Friday, April 23, 2010

600 Cookies

For a week, I disappeared off the Earth.

If you tried to reach me to wish me a happy birthday and I didn't return your call, it's not because I didn't want to! It's because I was a slave to the cookies.

So many cookies.

By some miracle I managed to pull off my biggest baking project yet! John's company ordered 200 gift bagged 'favours' for a large meeting they were holding. The instruction I was given was that they wanted something with their logo. So I put together some samples of ways I could make the logo on little fondant circles and said that I could put it on either cookies or cupcakes. They picked cookies.

Well, one cookie isn't much of a favour, so I offered to put together little bags with three cookies each: one with the logo, one shaped like a house, and one shaped like a car (there's not much cookie-friendly imagery to work with in the insurance industry as I'm sure you can imagine), all done in the company's colours.

Piece of cake, right?

I planned out everything in my head. Worked out costs and what supplies I would need. I figured I would start them a week ahead of time and freeze them as I go. John and I went out to the Michaels in Mississauga and picked up the bags and icing colours.

On my birthday last Friday, I had taken the day off work but John ended up having to work, so I thought it would be a great time to get a head start on the cookies. I woke up early and headed down to the St. Lawrence market because they're the biggest suppliers of cookie cutters I know of. I found a circle cutter for the logo. They didn't have any car shaped cutters! But they had one that was supposed to be a bus but actually looked like a PT Cruiser, so I figured that would do. I picked up a motorcycle cutter too, just in case.

But there was no house cutter! So, I left, feeling discouraged. I called the Bulk Barn, McCalls and Kitchen Stuff Plus, but it seemed no one makes a house shaped cookie cutter! How on Earth was I going to make 200 house shaped cookies with out a cookie cutter?

This was the first of many snags.

Eventually I realized I was going to have to make my own. I headed down the street to Loomis and Toles and bought a sheet of heavy acetate. I drew out a picture of the house I wanted and measured how long the sides would be. I cut a strip of the acetate and carefully scored and folded it into a house. How to attach it together? Well I wasn't sure how food safe crazy glue is, so I went with the classic duct tape, wrapping it around the back so it wouldn't touch the food.

Okay, I had a house cutter. It wasn't pretty, but it was the right shape and it would cut out cookies.

Time to start baking.

I threw together a batch of sugar cookie dough. Of course it had to chill for an hour before I could bake it (otherwise the cookies don't come out light and fluffy). Once it had chilled, I turned it out on the counter to roll it and made another batch of dough to chill while the first one was being baked.

I got a great groove going. At all times, one batch of dough in the fridge, one sheet of cookies in the oven, one ready to go in the oven next, and one that I'm working on. After three batches of dough, I had all the circles baked. Awesome.

Once that was done, I took a break from baking and made white some royal icing to dip them in. I dipped the 200 cookies and laid them all out to dry. They all fit on the table, so I was able to do them all at once. Not a bad day's work. I went to bed feeling really good about how productive the day had been.

On Saturday, John told me that for my birthday he wanted to take me out for brunch and then to the zoo. How fun is that! But it was raining out, so we decided to just go for brunch and put off the zoo until after he gets back from Honduras.

He took me to a little restaurant called Simple Bistro on Mount Pleasant Street, only a 10 minute walk from home. We had the best eggs benedict that I can ever remember having! It was a perfectly poached egg and hot peameal bacon on a home-made croissant with hand whisked hollandaise sauce. And it was served with crispy home-made shoestring fries and greens. Perfection. Even the tea was good. We will definitely be going back.

When we got home I decided it was time to make some cookies. I started baking houses.

My crudely constructed cookie cutter worked out okay, but it was about this time that I started to understand the magnitude of the project. I realized the houses were going to take six batches of cookie dough because they were somewhat bigger than the circles. Baking them would take more than a day. After three batches or so, I decided to work on icing them. That's when I realized they wouldn't all fit on my table. I could only fit about 80, so it would take three rounds of icing to get them all done and each round needed 4 hours for the icing to dry and then it would take a further 3 hours to pipe all of the finishing details on them. Frantically, I started working out how many hours I had before they were due, Thursday morning. I started to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew.

By the end of Saturday I had most of the houses baked and two rounds iced and decorated. And I realized that there was no chance of all the cookies fitting into my freezer. I filed that one away in my brain as another problem to solve.

On Sunday, I realized that I had to get as much done this weekend as possible so I woke up at the crack of dawn. I finished baking the houses and got started on the cars. It was at about this time I remembered that they had also ordered a cake for Tuesday, so I had better get that started today too.

And I realized that I had yet to even start working on the 200 fondant logos so I got to work on those too. After three and a half hours of punching out little letters with a cutter and cutting curves out (using another acetate cutter I made) and then carefully attaching them to the cookies with royal icing, I had 70 done. Yikes.

By the end of the 3-day weekend I had about 500 cookies baked, two chocolate cakes baked, stacked and crumb coated, 400 cookies iced and 270 cookies decorated.

From there on, I started running on very little sleep. I was up at 6am each morning and in bed by 1am if I was lucky. Each day before work I would ice another 80 and let them dry while I was at work. Even on my lunch hours I was either running around looking for ribbon or at home making buttercream. At night on Monday I finished up the cake (it actually turned out pretty cute) and did another 70 fondant decorations. On Tuesday night I piped the details on all 200 cars. My fridge and my freezer were absolutely packed with cookies.

Wednesday night was crunch time! John started bagging them while I finished the last 60 fondant decorations. I was terrified that he would get to the end of the bags and realize that we were a few cookies short because I hadn't had time to double count them. I had cookie dough in the fridge and extra royal icing standing by just in case but I really didn't want to be up until 3am doing more baking. I lucked out though, we actually had 6 extra cookies.

We were finished at about the same time. I joined him at the table and we tied little blue and green ribbon bows until 2am.

When we were done, the only containers we had big enough to hold them were the laundry baskets.

On Wednesday night I went to bed feeling so relieved that they were all done. I still can't believe I pulled this off. John said he couldn't wait to get them out of the apartment. It smelled so strongly of sugar in here that I actually had that feeling you get from eating too much sugar when I hadn't even eaten any.

When I got home from work yesterday I just flopped out. I laid in bed playing video games on my DS with peanut butter and banana toast. I had missed relaxing so much!

Tonight I need to clean this place up though, there's wax paper, ziplock bags and ribbon everywhere!

Overall, I'm not sure whether or not I would do this again, but I think I probably would if they asked me. It took so much more supplies than I thought though, so next time I would price it differently I think. I kept running out of stuff I never expected to run out of, like wax paper, salt and baking powder. And I went through a whole 10kg bag of flour, about 15 lbs of icing sugar and I lost count of the butter at 10lbs.

I definitely learned that I need to work on my time management skills. I get into a zone when I'm baking and I don't realize that 4 hours have passed, so I'll think I have more time than I actually do. I also see a lot of ways this process could have been better streamlined, but I was limited by the size of my tiny kitchen and oven.

And the fact that I didn't hate these cookies by the end of it, I was actually still having fun, makes me a little more sure that this is what I'm cut out for. This is what I'm meant to be doing.


  1. OMG Jacki I almost cried. What a huge project! and of course you pulled it off! kudos to you baby, you're one of a kind.

    Love you

  2. Almost cried? Out of joy? Or sadness? Or anxiety? Or pride? lol, I don't know exactly what you mean :)

  3. All of the above! I felt so bad that it took every moment you had for a whole week, and that you worked under such pressure to get it done, anxious that you might not be able to pull it off, and so PROUD that you did and that you're my kid!

  4. Congratulations on your achievements Babe. I am very proud of you. Glad you sur4vived it all.

    Love Dad

  5. Wow Jacki! What a project! I'm so impressed and they look so cute and so nicely packaged. Hope you are getting a much needed rest before you sign on for the next cooking project.

    Fantastic job you did, I am amazed!