Happy 4th of July folks! Well, I guess as of today, it’s Happy 6th of July… Well…who says we can’t celebrate America everyday!?
As you may remember, in my first post, I mentioned that a sugar cookie with royal icing was on my bucket list for the summer. To be completely honest, sugar cookies aren’t my favorite cookies in the world. I mean, I love that they can be made into any shape ever, but when it comes to taste, my first thought is, “Where’s the chocolate?” If I were given a choice between a sugar cookie and a chocolate chip cookie, I’d probably go chocolate chip every time. These particular cookies are on my list though, because of the challenge they present. See what I mean?
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am always moving. Getting things done, and checking tasks off my list are two of my favorite hobbies. Even when I have a day off, I normally have a to do list to go with it, complete with times and everything. And, THAT is why this project was going to be so challenging. In order to create perfectly decorated royal icing cookies, I was going to have to have a lot of free time, a steady hand, and…patience. Three things that I’m not the most familiar with.
With the 4th of July coming up however, I knew that this would be the perfect time to face my fears of runny and messy icing. Seeing how we would be celebrating our country, I would only have to worry about three colors. And one of them was white! And so, flag themed cookies it was!
The first few steps were super safe: make the dough and bake the cookies. For this, you can use a store-bought cookie dough, your favorite recipe, or my favorite recipe from my man Alton Brown. (This is one of his few recipes that I can easily follow without getting a headache or having to buy a million dollar appliance.) Keep in mind, you’re going to have to decorate all of the cookies you bake, so you might want to halve the recipe like I did. It still made 21 good sized cookies. Oh, and don’t go skipping the chilling the dough step! It’ll come in handy when you’re cutting out the cookies.
While the cookies were baking and cooling, I mustered up all of my creative juices and made my decorating plan. I wanted to make a variety, but still go on the safer side. And since my brain is in full summer mode at this point, the simplicity wasn’t all that hard to come by.
And this is when my antsy-ness started. It was time to make the icing. Not just any icing, but royal icing, for which consistency is key. If it is too runny, it’ll drip off your cookie without holding it’s shape. If it’s too stiff, it’ll be difficult to pipe and create a design with. What you’re looking for, is flooding consistency. This is where the icing is piped on the cookie, and flows together slowly to cover the surface. I went with what is known as “20 second icing”, to be safe. Cleverly named, “20 second icing” is an icing that floods within about 20 seconds. That means it’ll move, but not too fast.
To make the icing, combine all of the ingredients in a stand mixer or a bowl that you’ll use a hand mixer in. I used 4.5 cups powdered sugar, 3 egg whites, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1.5 tsp vanilla. Beat this for about a minute and then add a teaspoon of water to thin it out a little. Beat the icing for another two minutes until it is glossy. At this point, it is not going to be where you want it to be consistency-wise, but you can split it three ways and work on the coloring. When adding your dye, remember, less is more. Start with a little dye and add more until you get the color you desire.
By now, your icing probably falls off of your spoon in big globs. We’ll want to fix that. The beauty of royal icing is that powdered sugar and water are all you need to do this. You can go either way by thinning it out with water, or thickening it up with powdered sugar. Not even I could mess it up! (That’s saying something.) Basically, add a little bit of water at a time until your icing drops off your spoon and blends into the rest of icing within a few seconds.
This, ladies and gentlemen, was when the jitters started. It. Was. Go. Time. Looking at my designs, I decided it would make the most sense to do all of one color for all of the cookies first, and then move on to the other colors. Blue was up! Here was my first attempt…
As you can see, the icing was a little too runny. I should have known when it flooded out of the tip of my piping bag before I even applied pressure. But, being stubborn, I went for it, and watched as it also flooded off the cookie before I could stop it. Trying to keep my cool, I squeezed the icing back into the bowl it came from, and added a little powdered sugar at a time until it was a manageable consistency. I cleaned up the blue murder scene and moved on!
It went uphill from there!
With the white, I flooded the rest of the cookies, and piped a few dotty stars for some added flair.
Two hours, some sweatiness, and breath holding later, I was finished!
For my first time, I’m actually pretty impressed with how they turned out! In fact, having had a little time to breathe normally since making these, I can see myself doing royal icing cookies for so many holidays to come. Like I said, that’s the beauty of sugar cookies. You can shape them any way, and now you can decorate them in any way too!
So, I’ll be upfront, there’s another post coming Saturday. Not a bonus, but a planned one. And, it’ll still be 4th of July themed. Which I know is pushing it, but this pie (which wasn’t even on the bucket list) was just too good not to get it’s own post! Luckily, it’s a pie that can be dressed up in any way you want, or not at all, making it a year round appropriate treat. That makes celebrating Independence Day a week later okay, right?