Iced Sugar Cookies

Only one more month till the end of 2012, can you believe it?

It seems like the last 11 months just slipped through my fingers. I’ve gotten married, moved to a new country, set up a new life, and more, making it a very busy year for me. Got a lot of baking done as well, all the while adding more content to my blog with 70 posts in total including this one! A number like that makes me very happy and hopefully I’ll be able to keep this all up next year when I might start being a little more busier than usual.

Last week I happened to come across a little magazine about cake decorating at the local newsagent. It had a really appealing step-by-step tutorial on how to make butterfly sugar cookies. And not only that, it came with two free butterfly cookie cutters! So of course I bought the magazine. And then I made these cookies.

It brings me great joy to say that I have successfully(almost) iced perfect (again, almost perfect) sugar cookies. Big leap for me. Despite the fact that I’ve been baking for a quite a while now, the thought of using frosting or icing to decorate delicate baked goodies still makes me nervous. I always end up quitting halfway through out of frustration. Not only does it require loads of patience, you need a very firm hand too.

I’ve tried to ice cookies before but it was not until I made these that I realised what my previous mistakes were. For starters, I never used royal icing to decorate cookies as I did this time, I usually relied on a slightly stiff glace icing which I made using estimated quantities, assuming it would do the trick. It usually did, but I always ended up with soft icing, and the finished product was too messy to look good. Royal icing does the trick because it is very stiff in consistency which makes it easier to pipe into thin rounds and dries up quickly as well.

I was actually surprised by how stiff this icing turned out to be. It was almost too difficult to mix. If you follow the recipe given below, at first you might make the mistake of thinking you need to add more liquid but you don’t. Just keep mixing until it blends in. Add a small drop of food colouring of your choice and then spoon a few tablespoons of the stiff royal icing into an icing bag. If you want different colours, just separate the icing into different bowls. You don’t need a nozzle for the first part, but if you want neater looking cookies than mine, you can use a narrow round nozzle. Pipe an outline around the inside edge of each cookie. Mine turned out so messy because I couldn’t find my icing bags. That’s what happens when you move to another continent. So I had to improvise using plastic sandwich bags which made it harder to control my hand.

Anyway, once you have the outline, the icing dries pretty quickly. After you’ve finished outlining all your cookies, thin down the remaining icing with a few drops of water to make it runny enough to fill up the inside of each outline. Spoon this icing into another icing bag and fill the inside of the cookies with your preferred colours. Squeeze dots and other details as you please.

Note: if you are a newbie, I must tell you that these cookies are actually very easy to bake. Just follow the step by step instructions. Making the icing is also really simple. And trust me you will get better with the icing technique. Practice makes perfect so don’t worry about the uneven lines and messy cookies.

By the way they taste delicious. Just in case, I haven’t mentioned that already.

Ingredients (makes 18 to 20 cookies)

For cookies:
125 grams butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For royal icing:
250 grams icing sugar (2 cups)
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Method

In a bowl or electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla essence and mix together.

Sift in flour and mix together. Knead the dough until smooth, then wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 180 C. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to around 4 mm thick and use a large cookie cutter to cut out cookies.

Place cookies on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 10-15 minutes until light golden brown. Allow to cool completely before decorating.

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the egg whites and lemon juice and beat together using a fork or a small whisk. The consistency should look smooth and shiny. If it looks too dry, add a drop of water and mix for a minute or two.

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