While I usually post my non-baking adventures over at Johnna52, I wanted to share this post with you, my baking fans, because it is really baking related. Really, it is. Read on…
In the last few weeks, I’ve taken a creative sabbatical, which included attending many activities carefully chosen to enhance my skills as a food blogger, as a recipe developer, as an artist. It will soon be a busy time of year for me at my job and I need to refuel in order to maintain a high level of creativity throughout the holiday season. I have been to hear several food celebrities speak, bought a new camera, attended an amazing food photography workshop with Helene Dujardin and went to a fun cookie decorating workshop at Sweet! Baking & Candy Making Supply in Lawrence, Kansas. I am excited to tell you all about the cookie decorating workshop.
I was invited to the workshop by Kristin at Dine and Dish. In addition to writing a fabulous blog full of recipes and beautiful photos, she has done such a great job creating a network of local bloggers, I’m tickled to know her and all of the other gals I’ve met through the BlogKC group. She rounded up a group of ten bloggers to attend the event, held at Sweet! in Lawrence, Kansas. The event was sponsored by Best Buy and we were told they would be showing us an All-In-One computer system that would be perfect for our kitchens. Yeah, yeah, whatever, computer in the kitchen, blah, blah, blah. I was just interested in the cookie decorating! Then I heard the amazing Bridget from Bake at 350 would be joining the class via Skype. They could talk all they wanted about that ridiculous computer in the kitchen concept, all I really was interested in was cookie decorating, visiting a fun new baking supply shop and learning from Bridget of Bake at 350. Seriously, that was everything I needed to make for an amazing evening! And besides, who needs a computer in the kitchen? This computer thing wasn’t going to be an easy sell, but there would be cookies so I was going.
Boy, was I in for a treat. I arrived at Sweet! and soon realized this is my version of kid-in-a-candy-shop. The store is adorable, packed full of every color of sprinkles, sugars and cupcake papers you would ever need. Frosting tips, pastry bags, novelty baking pans and packaging perfect for sharing home baked treats were arranged in a way that makes sense, a way that makes shopping fun.
In addition to all of the wonderful shopping, Sweet! has a kitchen studio space that is perfect for classes. I grabbed a spot for the class and was greeted by Cindy, the store owner. It didn’t take long to figure out Cindy is an amazing hostess, she had thought of everything from printed nametags to plenty of snacks and beverages. She even provided each of us with a darling Sweet! apron. Each spot was set up with a dozen cookies for each of us and squeeze bottles full of frosting. Because I work in the special event business, I have high expectations of events and sometimes see things I would have done differently. No chance of that here, Cindy had thought of everything!
Our class began with introductions. Our in-person instructor was Nora Kaschube from Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Bridget joined us by Skype and on hand to tell us about the kitchen computer system was David from Best Buy. We also got a quick introduction to the all-in-one computer system. I think I muttered something like, “Seriously, who has a computer in their kitchen? So impractical!” You see, I can be a bit of a messy baker. I’ve never taken my laptop into the kitchen because I need to be able to use it again. While I try to conserve natural resources, I often print out a copy of a recipe for one-time use. My cookbooks are splattered with ingredients, even when I cover them with plastic wrap or prop them up in my acrylic bookstand. I just couldn’t picture using technology like this fancy computer in my kitchen.
During class we used milk fondant and talked about the differences between milk fondant and Royal icing. I still prefer Royal. Bridget shared some great tips with us, like that she uses chilled butter and doesn’t refrigerate her dough before rolling. (I’ve already tried this and it works, even with gluten-free dough.) We discussed the swirling technique I first tried last Christmas to make peppermint candy cookies. It was good to have an in-person demonstration in addition to the thorough instructions and photos Bridget has shared on her blog.
While Bridget was talking to us via Skype, it hit me that I could Skype with my sister while in the kitchen. We could do holiday baking together this year. She could watch me fail at making divinity again! We could visit while I cook. I love chatting while in the kitchen and it was fun having Bridget virtually in this class, why wouldn’t it be fun to have my family in the kitchen?
At one point, Bridget’s cat joined us, and then her little cutie dropped in to say hi. My staunch position on not having a computer in the kitchen was softening when I realized my family and friends could virtually join me for baking, chatter and wine.
We finished our cookie decorating and Cindy gave us each a pizza box to take our cookies home in. See, I told you she had thought of everything! I am excited to attend more classes there. The representative from Best Buy then announced it was time to draw for the all-in-one computer. I didn’t mention one of us would be taking home one of these fancy gadgets, did I? Cindy and her assistant drew names and, well, guess what? I WON! I won a 23″ Gateway all-in-one computer. Yep, me, the “no computer in my kitchen” naysayer won.
David from Best Buy offered to give me a quick lesson on how the computer worked. Somehow he managed to speak to me in a language I understand and showed me how absolutely simple this computer is to operate. It has a touchscreen, which is covered with a thick screen that cleans easily even when smeared by grubby kitchen fingers. It has a wireless keyboard and mouse, plus an on-screen keyboard. He showed me all sorts of applications designed to best interact with a touchscreen. He also told me it could be attached to a wall mount, like a flat screen TV. I was beyond excited at this point, me…the girl who one hour earlier would have told you a computer had no place in the kitchen. Now I had a great new tool with which to learn more about cookie decorating!
Oh, and about those cookies. They weren’t gluten-free so I had to find a home for them. After the workshop and a beverage with the blogger gals, I dropped the cookies by to my friend Richard who lives in Lawrence. Richard was visiting his friends Katie and Mike, the folks from Truckstop Honeymoon, so I dropped the cookies by their house. What a fun surprise to find that my friend Mark was visiting from out of town. A little cookie silliness happened and I hit the turnpike for a quick drive home. (Why does Mark always ending up sharing a sweet on my blog? First donuts, then apples and now cookies? I must tell him he can have his own next time.)
Once home, I unpacked the computer. This took all of 5 minutes. There are no wires to connect, nothing at all to do except plug it in. I can’t imagine how it could be simpler. The back of the computer has an easel-type stand, which was perfect to set the computer on my countertop.
For a couple of days, I used the computer atop my 1970’s teal formica countertop and thought I would maybe buy a wall bracket for it. That thought would pop into my head between the moments when I was shouting across the house, “Check this out! I can use Pandora in the kitchen!” and “WOW! Would you look at this! I can blog FROM THE KITCHEN!” I am still captivated that I can type recipes into the computer while I am creating them, no more random pieces of scrap paper floating around with my illegible writing on them. I love pulling up a recipe to cook dinner, enlarging it on the screen and being able to read it across the kitchen. I am also enjoying making my shopping list on the computer and then pulling it up on my iPhone at the store. Things aren’t entirely paperless here yet, but this new computer is sure helping me move that direction.
A few days after bringing home this new computer (I really think she needs a name, got any suggestions?), I was out shopping for food styling props at Vintage Market at Zona Rosa, because I’m going to start using some of what I learned in the food photography workshop I attended. New furniture for the kitchen wasn’t on my list, but I stumbled across this Hoosier cabinet and thought it might be a good piece to store the new computer. I took some quick measurements, ran home to measure the computer and the available space in my little kitchen and discovered it just might work. I went back to the store, bought it, loaded it up and came back home to explain my latest craziness to my husband.
What a trooper that fella is. He got out some electric saw gadget and removed a shelf in the cabinet to make room for the computer. It’s pretty much a perfect fit, not an inch of space on either side. And I’ve got some new storage space in the kitchen for other essentials. I might knock a little more paint off of the cabinet to make it a bit more shabby, but am already enjoying having the space and it puts the computer at a perfect height for me. A month ago you couldn’t have convinced me that anyone had a true need for a computer in the kitchen, now I can’t figure out how I made do without one.
So there you have it, my latest recommendation for baking supplies is an all-in-one computer. Thanks to Cindy from Sweet! for hosting such a fun evening and to Best Buy for the amazing new computer. And just in case you were wondering, I wrote this blog post from the kitchen. 🙂
Disclosure: While I won this computer, I was not further compensated, required or asked to write this blog post. The opinions and exclamations are my own. Yep, my enthusiasm is authentic, not purchased.