I have used Royal Icing to decorate cookies two times before. Both I would consider to have been fairly successful, but somehow I look at what I have done and then I look at what others can do and I realize how much more potential there is for growth. In light of this and the weather, I decided to hibernate and practice my royal icing skills…or lack thereof.
I am highly addicted to foodgawker, and several days ago I came across a post with an incredible royal icing design from The Sweet, Simple Life and I knew immediately that I needed to try it out. After a bit more research I sketched out a few designs and set off planning my day of baking adventures.
Personally I find that visualizing what I plan to bake or cook helps me to better improvise while I am in the process. Almost nothing ever goes exactly to how a recipe is supposed to turn out–flavors change, textures are different, things take longer or shorter than they should have–but if you know the direction you want to go in, it is easier to make a snap decision to add more of something, cook something longer or stop what you had been doing.
The process of these cookies was very similar; the dough came together strangely, the cookies weren’t flat when baked, one of my ideas for icing failed…miserably. But because I had several ideas before I went into this entire process, these bumps in my proverbial baking road didn’t through me for a loop…much. (I used a recipe for Chocolate Sugar Cookies, click here for link to the recipe which, despite some initial challenges worked out really nicely and tastes really good!)
Reading royal icing tutorials online, the correct way to frost a cookie seems to be to create a boarder, wait a bit, then fill it it. So I did that. And it looked not so great.
So I decided to just fill in the entire top of the cookie at once, which was fine except for a few cookies where the icing spilled over the edges. Oops.
I had decided to use white icing for 15 of the cookies and dark blue for 9 of the cookies, so after frosting the white cookies I moved on to coloring some of the icing blue.
Coloring icing or any other kind of pastry is incredibly fun, and incredibly terrifying. It is hard to know how much color to add, especially because different materials take and show color differently. I was trying to achieve a very dark blue, which I think I got close enough to though I wish it had been a bit darker. For that I blame the fact that I trusted that I owned the right colors and didn’t go out to the store in advance to buy a new blue food coloring.
I then frosted the 9 cookies with blue icing–simply coating each one in icing at once and not attempting to outline them before filling them in.
Before covering up all of my icings and waiting for the iced cookies to harden, I decided to color some of the icing red in preparation. This was a similar process in which I was hoping for a very dark red and didn’t quite achieve that.
I also decided to try something I had seen on a blog several months ago, where jell-o is used to color and flavor royal icing. Needless to say it was an epic fail.
Everything started off well, and I added a bit of jell-o powder and a bit of water to my bowl of icing. I began stirring….and….nothing. The color barely changed, it tasted and smelled like gelatin–not like peach as it was supposed to. I decided to wait a bit, but even after waiting, stirring, and adding things, the result was the same. As it ended up being a bowl of grainy, off white, odd smelling icing, I decided to dump it and make a new batch of icing to decorate the cookies with.
I waited about 4 hours before beginning the decorations on the top of the cookies. It is very important to have the correct consistency of royal icing because it can’t be too wet or it will bleed where you don’t want it, but if it is too stiff it will come out unevenly.
After making sure all my icings were in order, I began with one color of one design and set off working.
Decorating cookies like this is fun but tedious and takes a LONG time. Unfortunately I did all the decorating after the sun had set so the quality and color of my pictures as I was decorating leaves a lot to be desired, but you can get a hint at the process I went through.
I decorated 10 of the cookies with the “Norwegian Sweater” design, using lines and dots to create a pattern that looks like a home-knit sweater.
I also made 8 cookies in various colors that were more simple, again using lines and dots. I don’t like everything to be exactly the same unless you are manufacturing them that way for a particular purpose, so I used these designs as contrast from the other cookies.
I also practiced a technique I had learned last year, which looks a little bit like a honeycomb. Although I wanted to practice this type of icing, due to the colors I was using it was incredibly overpowering so I only made two like this.
All in all I was really happy with how my “Sweater” cookies turned out, and I was happy that I had some variety with my other cookies. I still have a lot to learn with decorating cookies but I think this was definitely a step in the right direction.
As for the taste, the cookies are delicious and the icing is good but tastes a bit to much like food coloring with the cookies that are strictly red and blue colored >.< If you missed it before, here is a link to the recipe I used for the cookies!
I used Sweet Sugar Belle‘s Royal Icing recipe, cut in half, which I found worked incredibly well and I would definitely recommend it to everyone else to use as well!
Royal Icing Recipe:
1 bag powdered sugar (2lb)
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons meringue powder
3/4 cup warm water
1-2 Tablespoons oil free extract or flavoring
food coloring as desired
1) Mix the sugar and meringue powder together in the bowl of an electric mixer.
2) Add the extract (if using) to the water, and pour into the dry ingredients.
3) Mix on medium-high speed until fluffy and stiff peaks have formed, about 7-10 minutes. Add coloring and more water to reach the desired color and consistency.
*If you are not using the icing immediately, put into a container or cover with plastic wrap or it will harden! Royal icing can be kept for a month if stored properly, so don’t worry if you make more then you need immediately.