Whew, it's been a while since I've been able to participate in a Daring Bakers' Challenge! This summer was just so crazy that I'd conceptualize and start a challenge, but then fail to follow through. But this month, since it is actually the anniversary of my membership in the Daring Bakers' and also the birthday of this blog, I made especially sure to complete the challenge.
I have to admit, though, that I was a little disappointed when I initially read about the challenge. Royal Icing and I have had quite the relationship and I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be doing something "new." But, then, I realized that I simply needed to stretch myself and do something I hadn't done before. I decided to paint the royal icing after it was piped and glazed. I used gel food color (Wilton brand is what I had) and I used a little alcohol (Kirschwasser to be exact because I had it on hand) to liquify the color when needed. See, I've learned from previous experience that water and royal icing really do not mix (the icing won't harden), but alcohol will work better.
We were challenged to decorate the cookies in whatever "September" means to us (or should it be "we," hmmm). Regardless of what is gramatically correct, "September" brings different visions to me now living on the East Coast than it did when I lived in the Midwest. I'm used to the leaves starting to change to briliant autumnal colors during September.... to the weather cooling off.... I'm feeling a bit nostalgic for what I consider "Fall." Fall, how I think of it, doesn't happen here until more around Thanksgiving, and even then, it doesn't seem quite as dramatic. I know that if I was to go to the upstate, I'd get the traditional Autumn feeling that I'm use to. But I probably won't get to take a trip like that this year, at least. So I've painted "Fall" instead.
And I flavored my sugar cookies with some of the same spices I think of when I think of Fall. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Ginger. All "pumpkin pie"-ish spices. Oh, and I threw in a little cardemom as well, but you've got to be careful with cardemom because even 1/8 tsp is noticable in these cookies! Plus, I added a little salt to help open the taste buds to help taste these autumnal spices.
Basic Sugar Cookies:
200g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g All Purpose
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Cinnamon, to taste
Ground Ginger, to taste
Freshly Grated Nutmeg, to taste
1/8 tsp Cardamom
Pinch of salt
• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
• 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.
• Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
• Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
• Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
• 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 30mins to an hour. It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
• Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
• Preheat oven to 350°F
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
315g – 375g Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar
2 Large Egg Whites
2 tsp Lemon Juice
• Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
• Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
• Tip: There are listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency,
• Beat on low until combined and smooth.
• Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
• Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.