Monday, September 27, 2010

My first Daring Bakers' Challenge!

This has been an unusually crazy month for me. I've committed to stage managing my first show in three years, and it's proving to be a lot more work than I remembered.

That being said, it took me a while to find the time, and find the guts to attempt this recipe. I'm cool with the sugar cookies, easy enough. But, I have never proven to be a terribly gifted decorator, so this challenge was definitely a challenge for me.

This is such a great recipe to have under your belt for all those holidays that are coming up. I will definitely be pulling out the royal icing again for Santa's cookies.

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

Another part of the challenge was to decorate cookies with something that speaks "September" to you. I chose lobsters because we took our Labor Day vacation in Maine, and that was a big highlight for me. Lobster is not the same anywhere else, so I always try to eat lots when I'm there.

Basic Sugar Cookies


1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups plus 3 tablespoons All-purpose flour
1 cup superfine sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 1) Sift flour into a medium sized bowl and set aside

2) In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar and add any flavorings you might be using.

3) Add egg and beat until fully incorporated, make sure to scrape down sides of bowl as you go

4) Add the sifted flour slowly while mixing at low speed. A non-sticky dough will form.

5) Bring dough together into a ball and divide equally into 3 pieces.

6) Roll out each portion between parchment paper, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

7) Once chilled, remove parchment paper and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out your shapes with a sharp knife or cookie cutters and place them on parchment lined baking sheets. Once they're arranged, refrigerate cookies for another 30 minutes before baking so they don't lose their shape.

8) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

9) Roll out any extra dough and repeat process.

10) Bake until the cookies are golden, and just starting to turn darker around edges, about 8-15 minutes depending on size of cookies.

11) Cool on baking racks, and do not decorate until completely cool.

TIP: Bake cookies in size groups to avoid burning

Royal Icing


2 1/2-3 cups confectioner's sugar
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract, or any other flavoring you prefer

1) Beat egg whites and lemon juice until just combined, it will look frothy.
2) Sift confectioner's sugar and add to egg whites, beat on low until smooth.
3) Add any flavoring and mix in.

Royal icing starts to harden when it meets air, so keeping it covered with cling wrap while decorating is highly advised, and will help you avoid lumps.

The best way to utilize royal icing is to create an outline with a thicker consistency of the frosting, wait for the outlines to dry a few minutes, then "flood" the inside with a thinner consistency. The more sugar you add the the frosting, the thicker the consistency.

When "flooding," you apply the thinner frosting inside the outline, and spread the frosting around with a toothpick.

Using a gel or powder food coloring is best, since liquid colorings tend to thin out the frosting.

Piping bags and piping tips sized between 1 and 5 will be the most helpful when decorating.

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