Monday, January 23, 2012

Practice, Practice, Practice....and a recipe

I haven't made decorated cookies in almost two years now.  There is no real reason, I just fell out of the habit and it's a shame because I have a basket full of cookie cutters that are just packed away.  With Valentine's Day coming quickly, I decided that sugar cookies are in order.  This means that I need to make several practice batches to become reaquainted with the steady hand I used to have.
When seeing all these perfect cookies on sites such as Pinterest, it's easy to forget that they take a lot of practice and those pictures are the result of folks who do this all the time or even professionally.  Here is what I have been making all these royal icing flowers for!

Getting a nice smooth line is tricky.  Having all of your icing coloured and the correct consistency is also important, but making lots and lots of cookies is the only way to get better.

The other challenge was the chocolate cookie.  It occurred to me that I've only done regular sugar cookies or gingerbread cookies for decorating.  I found one recipe online that was credited as a Martha Stewart recipe, the photos of the cookies look amazing but the recipe itself didn't work for me.  The dough was almost the consistency of icing and the cookies spread unevenly and never crisped up.  I took my original sugar cookie and replaced a 1/4 cup of the flour with 24% cocoa.  The smell of the dough was like fudge and the cookies have a lovely chocolatey flavour.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa ( prefer the dark 22-24%)
pinch salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Sift dry ingredients and set aside.  Beat butter and sugar until fluffy and pale.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and mix on low until completely combined.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap, flatten and chill for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 325*  Have cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.   On a lightly floured surface,  roll dough 1/4" thick and use an offset spatula to loosen dough from countertop.  Try to use as little flour as possible.  Place sheets with cookies in freezer for 15 minutes.
Bake 15-17 minutes or longer if cookies are large.
Cool before decorating,  yield will vary greatly depending on the size of the cutters used, but this recipe lends itself to doubling.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pretty Packages - Royal Icing Flowers

I just love making these.  The trick right now is finding the time to do them.  On the other hand, part of their beauty is that once made, they can wait indefinitely in the cupboard until such time as they are required to dress up cupcakes, tarts, brownies - anything!

So far I have done these: apple blossoms, forget-me-nots, primroses and simple rosettes.  Next up I may just use some different colours.  I am starting to think ahead to Easter, although the rosettes would dress up some sweet Valentine's cookies.

Makes me happy to think of spring