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Welcome to my Sweets Blog!

Welcome to my Sweets Blog!
I've been looking for a way to share my sweet creations with everyone, and I think I have found it--here is my sweets blog! As I experiment with delicious desserts & sweet treats, I will post pictures, recipes, and how-to tips & tricks. Hope you enjoy reading about my sweets as much I enjoy eating them!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Diana's Dream Cookies

My cookies are my thing. So it only seemed fitting that my first blog post should be dedicated to my famous sugar cookies. I have to admit that these are the best tasting decorated sugar cookies that I've ever eaten.  The cookie is sweet with a hint of vanilla and is slightly crispy, and the icing is sugary and hardens on the cookie, but melts right in your mouth. 


Below you will find everything you need to know about how to make delicious iced sugar cookies. 



The Recipes

The Sugar Cookie recipe couldn't be simpler:

Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups flour (plus extra as needed)
small mixture of confectioner's sugar & flour for rolling out dough

1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mat. 
2. Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  
3. Combine baking powder and flour in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, one cup at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition.  
4. If dough is still too soft, add more flour 1/4 cup at a time.  Dough should be stiff enough to maintain its shape when rolled out.  
5. Dust surface & rolling pin generously with mixture of confectioner's sugar & flour.  Roll dough to about 1/4 - 1/2 inch thickness.  Dip cookie cutters in sugar/flour mixture before use.  Transfer cookies to prepared cookie sheets.  
6. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until edges begin to turn golden. Let cool slightly. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. 

Makes about 30-35 three-inch cookies. 


Tips & Tricks:

  • This recipe can be easily doubled; pay extra attention to the consistency of the dough in step 4 when doing so as it tends to be more 'wet' when doubled.
  • The butter should be very cold; this will help the dough maintain its shape when baking (the more butter 'melts' during baking, the more a cookie will spread).
  • Using the sugar/flour mixture to roll out the dough will help prevent the dough from becoming too dry after rolling it out multiple times. 
  • Some nonstick or darker cookie sheets bake the cookies faster, so get to know your pans! Check the cookies after about 7 minutes the first few times you use your cookie sheets. Every cookie sheet I own has a slightly different cooking time for this recipe!
  • Unlike other types of cookies, you can bake small shapes on the same sheet as larger shapes, without worrying about the smaller ones burning-- as long as the thickness of the cookies is the same!



There are two ways to make the Royal Icing. One recipe uses egg whites and confectioner's sugar, and the other uses meringue powder, water, and confectioner's sugar. It can be a little time consuming to get the right consistency for the icing, and the icing sometimes can take long to dry in humid weather. But it is the perfect topping for the sugar cookies, and it is so worth the effort.

 
Royal Icing (Option 1)
 
3 tablespoons meringue powder
1 lb (4 cups) confectioners sugar (plus extra as needed)
5-6 tablespoons warm water (plus extra as needed)
food coloring if desired

1. Mix together all ingredients* in clean large bowl with electric mixer at low speed until combined.
2. Beat at high speed until smooth and thickened. 
3. Add more sugar or water in small amounts as needed to obtain desired consistency. (Soft peaks for piping & filling; stiff peaks for spreading, piping small details, and constructing gingerbread houses).
4. *If you plan to make multiple colors, transfer smaller amounts of icing into small bowls and mix in different food coloring in each bowl at the end. 

Royal Icing (Option 2)

4 egg whites
1 lb (4 cups) confectioners sugar (plus extra as needed)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (if making white icing, use clear vanilla extract-if using food coloring, use pure for better flavor)
food coloring if desired
 
1. Beat egg whites in clean, large bowl with electric mixer at high speed until foamy.  
2. Gradually add sugar, vanilla extract and food coloring*. Beat at high speed until thickened.  
3. Add more sugar in small amounts as needed to obtain desired consistency. (Soft peaks for piping & filling; stiff peaks for spreading, piping small details, and constructing gingerbread houses).
4. *If you plan to make multiple colors, transfer smaller amounts of icing into small bowls and mix in different food coloring in each bowl at the end. 


Tips & Tricks:
  • I prefer the royal icing made with meringue powder (option 1 above). It's a bit easier to work with, and is quicker to prepare.  
  • As stated in the recipes above, using pure vanilla extract will give a much better flavor. The clear kind works fine but might taste a bit artificial (because it is!). For me, I'd rather have an off-white icing with the best possible taste!
  • Try substituting lemon or almond extract instead of the vanilla for a different flavor dynamic. 
  • When the icing is not in use, keep the bowl covered with a damp paper towel or cloth towel. This will prevent a slight 'crust' from forming on the top layer of the icing.
  • Once the cookies are iced, allow enough time for the icing to completely harden before transporting or storing the cookies. This may take a few hours or overnight. When completely dry, the icing should hold up and not crack when you tap it firmly with your finger.
  • Even though the icing can be messy and hardens quickly when spilled, don't panic! Since it is mostly sugar, hot water dissolves the icing and cleans it quickly and easily. 


Tools & Equipment

You don't need any specialty tools or equipment for simple iced sugar cookies using the spreading method.
To make the cookies, you will need:
  • a few mixing bowls
  • an electric mixer
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • a rolling pin
  • a large pancake turner-style spatula  
  • cookie sheets
  • parchment paper
  • wire cooling racks
  • cookie cutters*
  • *The dough can easily be rolled out and sliced into squares or rectangles, if you don't want to use cookie cutters. Or start with simple cookie cutter shapes, like circles, hearts, or stars.
To make the royal icing & decorate the cookies by spreading the icing, all you will need besides the tools and equipment listed above is:
  • a butter knife or small spreading spatula
  • sprinkles or colored sugar
That's all!


Here's the simplest way to ice the cookies:
When the cookies are completely cooled, spread a small amount of icing on the cookie. The icing should be between 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick for the best cookie to icing ratio. 


If after a few seconds the icing starts to pour over the edge of the cookie, you will need to thicken the icing with more sugar.  You are looking for stiff peaks at step 3 in both recipes above. This means that when you lift the beaters or mixer wire whisk attachment out of the icing, there should be small portions of the icing that lift up and maintain their shape in small peaks after at least 10 seconds.


This method of spreading the icing with a knife is easy in that you don't need a lot of specialty tools. However it does require a thick, stiff consistency, whereas using the piping bag method gives you a bit more leeway with thinner icing consistency.


When using sprinkles or colored sugar, pour over the cookie while the icing is still wet. After the icing & sprinkles have set for a few minutes, shake the excess off the cookie (shake into a clean plate or bowl to save for re-use!)

If you want to draw decorations or write words, you will need piping bags, couplers, and decorating tips. I usually use supplies made by Wilton, which can be purchased at most craft stores such as AC Moore or Michaels in the cake decorating aisles, or you can purchase them from Wilton's website. I'll cover tips on decorating with piping bags in a later post as there is lots to say on that topic!

Pictures!

I'll close this post with some pictures of decorated sugar cookies. These are some 'simple' shapes and designs, and show examples of how great these cookies can look using the spreading method.  


Heart with pink, red, & white nonpareils 


Star with multi-colored sugar

Stars with patriotic sprinkles and decorations
(Some of these were made by piping the dots & swirls,
but the same effect can be reached with sprinkles!)
Incidentally, these were made for a friend who is serving overseas.
Because the icing gets so hard, they hold up perfectly in shipment!

1 comment:

  1. Love your music note cookies!! Where did you get the cookie cutters??

    ReplyDelete

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