Tomorrow night will be sweet, sweet and more sweet. Well, at least at the Greek Orthodox Church in Newburyport.
How could it not be when the church is hosting a cookie-decorating demonstration, followed by a community Cookie Bake-off and swap?
The festivities begin at 7 p.m. when New England native and pastry chef Julia Usher, author of "Cookie Swap" and her new "Ultimate Cookies" cookbook, will demonstrate some simple cookie-decorating tips for bakers of all skill levels.
This is Usher's second visit to Newburyport to share some of her baking secrets.
The Missouri author turned to a career as a pastry chef after working as a mechanical engineer and consultant. Deciding in her mid-30s to combine her lifelong passion for baking into her profession, she enrolled at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Upon graduating, she owned and operated a bakery for several years before turning to writing about pastries.
Usher's creations have appeared in Vera Wang on Weddings, Bon Appetit, Fine Cooking, Better Homes and Gardens, Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion, Gastronomica and numerous other national bridal magazines.
Readers of her new cookbook can follow detailed instructions and study hundreds of photographs to learn how to turn cookies into works of art — including jewelry, caterpillars and butterflies, Christmas snow globes, reindeer, snowmen and Christmas trees, Easter baskets, jack-o'-lanterns, and even bacon and eggs or spaghetti and meatballs.
Demonstrations like her workshop tomorrow give participants a chance to learn visually, rather than just reading a book, which can be very helpful in understanding a technique, Usher said.
The techniques she will show tomorrow will be straightforward but create "spectacular results," she said. They include: stenciling, marbling, rubber stamping and lessons on how to use edible paper, she added.
"They are my easy, but elegant, techniques," Usher said. They are also forgiving and will produce "striking results" even if a mistake occurs, she added.
Following her presentation, attendees can take part in a Bake-off, where their creations will be judged by Usher and two local chefs: Lisa Wasson of Carry Out Cafe and Alan Mons of Chococoa Baking Co. and Cafe, both in Newburyport.
For a $5 fee, bakers can bring and enter cookies of any variety, said organizer Andrea Jones. Contenders should bring one dozen cookies for judging — although more are welcome if participants want to join in a cookie swap following the contest.
"I saw Julie Usher a couple of years ago when she did a promotion for her first book, and she is a fabulous speaker," Jones said.
The entries will be separated into three categories for judging: taste, appearance and originality, Jones said. A winner will be named in each category and awarded a $50 prize.
The evening will also include a raffle, with prizes of various baking tools and treats from Chococoa and Carry Out Cafe. Coffee will be available for sale.
"It should be really fun," Usher said.
IF YOU GO
What: Cookie decorating demonstration and Bake-off
When: tomorrow, 7 to 9 p.m.
Where: Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Nicholson Hall, Harris St., Newburyport
How: $5 to enter the bake-off. The demonstration is free.