2/9/11

Cookie Fun Workshop- Week 2 of 4

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I'm happy to be back here at crazy domestic.  Today we're going to talk frosting.

I like to use royal icing because of it looks great!  It looks smooth and dries hard, so I can stack them and bag them. There are many different recipes and techniques that I've read about, but I'm going to share what works for me!

Recipe for Royal Icing
1 cup water
6 Tbsp. meringue powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract (use clear vanilla if you want white icing)
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
2 lb. bag of powdered sugar

I start by mixing the water and meringue powder in my mixer until it is incorporated and slightly foamy. (1)  Then I add the extracts and mix for a second.  Then I add the whole bag of powdered sugar.  I mix on low until it is all incorporated.  Then on high for a few minutes.  It will become fairly stiff.  (2)


Now here is tricky thing about royal icing.  For different types of techniques, you need different consistencies of icing.  For piping words and details, you want to stick with the stiff consistency that you have just made in your big bowl.  But, for other decorating, we need to thin it out a little.  You do this by adding more water, a teaspoon at a time.  I can explain this best by referring to the frosting as a #4, or #7 or #15 for instance.  The number is referring to how many seconds it takes for the icing to get smooth.  Add water, until you think it's right.  To test it, make a blemish in your bowl, and count how long it takes for it to become (essentially) smooth.  {If you've thinned it too much, you can add a little more powdered sugar}

I will refer to the # of seconds your frosting consistency should be as I walk you through the decorating.
But first, a few things on coloring your icing.  I like to use the soft gel paste coloring.  These three brands have worked well for me, but my favorite is Americolor.  It comes in a wonderful variety of colors too!

Separate the amount of frosting you want in another bowl.  Now is a good time to thin that portion out.  You want to cover your main bowl with a damp dishtowel.  It will dry out really quickly if you don't.  With most colors, you want to stay very conservative when tinting.  You can always add more color, but you can't take it away.  (You can add more white icing to it to tone it down, but then you end up with more than you need).  Start by getting a little on a toothpick and testing your color out from there.  If it is red or black, or you know you want the color very bold and dark, you can add it drop by drop.

Now be sure to mix it thoroughly!  It will end up streaky/marble-y if you don't and this has happened to me so many times when I'm in a rush.  One solid color is prettiest!

Many decorators use piping bags and tips, but I prefer to use my squeezie bottles.  They are just easy to work with, for me.  They can wash up when you're done and I have thrown a few away as they have gotten older.  I still think it is cheaper than buying several piping bags every time I do cookies.

I have several different types, and my favorites are the ones that you can attach a decorating tip to.  The basic squeezies are about the equivalent to a size 3/4 decorating tip.  They are very useful too!  They range from about $0.75 to a few dollars each.  You can get them where cake supplies are sold, even at Michael's.

I fill them by spooning the icing in, then tapping the bottle on the counter.

As I go to prepare the other colors, it is important to cover the top with the little lid, or if you've lost them in the disposal (like me), then just put a toothpick in it.  Remember how fast royal icing dries out.   No one likes a clogged and crusty squeezie bottle.  :)

Now we must talk about bubbles.  They are the enemy to smooth cookies.  After you fill a cookie with royal icing, you will notice slight bumps.  Take a toothpick and pop em!  But do this right away!  As it starts to dry, it will leave a mark that won't smooth over, and that's worse than a bubble!

To show you how important this is, I spooned out some frosting onto some parchment.  I left the one on the left, untouched.  To the one on the right, I went through and quickly popped the bubbles before it dried.  It looks wayyyyyy better, huh!

Whew, we made it through all of the nitty gritty.  Now that we know how to prepare the royal icing, lets use it on a cookie!   {I can hear your cheers.  We are to the fun part!}  There are a zillion different ways of decorating and it all depends on how you want the end result to look.  I'm going to show you a few ways of decorating this cute turtle cookie.  

Typically, you frost by piping a border (15 seconds or above on the consistency).   This icing is too stiff to get really flat and smooth, but if you used the thinner stuff, it would just slide right off the cookie and wouldn't look good at all.  So piping the edge keeps the edges looking neat and tidy.  Then you will fill the border with the thinner stuff (a 4/5 second consistency).

You can decide if you want the outline to pop, or not be noticed at all.  But first I will show you how to make the first turtle with the black outline.

Step 1- Outline all of the areas you want to be defined.  Use a 15 second or above consistency.
Let it dry for at least about 10 minutes.  By the time you do all of your cookies, the first one will be ready to fill.  

Step 2 and 3-  Fill with a 3-7 second consistency.  The higher the number, the more coaxing you have to do to get it flat.  Use a toothpick, or shake the cookie a little to flatten it out.  Also, don't forget to pop those bubbles!  Any higher than a 7, and it won't smooth out completely flat.  The higher # consistencies will make the frosting look a little fuller.  As you fill and smooth it out with the tip of your squeezie bottles, they will get a little messy.  I keep a damp paper towel by me and wipe it off as I go.  Otherwise, the crusty pieces can fall off into your wet icing.  Also, It keeps your decorating more precise. 

Step 4- After your first layer is dry, add detail and fun to your cookie!  More on this in next week's post. 

Now if you don't want the black outline, you can simply follow the same steps, by making the same color icing, in two different consistencies.  You will outline first.

You can let this dry as you go through and outline all of the cookies.  If you do this, you will end up seeing the outline.

If you fill it right away, without letting the outline dry, it will meld together and you won't end up seeing the outline.

So depending on how you want it to look choose which "step 2" you want to do.

Even though royal icing starts to dry really fast, it takes several hours to dry completely.  I don't attempt to stack them, or put them in bags until they've dried overnight.  Leave plenty of extra time in your planning.  Each step is a bit time consuming as you are learning.  The best advice I can give you is to practice!  I know I am still getting a little better every time I practice!  

Now you know all of the basics of cookies and royal icing.  I look forward to sharing some more fun techniques and more tips in the next couple of weeks!  Until then, come visit my sister and I at our blog, bee in our bonnet!

7 comments:

destiny said...

Those turtles are adorable! I've always wanted to try cookies with icing like this! Thanks for the great tutorial!!

destiny said...

Oh, and by the way... what cookie recipe do you recommend for these?
Thanks!!

Heather B said...

How cool! Is the meringue powder and food coloring easy to find? I've never heard of meringue powder. I only have a walmart and kroger in my town, would they have it?

Georgia (The Comfort of Cooking) said...

These cookies are so perfect! Lovely designs and colors. I'm so glad to have found your blog and look forward to seeing more!

Megan said...

Destiny~ Ashleigh shared her cookie recipe in week 1 of the cookie fun workshop, found here: http://www.crazydomestic.com/search/label/workshops

Heather~I'll let Ashleigh answer your question about the food coloring, I've never seen those brands she uses, but I've found meringue powder at Michaels and Walmart in their Wilton/cake decorating sections.

Ashleigh said...

Heather- I have a local store that carries these things, but I have also purchased both of these at amazon. Here is the link to the food coloring:
http://www.amazon.com/AmeriColor-Student-Soft-Paste-Color/dp/B0029YDR82/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297315852&sr=8-1

They have meringue powder on amazon too. And like Megan said, they often carry it at craft stores.

I hope that helps! :)

Stephanie Smith said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I have been wanting to dive into cookie decorating. I have already ventured into cake decorating. Came over here by way of Someday Crafts