborate wedding cakes, I get nervous and tell them that’s not really my specialty.

But when a copy of Cookie Craft, a book on cookie decorating, arrived on my doorstep for me to review, my curiosity was piqued by beautiful cookie flowers on the cover. I started reading and found myself, yes, awed and intimidated by the flawless creations inside, but also eager to try some decorating of my own – for once!

Cookie Craft, by Valerie Peterson and Janice Fryer, is an engaging, and inspiring guide to the boundless possibilities of cookie decorating. Reading it is like taking a complete course on the art cookies – the authors cover everything from baking cookies to all the various decorating techniques, to suggested themes and ideas to fire your imagination, to templates for elaborate oversized cookie creations.

Cookiecraft

Whether you’re a neophyte or experienced decorator, this book provides plenty of useful material and tips. What I really liked was how the authors have developed an efficient system for baking and decorating cookies, and shared it in a very straightforward and accessible way. Cookie decorating, just like the rest of baking, depends a great deal on planning and organization for success, and the authors show how simple creating a batch of gorgeously decorated cookies can be with just a little forethought.

Some of the useful tips I picked up from this book:

- Pick a theme and draw out your designs before you make your cookies. Having a guide to refer to makes it much easier to plan what shapes and colors you’ll need, and makes it less likely that you’ll make a mistake when decorating.

- Set up your decorating area before you start, as well – they have a helpful little diagram showing a table set up with piping bags neatly lined up, squeeze bottles full of flood icing, a tool tray with decorating implements, and racks for drying cookies. When I made my cookies, it really did make a difference to have everything on hand – I was able to focus on decorating and not on wondering where everything is.

- Toothpicks are extremely useful decorating tools – they smooth out any piping flaws, spread flood icing, clean off cookie edges, and a multitude of other useful tasks.

- #2 decorating tips are definitely the most versatile tip for piping – and it’s best to have several of them so you can have multiple colors going at once. The tips are fairly inexpensive as well – in all, I was surprised how easily you can set up your decorating supply kit.

-It does take practice to get your decorating down – but that’s what extra cookies are for! Imperfect cookies are perfect for decorating practice – and just as delicious.

Sugarcookies2

The book is packed with lots more useful information – there are base recipes for cookies to decorate (I tried the sugar and they were quite tasty), royal icing recipes, and complete discussions on all the options in the decorator’s arsenal, from imprinting to cutouts, flooding to fondant, sugaring to luster dust. To help the reader visualize how to use all these techniques, the authors provide dozens of gorgeously photographed examples with instructions, from holiday themes to special occasions. There are also sections on baking tips and tricks that are useful for any baker, not just for cookie making. Finally, to really challenge and inspire the reader, the last chapter includes what the authors call "showstoppers" – three-dimensional cookie houses, edible cookie containers, whimsical centerpieces made from cookies with some icing to hold them together.

This charming, comprehensive tome is a wonderful reference for any baking library – I highly recommend it. To test out some of the techniques in the book, I chose one of their themes, Winter into Spring. Using the same flower cookie cutter, I was able to practice some basic piping, floodwork, and decoration with drageés and sanding sugars. It’s quite gratifying, really, how many variations you can come up with using just four colors of icing and a handful of sugars.

Sugarcookies3

It’s been a busy couple of weeks with me working on my own book; I’m missing the simpler days of just baking and blogging. It was nice to just bake a batch of cookies and spend a day with them and some icing, tracing out hopeful premonitions of the spring to come. Sometimes cookies fresh from the kitchen are all you need.

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29 Comments so far ↓

  • Gretchen Noelle #1

    Very nice review. I have never really thought of artistically decorating cookies – well beyond Christmas ones. These look gorgeous and elegant.

  • maya #2

    Yes! I need this book! I must have it. Excellent review – thanks!

  • kat #3

    you are so talented!

  • T #4

    Pretty, pretty! I don’t think I would have the nerve (or the patience!) to decorate cookies myself. Yours look great, and so festive!

  • JEP #5

    Simply gorgeous!

  • Karen #6

    Beautiful! Decorating sugar cookies has always alluded me. I’m going to look for Cookie Craft. Thanks for including the tips!

  • dreamsicle #7

    the cookies look wonderful, and seasonal too! i’m hopeless in decorating and i’ve gotta make a celebration cake as a class project, so there’s lots of practice that i’ll need. @__@

    i can’t wait to read your book either. good luck on it!

  • Katie #8

    Your cookies look beautiful. Its amazing what a little decoration can do to a plain cookie.

  • superluckykitchen #9

    i am going to have to get me some #2′s. your cookies look beautiful. im sure they taste just as good as they look!

  • peabody #10

    They look lovely.

  • michelle @ Us vs. Food #11

    wow, those cookies are so delicate and beautiful. i go for the “rustic” look with my baked goods, but it’s really a justification for the fact that i’m a spaz.

    and great review of the book – i’m adding it to my wants list.

  • Chris #12

    Thanks for this! I always look at how beautiful other foodies create works of art with cookies and wish I could do the same. I am going to look into Cookie Craft.

  • Niko #13

    These cookies look pretty good to me. If these were on a big white plate at a party it would make everything look great…

  • Rosa #14

    Your cookies look perfect and ever so pretty! I would not have enough patience to decorate them in such a wonderful manner…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  • Tracy #15

    These are so beautiful!

  • Cheryl #16

    I too shriek when people ask me to really decorate something. Even though I took 2 cake decorating classes, its just not my forte. You did an amazing job with these cookies. You can’t tell them from the ones on the cover.

  • Deborah #17

    This is a book I need, as I really need to learn and work on my cookie decorating skills!

  • cakewardrobe #18

    I once spent 9 hours just baking and decorating/piping 24 cupcakes. EEK! You must be super patient and confident. I rarely draw something out before I decorate though. I just go with the flow – “design on the page”

  • kate #19

    Anita , this stuff scares me off too. I’m really encouraged by your post to get me a coy of this book and try some out. These cookies you have made look so gorgeous and perfect.

  • Jessy #20

    Those are so pretty!!

  • kate #21

    your cookies look amazing–you’re totally an artist!

  • Priscilla #22

    Stunning cookies…great job!

  • Vibi #23

    Wow! I come here expecting a February Julia Child bread Daring Baker’s challenge and what do I find? These exquisite, marvelous and sooooo beautiful little gems of cookies. Needless to say, with talent like you have… you can leave drawing and painting with your sister! BRAVO!

  • eliza #24

    i don’t know if i’m patient enough to do decorations on dozens of cookies, but i admire your perseverance and technique! :)

  • adelyn #25

    well, i consider you an artist! those cookies are stunning! and thanks for the book intro, i’ve put it on my list (oh such a long list…) of cookbooks i want to try. :)

  • steph #26

    i own this book. it is gorgeous and very informative. you did a smashing job with your cookies!

  • Anita #27

    Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments! It was time consuming but a very worthwhile activity! I hope you get a chance to pick up this book!

  • mimi #28

    beautiful cookies! thanks for the review, i’ve been looking for a good reference resource to start “seriously” decorating my cookies. will definitely check this out.

  • Marjorie #29

    Love the pictures of the cookies, I have made cookie bouquets twice now. Once for my childrens hight school graduations where I made chef hats and graduations hats and just recently baby shower bouquets with carriages, onesies and teddy bears. I think the hardest thing about making these is the wait time between each layer of frosting. Love doing it and can’t wait for the next occasion. Love your pictures. http://pastrychefprogram.com

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