Friday, October 31, 2008
These cookies were done back in May for a dear dear friends bridesmaid's luncheon. It was probably one of the most challenging cookies I've done because it involved a face, and detail like eye lashes and curls of hair. Unfortunately you can't really see THAT detail because I only took pictures once they were packaged, but the resemblance between the invite and the cookie are certainly clear.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
And with a touch of green they are perfectly fall and cute!
They even got some tiny pumpkin friends. You can really see the effects of the gold luster on these. (I am kind of obsessed with tiny cookies lately, they are particularly great for parties because people feel comfortable grabbing a few where a larger cookie seems a little intimidating!)
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
So to solve both of those problems, I flipped the jelly roll pan over set the silpat on the back so it would lay flat and created my own air bake system. I had perfectly baked and perfectly flat cookies!
Monday, October 20, 2008
The Basic Recipe for Royal Icing is…
Meringue Powder (found in the wiltons section of walmart and craft stores)
Liquid Flavoring (Vanilla Extract, Almond Extract, Lemon Juice etc.) - Optional
Coco Powder – Optional
I usually start with about 2 cups of powdered sugar (again this is an art not science) depending on how many cookies I am decorating or how many colors I want to make, you can make a lot more or a lot less, and being exact is not going to make or break the process! For each cup of powdered sugar add one tablespoon of meringue powder. That’s really the only concrete part of making royal icing the rest is up to you…. If you skimp on the merengue powder your icing wont harden though (its kind of a messy mistake).
The next step is to add water, I do this one tablespoon at a time, and I scoop it straight out of a glass of ice water. If you want to pipe a design on your cookies the icing is going to need to be pretty thick so slowly add water until its smooth. If you mess up and get it too thin, you can always add more powdered sugar (unless I am off by A LOT and need to add a lot more powdered sugar I usually don’t bother with adding more meringue powder). If you just want to spread the icing on the cookie with a knife it can be a lot thinner. You really just have to play with the consistency… Royal Icing “runs” it will look like its thick but then it just kind of melts together if it’s too thin. This happened to me with the deacon cookies at first. So I had to empty my piping bag and add more powdered sugar. You will get a feel for the consistency pretty quickly.
I’ve just recently started making royal icing in my stand mixer. I always just made it by hand in individual containers by color, but my brilliant sister told me to make it in the mixer… she’s WAY right. The meringue powder and water acts like egg whites when whipped at high speed in the mixer… this will give you MUCH more body and stability for piping plus it gets all the lumps out. NOW I make a big batch of piping consistency icing and then divide, color and thin it with water if necessary for flow icing. This has quite literally changed my world.
The last thing you can do, but don’t have to do, is add flavoring. You can go with the gold standard and just add a teaspoon or so of vanilla extract… I really like almond extract in my icing, but because of Husband’s nut allergy I generally don’t use it… or you can add lemon/lime juice for a little zing… It’s totally up to you and what you like.
I for instance LOVE orange extract in my icing. It doesn’t really taste orange to me, just a lot fresher or less sweet than plain royal icing or vanilla. Melissa (the sister) truly despises anything fruit flavored and just about had a cow when I sent some left over icing to her house. It obviously tasted like orange to her and was I dare say offensive. So just see what works for you. I cannot wait to try peppermint extract at Christmas…. I will probably flavor my cookie dough and icing.
If you need to make black icing try adding a table spoon or 2 of coco power I actually used the Hershey’s special dark coco powder but standard coco powder is great too. Using coco powder tastes great (if you like chocolate) and dramatically reduces the amount of black food color needed. It will save you and everyone you share your cookies with from having black mouths.
Just remember when you add liquid flavors and/or coco powder it may affect your consistency…just compensate with a little extra powdered sugar or water as needed.
You can turn a regular old Ziploc bag into a piping bag by cutting a tiny hole in a corner… I have done this many times with pretty good success when I don’t have my regular piping bags and tips. Royal icing does not do well with fancy shaped tips, so just stick with a plain round one if you decide to go with traditional piping bags. I use #2’s as my standard tip and switch in a few #1’s and #3’s, but I never use anything other than that.
Anyway, if you google sugar cookies and you are bound to come up with this exact recipe if not something alarmigly similar. PLUS I've added a few hints and tips to make this a little less daunting.
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Preheat oven to 350. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in thirds, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours. Roll Out and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are slightly golden brown.
This is the recipe I use… BUT in order to keep the cookies tender I usually add slightly less flour than it calls for (maybe ¼ cup less, but it really depends on how the dough is acting so use your judgment). This will leave the dough a little bit sticky but if you keep it chilled it will roll out fine, and the cookies won’t get tough and floury tasting by the end. I also generally split it into 3 disks instead of two because I can keep it cooler and it’s a little bit more manageable. This works really well if you have medium to small cookie cutters, if you have an excepptionally large cutter you might want to just separate into 2 disks.
If you like your cookies a little softer/chewier you can use ½ cup brown sugar (light just for the color) and ½ cup granulated sugar instead of the whole cup of granulated sugar. Sometimes I just use plain granulated sugar because I am tired, or lazy but I usually substitute for ½ brown sugar.
I generally use whatever butter product I have available when I’m baking. I prefer salted butter because salt is just one of those wacky things that tends to make everything taste better. I don’t omit the salt when I use salted butter… they wont be too salty I promise. Sometimes I use half salted and half unsalted. Sometimes I use margarine… baking purist will probably give some reason why that’s a bad idea, but I’ve been doing this for a while now and always have pretty consistent and GOOD cookies.
This recipe calls for milk. Honestly I forget this about 50% of the time and have never been able to tell a difference in the cookies. I also have some friends who are allergic to milk so I just leave it out when I bake for them and amazingly the cookies do just fine.
I do recommend beating the egg before you add it to the batter. I think it helps things mix better. Not sure why, but of all the steps to do, this one I am pretty particular about… that is of course when I’m not exhausted… Admittedly I sometimes just throw the egg straight in the mixer… again they come out fine this way too.
To roll them out, this recipe calls for powdered sugar instead of flour, but I have never had good luck with that. I find the powdered sugar actually makes the cookies crackly on the top and hard to decorate afterward. If you stick with slightly less flour to begin with…You will be fine using the flour to roll. I am sure you have done this part before but just be sure to use PLENTY of flour on your surface and rolling pin. I try to roll the dough and flip it every few rolls to make sure its not sticking on the bottom. If you don’t flip it, it will be really hard or impossible to get your cookies of the counter and on to your cookie sheet! The saddest cookie experience is to tear them to shreds while trying to transfer them to the cookie sheet.
I also sometimes have a tendency to roll the cookie dough too thin. It looks fine before its baked but then when they come out the cookies are too crispy… So err on the side of too thick when your roll them out. Aim for a ¼ inch and always go thicker rather than thinner… you should be in good shape. I always use silpats to line my cookie sheets at home, but if I’m away from home I will use parchment paper to keep the cookies from sticking, When I did cookies for Husbands grooms cake the market on bald head didn’t have parchment so I bought some non-stick aluminum foil. It worked out pretty amazingly. Moral of the story line your cookie sheets with SOMETHING it will make your life easier.