Monday, September 27, 2010
This is not really my first decorated sugar cookie project (refer to my Croquembouche and Ginger Bread House). But I could say this is the first attempt of doing it correctly based on a proper recipe and sort of dedicating the entire time and attention to make it right. For some reasons, I took this meticulous decoration challenge rather seriously.
As we all have seen how beautiful and elaborate some of the decorated sugar cookies done by many of our dedicated expert food bloggers. Name a few, Sue Sparks of Munchkin Munchies whose creativity and style are the reflection of her warm personality and love for her family and Katie Yoon of Something Sweet who regularly blows my mind with her sense of beauty and high fashion, and of course many many more whom I haven't discovered. Having seen so many beautiful decorated cookies intrigued me into attempting to do the crafting on my own.
So thanks to Mandy of What the Fruitcake?! for picking up the perfect recipe for everyone to play and have decorating fun! The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.
I was supposed to come up with a September theme for my decorated cookies. And my first thought was the person who was behind the drawing skill that has embarked me into a life of design and arts...... My father! The one man in this world who nourished my passion for drawing when I was young, bought me my first set of coloring pencils, introduced me to the beautiful world of Chinese water color art, and showed me the wonders of the art of Picasso.
My father passed away many years ago but he is always a part of me. He has instilled his passion for drawing into me, a passion that he had when he was young and just didn’t get developed due to his responsibility as the eldest son to support his parents and 10 siblings.
My flower decorations are taken from the book my dad once bought for me. A treasure that lasts forever. Flower was an important object in my years of drawing on paper, just as important as now ..... on cookies. “Dad, these are for you!”
DECORATED SUGAR COOKIES
1.Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4" Cookies
- Unsalted Butter, at room temperature > 200 grams
- All Purpose / Plain Flour> 400 grams
- Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar > 200 grams
- Large Egg - lightly beaten > 1
- Vanilla Extract > 1 teaspoon
- Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming creamy in texture. Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.
- Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
- Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
- Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm
- Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins. Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.
- Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
- Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
- Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour. It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
- Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies. Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in some cookies being baked before others are done. Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
- Leave to cool on cooling racks.
- Once completely cooled, decorate as desired. If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated cookies can last up to a month.
2. Royal Icing:
- Icing Sugar – sift > 315g – 375g
- Large Egg Whites > 2
- Lemon Juice > 2 teaspoons
- Almond Extract > 1 teaspoon
- Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined. It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and grease free.
- Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
- There are 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.
- Beat on low until combined and smooth.
- Use immediately or keep in an airtight container. Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.
3. Decorating Your Cookies: Flooding
“Flooding” a cookie is a technique used when covering a cookie with Royal Icing.
- Outline the area you want to flood which helps create a dam
- Fill or flood inside the area you’ve outlined
4. Tips on Decorating Your Cookies: Royal Icing
The most important thing when it comes to decorating with Royal Icing is the consistency.There are two ways of flooding your cookies. Some like to do the outline with a thicker icing and then flood with a thinner icing. Some like to use the same icing to do both which saves time and you don’t have to have two different piping bags for each colour you’re using.
The Same Consistency Method
- Mix your royal icing according to the recipe/instructions
- Drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing and count to 10
- If the surface becomes smooth between 5 & 10 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency
- If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, do the 10 second test, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.
- To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 10 second test
Two Different Consistencies Methods
- Mix your royal icing according to the recipe/instructions.
- Separate into 2 different bowls, one lot of icing for outlining, the other for flooding.
- For the outlining icing, drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing.
- If the surface becomes smooth at around 10 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency.
- If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, count to 10 seconds, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.
- To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 10 second test.
- For the flooding/filling icing, drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing.
- If the surface becomes smooth at around 3-4 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency.
- If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, count to 3-4 seconds, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.
- To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 3-4 second test.
- Separate Royal Icing into separate bowls for each colour you plan on using.
- Make sure to cover the bowls with cling film or a damp cloth to prevent the top from setting and then making lumps
- Using a toothpick, add gel or paste colouring to each bowl and mix thoroughly until desired colour is reached
- You can use liquid food colouring but you might not be able to get the desired strength of colour, liquid colouring will also thin out the icing so you’ll need to add more icing sugar to thicken it again.
Prepping and Filling Your Bag
- Attach your icing tips to the piping bags using couplers
- You don’t need to use a coupler but it makes it easier if you want to change tip sizes
- A size 1 tip is best for doing intricate details. A size 2 tip is good for some details and outlining. Fill or flood with sizes 2 – 5.
- You don’t need a piping bag, you can use a parchment cone or ziplock bag with a tiny bit snipped off the corner. I would however recommend getting a piping set if you don’t have one as it will be much easier and more precise.
- Stand the piping bags in glasses with the tops of the bags folded over the top of the glass.
- Fill your icing bags with each coloured icing.
- Tie the ends of the piping bags with elastic bands.
- Fit the piping bag with a size 2 or 3 tip.
- Or snip a very small bit of the corner off of a parchment cone or Ziploc bag
- Hold the piping bag at a 45 degree angle above the cookie where you want to start the outline.
- Gently squeeze the piping bag and start moving in the direction you want to outline the cookie.
- Start lifting the piping bag away from the cookie so that the flow of icing falls onto the cookie, making it an even and neater outline.
- As you start to reach the beginning of the outline, bring the piping tip closer to the surface of the cookie to meet the start of the icing outline.
- If you’re doing an intricate cookie, like a snow flake, you won’t be able to lift the tip as far away from the cookie.
- If you’re doing a different colour border, eg a black border, let the outline dry before flooding. If using the same colour for the outline as you’re flooding with, begin flooding after doing the outline.
- Fit the piping bag with a size 2-5 tip, the bigger the area being filled, the bigger the tip.
- Or cut slightly more off the corner of a Ziploc bag to create a slightly larger opening.
- Quickly zigzag back and forth over the area you want to fill.
- You need to be quick when flooding the cookie so don’t worry too much if it’s not filled in neatly.
- Using a toothpick or clean paintbrush, push the icing around into the gaps that are still remaining.
- Either pick up the cookie and tip it from side to side to even out the filling, or lightly bang the cookie down on your kitchen counter.
Decorating: Melding Colours
- If you would like to add lines or dots to the base colour that you flooded the cookie with so that they meld and dry as a smooth surface, you need to add the lines/dots/patterns as quickly as possible after flooding and smoothing the surface of the cookie.
- Make sure to have all the colours you’re planning on using ready and close by so that you can switch between colours quickly
- Simply pipe other colours onto the flooded surface in patterns or lines which you can either leave as that or then drag a toothpick through to make marbling patterns.
Decorating: On top of flooding
- If you’d like to do other patterns/outlines or writing on top of the flooded surface so that they are raised above the flooded background, simply allow the icing to dry, preferably over night.
- Fit the piping bag with tip sizes 1-3.
- Pipe patterns or write on top of the dry icing
- For writing, the consistency of your icing should be thicker rather than thinner, drag a knife through your icing and when the surface smoothes around 12-15 seconds, the consistency is correct.
Packaging and Storing
- Once fully decorated, allow cookies to dry for 24 hours in a cool and dry area.
- Stack cookies in an airtight container, from largest cookies at the bottom, to smallest and more intricate at the top, with parchment or wax free paper in between the layers.
- Store in a cool and dry area with the container’s lid firmly sealed.
- Will last for about a month if stored this way.