COOKIES WITH A SMILE

For almost two years now I’ve been baking for weekly homeless meals, in a church-organized project called Common Table. Before pandemic times they had a sit-down dinner in a big room, so I could bake whatever I felt like it, including regular cakes, pies, tarts. With Covid-19 in the equation, everything changed. They show up and grab a bag with their meal, so any sweets must be individually wrapped and packed together with their main meal. This has obviously restricted my choices of things to bake, and I find myself making more cookies and less of everything else. But, there is always a silver lining. Focusing on cookies made me decide to improve my decorating skills, so that sweets could also bring a smile, especially for families with kids. Every week I include about a dozen iced sugar cookies, so that I can practice different styles of decoration, and at the same time not get too overwhelmed by the process. Visiting Youtube University I try to learn from the great cookie decorators out there. In this post I show you a few of my favorite recent adventures and include the video tutorials I followed to make them. The basic cookie recipes were either gingerbread (this post) or variations of my default recipe for sugar cookies.

PENGUIN GINGERBREAD COOKIE

To make these cutie pies I followed Haniela’s tutorial found in this link. Starting with a simple round cookie I drew a heart shape with a food pen. Then I used four different colors of Royal Icing: black and white with flood consistency, and orange and pink with thick consistency. For Royal icing I recommend the wonderful recipe from my tent-baking friend Tanya. All piping was done without icing tips, just bags cut with sharp scissors.

After flooding with white, I waited for it to crust, flooded with black and waited for it to crust also. A couple of hours later I made the details of nose, feet, and the little bow. For the feet, it is better to pipe the two external parts, wait 10 minutes and pipe the central one, so that they don’t join together. Next, just like in the video, I drew the eyes, and added red luster powder to the cheeks with a soft brush. Finally, I piped an outline of white royal icing, and immediately touched the wet surface of the cookie into a plate with black sanding sugar. I love my little penguin girls.

SANTA’S HEAD

To make these sleepy Santas, I followed the tutorial from Little Cookie Co. Just three colors of Royal Icing are needed: white, peach and red. Her tutorial explains it all very well, and I was just a little nervous to make the mustache, because it had to be piped free hand and I have a hard time making things symmetrical. I guess it turned out ok, maybe Santa had a bit too much eggnog the night before, but these are trying times for all.

SNOWGLOBE SUGAR COOKIE

Another wonderful tutorial by Little Cookie Co. I made quite a few of those during the month of December, some smaller containing just a small snowman, some with a Christmas tree as Royal icing transfer (shown in the composite picture that opened this post). If you watch the tutorial, you’ll see she pipes the tree with icing free-hand (check it out at 4 min and 5 seconds), but I simply could not bring myself to even try. This is a more elaborate cookie to make, many layers, a lot of waiting, a work of patience. But I do think the result is pretty nice!

SWAN SUGAR COOKIE

I followed part of the tutorial shown in this link, but added my own feathers… oops my own design of feathers. I am actually featherless. I modified it because I don’t care for the taste (or texture) of fondant, although I admit it looks absolutely stunning. It seems also quite a bit of work, as each feather must be shaped individually using small silicone molds. I decided to just pipe some white Royal Icing and immediately shower it with white sanding sugar.

The cookie is actually quite simple to make. Flood the body with white, let it crust. Add the orange beak leaving a small space between the beak and body. Right away add a small band of black royal icing, and pull with a scribe tool very lightly towards the beak and towards the body. A small dot of black for the eye, and just the tiniest touch of white off center on the eye. It is a small detail that makes eyes look a lot more realistic.

HOT CHOCOLATE MUG COOKIE

To make these cookies I followed the tutorial from this link (at 4 min 20 sec). For the decoration of the mug itself, I opted for three different styles. Two are shown above: royal icing transfer of a snowflake, or wet-on-wet white icing over the basic blue. After the mug crusted, I added the whipped cream part, let that crust and hours later added the white swirls + mandatory sanding sugar coating.

The third style was air-brushing with white pearl dye and a stencil. The top was sprayed with Diamond dust, a product I featured recently on In My Kitchen.

REINDEER LITTLE STAR

For these cookies I did not follow a tutorial, just saw them somewhere in the internet, saved a screenshot and improvised my version. Flooded the white part, waited about 10 minutes, flooded the upper brown, waited a couple of hours and added the triangle white for ears, black for antlers, and red for nose. Next morning it was time to draw the eyes and add red powder dust for the cheeks. Perhaps this was my favorite cookie of this series, although I do love the Penguin Girls…

I tell you one thing, I already miss holiday baking!

ONE YEAR AGO: Pearled Farro with Asparagus Coins

TWO YEARS AGO: Pistachio Caramel and Apple Mousse Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: Someone turns 70 today!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Carioca Cake, the Final Chapter

FIVE YEARS AGO: Duck Confit for a Special Occasion

SIX YEARS AGO: Ken Forkish’s Warm Spot Sourdough 

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, Rainbows, and a wonderful surprise!

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Salmon Wellington

NINE YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

TEN YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

SWAN COOKIES

LESSONS FROM TANYA, THE FINAL CHAPTER

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…

LESSONS FROM TANYA: SUGAR COOKIE SILHOUETTES

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)

360g all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cardamon
150g granulated sugar
50g brown sugar
226g butter, cut into chunks
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt

Heat oven to 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.

Use Royal icing to decorate, recipe in previous post.

ENJOY!

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.

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TWO YEARS AGO: White Chocolate Mini-Mousse with Sugared Cranberries

THREE YEARS AGO: You Say Ebelskiver, I say Falafel

FOUR YEARS AGO: Happy Thanksgiving!

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