Third post of a series of three on Sugar Cookie Decorating
In this post, I won’t share a recipe, as I will be using the exact same one posted yesterday. I made another set of silhouettes because the pups were beyond upset by my use of felines as cookie decoration.
Please do not laugh of my pink dotted border. That is the one technique Tanya demonstrated and I simply could not succeed. She does the beaded border pulling the piping tip and dragging a bit alternating the direction, it looks soooo adorable. I’ve tried in two cookies, and they ended in my belly because I was forced to eat the evidence. So I just went with little dots and even that has plenty of room for improvement.
I made dogs and cats of two sizes, to either stand alone in a cookie or side by side as best friends. At least in the cookie world, such relationship is possible.
The planning stage…
In this batch of cookies, I brought my air-brush into play. So I started from the flooding technique, and allowed that to fully dry for 24 hours. Once the surface is truly solid, you can lay a stencil on top and air-brush any color and/or pattern you fancy.
After that, simply glue the silhouette, if using, or any other piping with Royal icing you feel like adding.
If you are new to air-brushing, I highly recommend this one. It has a cup that is bigger than other brands, and can also be used for cocoa butter for spraying bonbon molds (I intend to try that in the near future).
You will also need air-brush dyes, and my favorite brand is Cookie Countess. The most useful colors are the pearl types, white, gold, silver or my favorite: Rose’ Gold (which I used in the cookies without silhouettes in the group picture above).
Below a little sampling of bakes from old posts and a few not yet blogged about, all decorated with air-brushing, some with stencils, some without. Speaking of stencils, etsy.com is a great source to get them.
It is really a very nice tool to play with, so if you are over the fence about getting one, consider this post a little encouragement…
I hope you enjoyed this little Trilogy of Sugar Cookies. Sugar Cookies and macarons are almost always part of my weekly bakes for Common Table meals, so I am constantly trying to find new ways to decorate them and new flavors to explore. Stay tuned for more in the near future…
Second post of a series of three on Sugar Cookie Decorating
For one of her bake-along tutorials, Tanya showed how to make little silhouette details using Royal icing. They can be made way in advance (pretty much last forever) and saved to add to your cookies previously flooded and fully dry. The possibilites are endless, as you can imagine. And the great thing for us who cannot draw to save their lives, is that you can find clipart to download and print for free, adjust them to the size you want and use them to pipe your little decor. She demonstrated with a gorgeous deer’s head, I went first with a cat. She also demonstrated how to make a winter scene with a full moon and trees, so I joined both techniques in a single cookie.
BROWN SUGAR AND SPICES SUGAR COOKIES (adapted from Bake at 350)
Whisk the flour, baking powder and spices, set aside.
Cream the sugars and butter. Add the egg and salt and mix until well-blended. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined. Roll on a floured surface to about 1/4″ and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets and freeze for 10 minutes.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, depending on the size of your cutter. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Comments: There are countless sites that offer free downloadable templates for all sorts of drawings. You can then print them side by side and place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the printout. Using Royal icing with the consistency Tanya demonstrates in her tutorial and a very fine piping tip, carefully outline the drawing. Make more than you need, because they are obviously very fragile. They are best if allowed to dry overnight.
For the stars, in some cookies I used sprinkles… and in others I followed the technique demonstrated by Tanya, pulling small white dots with a needle.
That surface is allowed to dry overnight, and then the silhouette is glued, and the trees piped. In the cookie above, I used some silver air-brushing just for fun.
Here they are, all my babies! Before watching Tanya’s tutorials, I would never dream of making cookies with so many little details.
I will be back tomorrow with the final post about sugar cookies, using the same recipe (Brown Sugar and Spices). and a slightly different way to decorate them.
First post of a series of three on Sugar Cookie Decorating
One of the greatest benefits of being part of The Great American Baking Show was getting to know 11 baking addicts with no interest in treating their condition. A year later, we still exchange constant messages that often go beyond what is cooking in our ovens. Each of us has areas in baking we feel reasonably confident about, and areas we feel the need to improve. Tanya is amazing at gingerbread sculptures (insert a discreet tear here), and cookie decorating in general. Recently she made a series of video tutorials and by watching them and working with her favorite Royal icing recipe, I believe I improved my skills a bit. I still have issues with some techniques – those tricky beaded borders come to mind – but I will keep practicing. This is the time of the year that screams for sugar cookies and fun decorations, so visit Tanya’s site and join the spirit!
226 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature 160 grams granulated sugar 1 large egg, at room temperature 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract 2 Tablespoons milk, any kind 375 grams all-purpose flour 42 grams (2 packets) Apple Cider Mix 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and milk until well blended.
Combine the flour, apple cider mix powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Gradually add to the butter mixture on low speed until combined. Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour or for up to 3 days. The dough freezes well also.
Heat the oven to 350F. Roll one piece of dough at a time between two pieces of parchment paper (I did 4mm thickness). Cut dough with floured cookie cutters. Place 1-inch apart on silpat or parchment-lined baking sheets. Freeze for 10 minutes.
Bake until edges begin to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool 2 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.
ROYAL ICING (from Global Bakes by Tanya)
900 grams (2 pounds) powdered sugar 156 grams pasteurized egg whites 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup Gel colors of your choice
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the powdered sugar and cream of tartar and whisk together to combine. Add the egg whites and corn syrup and stir gently with a rubber spatula until the powdered sugar is moistened.
Put the bowl on the stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, whisk for 1 to 2 minutes until smooth and bright white in color. At this point, you can use the icing to assemble a gingerbread house. To outline shapes for flooding, put about 1 cup of the royal icing in a small bowl and add about ½ teaspoon water. Add another ½ teaspoon if needed to allow smooth piping. Stir until smooth.
To flood cookies inside the dried outline, put about 1 cup of the royal icing in a small bowl and add about 1 teaspoon of water. Add another ½ teaspoon water to allow smooth spreading. Stir until smooth and combined.
Add gel colors as needed for your planned decorations.
Comments: This was the first time I managed to work with different consistencies of Royal icing and get them to behave the way I hoped. Tanya shares quite a few tips to judge the consistency and adjust it, so I highly recommend you to watch her videos, particularly the ones that she made for a Bake Along session last month.
For this pumpkin, the yellow had a stiff consistency so that a rosette piped with a little open star tip would retain the ridges well. The green and brown were just a tad softer, and the orange more fluid (what is usually described as flooding consistency). The segments of the pumpkin are flooded independently so that they don’t join together. So for the example above, there are 4 sections, and just like Tanya demonstrates in her video, the idea is to flood area #1 and #3, wait about 10 minutes and flood regions #2 and #4. Ten minutes more and you will be ready to add the brown and a little later the final details in green and yellow.
You can also make rosettes and let them fully dry, adding them to the cookie with a little drop of royal icing as glue. These rosettes had been made months ago (remember this post?) and I just brought them to play.
In her Bake Along tutorial, Tanya taught a pretty cool alternative style for a pumpkin cookie, and I loved her idea. Start with a white pumpkin, and go with piping dots for the details. How cute is that?
Once again, segments are piped independently (#1 and 3 first, #2 and #4 last) and once that sets a bit, the brown stem and the colorful dots are added.
If you watch Tanya in action and see her finalized cookies, you’ll see I need a lot more practice, but… baby steps are still steps, right?
That’s all for now. Tomorrow I will share two other techniques I learned from Tanya, so stay tuned!
I like to keep the blog varied. Never two bread posts in a row. Never two savory recipes in a row. But never say never, as I am about to break my own rules. My latest post involved cookies, and here you have another one. But, but, but…. I got so excited about this, I cannot wait to share. A cookie swap that is not quite what you think: you swap portions of a stamped cookie dough, forming a totally new pattern. I keep thinking about all the possibilities of mixing and matching. Shapes, designs, colors, cookie formulas (think chocolate and vanilla for a shocking color contrast).
MIX-AND-MATCH LEMON SUGAR COOKIES (inspired by several sources)
113g unsalted butter (1/2 cup) 30g egg (whisk one egg and measure the amount) 1/4 cup honey (about 60 mL) zest of 1/2 lemon 1 teaspoon lemon extract 50g granulated sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt 320g all-purpose flour
to decorate (optional): vodka or everclear or lemon extract dust luster powder in gold, pearl white, or any desired color
Melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly, but do not let it get solid.
Beat the 30g egg in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer bowl until the yolk and white are fully mixed. Add the honey, and lemon flavoring. You can do this step by hand using a whisk.
In another bowl, mix the sugar with the lemon zest and rub the zest with your fingers to release all the oils. Add the salt, then incorporate the mixture into the egg using the flat beater of the Kitchen Aid in medium-speed. Beat well, then slowly add the melted butter, constantly mixing.
Add flour (reserve about 1/2 cup) in very low-speed and mix in until you have a dough that is solid enough to knead. Remove the dough from the Kitchen Aid and add the rest of the flour by hand, you may not need the full amount. Pat the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Roll it out to a thickness compatible with your cookie press, then press two or three patterns using any type of design you like. Using a small round cookie cutter remove the centers and swap them, as shown in this picture:
Freeze the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 15 minutes while you heat the oven to 350F. To avoid distortion of the cookies during baking, transfer the frozen cookies to a room temperature sheet, using the parchment paper to move them.
Bake for about 12 minutes, until edges start to get golden, but do not over bake. Let them cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, than remove to a rack to cool completely.
If desired, use luster dust powder mixed with vodka or lemon extract to paint the surface.
Comments: I am over the moon with these! You don’t have to go through the additional step of painting them, the pattern looks nice even if the cookies are kept plain, but I love working with luster dust. There is no need for precision, each cookie turns out a little different.
You can use any recipe that keeps the shape during baking, and always freeze the cut cookies before sticking in the oven. Another thing to keep in mind is to transfer the frozen cookies to a room temperature baking sheet, because sometimes baking them over a frozen cookie sheet might cause warping. By transferring to a room temperature surface, you avoid that problem.
I cannot take full credit for this idea. I am a member of a great cookie group on Facebook (Molded Cookies of the World) and the moderator (Dawn Williams) has been playing with different cookie molds, joining them together. I decided to try it with the cookie stamps from Nordicware. They are sturdy, wonderful to use, and every single swap I did worked perfectly.
I am already planning my next batch… and the one after that…
Halloween is such a nice theme for baking! Unfortunately, it is coming to an end, so I will share my last round up of all things spooky for 2020, the spookiest year ever. Cookies, cakes, eclairs, all frightfully delicious.
I will start with a very special recipe that reconnected me with a food blogger from my past, Helen Rennie. I used to read her food blog, called “Beyond Salmon” long before I considered starting my own site. The other day I was discussing eclairs with my tent-baker friend Carlos, and he told me his default recipe comes from a chef called Helen with a very popular youtube channel. That Helen is the same Helen from Beyond Salmon! She quit blogging years ago and now concentrates on her tutorials on youtube and her cooking school in Boston. She is a wonderful person, and her videos on all things cooking from baking to sous-vide are a fantastic source of information. I followed her recipe for eclairs to make my mummies. Quite an odd statement, I admit. But aren’t they cute? I particularly love the wonky-eyed.
for the pate a choux: 120g water 120g whole milk 1/2 tsp table salt 1 tsp sugar 113g butter at room temp, cut into 8 pieces 142g bread flour, sifted 230g eggs beaten with a fork
for diplomat cream: (best made the day before) 100g eggs 32g cornstarch 242 g whole milk 242 g heavy cream 100g granulated sugar 1/2 tsp vanilla paste pinch of salt 40 g unsalted butter, cut in pieces whipped cream, amount to taste
for icing decoration: 250 g Icing Sugar 15-25 ml water candy eyes
Make pate a choux: Mix water, milk, salt and butter in a saucepan with a heavy bottom. Heat until the butter melts completely and the mixture comes to a full boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. Mix until the flour is all incorporated, put it back into the heat, and set your timer for 5 minutes. Cook moving the dough constantly. At the end of 5 minutes you should see a film forming in the bottom of the pan.
Transfer the dough to a food processor, blitz for 10 seconds to allow steam to escape. With the process running, add the eggs in a stream, and process for 30 more seconds. The dough will be ready to use, but it’s best to place it in a piping bag and wait until it cools to around 80F, then it will be very easy to pipe in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Pipe lines with the size you like. Spray the surface with a little water and bake in a 375F oven, but reduce the temperature to 350F as soon as you place the sheet in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, do not open the oven door during baking. Eclairs should be fully firm and golden brown. Cut small holes in the bottom to fill them later.
Make diplomat cream. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with cornstarch until fully combined. Place milk and heavy cream in a saucepan. Remove 1/4 cup of this mixture and add to the eggs (this helps the cornstarch dissolve).
Add vanilla, sugar and pinch of salt to the saucepan with the milk/cream mixture. Bring to a full boil, add a few tablespoons to the egg mixture to temper it, whisking it well. Place the saucepan back in the stove, then add the tempered egg mixture to the saucepan. It should thicken very quickly. Make sure it is at full boil, then cook for 30 seconds longer. You need that to deactivate amylases present in the egg yolks, that would thin the sauce once it’s refrigerated.
Pass the cream through a sieve into a bowl, add the butter, and allow it to cool completely. To make diplomat cream, simply fold whipped cream, very cold, into the cold pastry cream and use it to fill the eclairs. You can vary the amount, I like around 25% whipped cream, but you can go 50:50 if you prefer. Fill the eclairs.
Make the icing decoration: sift the icing sugar into a bowl wide enough to allow you to dunk the eclairs. Add the water gradually until you have a thick consistency, you might not need all of the water, you don’t want it too thin. Dip the tops of the eclairs, place them in a rack and immediately add the eyes. Wait for 30 minutes or so before drizzling with the icing (place in a piping bag, no need for an icing tip, simply cut a small opening).
Comments: Helen’s video is very detailed, so if you’ve never baked eclairs (or choux pastry in general) and would like to give it a go, sit down with a cup of tea and you will soon be baking perfect examples of this classic French delicacy. You don’t need a star shaped piping tip, but I like the ridges they generate. I also followed her tutorial for pastry cream, which deals with two of the main issues when making it: grainy texture and thinning after refrigeration. When I had to prepare choux buns for the Great American Show, my worst fear was to see Paul or Sherry bite into one and have pastry cream dripping down the chin. But I was eliminated before that stressful situation ever materialized. Silver linings… (wink, wink).
SPOOKY SPICED SUGAR COOKIES (from the Bewitching Kitchen)
Mix the flour with salt, baking powder and all the spices and reserve. Cream the butter with both sugars in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid type mixer. Add the egg slowly and mix until incorporated. Add the flour and mix until a dough starts to form.
Remove from the mixer, pat into a disc and roll out to your desired thickness, depending on the type of cookie you intend to bake. Cut the cookies and freeze them for 10 minutes (or several hours) before baking.
Bake at 350F for about 12 minutes, until edges start to brown. Cool on a rack before decorating.
Make Royal Icing in black and orange colors. My favorite recipe can be found at Tanya’s site with a click here.
To make the stenciled cookie, I flooded the whole cookie with orange Royal Icing, and allowed it to fully set for a couple of hours. I don’t have one of those magnetic gadgets to hold the stencil firmly on top of the cookie, so I improvised. I placed a cookie cutter on top of the stencil, and that was enough to get a sharp design with the air-brush, using black dye. Allow the design to dry for a couple of hours and you’ll be ready to enjoy your spooky cookie!
All other designs were made with regular flooding and piping with small size tips.
Moving on…. CUPCAKES!
SPOOKY CARROT CUPCAKES (adapted from several sources)
to decorate: very small amount of buttercream (store-bought or home-made) fondant stencil of your choice + airbrushing (optional)
Heat oven to 325°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together carrots, eggs, buttermilk, sugar, oil, and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Stir flour mixture into carrot mixture until well combined.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes then invert them out to cool completely.
Roll out fondant, decorate with the stencil of your choice, or generate a pattern with a rolling pin. Use a cookie cutter to make circles large enough to coat the top of each cake. Spread a very thin coating of buttercream on the top of each cupcake, then place the circle of fondant on top.
Comments: Two details matter in using marzipan on top of cupcakes. First, you must roll it thin, so that it won’t be a heavy layer on top. Second, you must cut it large enough to wrap all the way to the edges. I had never attempted to air-brush marzipan, and ran into some problems. It was hard to place the stencil firmly on top without it glueing on the surface and making a mess when lifting it. I probably should have allowed the marzipan to dry a little more before decorating it, but I was afraid it would then crack when I tried to top the cake with it. That led me to switch to plan B: I gathered the messed up marzipan discs, re-rolled them and used a patterned rolling pin to decorate. I like the way it turned out, the little bit of orange dye from the air-brushing ended up as a marbled effect. As you can see in the photo above, I managed to get one cupcake with the stencil in reasonable good shape.
120g all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon salt 120g unsalted butter 113g (4 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped 250g granulated sugar 2 eggs, room temperature 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
for the icing: 50g whole milk zest from one orange ½ teaspoon orange extract (I use Olive Nation) 175g confectioners’ sugar, sifted drop of orange food color (optional)
tempered dark chocolate to decorate
Heat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Melt butter and chocolate over a pan of simmering water; stir until smooth. You can also use a microwave at 50% power. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly.
With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat chocolate mixture and sugar until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, then add the vanilla paste. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Make the icing: Bring milk and orange zest to a simmer in a saucepan. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let milk infuse for 10 minutes with the zest. Add orange extract, and pass the milk through a sieve into a bowl. Add the powdered sugar to get a thick enough consistency to cover each cupcake with a thin layer, and a drop of orange color if you so desire. Let it set completely for a couple of hours, then add a spider web made in tempered chocolate on top. Alternatively, you can use Royal Icing to draw a web, or simplify it and add just some sprinkles, orange and black.
Comments: These brownie cupcakes are extremely versatile, in fact I am planning a full post about them. They bake flat, which makes it easy to decorate with this type of simple icing that you can take in several directions. You can infuse flavors into the milk such as tea, lavender, or other extracts. Tempering chocolate is a bit involved, so if you prefer to simplify, just add halloween sprinkles. It will be totally fine.
FRIENDLY GHOST PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE MARBLED CAKE (adapted from Recipe Girl)
for the pumpkin batter: 85g cream cheese, at room temperature 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature 100g granulated white sugar 1 large egg 80g canned pumpkin puree 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
for the chocolate batter: 150g semisweet chocolate, chopped 170g unsalted butter, cut into pieces 4 large eggs, at room temperature 250g granulated sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/4 teaspoon salt 170g all-purpose flour
to decorate: fondant 1/4 cup powdered sugar warm water, just enough to make a thick paste with the sugar
Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 13×9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray and coat with parchment paper.
Make the pumpkin batter: In a small bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the cream cheese with the butter until smooth. Beat in the sugar until well incorporated. Beat in the egg, and then add the pumpkin puree, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger. Stir in the flour. Reserve.
Prepare the chocolate butter: In a medium bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan with 1-inch of simmering water and stir occasionally until melted. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs with the sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat at low speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Fold in the melted chocolate. Sift the flour over the batter and fold it in just until combined.
Spread the chocolate batter evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Using a tablespoon, drop dollops of the pumpkin batter all over the top. Using chopsticks, wirl the pumpkin batter slightly into the chocolate. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut into squares.
To decorate, roll out fondant very thinly. Cut ghost shapes with a cookie cutter, then draw eyes with a black food pen, or royal icing. Make a little paste with powdered sugar and water, then use it to glue the decoration on each piece of cake.
Comments: Fondant is not a crowd-pleaser, but I wanted something as white as possible, so marzipan was not the best option. I decided that fondant haters could always peel the decoration off and enjoy the cake without it. The cake is very delicious, moist and tender, quite simple to prepare.
That’s all for now, my friends… I really had a lot of fun with Halloween-baking this year, and it’s a bit sad to see it end. Let’s hope 2021 will bring a bit of normalcy to our lives, with in-person trick or treating, Halloween parties, and a certain virus as a scare of the past.