As you may, or may not, know (depending on if you've seen my blurb on my homepage) I am a former scientist. My PhD is in genetics and my graduate work concerned an inherited kidney disease that occurs in both dogs and humans. My post-doctoral work focused on the genetics of susceptibility to kidney damage from high blood pressure. You might be wondering what in heaven's name this has to do with cookies, stick with me I'll get there :)
One of the most important things that a scientist does is keep a lab book. This is a book in which you write down the details of everything you do in the lab: daily tasks, experiments, results, analysis etc. Basically, your lab book should be detailed enough that any other scientist could come along and reproduce your exact experiment based solely on what you have written down. It allows both you and others to check your work and provides documentation for the date and time you performed experiments (important when you are arguing over who first made a discovery). I prided myself in well organized and highly detailed lab books, and they were worth their weight in gold more than a few times.
Still with me? Good! Now, how this relates to cookies is this: baking and cookie decorating are (to me) a LOT like running experiments in the lab. You try a recipe, see where it needs to be tweaked and try it again until you get it right. Or, you have a great cookie idea, and after you create it, you see what you could have done better/differently. That, folks, is science! And how do you keep track of all of this? A Cookie Book! We all know what a recipe book is, but a Cookie Book is a little. Let's take a look.
The first thing you'll notice about my Cookie Book is how amazingly fancy it is! I bought this gorgeous white binder and page protectors at HEB. Don't worry, if you don't have an HEB you just might be able to find them at any other store within 5 miles of you. Maybe. If you're lucky. Some day I plan to pretty it up a bit...you know, when the boys are grown and gone and I have a few minutes to do something like that.
(I'm sure you're wondering about the shapes in the front cover, stay tuned and I'll cover that in my next blog post!)
So, here's a breakdown of what I do when designing a new cookie. First, I get out the cutter and trace it onto a piece of paper (thank you Bridget at Bake at 350 for this idea!). Then I can color and design on paper until it is exactly what I envision. I can even shoot a quick picture of these sketches to send to my clients for their approval. I make notes about icing colors, consistencies etc for easy reference while I'm decorating. The page protectors allow me to have my sketches out on the counter while I decorate and they can be wiped clean if anything gets on them. After I'm done with the cookies, I'll go back and make any notes that might help me if I do the same design in the future. Things like: "needs thicker outline, use #3 tip", "these two icing colors should contrast more". In the picture below, you can see my color list at the top (I'm lazy and abbreviate a lot), this just helps to keep me on track and make sure I don't forget a color, especially if I only need a small amount, like the yellow or blue.
I do a lot of repeat cookies, some clients re-order a design or ask for the same cookies I did for someone else. With my Cookie Book, I can go back to the old designs and know exactly what to do to make the cookie. Some clients will also provide me with an invitation to go off of when I am designing their cookies, my Cookie Book provides handy-dandy place to keep the invitation. I keep it in the same page protector as the sketches for easy reference when mixing my colors.
My Cookie Book is still evolving to fit my needs. It's getting pretty full and I have been contemplating upgrading to a bigger binder and adding dividers so I can categorize and group my cookies. This may be an excuse on my part to go to the office supply store where I can also pick up new pens, pencils, paper clips and all sort of other neat office-y things I had not idea I needed so badly!
Now I want to open this up to y'all! I want to know, what do YOU do to keep your brilliant designs organized?! Let me know, I truly am interested in other people's methods!