Wednesday, 28 October 2015

An Autumn Cookie Jigsaw or 'Cookiesaw'




I can't deny it any longer. Summer's gone, the clocks have turned back so the evenings are dark. It won't be long before the mornings are dark too. Out come the blankets and slippers. I'd start drinking mulled wine, but apparently that's not appropriate for breakfast. Time to hibernate, like this little mouse.

I decided to document the whole process of making this cookiesaw from scratch so this is a picture heavy post, but I hope it shows the process clearly enough.






Naturally enough I started with a sheet of dough, which I cut into a 9" square. This I marked by eye into sixteen wibbly pieces by tracing meandering lines across and down. I only gently scratched the lines, so that I could smooth them over and start again if necessary.

Then I cut using a scalpel, carefully seperating the shapes and - most important this! - laid them on the baking sheet in their rows, being very careful not to muddle up the position. To create the frame, I baked long rectangles of random lengths, enough to go all around the edge.





You can see how the small amount of spread these cookies have when baked, really messes up the tight design of the cookiesaw! (Though if you weren't actually creating a single design, I quite like how they've turned out - makes me think I'd like to grout all those gaps with royal icing!).


So this is where the hard work starts - I use a microplane for the outer, straight edges, and a 6" long round file to gradually file away bits here and bits there until I get a tight fit. It means going back and forth between cookies, with constant small adjustments. But eventually they start to fit together tightly, as you can see from these process shots.





And now comes the fun part. The whole lot was flooded in plain white icing, very carefully right to the edges, and allowed to dry thoroughly. Now I could start painting the background.

This cookiesaw had to have Scottish elements, and I wanted to create a background reminiscent of hills of Scottish heather. (I looked at photos and old paintings to get an idea of the colours and how to blend them). I used a large brush, and built up the colour in layers until it felt right.





To keep colour mixing down, I used only white, black for the blackberries, and orangey-red for the hips. Most of the design was in my head, with one tiny sketch I did just before starting - like many projects, this was one I had mulled over for a while, elements coming together gradually, often as I'm falling asleep.

I wanted grasses, I needed to add a Scottish thistle, and I wanted to include a handpainted version of this little harvest mouse cookie I created for a 'What's New, Honeycat?' Cookie Connection tutorial (I used the same tutorial's technique for the blackberries too). And so I started piping. In the last picture above, I have just started handpainting the mouse. Click on the collages to enlarge if you want to see more detail. I have also uploaded large versions of the individual images to my Flickr account.





After this, I continued handpainting the rest, using a little pearl lustre on the thistle seedheads, and light gold lustre on the grass seads.





The edges I flooded in white, and sprayed very lightly in gold, to form a frame. I then added royal icing embellishments I'd made seperately. The honeybee bodies were piped in white royal icing on cellophane, dried, then painted. Once stuck onto the cookiesaw their legs and wings were piped and then painted, using a little lustre on the wings.





The butterfly's wings were piped, dried and painted seperately. I piped a body directly onto the cookiesaw, stuck the wings in and propped them up until they were dry, adding a little more icing at the base of each wing, out of sight, for strength. (You might just be able to tell that I used a couple of googly royal icing eyes as props!)





So whilst this is a flat piece of work, it ended up with plenty of texture and a few raised elements. Having done a Summer Garden Cookiesaw, and now an autumn one, I'm now hoping I might find time over the next few months to do a winter one, and if you subscribe, you might just find out...





Edited to add this brief video montage of all the stages...