For September's Daring Bakers' challenge hostess Mandy of "What the Fruitcake" asked everyone to make decorated sugar cookies. I've never been a fan of rolled sugar cookies. Maybe because I suck at rolling out anything at all. Whether it's a pie crust or cookie dough, I'm just not good at it. I'm an even lesser fan of decorated sugar cookies. Maybe it's because I suck at decorating especially when it involves piping. And for the record, I am also not a fan of those "ace-of-cakes-cake-boss" cakes.
Mandy chose a sugar cookie recipe from Peggy Porschen. I had no idea who she is so I had to Google her. She is the pastry chef/proprietor of a bespoke cake business in the UK. After checking out her website I realized that her work seemed familiar to me. It turns out that the publishing house Clarkson Potter had sent me a courtesy copy of her book "Simple Spectacular Cakes". Her work with cakes and cookies is absolutely stunning, but I still wouldn't want to waste my calories on a decorated sugar cookie. I always find sugar cookies way too sweet. And when you add the icing on top, well, that's just a toothache waiting to happen.
Mandy also wanted our cookies to showcase what September means to us. September has always meant back to school. But it also means that the California apple season is in full swing. So I decided to decorate my sugar cookies like apples.
I decorated my cookies using the using the "flooding" method. “Flooding” a cookie is a technique used when covering a cookie with royal icing. First, using the royal icing, I outlined the area I want to flood. The outline acts as a dam. Then I filled or flooded inside the outlined area. My flooding did not go as well as I hoped. To get a good flood of icing, the icing must be at the correct consistency. I thought that my icing was fluid enough to fill the area that I had outlined, but it was still too thick. So to cover the surface I had to spread the icing using the tip of the pastry bag. And while I was spreading it around with the pastry tip, more icing was flowing out of the pastry bag onto the surface. So my cookies ended up with a pretty thick layer of icing.
I'm not very good at decorating so I thought my apple cookies just seemed a bit sad and pathetic. So I came up with a plan to sandwich the apples cookies with a salted caramel filling and shove a stick in it. Ta-dah! Caramel apples on a stick!
I made the salted caramel filling by making a caramel sauce and adding a healthy pinch of Maldon sea salt. When the sauce cooled down I added a little bit of room temperature butter and some powdered sugar until I liked the consistency.
The finished cookies were still way too sweet for me and a little difficult to eat on a stick, but they were way more interesting than what I had before.
The fine print:
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.
Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4" Cookies
200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose (aka Plain Flour)
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract (or seeds from 1 vanilla bean)
• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
• Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during
baking, losing their shape.
• Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
• Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid flour flying everywhere.
• Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
• Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
• Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
• Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.
• Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
• Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
• Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
• Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
• Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
• Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in
some cookies being baked before others are done.
• Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
• Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated cookies can last up to a month.
315g – 375g / 11oz – 13oz / 2½ - 3 cups Icing / Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
10ml / 2 tsp Lemon Juice
5ml / 1 tsp Almond Extract, optional
• Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
• Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and grease free.
• Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
• Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.
• Beat on low until combined and smooth.
• Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
• Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.
Packaging and Storing:
Once fully decorated, allow cookies to dry for 24 hours in a cool and dry area. Stack cookies in an airtight container, from largest cookies at the bottom, to smallest and more intricate at the top, with parchment or wax free paper in between the layers. Store in a cool and dry area with the container’s lid firmly sealed. Will last for about a month if stored this way.