Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Weekend Sugar Cookies

This year for Easter I decided to make iced sugar cookies.  I have been wanting try sugar cookies with royal icing for a while and decided this would be a great opportunity to try it.  About a month ago I was looking around for a sugar cookie recipe and a friend of mine, Mary, turned me on to a recipe she uses from this fabulous site called Sweetsugarbelle.  Not only will you find the cookie recipe on her site but also icing recipes, tutorials and a lot of inspiration.  Go check her out, you won't be disappointed.  This woman's cookies are incredible!!

After spending a ridiculous amount of time drooling over Sweet Sugar Belle's site I finally decided it was time to '(wo)man-up' and get my butt into the kitchen and make some cookies.  Thankfully my history with decorating cakes gave me the foresight to know that this was going to be a multistep process.  I planned on making the cookies Thursday night and then icing them Good Friday while my hubby took care of K.  There was no way I was going to try icing sugar cookies for the first time with my 2 year old running around. That's just pure crazy.  Not unless I wanted cookies that ended up looking like a 2 year old made them.  As testament to this, my friend Holley tried to bake AND ice her cookies all in one day with a 4 year old and a 6 month old  under foot.  Needless to say she ended up coming over for a tea (I think she needed something stronger) Friday afternoon in order to escape her "sugar-cookie hell".  She was a brave, brave woman to try such a thing.  Decorating sugar cookies (well) with kids around is strictly for the professionals or woman stronger than I (& Holley).  :)

I have to say that I was impressed with the cookie dough right from the get go.  It was easy to make, easy handle and the texture was gorgeous. I will definitely use this recipe for all my sugar cookie endeavours.

It was all going incredibly smooth and the first batch of cookies came out beautiful.  Then as I went to take the second batch out of the oven things took a turn.  A bad, fiery, smoky turn.  I have to say it's quite a shock to the system when you open oven door expecting to find beautiful cookies but instead you get a huge plume of smoke in the face and flames in the bottom of your oven.  Holy Mother of Pearl!  Turns out that my oven was giving me a not so subtle hint that I needed to clean it.  Whatever had previously spilt on the bottom of the oven had now decided to take this particular moment to burst into flames and completely scorch my cookies.  Perfect on top and black on the bottom, into the garbage they went.  Crap!

Burnt cookies in the garbage.

Thankfully it wasn't a total loss. I still had lots of dough left (I doubled the recipe) and after I scraped the burnt remnants off the bottom of the oven I realized that I could keep on baking.  The cookie gods were just testing me and it seems I had passed.  Phew! 

The rest of the cookies baked up as well as the first batch and I was feeling positive about tomorrow's decorating.

Even though I have iced cakes on and off for quite a few years I have never used Royal Icing (RI).  I always use buttercream and I have to say they are worlds apart.  Making the RI was easy enough but then came the changing of the consistency.  There are basically 2 ways to use RI to decorate the cookies: the pipe & flood method or the 20-second icing method.  Quite sadly the 20-second icing method does not mean it takes 20 seconds to ice your cookies - one could only dream, but for a beginner like myself I figured that this was the easier of the two to start with.  Easy, yes.  Quick, no, absolutely not.  I took quite a bit of time for me to prep all the icing and get it into my bags.  It wasn't the mixing of colours, but getting the consistency correct for the 20-second icing that took so long.  The first colour took what seemed like hours to get right.  I would watch Sweet Sugar Belle's video, add water to my icing, mix, time it - nope not quite right...and repeat. By my 3rd or 4th colour I had figured out that I could add quite a bit of water into the icing at the beginning which sped things up considerably.  Now it was finally time to ice!!

This was soooo much fun!!  RI is a very different animal to work with compared to buttercream, but once I got the hang of it I was in my happy place.  Baking and crafting in one project makes me a very happy girl.  By the time K got up from his nap I had about 1/4 of the cookies decorated, so I cleaned up the kitchen and put everything away to finish after K went to bed for the night.

It's now 8pm and I want to finish my cookies.  I pull out my first bag of icing and I can see that the icing has separated a little bit.  Hmmm, I better try it out on a piece of parchment first.  Ok...yeah, that's not quite right.  It came out watery and the colour seemed to have separated from the icing a bit.  So I go to the next bag of icing.  Yep, same thing.  Every bag had separated and become watery.  Well, poop!  So I took all the icing out of their bags, remixed them, added a bit more icing sugar to them and put them back in the bags.  I quickly realized when I started to ice the cookies that the consistency of the icing was now bit thicker and didn't flow and smooth out as nicely as the afternoon icing did.  In hindsight I probably should have just remixed the icing and not added more icing sugar to it.  But, it was a good lesson to learn.  So, not wanting to take all the icing out of the bags again (not a chance in hell) I decided I would make do with the thicker icing.  In the end it worked out quite well but you can definitely tell the difference between the afternoon version and the night version of the icing where I had used both on the same cookie.

Easter Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

I got better and better as I went along and I tried some new techniques at the end with the flower and butterfly cookies.  Royal icing definitely takes some getting used to but I have to say it was so much fun!!  I am now completely hooked on icing cookies.   I ended up with left over icing and it is currently sitting in my fridge waiting to be used.  Now I just have to figure out what cookies to do next...

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