Oct 16, 2019 Last Updated 6:31 AM, Nov 9, 2017

Flower Molding with Wafer Paper

Category: Techniques & Tips

    •    Fondant
    •    Edible glitter
    •    Wafer Paper
    •    Dragees, various sizes (round and button)
    •    Piping Gel
    •    Airbrush Color (Flowers: Blue. Leaf: Black, Teal)
    •    Liquid Luster – Airbrush (Flower: Blue Satin, Rose Satin,
        Purple Pearl. Leaf: Silver Satin )
    •    Colored Cocoa Butter (Alabaster White, Onyx Black)
    •    Alcohol
    •    Water
    •    3" Hollyhock 5 petal flower Silicone Mold, negative half
    •    1 7/8" to 4 ½" Leaf Presses, negative halves
    •    Paper Craft Punch (1 ¾" Five-petal flower, 3/8" to ¼"
        Four-petal flower, 1 1/8" to ½"  leaf)
    •    Scissors
    •    Plastic tweezers
    •    Water dish
    •    Heat lamp/warming box
    •    Airbrush
    •    Paintbrush (00 script liner)

Wafer paper molding creates ultra-light, thin, detailed and translucent pieces that defy traditional edible décor materials. Wafer paper dries quickly, tolerates humidity, stores well and is durable. Pieces can be colored and further shaped both before and after assembly.
    Consequently, wafer paper molding is a wonderful complement to a contemporary gum paste and pastillage repertoire.
    Flowers, leaves and similar organic themes are the easiest of the wafer paper molding techniques to learn. Most of the supplies and equipment required are already at hand in a pastry kitchen or require minimal investment.
    Molding with wafer paper is very straightforward. The first step is to understand the paper’s properties. Sticky when wet. Shrinking and curling as it dries – the trick is to work with these tendencies, not against them.
    Wafer paper comes in sheets that can be cut or punched into any shape. Accordion folding before cutting is an easy way to produce consistent shapes quickly. The thinner the stack, the cleaner the cut edge of the final shape. The thicker the stack, the more  scissors crush the paper as opposed to cutting it – a crushed, ragged edge may be just what is wanted for a natural looking leaf as opposed to a flower petal.
    Craft punches are another good option for smaller pieces. Experimentation will be required to see how each punch shape can be formed and molded.
    Shapes do not always have to be cut exactly to the full shape of the mold. A single mold can in this way produce a variety of sizes.
    Because the paper shrinks as it dries, a slightly convex shape is preferred. This rounded shape gives the paper something to hold against as it dries. Flat molds will work and hold great detail, but expect some curling – which is exactly what is wanted for natural variation in pieces such as leaves.
    Start with a warm silicone mold. The heat helps pull the paper into the mold details and enables the shape to dry more quickly. The mold should be clean and dry. Since it is silicone, no release agent is needed. The flexibility of silicone is also important when removing a final dried piece that has a lot of drape and form.
    Cool water in a shallow dish is all that is needed for working with the wafer paper. Plastic tweezers are ideal for dipping and placing as wet paper does not stick to plastic as it does metal. The window between a quick dip in water and the paper loosing form and drooping into a sticky mass is very short. Quick, decisive movements are key. Once the paper is placed on the mold, it cannot be repositioned without damage.
    The sequence is: Dip petal in water; drag petal against lip of dish to swipe of excess water; align petal over mold section; set petal down onto mold; slip tweezers out from under paper. Repeat for each mold section, petal by petal. The inherent stickiness of wet wafer paper will glue adjoining petals together.
    Workflow should be linear and set up with multiple molds for efficiency. This will speed production and result in a better finished piece.
    Wet molds can air dry or be placed either under a heat lamp or into a warming box for accelerated production. Under heat, leaves dry in less than 5 minutes and 5-petal flowers in fewer than 15. The amount of water used to shape the pieces will affect drying time.
    Wafer paper is white when dry, translucent and sticky when wet. This is the easiest way to tell when shapes are ready to de-mold. If the drying area is too hot or the mold has dried for too long, the wafer paper can become brittle, become discolored or burn. Once an over dry piece has had an opportunity to equalize with ambient humidity, flexibility will be restored and brittleness will be lessened.
    Care must be taken when de-molding more complex shapes. An outside edge can be worked loose, then the mold can be flexed away from the piece.
    Dry pieces can be airbrushed immediately. Alcohol based airbrush colors are best as any extra moisture will evaporate more quickly. Molded wafer paper will become soft if it is sprayed with too much product too quickly. Several light coats are far more effective and take no longer to dry than one heavy coat.
    There is far more value to airbrushing than simply turning something a different color. Strategic color placement will emphasize the mold shape and create realism. These airbrushed reinforced details will be visible for a far greater distance than a piece that is not accented.
    Layering colors and building blends with consecutive airbrush passes opens up endless artistic possibilities.  For example, a pearl luster over a contrasting airbrush pigment creates instant depth that quickly creates a more dynamic finished piece.
    Like a beam from a flashlight, an airbrush sprays colorant in the shape of a cone. Spray color emerges from the tip of the airbrush. This is the start of the color cone and is tight and intense. Spray immediately fans out from the airbrush tip and the edge of the color cone become progressively less defined with a softer and softer edge perimeter.
    Understanding this fundamental allows for the manipulation of how the spray colorant impacts the object to be painted. There are two distinct airbrush techniques: one for coloring a piece versus another for accenting molded details.
    The most basic application is solid coverage. The airbrush is held perpendicular to the object and color is applied with an even, round spray.
    Holding the object at any angle other than perpendicular bisects the spray cone. The more severe the angle of object to spray cone, the more distortion of the round, even spray pattern. This distortion affects how the paint lands on an object. The part of the object that is closer to the airbrush tip will be in the tighter, more color intense beginning of the color cone. The trailing edge of the object will be in the farther distant expanding perimeter of the color cone which will deposit less color.
    “Catching Paint” takes advantage of a near horizontal angle of object to color cone. At this oblique an angle, the bottom edges of a mold details have been rotated to face the airbrush tip. These edges now receive the most direct spray of color.
    The translucency of wafer paper allows for airbrushed details on the back of a leaf to be visible from the front – a subtlety that furthers builds depth and realism.
    Colored pieces are ready to assemble. Piping gel is a perfect quick-drying adhesive that permits small to medium sized objects to be glued together and immediately affixed to fondant. Larger pieces or those with weightier embellishments will need support till the gel begins to dry.
    Petals that need more shaping can be cupped in a warm hand or very lightly steamed. Glued pieces can also be weighted down at the glue point to ensure good adhesive contact while drying.
    The flowers are assembled; leaves are at-the-ready. However, the design is not complete without finishing touches. Edible glitter, dragees and cocoa butter accents provide unexpected texture. Color considerations can elevate the design’s entire sophistication level to sheer opulence.
    The final piece demonstrated here takes full advantage of embellishments:
    •    Color-coordinated edible glitter makes a wonderfully chic black-on-black finish that hits of sequins, diamonds or crushed glass.
    •    Panned buttons and traditional dragees make whimsical flower centers that create unexpected reflective surfaces.
    •    Colored cocoa butter is a wonderfully versatile product that can be hand painted onto dragees, wafer paper and fondant. Veining, stamens and stems are rich, smooth and opaque.

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