Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Snowflake Cookie Tutorial

It's that time of year again!  Dozens of decorated holiday cookies for your friends at the office, platters for your neighbors and of course a few to set out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.  In this crazy time of year decorating cookies can seem like more of a stress than enjoyment. but I am here to tell you that beautiful holiday cookies are a simple, fast, and fun holiday project.  Out of all the decorative cookies i've made, snowflakes are my favorite by far.  They are easier to make then you may realize, and since all are supposed to be unique, there is no need to focus on making them all look the same!  Below is a step by step tutorial on how to make one specific snowflake cookie.  Follow along and then get creative and make up some designs of your own!
You will need:

1 Recipe of Gingerbread or Sugar Cookie Dough
Royal Icing
Pastry Bag and Round Tip
Pastry Brush and Paint Brush
Decorating Sugar or Luster Dust

Mix up dough according to recipe. Chill.  Roll out dough to desired thickness.  If you like softer cookies, roll the dough thicker.  If you prefer a cookie with some crunch, roll the dough thinner.  As long as you roll the dough evenly the cookies will bake evenly no matter how thick or thin.
Cut out your snowflake shape.  Arrange on a tray lined with parchment paper and bake at 350degrees until cookies begin to brown around the edges.  Let cool completely.
Thin out your royal icing until it is a paintable consistency.  Make sure the liquid used to thin the icing is thoroughly mixed in to avoid streaking (i.e. eggwhites or water).  With a dry brush (a wet brush will make a streaky cookie), paint the white royal icing over the entire surface of the cookie.  Let dry completely. 
With royal icing thickened to a piping consistency,  Pipe one dot in the very center of the cookie.  To create a nice round pearl, release the pressure on the piping bag before you begin to pull it away.
Pipe a line from the end of each leg of the snowflake to the pearl in the middle. 
Pipe a half circle on either side of the line on each leg.  To give the outer side of the half moon a more substantial look, Push with slightly more pressure for a second before drawing the arched shape in toward the line.  This will add some decorative dimension to the design.
Repeat the arched piping on all six legs where the legs connect to the center circle of the cookie. I find that rotating the cookie is helpful that way you can pipe the decoration on each leg in the way most comfortable for you.
Repeat the arched piping once again, but this time only on every other leg of the snowflake.
On the legs without the last arched piping, pipe 4 dots in an upside down arch.  The outer dots being slightly large then the inner ones.
Add dots of various sizes around the rest of the snowlfake in a similar fashion.  The amount of dots you can add will depend on how large of a snowflake you begin with.  Larger snowflakes will have room for more detail.
Voila!  You have a beautiful snowflake!  Let the cookie dry for a couple hours to ensure the icing will not dent or crack.  If you want to add decorating sugar, sprinkle while still wet.  If using luster dust, use a dry paintbrush to dust on the sparkle.  If yo uwant to add sparkle or sugar just to the piped detail on the cookie, paint the detail with a small amout of clear alcohol once the cookie is dry and then apply the sugar or sparkle.  The sugar will only stick to the surface moistned by the alcochol and the alcohol will evaporate faster than water. 
Hope you have fun creating your own snowflake cookies to kick off this holiday season!  Once completing your cookies, share the sweetness with your friends, family, or the lady next store.....these cookies will sure to spread the spirit of the season!

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Thanksgiving Table!

After a long and uncomfortable bus ride I arrived in my home state of New Hampshire to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. I quickly forgot my long travel woes and immediately hit the kitchen to create my special holiday treats. After a visit to the craft store, a few coffees from my mom's Keurig, and many hours in my grandmother's kitchen, this is what I came up with! (=
I emailed all my guests and had them finish the sentence "I am thankful for..."  I then wrote their quote on a sparkly fabric paper and glued it with royal icing to the back of a gingerbread cookie frame.  Everyone had fun reading each other's cards and seeing all the many things we are thankful for!
I then made sugar cookies shaped like fruit.  As I showed in my previous blog entry, I brushed on royal icing and created a realistic color shading with colored sugar. To add a touch of glam I sprinkled a bit of edible disco dust on all the cookies and added a gold stem of royal icing and gold luster dust.  I placed these on my grandmother's candy dishes at different heights around the table.
Amongst the birch tree candles I filled mason jars with acorns and lit gold candles inside for a rustic glow.  Real sugared fruit was nestled amongst the candy dishes and candles to add to the chic country feel of the table.
A straw and feather turkey and acorn salt shakers added the last bit of country charm the table needed.
Ever since I could remember we have had two separate tables at holidays to accommodate all of my family and family friends.  One table was designated as the main table and the other a table for the kids.  Even with the youngest now being 22, I thought it would be fun to pay tribute to our 'kids' table tradition.
 I filled different vases with a variety of gold ribbon and filled them with my moustache cookies as the focal point of the table.  The lack of candles on the table proved safe for all the 'kids'and the cookies were a fun way to keep the kid's table occupied so the adults could enjoy their dinner! (;

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Edible Holiday Place Cards

This year I decided to do something different with the Thanksgiving table.  You fill the the table with lots of delicious Turkey Day food, why not be able to chow down on the decorations as well?  Gingerbread place cards seemed like the perfect idea!  These are made out of gingerbread dough (I thought the spicy cookies fit in well with the holiday), cut out like picture frames and decorated with royal icing.  Attach a piece of paper that matches your decor with the name of your guest (or some sweet words of thanksgiving if you are like my family and never can commit to a seat).  Set out a cookie place card at each of the table settings and see who discovers their sweet surprise first!

You will need:
One recipe of gingerbread dough (or sugar dough)
Royal icing
X- Acto knife
Gel Food coloring
Pastry bag and round tip
Squeeze bottle (not necessary)
Luster dust
Small paint brush
Craft paper
Sharpie or Pen

Begin by rolling out your gingerbread dough to about 1/4" to 3/8" thickness.  The cookie needs to be thick in order to stand up on the table with out breaking.  Roll out on a floured dough so the dough does not stick to the table.  Using a ruler and x-acto knife, mark the dough where you want to cut the lines for the shape.  Mine measured about 3 inches tall and 4 inches wide.  Adjust the size smaller or larger to create the unique effect you want on your table. 
Using your ruler as a guide connect your guide points to form a rectangle.  A sharp knife really makes a difference when cutting out these cookies.
Move your rectangles to the baking sheet and then mark a rectangle inside of each piece to leave a 1/2" border.  Use your x-acto knife to cut this piece out to create the frame.  Cutting the inside out on the sheet you will bake them on helps them maintain their shape so they don't become distorted from moving them.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on want them to bake long enough to be sturdy but not get too dark and crispy!  Let cool completely.  Using gel food coloring, color your royal icing to the color of your choice.  I used a cream color here but for thanksgiving I am planning to make them more of a bronze or gold color.  Use the icing at piping consistency, fill your pastry bag fitted with a round pastry tip.  Outline the design of your choice on your cookie.  I did a scallop pattern here but plan to experiment with some more designs for my Thanksgiving table.  Let the outline dry.
Thin out the remainder of your icing so you can 'flood' your cookie.  I have found that a squeeze bottle is really easy for this can also spoon it in a small amount at a time and use a toothpick to help spread the icing throughout.
Fill in the entire design and let dry completely. (The Icing should no longer be shiny and have a smooth, matte finish.)
Thicken your icing slightly with confectioner's sugar enough to hold its shape when you pipe it but not so much that you can't spread it over the cookie. Working one or two scallops at a time, pipe over the outer edge of the scallop.  
Take your paint brush and starting halfway through the piped line (so you aren't starting at the very edge of the cookie and keep some of the border edge) use the brush to pull the icing down to fill the scallop.  Continue all around the scallop to fill in the cookie.  Repeat around entire cookie.  Notice how the bristles of the brush create a fabric-like texture on the cookie.  If you don't have enough icing to fill the scallop, pipe a thicker line as the outline so you have more icing to work with.
Let dry completely.  I finished off the design by piping some random designs around the inner and outer edges of the cookie.  My icing was a little too thin so it didn't hold the shape as well.  For Thanksgiving I am considering making small fondant pearls to border the cookies instead of piping the border with royal icing.
Give your design some color and sparkle with luster dust.  I used a sparkly black and shimmery gold color to create an antique look.  I bought my luster dust at the NY Cake & Bake in Manhattan, but you can also find some at Michael's and AC Moore craft stores in the cake decorating sections.  You can use craft glitters if you want; however, it would make them inedible (and doesn't that defeat the purpose?!)
I also baked some triangular pieces of dough (with a 90degree angle) and attached them to the backs of the frames so that they would stand up on their own at the table.  I used royal icing to attach them and let them dry thoroughly before setting them upright. The royal icing acts like glue and really sets hard to give you a sturdy and sweet end product.
Cut out a piece of pretty paper slightly larger than the opening in your frame.  Write the name of your guest, a quote, or even print out a picture to fill the frame.  Glue the paper to the backside of the frame with your royal icing.  Rice paper may be a pretty, delicate, and edible paper to use.  For Thanksgiving I want to use a very thin and see through paper so that the frames glow from the candle light on the table.
I hope you try out this project for your Thanksgiving or Holiday table and have fun making it your own!  As your guests finish their dinner, pop their pants buttons, and change into their stretchy pants, they can reach for their place card and enjoy one more tasty treat from your Thanksgiving table! 

   I will post pictures of my completed sweet holiday table next weekend.
Wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy (and sweet) Turkey Day!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gill's Sugared Fruit

One year, as my four siblings and I followed my mom around the local florist shop looking at holiday decorations, a certain decoration caught the attention of my older sister Gill.  Piled in baskets where various kinds of 'fruit' encased in shimmering tiny beads to mimic the look of sugared fruit.  She LOVED them. Naturally, the family headed home with handfuls of them and the sparkly ornaments soon became a symbol of our holidays.  For years we pulled them out around this time of year to decorate the mantle for Thanksgiving, and then to hang on the tree for Christmas. 

Gill eventually moved to China, and for the first time ever our family was separated for the holiday season.  During the years she was away I remember my mom making sure that we put out 'Gill's fruit'.  While the sparkly finish of the decorations reflected Gill's vibrant personality, they could not make up for her incredible sense of humor and endearing quirks.  For several years my family greatly missed my sister's presence at our family gatherings.  Happily, my entire family now lives close enough to gather together again for special events.  As I think back upon those years without my sister, I have realized that being together with my family during the holiday season is what I am most thankful for. I found that there is no better way to show my thanks than through cookies, so below is my recipe for making your own 'sugared fruit' to share with the ones you love this Thanksgiving.

You will need:

One batch of Sugar Cookie Dough
Colored Sugar

You can buy fruit cookie cutters or draw your own templates on paper.  For this project I drew my own.  Cut out your shapes from the chilled sugar dough and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Chill the cutouts in the fridge before placing in a 350 degree oven.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes (until edges begin to turn a golden brown).
While the cookies cool, mix up a batch of Royal Icing.  To make the pear, add green food coloring to the icing and thin with drops of water until the icing is thin enough to paint on the cookies.  Using a pastry brush or (clean) paint brush, swipe the icing onto the cookie in large strokes until the surface is entirely covered. 
To achieve the 'sugared' effect, immediately sprinkle colored sugar onto the wet icing.  For the pear I used green, yellow, and brown sugar to give the pear realistic color as well as a sparkly finish. 
Make sure to let the cookies dry completely before packing or stacking them.  This may take several hours.
You can make all sorts of fruit such as lemons, oranges, limes, and apples.  Arrange them in a basket on the Thanksgiving table for a decorative and delicious holiday centerpiece.  Add more detail to the cookies by piping on leaves or stems.  When I make these for Thanksgiving I plan to add more realistic details and use muted colors to fit in with the harvest feel of the holiday.
Have fun making your own sugared fruit cookies and remember to give thanks for all those who bring sweetness to your own life!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I 'Mustache' you all a question....

Do you ever wish you could have a mustache for a day and than eat it when you are ready for a new look?  If the answer is yes then do I have good news for you!  Introducing the Sugar Cookie Mustache.  This mustache is a great way to show your Movember support and is quite dashing.  It is sure to add just the right touch of class and sophistication to complete your look. 
These cookies are a great option to add some comedic relief to your family get togethers or give a hipster vibe to a fun night with friends.  Perfect for any kind of party, these mustaches come in a variety of different shapes so your guests can choose the mustache that best suits their style.
After strutting around with your new 'stache, you can simply enjoy the sweet treat and pick up another for a daring and debonair new look!
To create these mustaches first mix up a batch of sugar cookie dough.  I used Alton Brown's Recipe and added a splash of vanilla extract.  Chill the dough for at least an hour.   While the dough is chilling you can create your mustache templates.  I simply drew my mustache images on a piece of paper with a black sharpie and then cut them all out. I choose to cut the mustaches without the thin details and simply add the details with the piping after so that they would be less likely to break.
I am thinking of purchasing these Mustache cookie cutters; however I enjoyed creating my own because I can create all mustache styles imaginable!  When using a homemade template, make sure to have a sharp knife or an x-acto knife to make clean cuts around the shape.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured (or confectioner's sugared) surface.  Since these cookies are supposed to be on a wooden stick, they need to be thicker than the normal cookie.  Roll the dough about 1/2 inch thck so that when the stick is inserted it will not break the cookie.
After cutting out your mustaches, arrange them on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper. Leave 10" underneath each cookie to leave room for the stick to be inserted immediatley after baking.
Chill the cookies for a few minutes before baking to ensure they maintain their defined shape. Bake for 10 or so minutes, until they are browned around the edges.The stick has to be inserted into the cookies as soon as they come out of the oven and cannot be moved until they have cooled. Carefully insert the stick 1/2-3/4 of the way through each cookie on the left side. I first slid a fork under the end of the stick to keep in straight while cooling but found it really wasn't necessary. Let the cookies cool completely before picking them up.
To decorate these cookies, mix up a recipe of royal icing.  Follow the instructions  here.  I like to add a splash of lemon juice for flavor and a few tablespoons of cornstarch to help it dry faster.  Color it black and fill a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip.  You need to first pipe an outline around the cookie.  If you need to thicken the icing simply stir in small amounts of powdered sugar until you reach the desired consistency.  Let the outline dry. 
Thin out the rest of the icing by adding a small amount of water until it becomes thin enough to spread and fill the cookie (Icing should fall down in ripples and slowly melt into itself)  You can put this in a piping bag; however, I find it easier to pour into a squeeze bottle.  Fill in the outline with the thinned frosting. 
Let dry completely (this may take several hours or even over night).  Pick up your new moustache and enjoy the compliments sure to come your way with your Sweet 'Stache! 
Try creating these sweet treats yourself or Contact Me to order a batch for your next get together!