Monday, September 27, 2010

Daring Bakers' September 2010 Challenge: Decorated Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

This was a good challenge for me to start with, because it was pretty straightforward. I've made sugar cookies before (usually for Christmas), but this batch turned out a lot better thanks to the tips I got from the challenge. I'm usually too lazy or rushed to chill the dough after I cut out the cookies, but it really did make a difference (you can see the shapes SO much better this way). Also, while I could have probably used a smidge more sugar in my icing, it definitely worked better than my usual gloppy mess, and I was able to do the flooding technique AND the swirly bits. I also used this as a chance to try cooking with a vanilla bean pod, which I've never done before. I like the flavor of it, and I
am using the used pod to make vanilla sugar (I got the idea from Ina Garten. You take the used pods and put them in a container with white sugar and shake it a bit and let it sit. The longer it goes the more vanilla-y it gets)

I will say that, if I'm really going to get serious about baking, I should probably get a scale, as most really good recipes use weights instead of cups.

Sugar Cookies
1 stick + 6 tbsp butter (room temp)
3 cups + 3 tbsp flour
1 cup sugar
1 lg egg (lightly beaten)
1 tsp vanilla extract OR seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod

cream the butter, sugar, and flavorings together (don't overmix. It will add air to the dough which will cause your cookies to spread when baking. See? helpful hints)
Beat in egg til combined
Add sifted flour and mix until dry dough forms.
Roll out dough into small 1/4 inch thick sheets and chill for at least 30 minutes (you want to chill the dough before you cut the shapes, and it's easier to roll it out now while it's soft and THEN chill it. I stacked mine between sheets of tin foil in the freezer for 15 minutes as a cheat, but it worked)
after your dough is chilled, cut out the shapes and chill again for 30 min
Bake at 350 for 8-12 min, until just starting to brown around edges. It helps to have cookies of all the same size on one sheet because the smaller cookies will bake first.

Royal Icing
3 cups powdered sugar
2 lg egg whites
2 tsp lemon juice (approx juice from 1/2 med lemon)
1 tsp almond extract (optional, but i used it)

mix the egg whites, sugar, and flavoring (you are not making them frothy, just mixing them)
add powdered sugar and combine
you want to keep this in airtight containers because it thickens up quickly.

Sept 2010 Daring Bakers Challenge: Decorated Sugar Cookies

Since the theme of the challenge was Fall, I got some owl, pumpkin/apple, and leaf shapes.

I had my roommate G, and my friends Krysta and Lee help me with the decorating.
To flood a cookie you outline it with the royal icing and then pipe some more inside the outline and use a toothpick or knifes edge to spread it out evenly.

You can make a cool spider web pattern by flooding an area, then imediately piping a spiral of a contrasting color on top. then drag a knife tip or toothpick from the center of the spiral out several times.

Lee's Fall Cookies
Lee's Cookies

Krysta's Fall Cookies
Krysta's Cookies

Geoffrey's Fall Cookies
Geoffrey's Cookies