Rachel Katzman admits she used to pass by the decorated cookies at the grocery store or bakery without any appreciation for the amount of effort that went into creating them. However, once she started her own custom cookie business, Sweetly in St. Louis, she gained a deep understanding of the real craftsmanship that goes into such beautiful treats.
At 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 5, she’ll be instilling that appreciation – and giving people a little bit of knowledge, too – when she hosts her first “Cookie Frosting with a Pro” class through the Mirowitz Center. At this online demonstration, Katzman will talk about the art and science of cookie baking and decorating and give people the tricks of the trade she’s learned throughout her six-plus years as a baker and cookie artist.
For Katzman, it doesn’t seem all that long ago that she would have been an attendee – not a teacher – for such a class. A longtime home-baker, Katzman began making chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies for her family, not thinking too much about it until her sister-in-law asked her to make a large batch for one of her workplace’s events. However, things really took off a few years later, when she was asked to make a large order of butterfly-themed cookies for a children’s cancer nonprofit. The exposure led to requests for her to do custom cookies for bar and bat mitzvahs and other special events, prompting Katzman to up her game.
“People would ask me if I could do a cat or a dog, and I’d say I could, but it wouldn’t really look like one because I was still dipping them in chocolate,” Katzman says. “But I just started saying yes and researching everything I needed to know on YouTube. I joke that I got my degree from YouTube university, but really, I just started educating myself and doing a lot of trial and error. I joined a few cookie groups on Facebook and just started asking questions; someone would always come back with an answer.”
The first thing Katzman learned when she started decorating was just how much goes into the craft. The biggest make-or-break factor is the royal icing, an ingredient she describes as “super finicky.” From getting the consistency just right – and making different consistencies for different components of the cookie – to the different sized piping tips, airbrushing, and stenciling, there are so many variables that have to go just right, and so much time spent making sure they are exact, that it can at first seem overwhelming for a novice decorator.
However, Katzman believes that with practice and time spent doing, people will be surprised with their results. For the May 5th class, she plans to keep things basic while also teaching attendees time-saving techniques and going over common problems that can arise in the course of decorating. Her goal is not just to give people a skill they can use, but to also give them a different way to be creative and decompress – something she still gets out of decorating even as her business grows.
“I love being home by myself baking,” Katzman says. “It can take hours to make one cookie because there is so much involved. It takes a lot of concentration, so it makes me really present.”
Cookie Frosting with a Pro will be held from 10-11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 5. To register for this free, online Mirowitz Center Program, visit http://bit.ly/Mirowitz-registration, call 314-733-9813 or email [email protected]