Turner’s Dany Lind is known nationally for her cookie creations. She says you can have the sweet life too.

Standing in her sunny Turner kitchen with a tray of her co-ed Christmas elf cookies, Dany Lind laughs about her childhood career aspirations. “I wanted to live in New York and be an executive or an actress. I always thought of myself as being in a big city.”

That didn’t happen. But these days, when not navigating the bucolic country roads with her three active sons in tow, she is designing, baking and decorating cookies that make their tasty way far beyond New York.

A nationally recognized “sugar artist,” Lind’s work is featured on numerous cookie baking websites. Her works of sweet art are featured on calendars. And in March 2017, she’ll be one of the instructors at Cookie Con, the largest gathering of cookie artists in the world, being held in Salt Lake City, Utah.

A rock star in the cookie world, she is modestly uncomfortable admitting the Food Network has contacted her several times to try out for various baking challenges. “It’s not me,” she said.

Originally from Turner, her father’s military service took her many places beyond Maine while she was growing up. After college, she did some writing, editing and graphic design. When her first son was born, she stayed home with him and her creative energy grew. “I’m a person who likes to make things. I’ve knitted, made crafts, sewed. I’ve always made cakes.”

In 2003, she returned to Maine with her young, active family. In 2005, after her third son was born, she began searching for something more than being the neighborhood cake mom. “When he was 2, I started to feel like I needed to do something else.”

“I started listening to people, hearing what they might need,” she continued. She sewed baby slings, painted and sold some portraits, and knitted prayer shawls. “And I kept making cakes.”

Although she wasn’t exactly sure where her creativity and passion was taking her, she kept searching for a way to use her talents in a way that would help someone else. “At some point it’s going to show me a path,” she said.

By 2010, she was making a lot of cakes. Someone asked her to make cookies for a “Sex in the City”-themed 40th birthday party. “I’d only ever made Christmas cookies for my family,” she said. The cookies for this party would be “lipstick, high heels and lingerie.”

She spent some time searching the internet and found recipes and tips for making decorated cookies. Although it was a lot of work, Lind said “it was also a lot of fun. I got good at it really fast.” And then she started getting a lot of cookie orders.

While learning the advanced techniques of decorated cookies, she also met a lot of friendly and encouraging “cookiers.” These creative and inspiring artists have become her network of “cookie friends.”

COOKIE ART: ‘IT’S JUST A DIFFERENT MEDIUM’

So what’s an average day like in Dany Lind’s kitchen-turned-art-studio? No two days are exactly alike.

She spends time designing “cookie sets,” which are groupings of six or more cookies that tell a story. “Designing a cookie set takes a long time,” she said. “I can spend a few hours designing a set. What do I want people to feel about this? I try to make the set mean something.”

She also has a dedicated “dough day.” “I’ll make stacks of dough sheets. Depending on the season, I’ll make 10 pounds of butter’s worth of dough, roll it into sheets and freeze them.”

After the cookies are cut, baked and cooling on baker’s racks, she makes icing. “I make one thick batch and then thin it out with water as I need it.” Different decorating techniques require different icing consistency. “Consistency of the icing is really important,” Lind said.

Then the art begins. Most cookies will have a smooth base that is created by flooding it with icing. After the icing sets, Lind may airbrush stenciled designs, hand-paint faces or intricate details, or write text with edible markers. Much of the work she does is similar to painting. “It’s just a different medium,” she said.

She schedules her work around her family; she often works on her cookie business from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. In spite of her popularity and success, she isn’t interested in opening up a shop or becoming a reality television star. “I’m focused on my family and keeping my customers happy. There’s a lot of joy involved with that.”

Lind also bakes cookies for causes. Misfit elf cookies ended up at Boston’s Jimmy Fund Clinic recently, for nurses to share with the young patients. Lind has donated cookies to local fundraisers like the Turner Athletic Association’s annual raffle. Her philanthropy has included donated cookie art to promote “Depressed Cake Shop,” a community of bakers who create gray-tinged sweets to raise awareness about mental illness.

And most recently, a cookie Lind created that was modeled on Australian artist Ken Wong’s painting “Mistaken Identity” is being featured in a 2017 cookie calendar. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the calendar, sold by web-based cookie stencil shop “Killer Zebras,” go to one of two charities: Operation Underground Railroad or National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Lind’s cookie is featured in March, which is National Mental Health Awareness Month.

When she’s not actually creating cookies and cakes, Lind spends some time managing her business, both literally and on social media. She has substantial Instagram and Facebook followings.

And she’s preparing to teach advanced cookie techniques at this year’s Cookie Con. Although she doesn’t “really like the idea of being in front of a lot of people . . . they asked me and I had to say yes. I couldn’t say no, because there aren’t that many teachers. People want to learn how to make cookies that aren’t just flat. I do a lot of faces, so people want to learn that.”

She added, “I feel like everybody can do this. But some people need to be instructed and walked through the process.”

When asked if teaching might be the next step on her career path, she takes the same pragmatic approach she took when she first started making birthday cakes for neighbors. “This will lead to something else.”

Dany’s cookies are available by pre-order only. Her holiday cookies are, unfortunately, sold out for this year, but she’s taking orders for Valentine’s Day and also Christmas 2017. Prices are available upon request.

Julie-Ann Baumer lives, cooks and writes from her home in Lisbon Falls. Read her blog www.julieannbaumer.com or follow her on twitter @aunttomato

Dany Lind

Dany’s Cakes, Turner

207-344-4325

[email protected]

So you want to be a cookie artist?

If Dany Lind’s cookies have inspired you to bake cookies this holiday season, here are some basic recipes to begin your journey.

First, start with a simple sugar cookie recipe. This one is courtesy of Callye Alvarado, one of Lind’s “cookie friends” who writes a blog called “The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle.” Lind recommends Alvarado’s recipe for beginners. It produces cookies that are soft and not too sweet, and that’s important, since a decorated cookie’s icing is, in itself, quite sweet.

Basic sugar cookie

Ingredients:

1 cup (two sticks) of real unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 egg

2-3 teaspoons flavoring (vanilla, almond or baker’s emulsions)

2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

1. Cream together softened butter and confectioner’s sugar in a stand mixer. (Can also be mixed by hand.) Crack the egg into a separate bowl and add the flavoring. Add that to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until the egg is thoroughly incorporated. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture little by little. The dough is ready when most of it sticks to the paddle. It will have a little give, but does not stick to your fingers. Let the dough rest for a few minutes after mixing to firm.

2. Roll on parchment paper to a thickness of 1/4 inch, using flour for dusting as necessary. Then, cut and bake at 400 degrees for 7-8 minutes on ungreased cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Baking times are approximate; watch the first few batches closely so they don’t brown.

Let the cookies cool completely before decorating; some cookiers prefer to decorate day-old cookies because they are less likely to leach oil from the butter into the icing. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container until ready to ice.

Royal icing

Cookie artists recommend using royal icing, which is made with egg whites or meringue powder, powdered sugar, flavoring and water. The icing spreads smoothly on cookies and then sets over time to a smooth, glazed finish.

Royal icing’s consistency is adjusted by its sugar-to-water ratio. This recipe, also from Callye Alvarado’s blog, makes approximately 5 cups:

Ingredients:

2 pounds (one bag) confectioner’s sugar

5 tablespoons meringue powder

2-3 teaspoons oil-free extract or baker’s emulsion

1/2 to 3/4 cup warm water

Instructions:

1. Begin by stirring the flavoring into half the water.

2. Using a stand mixer’s paddle attachment, gently mix the sugar and meringue powder.

3. With the mixer on its lowest setting, slowly add the water/flavoring mix to the dry ingredients. As the water is added, the icing will become thick and lumpy.

4. Continue to add the remaining water until the mixture reaches a thick, honey-like consistency. At this point, turn the mixer to medium speed and whip 2-4 minutes until the icing is thick and fluffy. Mixing time can vary greatly, so watch carefully and stop mixing when the icing is thick enough to form a soft peak.

This icing should be thick enough for decorating using a pastry bag with a tip. You can even use a plastic Ziploc bag with the corner clipped off if you don’t have any pastry bags.

Divide this icing into several bowls and color it using color gels, which are available in craft shops and won’t dilute your icing. The number of bowls you divide your icing into will depend on how many colors you plan to use and whether you will be thinning some for “flooding” the cookie with icing.

Using a pastry bag with a small circular tip, outline or “pipe” along the cookie’s edge. This will create a “dam” to stop the flooding icing from dripping over the edge.

Then, using royal icing thinned to flow smoothly, fill a separate bag and fill the inside of the piped area. The icing should flow to the edge. If there are small gaps, you can use a toothpick to spread the icing or gently tap the cookie on the counter or the cooling rack.

If you want to use sprinkles on your cookies, apply them while the icing is wet.

Place iced cookies on a rack to dry. If you’ve made it this far, pat yourself on the back because you’ve just finished your first cookie canvas.


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