Thursday, 10 July 2014
A Midsummer Night's Dream Cookie Set
Commissioned to make a set of A Midsummer Night's Dream cookies, as a thank you gift for a teacher, I wanted to do something different, in style, technique and design. I've been wanting to try a freer method of cookie decorating and haven't been able to get this beautiful set of ballerina cookies The Cookie Architect made for her Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #2 out of my mind.
What inspired the 'jigsaw' shapes was the ever present difficulty I have of creating a set that fits the tins I keep for these sorts of gifts. I usually start by making an estimate of the balance of sizes and complexity needed, then make extra to ensure that the finished tin doesn't end up with a layer of just one cookie. That's not a good look when you lift the last layer and find just one cookie at the bottom.
This method usually works well for my household though, as there are always extras lying around for lunch boxes. But it takes ages to pack a tin, going in and out and rearranging layers so the cookies don't slide about too much, yet each layer having a nice balance of designs.
Anyway, this time I was lying in bed meant to be sleeping but thinking instead about cookies; not just cookies, but fitting odd shaped cookies together into rectangles, because that's normal; and it occurred to me how easy it would be if I could just make big tin-sized rectangles.
So that's what I did. I created three big tin-sized rectangles. But then so that it didn't seem like I was getting away with just making three cookies for an order, I chose a couple of ordinary cutters, cut them out of the rectangles, then used a scalpel to hand cut the rest of the shapes around them. There was a certain amount of guesswork regarding size and allowing for spread of individual pieces, but it all seemed to work out quite well.
The backgrounds I spread with stiff white royal icing and a palette knife, leaving rough(ish) edges and swirls that fit the shapes, but which would enhance rather than interfere with the designs I wanted to create, like the tree and its roots below. I pressed a few sugar pearls into some areas, and when dry I had fun with lustre and petal dusts, and a little edible paint, to create three colours schemes for the three rectangles.
As for the images, first and foremost I had Arthur Rackham's illustrations for A Midsummer Night's Dream in mind, but I collected a number of different illustrations in the same vein in a Pinterest board here.
For most of the cookies, I simply used my tipless bag of soft white RI and 'drew' freehand, in stages, particularly for the couple of images of Titania (see above and below). Lots of flowing hair, a suggestion of wing and crown, and a little lustre dust to highlight is all the Queen of fairies needs really.
For the detailed head of Bottom (below) I made a few marks with edible pen to start with, just to get the overall dimensions, then referred to Rackham's illustration for more detail.
Puck clinging to the tree however was a direct copy of 'Puck' by Charles Vess and I used the Camera Lucida ipad app to scratch the image on the cookie with a scribe. I hadn't intended to paint the faces on these cookies, but keep them in a cameo style, but I couldn't help add a hint of 'puckishness' to this one.