Sunday, December 21, 2008

New videos

People are always writing to me asking when I am going to make a new video, and I do promise to make more videos as I really enjoy teaching and sharing. I can't promise that all the videos will be on making something sweet as I may do other cooking videos as well. Videos of this nature take a lot of planning, preparation, and editing, so I don't make them too often.

I also know that I have been promising a video on photo cookies. Now that I have become a Youtube partner on that channel, I now have the freedom to make videos longer than 10 minutes, which a video on photo cookies would be simply because there are many facets to the task other than just putting the image on the icing. For example, sometimes the photo needs to be cleaned up, color-corrected, trimmed, etc., before it can even go into the layout mode for printing. I've been using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for at least 15 years, so I can do the editing and layouts very quickly. I know what space I have to work with and how best to manage the printable area of the icing sheet. That has come from years of experience. Putting that experience into a video is more complicated although i do have some parts of it filmed already.

I wish you all the best Christmas and a happy start to 2009!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Not all butter is created equal!

Sometimes on my Youtube videos I get people saying that the cookies they've made using my sugar cookie recipe have spread too much and lost the design of the cookie. I've had this happen too but not for a very long time.

I didn't realize what difference there was between butter and butter, and at first I was using a brand name butter whose name escapes me at the moment. They all say 100% butterfat, but some butterfat is a lot richer than others. This is especially true of the "European" butter versions. Don't use them in this recipe. Don't use Plugra. Very, very rich butterfat.

Here in California and a few neighboring states we have a series of stores called Smart & Final which help with a lot of bulk restaurant supply - and NO membership fees like Costco. I use their "First Street" brand butter (their own brand) in all my cookies and in my English Toffee. It seems to have just the right richness of butterfat.

So what I'm suggesting is this - use the store brand of whatever your grocery store is. No brand names. Leave the brand names for sauces and gravies, but leave them out of cookies and candy making!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Fit to be tied

I just wanted to post a quick note about tying bows yourself vs. buying them. I had one reader say that she saves time by buying them because it takes too long to tie. However, when I did the 8000+ photo cookies for Showtime, all of the bows were hand-tied by me and my two assistants. The cost of buying them and keeping them in stock - or even having enough stock for emergency orders is just too expensive, I think. Once you learn the technique of tying, you should be able to create at least 100 bows per hour - busy work for your hands while you're watching a movie or the news or something. I like to grab a spool, put in a movie and start tying. I'll get a few hundred of one color before the end of the movie. One spool will get me over 1000 bows - and that's for $1.50 per spool from Papermart, so it just seems to me a cost effective way to keep production costs down. I'm such a fast bow-maker that I would be making them as one of the girls would be gluing them to the packaging - and gluing is a fast process... so, I could keep up.

Just my 2-cents worth for the day. Have fun!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

It's how you frame it...

Here is one of my latest photo cookies. The Christmas season lends itself to extra decorations on photo cookies, and although I normally just pipe a plain border around the edge of the cookie, some clients inspire me to be a little extra creative. Something very simple can really add extra pizazz to the look as well as giving the client added value.

What kind of icing frame do you want on your photo cookies? Your imagination is limitless!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Less than one month until Christmas...

The 2nd Showtime photo cookie order was successfully completed without any problems, and because I'd taken some time to restock my bows after the first order, I had enough on hand to complete the 2nd order without having to make them on the fly. Now I just have to remember to get myself over to Aaron Brother's Art Mart and get some more glue sticks. Maybe that's something I'll do today. I also need to make many pounds of English Toffee as I already have lots of orders for it.

And here's a pretty little thing - in case you didn't know, Signature Sweet Shoppe has it's own channel on Youtube at SignatureSweetShoppe. Last week that channel was made a Youtube partner, which means it is eligible for revenue sharing. Now, I'm not anticipating revenue from it because I'm pretty low on scale, but the possibility exists. Somehow also the channel as of today is the #21 "most subscribed partner" for the week, which seems crazy to me because my subscription base is pretty small compared to the top partners who surely are getting hundreds of subscriptions per day. But, it is what it is, I guess.

Monday, November 17, 2008

And the baking continues...

So, lovely, lovely, lovely. Showtime called again and needs 520 more of the same photo cookies, and I was delighted to take on this additional order. I won't need any help to make 520 happen, and I'm not going to burn the candle at both ends - although I probably COULD make all 520 in one day if I wanted to push myself really hard, but there's no need to. These cookies will go out on Monday, and yay... I'll finally get rid of that last 22x22x16 box I have. People, those boxes are just enormous. And to think... the Christmas season hasn't even officially begun for me...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Some changes are happening at SSS!

First of all, I've changed the "events" button at the top of every SSS website page to be this Blog, which will actually be a little easier for me to maintain.

Second, the 7800 photo cookie order for Showtime is complete.

Third, I've learned a lot from the challenge of 7800 cookies and may write an addendum or another chapter to my book. So, if you've already ordered the book, I'll upgrade you for free when the time comes that I have something written.

Fourth, I am slowly working my way through the website to remove all the Paypal options. Why? Well, the shipping configuration is never, never right, and I'm getting tired of being stuck with half of the shipping charges. Thankfully only a handful of people have ever ordered using the Paypal links in the five years the business has been open, so they've sort of been a waste of space anyhow. But I know from experience how many fit in a box, what the approx. weight of the box will be and need to figure that pricing according to the zip code (something Paypal cannot configure).

120 baking trays are stacked 4-ft high waiting to be washed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cookies for Showtime

Well, I know it's been a while... I thought I'd closed up the business, mostly. You see, I have a fulltime job now in telecommunications, and I'd been doing it for 2 months when I got a call out of the clear blue from Showtime Networks, and they asked me to make 7800 photo cookies for them for their holiday gifts this year. If they had all been hand-decorated, I would have turned it down, but since they were all photo cookies, I hemmed and hawed and tried to work out the logistics in my head about it... including asking my boss for 3 weeks of unpaid leave, and sure enough I got the leave and I got awarded the job. There are 13 images of their programming, and each image is made into 600 cookies. We are currently about 6200 cookies into the venture. This means getting up sometimes at 3:30 a.m., which is a real killer, but I like to have several hours to work by myself before my help comes. I've got a couple of gals working for me, Catherine and Joy, but they work on different days. My days are 19-20 hours long. To make matters even more interesting, right in the middle of the job Showtime asked if I wanted to do a duplicate order for another event, and I was seriously considering it until they decided to cancel the event. More to come.