Monday, September 27, 2010

Daring Bakers September 2010: Decorated Sugar Cookies

Oh my! I actually almost forgot about this post! Luckily I remembered early on in the day, otherwise I might not have been able to get this post up on time. Phew...anyway, time for another round of the challenges presented by the Daring Bakers! This month I was super excited when I found out what we'd be doing. It was almost as if Mandy from What the Fruitcake?! was reading my mind! I had been looking at intricate, decorated sugar cookies using royal icing on other blogs and had really been wanting to try it out myself, and then boom. I look at the Daring Baker challenge for September, and that's exactly what it is! For those who don't know, royal icing is a type of icing made from egg whites, powdered sugar, and then sometimes lemon or lime juice. It dries hard and shiny and creates the perfect finish for professional-looking decorated sugar cookies. You generally pipe fine lines using a small round piping tip to outline the shape you've created and then use a technique called "flooding" where you water down the royal icing and then use it to fill in the cookie where you've outlined. Then you go back after it's dried with the small piping tip and pipe on details. You can make it as intricate or simple as you like, but the finish product always is impressive.
For the challenge this month, Mandy wanted us to make cookies that were September-themed. She said we could do anything that September meant to us. To me, September means my birthday and the start of fall, my favorite season. The problem is, I only have winter/Christmas themed cookie cutters. So instead of going out and buying more or even making my own, I just free handed them with a knife. It actually wasn't too hard, and of course, if you don't like the shape you've cut, you can always roll it back out and try again. For my birthday, I made birthday cakes, a party hat, and circles with the number 20, the age I turned this month. (Admittedly, I just used a round glass to cut out the way can I free hand circles that well!) For the fall, I made pumpkins and red/orange/yellow leaves. I actually ended up pretty proud of my cookies. They're not as pretty as other decorated cookies I've seen, but they were pretty good for my first try. I definitely look forward to trying out more in the future! I encourage you to try making's fun, and they taste good too!

Basic Sugar Cookies (adapted from Peggy Porschen)
Makes approximately 36 4" cookies

  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup caster/superfine sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavorings you’re using. Beat until just becoming creamy in texture. (Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.)
  2. Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non-sticky dough forms.
  3. Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 1/5 inch. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  4. Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife. Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30 minutes to an hour. (It's very important to chill the cut-out shapes before baking so they do not lose their shape and spread in the oven.)
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. Leave to cool on cooling racks. Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Royal Icing (adapted from the Joy of Baking)

  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract, optional
  1. Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined. Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites. Beat on low until combined and smooth. Add almond extract, if using, and mix until combined. Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
For decorating tips and all that jazz, please check the printable pdf of this month's challenge here: The Daring Bakers September 2010 challenge.
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.

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