I'm a little late posting this, but I made these cookies for Valentine's Day. I got the icing heart marbling idea from Annie's Eats. Hers came out so cute and perfect - what I wish mine had come out looking like! This was my first time doing royal icing on my cookies so, naturally, it was a frustrating experience. First with trying to tint the icing red (which was tedious and nerve-wracking since I've read that red icing dries darker than it initially appears), then figuring out what consistency it should be for outlining and flooding. I got the hang of it towards the end but they still came out looking obviously homemade, which isn't necessarily a bad thing I guess. I'm a perfectionist by nature, so my first thought on anything I do is always that it could have been better, but considering this was my first time and I had to use ziploc bags for piping, I know I did the best I could, which is enough...for now ;)
A couple of tips for anyone new to baking that wants to try their hand at these sugar cookies:
- Add as little flour as possible when rolling the dough out (this could make them come out crunchy instead of soft).
- Check cookies a few minutes before the recipe says they should be done.
- Be sure to leave enough space between the cookies before putting them in the oven - they'll spread out and become one giant cookie if they're too close to each other.
- If you work slowly (like I do), put the cookie sheet with the cookies in the fridge or freezer for about 5-10 minutes before baking - they'll keep their shape much better in the oven.
- If your cookies come out too hard/crunchy, don't give up hope! They'll soften a bit after you frost them.
- When tinting icing, use a much larger bowl than you think you need - the bigger the bowl, the less messy the process will be.
- When you start to feel frustrated (which is inevitable when you don't have much experience with royal icing), remember - cookies are supposed to be fun! If they're stressing you out, just take a deep breath and a step back...if you're in the middle of icing the cookies, go ahead and eat a couple undecorated ones, why not? Then proceed with a smile :)
slightly adapted from Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe by Joanne Chang
makes about twenty-four 2 1/2-inch cookies (probably more, I got 38 3-inch heart cookies out of this recipe)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups (420 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
- Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the bowl and paddle a few times. Beat in the eggs and vanilla on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape down the bowl and paddle again to make sure the eggs are throroughly incorporated.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt until well mixed. On low speed, slowly blend the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture and then mix just until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.
- Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and wrap the dough in the plastic wrap, pressing down to form a disc about 8 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for about 1 hour, or until it firms up enough to roll out. (The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. If the dough is frozen, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and then let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before using.)
- Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Lightly flour a work surface, place the dough disk on the surface, and lightly flour the dough. Roll out about 1/4 inch thick. Keep both the work surface and the dough floured to prevent sticking. If the dough begins to stick, sprinkle on a little more flour and keep rolling. Using a cookie cutter about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, cut out as many cookies as possible. Place them on a baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Gather up the scraps, reroll, and cut out more cookies. If the dough warms up, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll again.
- Bake for about 12-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Bake just until cookies begin to brown on the edges and are still pale in the centers. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 30 minutes, or until they are cool enough to transfer to a wire rack. Cool completely before decorating.
from Bake at 350
makes enough icing to cover approx. 3 dozen 3.5-inch cookies
1 pound powdered sugar
5 tbsp meringue powder
scant 1/2 cup water
a few drops of extract (optional)
gel food coloring (optional)
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the water and meringue powder. Beat until peaks begin to form. Sift (don't skip the sifting!) in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. Increase speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form. If using an extract, add it then beat for a few more seconds to incorporate.
- Divide icing into bowls and tint with food coloring as desired. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for a few minutes, then gently stir to pop any air bubbles.
- Transfer some of the icing into pastry bags fitted with small round tips (or use a ziploc bag and snip off a small piece from the corner) and cover the rest with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap against the icing to create an airtight seal. With the icing in the pastry bags, pipe the outlines for the cookies and let dry for at least one hour before flooding.
- Add water to the icing in the bowls, 1/2 - 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach a consistency that is good for flooding the cookies. Transfer to plastic squeeze bottles and flood your cookies, using a toothpick to push the icing into the edges/corners. Let the icing dry completely (preferably overnight) before stacking cookies for storage.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days (or longer if you don't mind slightly stale cookies...which I don't). The sugar cookie recipe from Flour is divine, I'll definitely be coming back to this one for all my Holiday cookie needs.