A couple of weeks ago I gave you my handy hints on Sugar Cookies and the first phase of their creation: making the dough and baking tips.
Of course the cookie itself is supremely important to the overall result of your decorated cookies, but the most obvious part of their beauty is the decorating. And this is also the most time consuming part of the process.
I stressed in Part 1 that the baking of your cookie and the evenness of the final foundation is crucial to the end result simply because the flatter your surface, the better the decorating will look – whether you’re using fondant or royal icing.
The Royal Icing recipe I use is one using Meringue Powder, although I did use an egg white recipe for the Christmas cookies I made. I just felt more comfortable using the powder for the Baby Shower because obviously pregnant ladies would be partaking in these goodies, and the meringue powder ensures no nasties from potential salmonella.
There are several stages to the decorating that are both time consuming and tedious, but believe me when I say that the end result is so worth it. It helps to plan out your process though and I have found the following worked well for me:
Day 1: Make dough & after adequate refrigeration time: bake. Outline and flood if possible. Leave overnight.
Day 2: Decorate cookies – leave to try.
Day 3: Deliver or eat cookies.
Now, your timing is up to you, but once you’ve landed on a plan, here is what you need to do:
(I will post the Royal Icing recipe I use at the end of this post). You need to have two sets of icing prepared. Make your initial batch and then divide it into “piping” consistency and “flooding” consistency. The piping icing needs to be in piping bags with tips and the flooding icing is easiest to work with when it’s in little squeezy bottles. When I first attempted cookies, I spooned the flooding icing onto the cookie and it was so fiddly and complicated to work with so the small investment in these bottles makes a world of difference. Note, the icing you pipe with will also be the right consistency for your decorating post flooding.
So, get your icings to the right consistencies, and colour as desired and away we go…
Step 1: Piping your edges
You need to pipe a complete border of your cookie edge to ensure none of the ‘flood’ icing you apply in the next stage is able to escape. I find using a round size 1 tip (the smallest plain tip possible) the most effective for this task. I tried using larger but my edging just looked too fat for my liking. Personal preference is where it’s at though, so do what you think looks best.
Once your outline is completed, it should look like this.
|Outlined & flooded cookies (Christmas cookies looking very rough!)|
Your outline needs to dry for around an hour or until it seems firm enough to handle the ‘flood’!
Step 2: Flooding
This stage is not as daunting as it seems, but it is time consuming. At least I find it so. I always had visions of just kind of pouring the icing onto the cookie and having it gush (like a flood) to the edges and settling.
In reality, I find that after I have squirted the icing all over the cookie, in a slightly haphazard fashion, I need to take to it with a toothpick and disperse the icing all around until it reaches the edges and is evenly covering the surface. I generally apply more icing than I think is necessary to ensure that the finished dried result is opaque and well covered – you can see from the images above that the ones on the left hand side have shadows where the icing cover is thinner. This becomes even more emphasised once the icing has dried.
It’s best to leave the cookies to sit overnight to dry completely (leave them on the counter covered by a food tent, but NOT in an airtight container – they need the air to help the icing set properly) and continue with your decorating the following day.
Step 3: Decorating
Using a piping bag and the tip of your choice, decorate to your hearts content. I find it useful to have an image of something I’m trying to replicate in front of me – at least to give me the general idea for what I’m doing and the look I’m going for. You can use cachous, sanding sugar, glitter or any other embellishment.
Let the cookie dry completely before packaging up and gifting, or eating yourself.
|The bib cookie even has a real ribbon bow on it affixed with icing|
There are so many amazing tutorials you can follow to see how to create amazing cookies so I recommend googling for a more in depth overview. You can even watch youtube tutorials to see how to complete each of the steps like a professional! Here is a tutorial that I found really helpful when starting out.
Hope this helps even a little bit though. I’ll be sure to show you my next new favourite and much quicker decorating method soon too!
4 cups icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water
4 cups icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl and use your electric hand mixer). Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes). Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container. This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating. At this point I transfer an amount of the mixture to a small plastic container (that has a lid) and add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated. I then add my colour until the desired shade is achieved. Continue adding small amounts of water until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping. (Remember, if you are having any difficulty piping, it is still too thick. Add a little more liquid and try again.) Another tip I learnt on my google journey was this one (which I’ve just spent about 1/2 hour trying to find again) to keep piping bags clean and enables you to use the same bag for multiple colours of icing. Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie. Let stand so the icing will set. Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.
Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container. Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl. If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted icing sugar to thicken it again. Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a squeeze bottle (or a plastic bag with a hole in one corner), and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie. If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along. Allow to set.
Gel icing color (I use Wilton) is best as it does not add a significant amount of liquid. Liquid food coloring can be used as well – add icing sugar as needed to compensate for any thinning that occurs.