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Anatomy of a Fondant Covered Cookie with Tammie Coe of Tammie Coe Cakes

See also: The 2012 Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame Inductees Are... See also: Tammie Coe Cakes' Tammie Coe: Caramelpalooza Candymakers

When you're cooking, it's all about a dash of this and a splash of that. But baking is another matter, an exact science. In this series, we're going behind the bakery case and into the kitchens of some of Phoenix's finest purveyors of sweets (and some savories). Fresh out of culinary school, Chow Bella contributor Mabel Suen will work with local chefs to learn their tricks for making perfect pastries, baked goods and desserts. Stay tuned for findings once the flour settles.

The Baked Good: The Fondant Covered Cookie The Chef: Tammie Coe The Place: Tammie Coe Cakes

If Tammie Coe could sum up fondant in one word, it would be "persnickety."

"I like the way fondant can be. It has a personality," says Coe. "It depends on the weather. When it's raining, it can be very difficult. In the wintertime, it's very easy to work with. It's my partner in crime."

In her bakeshop, bags of striped colored fondant await draping over her filled and frosted cakes. Dummy cakes line shelves along the walls in all sorts of forms. Sculpted designs are as simple as dainty little die-cut shapes and as extravagant as the elegant, textured and multi-tiered masterpieces we've all seen on TV and in magazines.

Since starting her company in 2002, she's taken requests for a light-up R2D2 cake, a model of a vespa, a troll crossing a bridge, plenty of detailed animals and vegetables, and much more.

"All the excitement's in a fun cake we've never done," she says.

To Coe, the ideal fondant decoration is thin with no air bubbles. It has a better flavor than what most people know. She uses a type of fondant with the addition of white chocolate that tastes like a white tootsie roll as her medium of choice. Read on for her tips on how to work with fondant, including a demonstration on how to smooth it over cookies. The Tools: Your hands, a rolling pin, and a paring knife.

Terminology: Fondant is a sugar paste that is rolled and placed on cakes and cookies. Gum paste is another medium primarily used to make flowers and showpieces. It dries very hard. Modeling chocolate works more like a clay.

Technique/s: Work quickly and touch it as little as possible, as the heat from hands can make it shiny. Attempt to keep it at warm temperature. As the fondant gets warmed, it becomes stretchier which can easily become uneven -- thicker on the top and thinner on the sides -- when placing it on a cake. Coe demonstrates the process of smoothing fondant over cookies:

Tips & Tricks: Make sure you have cornstarch around to dust fondant so it doesn't stick to your work surface or hands. Don't over-aerate when rolling or kneading in color, as it will make it harder to work with. Keep fondant from drying out by putting it in a tight plastic wrap or a sealed bag. Color it with gel or an airbrush for details.

Troubleshooting/Try this at home: "It's best if you can just get in there and fail a few times to see how it works," says Coe. "You just kind of figure out what qualities it will take on for any particular day... You'll know the do's and don'ts and grow more comfortable the more you work with it." Cut off dry edges and throw them away, as dried pieces are difficult to incorporate. Alternatively, figure out a way to use it as a garnish, such as a sand.

Recommended reads: Cake decorating books by Colette Peters, and check out the books section at ABC Cake Decorating Supplies for inspiration.

See what else The Baker's Lab has examined: Anatomy of a Marshmallow with Tracy Dempsey of Tracy Dempsey Originals Anatomy of a Chocolate Chip Cookie with Brady Breese of Urban Cookies Anatomy of a Polvorón with Minerva Orduño Rincón of Muñeca Mexicana Anatomy of a Vegan Cupcake with the Sizemore Sisters of Treehouse Bakery Anatomy of a Brownie with Eileen Spitalny of Fairytale Brownies Anatomy of a Scone with Candy Lesher of Baci d'Amore Truffles and Scones

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Mabel Suen
Contact: Mabel Suen