So, you may have seen my previous attempts at sugar cookies. Messy, ugly, unappetizing. You can see some of them here or here. I have tried a couple different recipes and I am happy to say that I have finally found one that I like! The ones I am showing you today are spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar so they are a little bit more brown than normal ones. All you need to do is leave out the spices for a regular, original sugar cookie.
Not only is the cookie much better in this recipe than previous ones I have tried, but I have finally experimented with royal icing. I have seen it all over the blogosphere and I always thought it looked too labor intensive. And true, it takes a little bit more TLC to get a pretty looking cookie, but I don’t think I will ever go back to smearing on store-bought frosting. It is such a good feeling making something that looks great and tastes great. If you are going to go through all the work of making sugar cookies and rolling them out and cutting them and rolling them out again and again, you might as well make it worth your time and make them look beautiful.
I made these cookies and the icing a couple days ahead of time and kept them in an airtight container in the fridge until Thanksgiving morning. After I finished getting all my other desserts ( I was in charge of bringing a couple different desserts to the feast and providing the potatoes to be mashed) in order, I pulled out my sugar cookies and frosting and started decorating with my little sister. She is a doll. She is twelve and I love her to death. She is so crafty and she loves to make things festive for the holidays. And let me tell you, the icing process is so easy with two sets of hands.
I chose the leaves and acorns because they were the only autumn centered cookie cutters that I had that weren’t Halloween shapes. ( Although I should have done snow flakes in tribute to the huge blizzard that covered everything with tons of snow. I actually got out of school early for a snow day! Hooray!) I actually started out with plans to cut out the leaves and to cut out circles. I wanted to pipe on the shape of an acorn, but I accidently squished one of the circles and I realized that it looked like an acorn after I squished it. So I squished all of them. And I think they turned out adorable, don’t you?
Here is the sugar cookie recipe, but keep scrolling down and I will show you how to work with royal icing:
- 3 cups flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. allspice
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a bowl and whisk together
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix until well blended.
3. Mix in the flour mixture a little bit at a time and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
4. Roll out the dough into a disk between parchment paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 minute ( or speed it up in the freezer for about 10 minutes). Roll it out on a lightly floured surface and use cookie cutters to make shaped cookies.
5. Lay cookies out on a baking sheet and refrigerate for another 10-15 minutes. This prevents them from spreading when they cook. Bake for about 10-12 minutes at 350 F. Let them cool before decorating.
ROYAL ICING TUTORIAL
The great things about royal icing (and there are many great things) are:
1. It is fairly easy to make and you can leave it out on your counter in an air tight container and use it days later.
2. It is fairly easy to pipe.
3. It dries with a really smooth, glossy, hard surface. Once dry, you can stack them lightly on top of each other and they won’t smudge.
4. It tastes pretty good, too.
So, the first step to icing these beautiful cookies is to make the frosting. Here is how:
- 3 oz. pasteurized egg whites
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 C. powdered sugar
- 4 C. powdered sugar
- 2 TBSP. Meringue powder
- 5 TBSP water
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and vanilla and beat until frothy. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix on low until the sugar is incorporated and the mixture looks shiny. Turn speed up to high and beat until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. This took me about 6 or 7 minutes.
Working with Royal Icing
Once you have your icing, you need to plan out what colors and how much of each color you will need. I found it very helpful to draw out my cookies on paper ahead of time and figure out what colors I wanted to use. I decided on orange and yellow for the leaves and brown and black for the acorns. I decided that I would just make some brown icing and when I was done, add a little bit of black food coloring to the brown.
Then separate your icing out into a Tupper-ware for each color. Make sure each one has a lid so it doesn’t dry when you aren’t using it. I saved some of my white icing out just incase I needed to lighten the color or thicken it later. The icing should be kind of thick so it doesn’t just run off your spoon, but thin enough to stir it around easily. Add a couple drops of water at a time to thin and add a little bit of powdered sugar to thicken. Mix in the colors you want. It is best to use gel food coloring because it doesn’t change the consistency of the icing and it produces more vibrant colors. And you can find more colors like brown and black and pink. You can find them where ever Wilton cake products are found. I get mine at Wal-mart.
Load up your bags with icing to outline the cookie with, reserving some to flood the cookie with later on. I didn’t need very much in the bag. A little bit went a long way. When you are not using a color just tip the bag upside down in a cup with a little bit of water at the base so that the frosting doesn’t dry up in the piping tip. If you don’t have piping bags, just use Ziploc baggies with a hole in the bottom corner.
Now, outline the cookies with the piping bags. It is easiest to sit down with your arm resting against the table. After you out line all the cookies, let them harden for about an hour. This is ideal, but really, it dries very fast. I didn’t wait an hour. I started onto the next step right away because the first ones I outlined were dry by the time I finished outlining.
Next, you need to take the reserved frosting in the containers and make your flooding frosting. Add a couple of drops of water to the frosting at a time until it is just thin enough to dribble off your spoon. Let the frosting sit for about 5-10 minutes so all the air bubbles can rise to the top. Give the frosting one stir to pop all the bubbles and you are good to go.
Now using a spoon, scoop a little bit of frosting into the boundaries of the outlined border. Spread it out with a toothpick or with the spoon. A little bit goes a long ways. Start by putting less frosting in the middle and trying to spread it out. This helps you to not overflow and make a huge mess. Set the cookies aside to dry for a couple of hours. Again, I only waited about 10 minutes before moving on. But you might need to wait longer if you flood the frosting on thicker.
Now, pipe on the detail work with the thicker frosting that is still in the piping bags. Let them dry until they are smooth and hard to the touch. The longer you let them dry, the more firm the frosting will be. If you get air bubbles on your cookie, pop them with a tooth pick point.