WOOD PLANK COOKIES, LEARNING FROM THE BEST

My cookie-baking adventures go on and on. So many different techniques to try, sometimes I am not sure which one to go for next. But the moment I saw my tent-baking friend Tanya sharing her method to make wood plank cookies, I dropped all other projects that were waiting, and jumped on it, like a Jack Russell on a snake. Or Oscar on an ankle (missed the story? click here). She shared a blog post and three tutorials to come up with a showstopper production, involving a bunny rabbit and gorgeous tulips. I confess that the skill to pipe the rabbit on the cookie is beyond my reach, so I opted to let the bunny go and bring butterflies, made as Royal icing transfers. A lot less stressful. I’m quite pleased with the way they turned out…

CHERRY-ALMOND SUGAR COOKIES
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup (227g) unsalted butter,cubed, cold
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
zest of half an orange
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups (420g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60g) cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cherry extract (Olive Nation)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (Olive Nation)

to decorate:
your favorite recipe of Royal Icing (I use Tanya’s)
royal icing transfers (butterflies and flowers)
food-safe pen

Heat the oven to 350 F and line baking sheets with parchment. Sift the flour, cornstarch and salt, and set aside. Mix the sugar with the zest rubbing it well to release the oils. Cream the butter with the flavored sugar, just until smooth and combined.

Mix in the eggs and flavoring extracts until incorporated. Add the flour mixture on low-speed, in three portions. The mixture will seem very dry and sandy at first, but after a couple of minutes the mixer it will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Remove the dough from the bowl, cut in two pieces and wrap one in plastic. Roll the second piece of dough out between 2 sheets of parchment paper, to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut into rounds, press a detail flower using another type of cutter, and freeze for 10 minutes. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie. I like to have a slight golden tone at the edges.

Cool on a rack and decorate as desired. For the bee decoration you’ll need thick consistency Royal icing in cream color for the background, and leaf green for details. A brown food pen with reasonably fine tip, food gel dye in caramel or brown color, vodka, and royal icing transfers of the decorations you feel like adding to the plank.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: To see Tanya’s gorgeous cookies visit her site with a click here. Those who have been following my blog for a while know that I’ve never been into cookie decorating, and Royal icing scared every cell of my body. My approach for a decade had been “thanks, but no thanks.” Being part of the Great American Baking Show forced me to deal with the issue. Although I never got as far as making decorated cookies in the tent, I admit that what I had planned for that particular episode was not that great. Once the show was over, I set as a goal for myself to improve, and ended up following the footsteps of Tanya in her online tutorials. She literally turned me into a cookie addict. Cookie making, that is. So, if you suffer from the same problem I used to, check her blog. Consider also supporting her through Patreon (or offering a subscription to someone you love).

There are several ways to generate a wood appearance on cookies, but I like Tanya’s method because it minimizes the amount of icing you’ll need. She lays a background color with a spatula, gives it a little texture, draws the veins of the wood with a pen and goes over it all with diluted food dye. It is all very carefully detailed in her tutorial, step by step. For my decorations, I made small butterflies with Royal Icing. I drew templates by hand with a very loose butterfly format, and piped white icing. For transfers, you want icing that flows smoothly from the tip of your bag (I use tipless bags for that), or from the icing tip. But, it needs to be thick enough to hold it’s shape. I’d say about 20 seconds is what you want. For the base and the leaves and stems, you’ll need thicker than that. Once the butterflies dried completely (overnight is best), I painted them with luster gold and drew a pattern with a fine tip black food pen.

The daffodils were made according to a tutorial from Haniela which you can find here.

The plank is a very nice background to add to several shapes of cookies, and compatible with many different additions: birds, flowers, animals, butterflies, or even a simple monogram. And the plaque shape is also quite interesting to play with, even if you decide to go with a simple, solid color background.

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FRANKEN BUNNY COOKIE AND HIS EASTER FRIENDS

Do you know what a Franken-cookie is? No, it’s not just for Halloween, although of course you can make some perfectly tailored to that occasion. Franken cookies are made by joining different cutters in unexpected compositions. I share today my first attempt with Easter season in mind. Credit must go for the one and only Marlyn, cookier-extraordinaire from Canada (Montreal Confections). Her work is simply amazing. For a very detailed tutorial to make this little guy, click here. It starts at the 38 min mark. You will need rabbit cookie cutters + carrot shape cutter (mine was the one from this set).

FRANKEN BUNNY HONEY-LEMON COOKIE
(design my Marlyn, cookie recipe from Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup butter (226g), cut in pieces, cold
200g sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 eggs
1 tsp honey extract (Olive Nation)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
420 g all-purpose flour
60 g cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

Mix the flour, cornstarch, salt and baking powder and reserve.

Cream sugar, butter and lemon zest in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid for a couple of minutes until the sugar is incorporated well and does not feel gritty. Add the eggs, honey emulsion and vanilla extratc slowly and mix until incorporated, but don’t over-mix.

Add the flour mixture slowly, mixing in low-speed. If needed, add a little more flour, up to 1/4 cup. Once the dough comes together, stop, and form three discs. You should have three discs with about 330g each. Dough can be rolled out immediately or placed in the fridge to roll out later. It also freezes extremely well.

Cut in shapes, freeze the cut-outs for 10 minutes, then bake in a 350F oven for about 13 minutes. Ice and decorate as desired.

For my favorite Royal Icing recipe, visit Tanya’s blog with a click here.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This is my favorite cookie recipe for the time being. It is the same basic “neat edges” recipe I’ve been using for months, but the honey extract from Olive Nation truly takes this to a whole new level. I love it.

To decorate the Franken bunny, you’ll need Royal icing orange and grey in flooding consistency, pink in medium consistency (maybe around 20 -25 seconds if you like to measure it by how many seconds it takes to level off). Green in stiff consistency, as you will pipe the green part of the carrot with a star tip and you want it to hold the shape. Making the eyes as royal icing transfer was a bit tricky, but I managed to get 3 pairs that looked ok. You can always paint them with a food pen to make life easier. The transfer produces a more dramatic, realistic look.

For other fun examples of franken-cookies, take a look here, here, and here.

LITTLE YELLOW CHICK
(design by Marlyn)

For this cookie, Marlyn suggests making all details as Royal Icing transfers, so make sure you plan ahead, as those need to dry overnight. Pipe more than you think you’ll need, because then you can choose the best ones, and also not go into panic mode if they break. You can always simplify and just flood the cookie then paint the details with a food pen.

The wings are made with a petal icing tip, the decoration on top of the head with a small star tip, and the beak and feet with a tipless bag, or if you prefer, a number 1 Wilton tip. Next day, flood the egg-shaped cookie with royal icing, and carefully place the transfers on top. For the eyes I used PEM black pearls, because they never bleed into the surrounding icing.

EGG-SHAPED TRILOGY

All cookies were made from the same recipe, Honey-Lemon Sugar Cookies. The simplest one to decorate is the bi-color chick, although I did use leftover decoration from the previous cookie for the top of the head. That can be omitted.

You will need pink, yellow and white Royal Icing, all in flooding consistency. Flood the pink, forming a random edge slightly above the middle of the cookie. Immediately add small white dots. Let it dry for 15 minutes, flood with yellow. Add the eyes if using black pearls, or allow to fully set before drawing the details with a food safe pen, orange and black.

For these cookies, you will need white Royal icing to flood the surface, and if adding flowers as transfers, place them immediately on top. The upper, central cookie was decorated with simple royal icing using a tipless bag, after the flooding set.

These were a lot of fun to make. I definitely need to improve on the dreadful fine lines, but how can you improve if you don’t try, right? The design is from another great cookier, Haniela, from sunny Spain. Her detailed tutorial for these eggs is found here.

You start with a white-flooded cookie, do a tie-dye decoration with gel dye and vodka, in any shades of colors you like. Let that air-dry for a few minutes, and add the details with black Royal icing using as fine a tip as you are able to. Follow Haniela’s tutorial for the best results. I need more practice.

BLUE MARBLED EASTER EGGS

Another design by Haniela, using Royal icing in three different shades of blue, and then placing sugar daisies on the surface. Her tutorial explains it all very clearly. Once again, keep in mind that the daisies have to dry overnight before using as decoration.

BUNNY RABBIT STICK COOKIES

I could not share a series of Easter cookies without including cookie sticks, as I am quite smitten by this shape. They were inspired by CookieliciousNZ. I flooded them with light yellow Royal Icing allowed that to set, then piped the body of a bunny rabbit on top. Added a few more little details like the grass and tail. The flower cookie was made with Royal icing in detail consistency and a tipless bag.

I hope you liked this small collection of Easter-inspired sugar cookies. I have been practicing making Royal icing flowers, or simpler star-tip buds (like those used in the bunny’s tail). I simply save them in a little plastic box. It’s amazing how they can come in handy to add a little something something to cookies. Because you don’t need that much to make this type of decoration, whenever I have Royal icing leftover, I adjust the consistency to firm, and practice a few flowers. There are plenty of tutorials in youtube to help, Marlyn and Haniela have many available for free. Check their youtube channels here and here.

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JOY COOKIE CLUB: VALENTINE’S DAY!

This post inaugurates a new series, the Joy Cookie Club, inspired by a favorite book/movie of mine, Joy Luck Club. If you have not read it, buy two boxes of Kleenex and do so. I bake sugar cookies every week to include in a box that gets donated in the Common Table project of our town. It gives me the opportunity of trying new styles and learn cute tricks with the generous professionals who share their expertise on youtube and instagram. For the basic recipes, I used either Neat Edges Sugar Cookies or Gingerbread. For Royal Icing, my favorite recipe is Tanya’s. You can it in her blog here. Now let me walk you through some of the cookies I made in the past 6 weeks.

STYLE #1: ZIG ZAG WITH BORDER

This is a pretty striking cookie that is so so easy to make! One thing that is hard when we start decorating sugar cookies is the edge. It always ends up a bit messy. By adding a border, you can say goodbye to that problem. Just pipe Royal icing and immediately touch the surface of the cookie on a layer of your favorite non-pareils (or sanding sugar). Let that dry for a few minutes, flood, quickly add lines of contrasting colors and work a needle or toothpick up and down, curving it gently to follow the overall shape of the heart. Detailed instructions here.

STYLE #2 – WAVY HEART

I consider this one a work in progress, as I could not quite match the beauty of the ones made by @thegracefulbaker. The design is actually quite simple. You pipe fine lines dividing the heart in wavy sections, then flood areas that are not touching. Wait for those to crust, maybe 30 minutes or so, and flood the others. If the consistency of your icing is thick enough, the sections will be more “puffed up” and it will look quite striking. I did not get there, but I still like the look.

STYLE #3 – DIVIDED HEART

I love this one so much! Flood one side with red, another side with white. Let them both crust for 30 minutes or more. You can even continue the following day. Add the lines, the dots, and once it’s all crusted, you can use a little diamond dust to make it truly special. For the lines and dots, you’ll need slightly thicker royal icing, either straight from mixing the batch, or very lightly thinned with water. Do not use flooding consistency. But, a similar style can also work with a simpler, wet-on-wet decoration

You can also mess up one side with a brush, and add a totally different texture to the icing. In that case, brushing some white luster powder mixed with vodka is a good move. The picture does not show it very well, but it added a nice shine to the white portion.

STYLE #4 : CRACKLED HEART

A variation of the wavy design, I let the final flooded regions crust for only 15 minutes, and used a little fondant ball tool to press the design. Once it was fully crusted, I brushed gold luster powder mixed with vodka only on the crackled part.

STYLE #5: ROSE BUDS

I was terrified of trying those, as they seemed way beyond my skill level. You can find countless youtube tutorials showing how it’s done, and in fact it is not that hard. You start by flooding in white (or any base color you like). Immediately add two or three concentric dots with the colors for the rose bud. Very slowly swirl them with a needle until you get the design you like. Add little dots of green and pull them with a needle to give them a leaf shape. Let it all dry completely and if you want, add additional bells and whistles. You can draw veins in the leaves, pipe their shape with thick royal icing, and add fine white lines on the rose buds for a completely different, almost modern look.

STYLE #6: CHEETAH HEARTS

I do sound like a broken record, but what can I do? I loved making those also… Super simple, which makes them even better. Flood with white, add large, irregular dots of your color of choice, immediately add edges, also irregular of a second, darker color. Since cheetahs are kept in zoos or far away from your home, no need to fear their revenge, you can go crazy with the color combination… Or even crazier, pairing them with a dinosaur!

STYLE #7: HEART WITHIN A HEART

Are you going to roll your eyes to the ceiling if I tell you I loved making these? Ok, I won’t then. Start with a plain cookie, use a small cookie cutter to draw a small heart in the center. If you are brave, do it free-hand. Flood with red. Let it crust for 15 minutes, surround it with white. Let it fully dry, pipe the edge of the inner heart with white icing, and cover it with non-pareils or sanding sugar. It is a simple, but very elegant look.

STYLE #8: HEARTS WITH DECORATIONS

The only thing that changes is that you need to flood the cookies and let them dry overnight. Then, you can glue to the surface Royal icing transfers in the shapes you like. Either made by yourself or using store-bought sprinkles.

I made the two rosettes with very thick Royal icing dyed pink, and brushed with golden lust powder. But as I mentioned, you can simplify your life and glue little decorations made by Wilton and available pretty much everywhere these days.

STYLE #9: WATERCOLOR SERIES

For these you absolutely need the coating to be fully crusted and dry, 24 hours is best. Flood the cookie with white. Mix food dye colors with a little vodka or everclear, and brush lightly on the surface of the cookie, making the design and colors you like. For a detailed tutorial on youtube, click here. I went with a tequila-sunrise motif. Add a border with royal icing and sprinkles if you so desire. You can also use food-safe pens and draw colorful lines all over the surface, or use a fan brush to add a band of gold, for a simple but effective design.

I hope you enjoyed this small collection of sugar cookies, and consider making them for someone you love.

Flour, sugar and eggs: $ 8.75
Assorted cookie cutters: $12.00
Food gel color: $10.00
Matching cookie to earrings and shirt
AND BEING FREE OF BRACES????
PRICELESS

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