Monday, October 10, 2011

Shiny Happy Cookies

One of my favorite cake and candy supply stores, Sweet Celebrations, went out of business a few years ago.  I shopped there from 1999 until 2008.  The first time I was there drooling over all the cookie cutters and cake supplies, I brought home a catalogue.  In this catalogue I found a recipe for cookie icing that has provided me and some friends and family with years of sugar cookie happiness.  Today, I share my happiness with you.

My girls and I made sugar cookies to celebrate fall.  I am still a little stuck up about how we decorate cookies, so I only gave my daughters 5 cookies each to decorate.  It was all they needed.

I certainly can't claim this idea or the recipes as my own and I know that it's not a new technique as a friend of mine grew up making these with her family.  I just don't see it very often. You start with a basic sugar cookie cutout recipe.  You can use your favorite or this one.  What I love best about this particular cookie recipe is that it's a basic sugar cookie, but doesn't have to be refrigerated for hours before rolling them out and it holds it's original shape well.  I think this recipe actually originally came off of a cheap cookie cutter set and I added almond to add a little interest to it.

The only thing I ask is that you use real vanilla, real almond (unless you are allergic) and please use real butter, not butter flavored shortening, not margarine and certainly not "I can't believe it tastes nothing like butter" or whatever they call that nasty stuff. 

Basic sugar cookie recipe:
1 cup cold butter (salted, or add 1/8 tsp salt to the recipe)

1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 drops almond extract (optional, but I recommend it)
2 tsp. baking powder
3 cup flour

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together.  Beat in egg, vanilla and almond.  Stir together flour and baking powder and add one cup at a time, mixing well between additions.  Do not refrigerate.  Roll out on a floured smooth surface to between ⅛" and ¼" thickness and cut desired shapes.  Remix scraps only once or it gets too dry.  Bake on un-greased cookie sheet at 400°F for 8-10 minutes.  Do not let brown.  Place on rack to cool.

Shiny Cookie Icing:
4 tsp corn syrup
4 tsp milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
2-3 drops almond extract
1⅛ cup powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients together until smooth.  The consistency should be of a medium thickness, not runny, but not  terribly thick.  You are going to pipe around the edges of each cookie, so it needs to hold up.  If it's too thick, it will be hard to pipe.

Place icing in a pastry bag.  Using a No. 4 round tip (or cutting a similar sized hole in the tip of a disposable pastry bag), pipe around the edges of each cookie.  This is tedious, but necessary, and it doesn't have to be perfect.  You'll get faster as you go.  If the icing is really hard to pipe, take it out and add a little more milk.  If it doesn't maintain its basic shape, add more sugar.

Mix up another recipe (or two) of the icing, this time reducing the powdered sugar to a cup and adding an extra tsp of milk.  Make sure it's a little bit more runny.  Add milk and powdered sugar to achieve desired consistency.  Divide into the number of colors you want, and mix in food coloring (I recommend Americolor gel).  Using a knife, spread the colored icing on each cookie inside the outlines.  The outline will keep the icing contained and it's not necessary to avoid getting icing on the outline itself (that'll make you go crazy) - just spread.

To add interest, as with the multicolored leaves, add another color in the middle and spread it through with a toothpick.  Do this before the base color sets up.  Add polka dots or stripes by dipping a toothpick and dropping or pulling through the base color.  You can also add sprinkles.  I was going to add chocolate sprinkles to the caps of my acorns, but I didn't have any on hand, so I just did a darker brown.

The best part about the appearance of these cookies is the icing.  It takes about 12 hours to fully set up, so have a big area of clean counter space or cookie racks set up to spread them all out overnight.  I usually freeze the finished cookies for my family, but they do develop some foggy spots, so if you're going to give them away as gifts, I suggest doing them a day ahead with instructions to freeze if they're not eaten within a couple days.

Have fun!

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