That’s what it says on her sweatshirt.
It’s a nickname that’s well earned. Although she’s been creating her intricately beautiful Eastern European style cookies, including keepsake cookies that truly are suitable for framing, for only two years, she’s earned national and international recognition. As Wood likes to point out, there were three finalists in an international Cookie Connection contest, one from the United Kingdom, a second from Milan, Italy, and the third – Wood – from tiny Tulelake, a town of about 1,000 people in far northern California just south of the Oregon border.
“It was a real honor to be chosen by the cookie community,” she says.
Wood, who has a background in art and is a certified decorative artist, she came out of a hiatus two years ago. “For 12 years, I was in a deep creative depression where I did nothing,” she explains.
When she emerged, Wood searched for an art form before deciding on centuries old Eastern European style cookies.
“As soon as I started decorating cookies I fell in love with the traditional look of the European countries and knew the artists I admired so much were decorating on a special cookie,” she says. “I started doing research. I didn’t want to ask for treasured recipes, but eventually I did and I had many recipes shared with me. All were good and had their special characteristics. But I wanted the best from each. So, I spent many hours and batches of dough trying to get the best from each and finally, last summer, I came up with the recipe that achieves all I wanted: flavor, texture and durability for eating or ‘keepsake.’ ”
Making Old Recipes Better
Wood, 66, says she studied old recipes from Russia, Yugoslavia, Germany and other countries but, “Flavor wise, they didn’t do it for me.”
She eventually settled on a mixture that is both good eating and capable of being “keepsake” cookies that can be preserved indefinitely. Indeed, many of her artistic creations look too good to eat.
Working from the kitchen at her Tulelake home, Wood bakes almost daily. Depending on the size and complexity of decorations, it might two or more days to create some cookies. A more recent project, a large honey gingerbread house with delicately elaborate swirls and special touches, took even longer.
“I’m practicing, practicing, and I’ve got to sell the ones I have so I can make more,” she says of selling finished cookies to Tulelake Basin friends, online or willingly eaten by her taste-testing husband, Kenny. “I can create and do what I want to do and have an outlet for them.”
While her cookies taste delicious, what makes them unique is Wood’s richly detailed intricate artwork. Some feature seasonal themes: bunnies and crosses for Easter, heart-shapes for Valentine’s Day, leprechauns for St. Patrick’s Day. Some are smiley-silly, others are artistic, painting-like creations. All are adorned with icing schemes that feature intricate laces and needlepoint designs.
Although creating the desired consistency for the icing and designs was challenging, “It just flows from me now – and I love every second of it.”
Wood’s ability to create decorative detail was recognized when she took first place in the King Arthur Flour cookie decorating competition. She donated her $500 award to the Food Bank and also received a $100 gift card. “I’m a detail artist and it shows,” she says, smiling broadly.
“I practice with a passion and enthusiasm,” Wood says. “I don’t do it for the money, I do it for the love of doing it.” –Story and photos by Lee Juillerat, RFT Contributor
Learn more about cookie artist Teri Pringle Wood and where you can purchase her amazing cookies on her Facebook page. www.facebook.com/teripringlewood/