BY NIKKI MEYER
There is no doubt that social media has radically transformed the way we live. You can now learn almost anything about anyone anywhere. You can also be inspired and learn how to make just about anything from anyone anywhere. That’s exactly what happened to Truman resident Calli Rode.
“I was just scrolling through Facebook and I saw videos of people decorating cookies. I thought I could do that. I’m going to do that. Let’s do that. Why not?” And that’s exactly what she started doing.
Calli said she’s always enjoyed baking cookies. Though an accountant for A&E Construction in Mankato by day, her new side business is also a fun hobby she can enjoy at home with her young daughter, Kambria, who willingly helps Calli test out her recipes and dispose of any extra cookies.
Calli’s adventure began in July of this year. After her initial thoughts of I wish we had something around here like that were followed up with Why don’t I do it?, Calli started doing her research. She tested out recipes, looking for the perfect sugar cookie to use as her base. She needed one that would be firm enough and hold up well, but also taste delicious. After she perfected that first recipe, she began experimenting with others such as chocolate chip and pumpkin spice.
She also needed to find the right types of icing—the star of the cookie. “I mainly use a royal icing. It dries hard, but not too hard. It has a nice soft crunch.”
One she figured out her recipes, she had to learn how to actually make the gorgeous-looking cookies she’d seen in the videos. “There was a lot of reading. Reading up on the techniques on how to do it... What works, what doesn’t work. I did a lot of reading about other people’s experiences.”
Then there was the practice. Creating a gorgeous-looking cookie is no easy feat, and Calli’s cookies show off a wide variety of techniques. First, the cookie needs a base layer—an even coating of icing that goes all the way to the edge of the cookie without running down the sides. Sometimes the base layer is a single color or several single colors, and other times getting the desired colors on the base layer takes a little more effort. “Thin icing similar to honey consistency for the base of the cookie. You start with outlining it first and then fill it in,” Callie said. She has done leaf cookies with a beautiful base of marbled reds, yellows and oranges. She’s also done snow-white mittens with a delicate gray zig-zag pattern running along the tops, a multi-colored feathers on a turkey's tail—a feat which is accomplished with the help of a toothpick and must be done quickly before the icing sets too firmly.
Other cookies require a textured base layer, such as to create the ridges in a pumpkin.
Once the base layer has been created, it needs to dry before Calli can add any additional layers. And that happens after Calli first makes the dough, chills the dough, rolls it out and cuts the shapes, bakes the cookies, and then cools the cookies enough to decorate them. The entire process takes a few days, depending on how complex the decorations are and how many layers are required.
After the base layer is dry, the cookie is ready for any additional icing it may need. “I use a thicker, toothpaste consistency for writing and details, and a very thick icing that holds it shape for flowers and leaves,” Calli stated. “For swirls and things like that, one way to make them is to paint or splatter thinned down food coloring or use an edible food paint on the cookie.” Her attention to detail is impeccable.
Calli has been slowly, or not so slowly, building her library of tools. She quickly bought a large 100-piece cookie cutter set that offered a wide variety of options, and she’s been adding more as customer requests necessitate them. “I feel like if somebody wants a cookie shape that I don’t have, I need to get it.” Of course, as any hobbyist knows, the temptation to grow the tools of your trade as fast as possible is very real. Calli laughed, “Sometimes, it’s like, Let’s buy all the cutters! ...They’re only $5!” Calli also shared that, while she hasn’t done it yet, it’s also very easy to find companies who will make a custom cutter with a 3D printer.
Part of her decorating arsenal also includes a projector. “I can use a cookie trick—it’s a mini projector that projects the image on the cookie and then you use that as a guide... On cookies where I’m doing a logo and they need to look exactly like the logo it’s best to have that kind of guide to make sure every one is the same.” Other times she is able to simply free-hand her decorations, still achieving a beautiful uniform look.
There is no uniform process for ordering cookies, Calli said. Sometimes customers bring her a picture and ask if she can replicate it, and other times they just give her a general theme and tell her to go for it. “If they want a specific thing, I’ll let them know what I’m capable of. But if they tell me Do whatever you want, that’s also really cool because I get to do something fun and original.”
She also works with customers to determine their budget and then maps out their cookies accordingly. “They are kind of expensive because of the amount of labor and time that goes into them. If you want something simple that would be a lower budget, but if you want something higher we can do that too. We talk about theme, quantity and budget.” Her base price is $24 a dozen. The sets that take her eight hours to complete have a higher price tag.
While the extra income is nice, Calli said that her time making cookies is also much-needed personal time. “I think it’s kind of relaxing. You’re just in your own little world and I’m only focusing on one thing. I’m not worrying about the laundry or whatever comes next.” She does limit the number of cookies she’ll make in a week, however, as she knows life—namely her daughter—still requires her time and attention. “I’m still a single parent working full-time. Any more than four to six dozen a week and I start to go a little crazy.” Calli also noted that she is limited in how many cookies she can sell out of her house based on Minnesota Cottage Laws.
To see more of Calli’s amazing cook creations, visit her Calli’s Cookies page on Facebook. You can also email her at email@example.com for more information on ordering.
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