Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Where I extol the virtues of a dehydrator

I've had a chance lately to create a couple of sets of my own designs, both ordered by my mother for friends, and she is happy to leave the whole thing up to me. So nice to have a break from characters and logos!

For the first I bought an Orla Kiely gift box, and used the same colours to create a simple but striking set of flowers and leaves to fill the box with.

I loved the restricted colour palate and simple designs, just adding a bit of detail and movement with the lines and dots on the petals. There's something very satisfying about piping curvy, organic lines like this.

For the latest set, I turned to a greetings card I've had hanging around for a while, with abstract seedheads and plants on it, and used it as the inspiration for a very abstract set of cookies, for an anniversary gift.

I used a mixture of wet on wet flooding, piped details, and some lovely large blobs for flowerheads, that I would never have dared to try before The Beast came to live with us: my 6 tray dehydrator. It sits, ugly, dark and huge on my desk, but performs its duties marvelously. It dries the icing quickly enough to prevent cratering, an annoying habit of the icing to collapse in on itself on blobs and small areas of icing.

Cratering occurs because of the speed that moisture is wicked away from below the surface, in small areas (increased surface area to volume ratio the smaller something is - remember that from school? Or is it decreased - clearly I've forgotten). The surface is weakened before it has a chance to crust over and harden properly. The dehydrator causes a hard crust to form quickly enough to counteract the process.

You can see cratering in several spots in this old photo of a cookie (Alice, from an Alice in Wonderland set, who I based on the Winter Girls from Klickitat Street).

You can see where I've tried to patch up the sleeves, and added an extra 'blob' to one pigtail, and also where I've just left a crater in the hair tie on the left.

But no more. I can do blobs galore. And also add dark colours to light, as the surface dries fast enough in the dehydrator to prevent bleeding and blurring. It's also a good place to store the cookies in overnight as they're drying out, to keep them safe and stop all the tables in the house being covered with trays.

I found a nice set of natural coloured tart boxes that are perfect for boxing cookies to be hand delivered. So these are now waiting to be taken to their new home this weekend.