Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I love sugar cookies! I have the most DELICIOUS Soft Sugar Cookies Recipe, but they are only good when they are circle shaped and I really wanted to put my Christmas cookie cutters to good use! So, I thought about making a sugar cookie with royal icing, "how hard could it be?" I thought... hahaha, oh, how naive I was! I'd seen those cookie decorating tutorials in magazines and on television that make it look like a toddler could decorate cookies like a pro in 5 minutes. You know which ones I’m talking about..the pictures that show all the pastry bags and squeeze bottles neatly filled with the perfect consistency of icing and the spatulas are color coordinated to the bowls and mixer. The naked cookies are all baked and lined up waiting to be frosted by smiling mothers and angelic children. You can just feel the joy that’s about to be born from this experience.

Well, I started exploring online and found the most amazing website, University of Cookie! I spent probably 4 hours reading, watching videos, and learning everything about sugar cookies and royal icing. It scared me to death! I had no idea what kind of work went into making these type of cookies! By the time the icing was made I was exhausted and my kitchen was covered in flour and royal icing! Thankfully I only had one meltdown... I started with the cookie dough recipe from the University of Cookie website and it was a failure! The recipe said "it will be crumbly so knead together" but it was like sand! I couldn't even get the dough to stick together to roll out! So I cried, threw away the dough, called my amazing cousin (who is a professional baker), and started with a new cookie dough recipe. I continued to cry and think "what did I get myself into" but thankfully that was the only bump in the road! Once the cookies were made it was all downhill. I'm actually excited to make these cookies again with new shapes and designs!

I credit my success to two tips I picked up from the University of Cookie website...purchase a few plastic squirt bottles (ketchup and mustard squirt bottles would even work) and give yourself at least 4 hours to make and decorate the cookies. I went out and bought a couple of plastic squirt bottles from Hobby Lobby (I heard Walmart had them too but I couldn't find them) and they made the process SO easy! It was time consuming... it took about 3 1/2 hours not including rest time for the cookies to cool and icing to harden but in the end it was worth it, they're beautiful cookies!

Sugar Cookie Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into chunks
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour

Royal Icing Ingredients
8 tablespoons meringue powder
1 cup cool water
2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
Optional- a few drops of clear extract (I used almond extract but you could use peppermint, vanilla, cherry, orange, etc.)

Sugar Cookie Directions
Cream butter, powdered sugar, egg, almond extract, vanilla, and salt together using a mixer (I used the paddle attachment on my KitchenAid mixer and it worked GREAT). Add in the flour and mix until combined. Roll to 1/4 inch thickness on well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters and place on parchment paper covered cookie sheets. Bake at 350° for 8-10 min. Cookies should not brown. This recipe yielded me 26 3-inch Christmas tree cookies.

Royal Icing Directions
Combine the meringue powder and water. With the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat until combined and foamy.
Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. Add in the corn syrup and extract if desired (the corn syrup helps keep the icing shiny). Increase speed to med-high/high and beat for about 5 minutes, until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form. You should be able to remove the beater from the mixer and hold it up and jiggle without the peak falling, however it will be very light and fluffy like meringue!

Divide the icing into bowls and stir in food coloring. Cover the tops of the bowls with plastic wrap and press the plastic wrap down onto the icing so there is no air (air is the enemy of this icing)! You can store the icing like this for a few days! I divided my icing into 4 bowls, so I had green, red, white, and brown icing.
First you want to outline the cookies. This will dam in the runny "flood icing" you'll add later. I used a Wilton #2 decorating tip to outline my cookies.
Now you'll need to thin the icing to make "flood icing". This is the runny icing that goes inside the cookie and hardens. I made red, green, and white flood icing (this is the icing you'll put into your squirt bottles). To make the "flood icing" you'll take some of your colored royal icing (I used the green leftover icing from outlining the cookies) and add water a teaspoon at a time. Add a teaspoon of water, stir, evaluate, add another teaspoon of water, stir, evaluate. I ended up adding 8 teaspoons of water to my green icing. You don't want the icing to be too runny so be careful! You'll know it's ready when you pick your spoon up, drizzle icing back into the bowl, and after 5-10 seconds the drizzled icing melts back into the rest of the icing (so you can't see where you drizzled it). It should be the consistency of glue (or corn syrup).

Working 1-6 cookies at a time, use the squirt bottles to apply the flood icing and use a tooth pick to move the icing to all the corners. You can add dots or stripes to your icing with other flood icing colors, the dot/stripe will melt into the icing, it's really neat! Here's a slideshow of the process...
Let the flood icing dry uncovered overnight before you try to add any more detail on top of it. I used red royal icing (NOT FLOOD ICING) and my #2 Wilton tip to draw some garland on the next day. I then sprinkled on some red sugar crystals onto the icing! The sprinkles might stick to your cookies (the first time I tried shaking off the sprinkles they were stuck all over my Christmas tree)! So make sure you wipe the flood icing with a paper towel (eliminating any condensation) before piping on the garland and then use a Q-tip to wipe off any stubborn sprinkles. I am sorry I don't have any pictures of the garland process. I was quickly finishing up so I could send some cookies to work with my husband.


Julie said...

Well, that's a whole lot of sweat and tears, but in the end, it looks like they were well worth it. Very nice job indeed!

oak dining room tables said...

This season always amazes me with all the colors and the sweets everyone can make! Way too overwhelming.

Anonymous said...

very will done

Sara said...

very well done!! These look fantastic. I, myself love them and finally i don't have to waste my money on the cookies themselves. only the ingredients of course. Good job!!!