Guest Post: The Cookie Cowgirl is serving up drinks....I mean cookies!

Arty here: Before we get to the good stuff, I thought I would start with a little about Monica.  The first time I saw her, she was wearing an apron with holsters that contained decorating bags of royal icing and wearing cowboy boots.  Like a cookie vigilante.  As you can imagine, it was love at first sight!  Monica is hilarious, kind-hearted, down to earth AND an incredible artist.  And a great mom and devoted wife, and is always thinking about others, and and and I could keep going on and on about how awesome she is, but I'll stop there.  I know why you came here. So without further ado, the one and only royal icing toting, cookie slinging, rootenest tootenest cookier in the Wild West:  The Cookie Cowgirl!!!!  

Monica and her absolutely adorable son, Burt

Monica and her absolutely adorable son, Burt

Hello fellow Mc Goobers, and...Aloha! For those that don’t know me, my name is Monica Holbert, aka the Cookie Cowgirl. I fell in love with making cookies about 5 years ago and never looked back. One of the things that I love about making cookies is how versatile they can be. Little bites of dough and icing that transform into anything the imagination can conjure.

We all make beautiful cookies, but then how do they taste? Doesn’t that question just send shivers down your spine, I mean they are cookies first, right? They should taste just as good as they look, otherwise what’s the point?

Why am I talking about flavors? It’s because I LOVE flavored cookies. I have probably done over fifty different flavored cookies since I started, but tiki cocktail flavors have got to be my favorite and that’s what I want to have a chat with y’all about.

My first try at making tiki cocktail flavored cookies was three years ago when my husband attended a tiki conference in Oregon and asked if I would make cookies that he could hand out to people to help break the ice and make some friends. We chose Mai Tai for our cookie flavor and I got to work on the recipe. It took me five batches of dough to get it right, one had too much lime, one not enough almond, one too much orange, you get the idea. Mixing a good cocktail is an art; the flavors are all very deliberate and must be balanced perfectly. But how do you achieve balance? Well, I can tell you it’s not with just extracts or emulsions. The key to my success is using fresh and natural ingredients whenever I can. When you are able to use different types of ingredients, not all the flavors hit you at once in that first bite. As you chew you taste the different zests or spices and it’s totally amazing.

Some of my favorite flavorings to add are:

Citrus Zests: Orange, lemon, lime, even grapefruit. A little goes a long way and the oils only get stronger in the cookies. Note: zest does not generally work well in icing (it can clog your piping bag), but you can add the same flavor juice or citrus extracts if you need an extra punch of flavor to go with the zest in your dough.

Frozen Juice Concentrate: Frozen concentrate makes a wonderful flavoring, just let it thaw… you can even add it to icing. You can use regular juice but the concentrate has more punch for the amount of liquid you’re adding.

Cocoa Powder: cocoa is a great compliment to many flavors and you can add just a little bit to mellow some flavors and add a great color to your dough.

Jell-O: yes, JELL-O! It’s been in recipe books since the 50s and those girls knew how to a make a tasty cookie. A little goes a long way and it adds a very clean flavor without the added alcohol. There are even a bunch of all natural Jell-O flavors out now, so give them a shot.

Alcohol: So it doesn’t take much, but many rums, bourbons, even beers, have a truly unique flavor that you can only get from adding the real thing. Fair warning: alcohol can break down royal icing's ability to form peaks. While not everyone mixes their icing the same way, I usually mix mine to a soft peak and then use a 50/50 blend of alcohol and water to dilute my royal for flooding.

Spices: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Lavender, Cardamom, Allspice… powdered spices are the simplest and most universal way to add flavor without changing your dough consistency.

The thing to remember about extracts and emulsions is that the first ingredient in them is alcohol. Why does that make a difference? My experience is that you get what you put in when it comes to ingredients. Have you ever tried to taste an extract? It’s pretty disgusting. You are honestly not adding any more flavor, just extra alcohol. The nice thing about using non alcohol based ingredients is that you can taste what you put in right away, without waiting for the flavors to bake out. The bonus is how wonderfully inviting the dough looks too, all the little specks of zest or spice...it just adds a whole new level to the way your cookies look from the start. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that Mexican vanilla is absolutely amazing and everyone should have a bottle in their baking arsenal.

So this is a first for me, and something special just for you, I made this recipe just for you guys as an example of a typical cocktail cookie I would make… A Piña Colada flavored cookie. This recipe will probably make about 2-3 dozen cookies depending on the size of your cutter.

Monica1 (2).jpg

Cookie Cowgirl’s Piña Colada Cookies:
1 Cup Butter (soft/room temperature)
1 Cup White sugar
1/4 Cup Frozen Pineapple Juice Concentrate
1/4 Cup Coconut Creme (I like Coco Lopez, this is NOT coconut milk)
2 large eggs
1T Pineapple flavored Jell-o
1/4 Cup unsweetened coconut flakes (I like the fine ones because they cut better)
1/2 tsp Salt
5-6 Cups All Purpose Flour (or all purpose gluten free flour)

• Cream butter & sugar together until light and fluffy.
• Add pineapple juice, coconut creme, and eggs one ingredient at a time until well blended.
• Add Jell-O, coconut flakes and salt one at a time until well mixed.
• Add flour one cup at a time, mixing well between cups, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and stays in one large ball in the middle (no dough on sides of bowl). Careful that you don’t over mix or add too much flour.
• Roll dough as desired and cut into shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 11 minutes, rotating trays half way through, until just starting to get golden brown on edges.

Icing:
I have no secret recipe for icing. Many here know I love my Sweet Hope Icing (recipe here) but you can use whatever icing recipe you already know and love. I usually make a big batch of icing and pull out small amounts to flavor instead of flavoring the whole batch. To do this you’ll mix your icing to semi-stiff consistency (soft peak). In a small bottle I mixed 1 T pineapple juice, 1 T coconut creme and 3 T coconut rum (like a Malibu or Parrot Bay)… the rum is totally optional, you can just add water instead. I use this mixture to thin out my icing for flood after I’ve colored it. You do not need to flavor every bit of icing, I usually just flavor my floods and leave my piping unflavored so I can use it for another order later ;)

The “trick” to being able to add all these ingredients is in YOUR dough. I always start with my standard cookie dough recipe and then adjust and sub out for the flavors I want. I know that I typically have about 1/2 cup of liquid I can add to my dough before it starts changing the recipe. What you don’t want to do is start adding a ton of extra extracts or alcohol because it will change the way your dough bakes, no more than 1/4 cup per batch is a good rule for me ;)

The stuff here is just my opinion by the way. I know a lot of you make wonderful cookies using stuff that I don’t typically use, I’ve tasted them; they are awesome. I also know a lot of people generally stick to one, maybe two, flavors of cookie. My hope is this will give you some ideas for the next time you’re feeling adventurous and you’ll add something new to something you already love.

Guest Post: My Boss is Cuter Than Your Boss!

Arty here!  For the record: I had no say in the title or the awesome things written about me below.  The author of this post is the always fabulous Kim Holmes who I am so lucky to call friend and co-conspirator.  I met her 3 years ago and was immediately drawn to her vibrant personality.  She is opinionated and sassy, but also sweet and super generous and very creative.  In many ways we are opposite, but we work well together.  I don't get tired of this lady. We work together, we play together, we switch kids together, we even sleep on the ground for a week at Girls Camp as "craft ladies" together.

About a year and a half into our friendship we convinced each other I needed an assistant... and that it needed to be her.  Best. work idea.  ever.  I like to tell her, "I'm a genius sometimes." and this is clearly one of those moments; though she will tell you it was her idea, so what can I say: we are both geniuses sometimes!

She keeps the McGooniverse (a term Kim coined!) running smoothly.  She does all the stuff I'm terrible at: she thinks through things with me, she encourages and helps me see cookies through a different lens, she bosses me around, and tells me to paint my nails.  And don't let her fool you:  SHE MAKES GORGEOUS COOKIES!  All by herself.  So, without further ado, I give you Kim.

When people ask me what I do, I say "I'm the assistant to a cookie artist". For some odd reason, this always leads to further questions! (Have they really never met anyone with my job before?) And I inevitably end up pulling out my phone to show off Arty's amazing cookie creations. What, people ask, do you do? Do you sit around and decorate cookies together? Is it fun? Do you like it? The answers are: whatever she tells me to do, no, yes, and I LOVE IT! If you think it's fun to be friends with Liz, or to cookie with her, let me assure you it's even better to see her on an almost-daily basis and to watch her creative process. 

Liz is a natural artist. She once said to me, "Don't you just wake up some days and think 'I need to create something today'?" The sad truth is that I do not! I sometime wake up and think....I want to bake something delicious today! But I'm not a creative person by nature. I can copy other people with the best of them, but coming up with something beautiful on my own is not my strong suit. So I absolutely love sitting back and watching her do it! 

Most of her designs start in her sketchbook. She ALWAYS has lots of ideas about things she wants to cookie. And when she gets the time (usually at night when I'm not around to see it) she puts piping bag to cookie & makes her vision a reality. When I get to work the next morning, I get to ooh & aaah and be amazed, and ask way too many questions. And then, because she's so nice, Arty shares her designs with all of you, and if you feel so inclined, you can make them too.

Though art is not my talent, choosing amazing friends is. I'm seriously really good at it. And because I was smart enough to choose Liz, I ended up with this super fun job that has allowed me entrance into the cookie world, and has also enabled me to make even more amazing friends...by that I mean you!

Oh, and I'm pretty sure my boss is cuter than your boss, so there's that.

 

 

McGoober Patches

We got spirit, yes we do!  We got spirit, at McGoo U!

At this hallowed institution of higher cookie learning, we make friends, we learn the art of decorating, and we cheer on our football team when they're up against our rivals at CakePop Tech.  "Go McGoonicorns!"  

As a professor and the chancellor of McGoo U, I wanted to show my love and appreciation by introducing a brand new way to say thank you; for being loyal McGoobers, for supporting McGoo U, and for being awesome.  

As many of you know, there is a varsity letter.  There are a couple of ways to earn them and we have recently added another.  See Mixer patch.  (You can see the original post here) 

These letters look fabulous on sweaters, cardigans, or this letterman-style jacket from amazon, and others have framed them.  Whatever you choose to do with it, the great news is that the McGoo U varsity letter has some new additions to the family!  I am rolling out the first 3 in a series of fun new little patches that you can earn as a thank you for doing stuff you already do as an A+ student.  

Piping Bag Patch

How to earn:

Do your "homework" for 3 consecutive current months (ex: August, September, October).  Use the hashtag #mcgoouhomework and post your work on Facebook or Instagram or send an email with pictures to contact@artymcgoo.com    

Multiples:

Yes.  Receive a patch for each consecutive 3 months (starting August 2017).  

Bonus:

On your 4th earning, receive a special "Year of Homework" patch. (Year does not have to be consecutive).  

 

 

Mixer Patch

How to earn:

Refer a friend to be a new McGoo U annual subscriber. (Make sure they put your name in the "How did you hear about us?" section when they register.)

Multiples:

Yes.  Receive a patch for each friend who joins.  (Not for renewals)

Bonus:

If you do not have your letter patch, you will automatically receive your letter with this patch.

 

 

 

Apron Patch

How to earn:

The apron patch is given at Arty's discretion.  It can be given for anything from being innovative to being encouraging to others.  In other words: anything goes.  tip: participating on the McGoo U Student Body Facebook page and using hashtag #mcgoou helps me see what you're up to.

Multiples:

hmmmmm... anything goes!

 

 

Some clarifications:

"Doing your homework" means following along with the monthly McGoo U tutorial, and creating the cookies made in class (usually 3).  They can be customized, embellished, or modified, but it needs to use that month's techniques and basic designs for patch earning purposes.

Patches are based off of my illustrations found in the Arty McGoo Activity Book. 

Patches in general are not earned retroactively.  This is a new and exciting program!  Beginning in August 2017 means it creates an even playing field.  We can't wait to show you the rest of the series and can't wait to start sending these out.  
Make sure your address is current in your McGoo U account so we can get them to you.   

Guest Post: Kim's Confections in the house!

Kim Knemeyer is a Las Vegas cookier who has graced me with her presence on several occasions. On one of those occasions, she brought me the most delicious cinnamon swirl bread. So, because I am sometimes a genius, I asked her to write a blog post about bread baking! So no more loafing around this summer, let's bake bread!

Profile Picture.jpg

Hello my fellow cookiers and hopefully bread bakers too!

You may know me from Facebook as Kim Huston Knemeyer or by my cookie name, Kim’s Confections.  I was so excited when asked to do a blog post about bread!  Not only do I love eating bread, I really enjoy making it.  I’m one of those weirdos who eats something and thinks “Hmmm, I wonder if I could duplicate that.”  I love the challenge of bread because there are so many types ranging from the very simple to the very technical.  And because I like to share my love of baking bread, I also occasionally teach a beginner bread baking class in my home.

Was I a natural at bread baking?  No!  My first attempt was a whole-wheat loaf and let me tell you, it made a better door stop than sandwich.  But that didn’t stop me, because I love a challenge.  I immediately did an online search which led me to the King Arthur Flour website. It really opened my eyes!  Years before, I had received the catalog and perused its amazing products, but I didn’t realize they also hosted this amazing community of bakers who were more than willing to help with any baking issue (kinda sounds like another wonderful community we know and love).  The bakers were amazing, and taught me about the science of baking bread.  Think about all of the forms bread takes throughout the world. When you realize that most start with flour, water, salt and yeast, it boggles the mind!

Now, do you have to get up at the crack of dawn and toil over your bread all day kneading and shaping?  No, you don’t.  There is a bread for every type of baker.  I’m lucky because I run my cookie business from home, so my bread baking can take any form I’m in the mood for.  But if you aren’t in my position, there are recipes and tools to help with that.  How many of you have owned a bread machine?  How many of you have baked a few loaves and then never used it again?  What if I told you I never bake in my bread machine?  Crazy, huh?  Don’t get me wrong, I love mine so much, I got it a sibling! I am the proud owner of two Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme Bread Machines (fondly known as the Cadillac of bread machines).  But I never bake in them.  I use my machines on the dough cycle for mixing and doing the first rise.  I then take out the dough, shape it, let it do its final rise and then bake it in my oven.  I like doing most breads this way because it easily allows me to schedule my bread baking around the other things I have to do.  I know that in that 1 hour and 50-minute time period, the ingredients will be slightly warmed, mixed, punched down and risen in a perfect environment.  I also know that simple rolls and basic loaves, can be completed in about 3 hours.  

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is the one I used for my first successful loaf. It’s also the recipe I teach in my classes.  Although created initially as a burger bun recipe, it adapts to many forms such as rolls, hot dog buns, bread loaves and cinnamon swirl bread.  I know I spoke of my bread machines, but you can also do this recipe by hand or in a mixer (preferably using a bread hook).  This recipe created quite a buzz when first posted to King Arthur Flour’s baking community and soon became a favorite.  It’s soft, slightly sweet and very forgiving!  You can also customize it by adding spices.  My favorite is adding some herbs de Provence when making rolls.  Just a hint of flavor, but not too overwhelming.  I hope my post has inspired you to make a loaf or rolls soon.  Now excuse me, I have a roll that needs a slathering of butter and orange blossom honey!

You can find me at kimsconfectionslv on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

Happy baking!

Kim

Ellen's Famous white bread

Ingredients:

1 cup water

2 tbsp. butter, softened   

1 egg

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour    

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 1/2-3 tsp. instant yeast

 

Ellen's Hawaiian Bread

 Ingredients:

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup pineapple juice

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

2 tbsp. butter, softened

3 cups flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp. instant potato flakes

1 tsp. salt

pinch of ginger

3 tsp. yeast

 Bread Machine Method: Place wet ingredients in bucket first.  Next, place flours, sugars and other ingredients next, except for salt and yeast.  Then place salt off to one side and yeast in an indentation in the center.  Select dough cycle and then run.  

Mixer Method: Place dry ingredients in mixing bowl except for salt.  Combine with paddle attachment.  Add salt and combine.  Add remaining ingredients and combine until dough starts to leave the side of the bowl.  Switch to dough hook and knead for around 6 minutes on low-medium, scraping the dough to the center of the bowl once.  Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or large measuring cup, and cover the container.  Place in a semi-warm spot away from drafts and allow to rise to double it’s size, about an hour.  

For Sandwich Loaf: Preheat oven to 350º.  Gently deflate dough and press into a rectangle.  Fold over top third if dough and press seam with heel of palms.  Fold over another third, press and repeat again.  Place dough in loaf pan sprayed with nonstick spray.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.  Bake for 20 minutes uncovered.  Bake for another 10 covered with foil to prevent over-browning.  Remove from oven and immediately remove from pan onto a cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely before slicing.

For Cinnamon Swirl Loaf: Preheat oven to 350º.  Gently deflate dough and press into a large rectangle.  Combine cinnamon filling mix and water with a whisk until no lumps appear.  Spread over dough leaving a 1” border around edges.  Tightly roll dough and tuck under ends.  Place dough in loaf pan sprayed with nonstick spray.  Cover with plastic wrap loosely and allow to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately remove from pan onto a cooling rack.  Allow to cool.

For Hamburger Buns: Preheat oven to 375º.  Depending on the size you want, divide dough into 10-12 pieces. Slap each piece into a bun shape. Usually 4 or 5 slaps will do it.  Place on greased cookie sheets or bun pans and cover loosely with plastic wrap; rise until doubled, about 30 to 40 minutes.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes till golden.  Remove from pan and cool completely on wire racks.

For Dinner Rolls: Preheat oven to 375º.  Divide into 12 to 24 pieces (I do 16), depending on the size you like. Shape into balls and spray pan with nonstick spray.  For 12 rolls, place in a 8” x 8” square pan; for 16 rolls either 2 8” round cake pans or a 9” x 13” pan; and for 24 rolls in a 9” x 13” pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap let rise until doubled, from 30 to 45 minutes.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.  

 

Finding the perfect dress (cookie)!

Just in case you haven't heard, I have a new set of Mix & Match Dress cutters. I love them so much, and I'm so excited to see what all of you will do with them! I posted this video to Instagram, but thought I'd share it here too...so you can see just some of the possibilities!

Don't have the cutters yet? You can get yours here.

Guest Post: Meet Kris Colucci!

Today I want you to meet my friend Kris. I first met Kris at CookieCon and the last time I saw her... was at CookieCon 2017 with some fun encounters in between.  I was lucky enough to get a quick Kris fix in between CookieCons when we decorated cookies last Christmastime.  She makes outstanding cookies and I'm always impressed with her talent and her thoughtfulness.  Her business name reflects her style perfectly: "So Cute Cookies". Seriously, look at some of her cookies below and try not to say it:"SO CUTE!  I dare ya.  So here, without further ado, is Kris:

Hello! I'm Kris from So Cute Cookies. I was so flattered to be asked to write a guest post for Arty McGoo's blog. 

The power of a cookie is amazing. I love being a part of people's special events and bringing a smile to people through cookies. I enjoy delivering random acts of cookie kindness to people as I go about my day. Whether I bring treats to my favorite checker at the grocery, my husband's office staff, or my mom's nurses, the reaction is always the same! People get so excited over a cookie. 

I began my cookie journey when I took a cookie bouquet class with a friend at my local Michael's store in 2010. I had always been crafty: loved scrapbooking and stamping cards, so decorating cookies was another creative hobby that I thought would be fun in retirement. We used fondant in our class and I went online to find another type of icing that was more like frosting. I found the Karens Cookies blog and website and stumbled into a whole site full of recipes, tutorials, videos, and an online forum where I could talk with other people who shared my passion. I experimented with Royal Icing, Glaze, and Royal Glaze but ultimately fell in love with Karen's Meringue Powder Buttercream Icing. Over the years I've tweaked it to my liking using less shortening and more flavorings but this is basically how I still make my icing today for all my cookie orders. Https://karenscookieblog.com/category/recipes/. Meringue Powder Buttercream does not dry hard and crunchy. It has a more frosting like texture but it dries firm enough to stack and package once dried overnight. I realize most cookiers use Royal Icing but my family and customers love my icing so I will stick with it. 

In 2012 I went to a cookie retreat in Louisville, KY and it was so fun to meet and learn from other cookiers. I met so many people I still call my friends today. I have attended every CookieCon in Salt Lake City and have taken some fun classes along the way with Arty Mc Goo, Oh Sugar, and SweetTCakes.

I would define my cookie style as simple and cute. I avoid complicated orders and characters.  One of my favorite things to do is package cookies. I love wrapping gifts and showing up to the party with the prettiest package, so it's only natural that I love adding big bows and cute packaging to show off my cookies. I want my customers to have that WOW factor when they walk into an event bringing my cookies. 

When I am not busy baking treats my husband and I love to travel. Our 2 kids are grown and we try and vacation as often as possible. I have even combined my love of baking and traveling by visiting a few cookie friends in the UK, Greece, and Arizona.  Cookie friends are the best people! 

Follow me on Instagram, Facebook (So Cute Cookies) and my website. Www.socutecookies.com.          ~Kris

 

How I Lost My CookieCon Virginity: Volume 2

Hey everybody, it's Kim again. Why has it taken me so long to write this blog post? I don't honestly know. It could have been spring break, the 2 week illness that followed, the fact that my computer died, or my inherent laziness. Any one is probably a valid choice. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, losing my CookieCon virginity! (It really was everything they said it would be!)

So Thursday morning began VERY early with preparations for the McGoo U Sock Hop! We had a special pre-CookieCon social for all of the McGoo U subscribers, and it was a BLAST! Elvis (Mr. John in his sexy white jumpsuit) made a special appearance and serenaded the adoring crowd, we played a rousing game of "speed-friendshipping", had a decorator's challenge, and my son came and served as "bartender", mixing up our signature drinks! Everyone had a great time getting together and socializing before CookieCon officially began. I made a slide show so you can see how awesome it was!

 

After the party we took a few minutes to check out Cookie Town and the Sugar Show entries. Oh my gosh, it was AMAZING!  Cookie people are so clever and talented! Here's a little peek at Cookie Town: 

And here are just a few of the cookies that were entered into the Sugar Show! Aren't they so impressive? I couldn't get over it. I must have gone back into that room 10 times over the course of the weekend just to ooh and aah.

And then CookieCon OFFICIALLY began! People started arriving in droves, lined up to get their swag bags, traded pins & cookies, and the excitement level was through the roof! You know how people talk about "finding your tribe"? Well, that really happens at CookieCon. I don't know about you, but when I talk to my friends about royal icing consistency, where you can get Everclear, and the latest cookies I've seen on Instagram, their eyes glaze over. BUT NOT AT COOKIECON! At CookieCon, there are hundreds of other people who speak your language; and let's face it, it's nice to be understood.

Ooh, and then I got to go to First-timer orientation! That's where they divide all of the newbies into groups & give them the lay of the land. It was fun to meet a bunch of other CookieCon virgins, find out where they had traveled from, and have a someone with real experience tell you what to expect your first time!

Thursday night ended with an OUTSTANDING keynote speech by Katy Metoyer (Sugar Dayne). Her presentation was EVERYTHING: sweet, sassy, funny, touching, and incredibly open and honest. If you've seen the hashtag #mycookiefriendsarereal around the interwebs in the last few months, it's because of Katy's talk. Tears were shed, people were moved, and it ended in a standing ovation. Katy is a cookie goddess.

If that weren't enough, I then got to dine with some of my cookie idols. I was still wearing my sock hop outfit, so I got some pretty funny looks walking through Salt Lake City, but who cares when you're taking that walk with Arty McGoo, Lilaloa, Andy Kay, and the Hungry Hippopotamus? Not me!