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.
I have to admit, this month’s Daring Baker challenge had me shaking in my oven mitts. I’ve attempted decorated cookies once before, and the experience was not good at all. The cookie recipe I used resulted in cookies that stuck to the counter no matter what I did, and once I finally managed to get a few un-stuck to decorate, the icing was so hard to frost with that I was barely able to outline the cookies. Needless to say, the few cookies I ended up with looked terrible, so I decided that maybe decorated sugar cookies weren’t for me…that is, until now!
When I learned that the challenge for this month was decorated cookies, I turned to Bridget of Bake at 350 for help. Her blog is one of the first food blogs I started reading, and I’ve always admired her gorgeous cookie creations. Lucky for me, she’s as sweet as she is talented, so when I came to her begging for help, she was more than happy to give it. She sent along her tried and true sugar cookie recipe, her royal icing recipe, links to FAQs, and video tutorials on her new blog, University of Cookie – a wonderful resource for a new student like myself! So, filled with the confidence to tackle decorated cookies again, I made a second attempt. This time, the cookie dough was perfect, the royal icing wasn’t hard to frost with at all, and my cookies (albeit shaky on the piping from lack of practice) came out looking great!
Since our cookies were to be decorated in light of what September means to us, I chose football. Hubby is from Cleveland and is an avid Cleveland Browns fan (and has converted me as well!), so I decided that Browns-themed cookies would be perfect to bring to the game we attended last weekend. Fortunately for me, Jen of My Kitchen Addiction had just posted these amazingly detailed football cookies, so I asked her where she got her football cookie cutters (Michael’s, in case you’re looking). All in all, my second attempt at decorated cookies was a huge success – I’m already looking for an excuse to make more!
For the vanilla bean sugar cookies:
- 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 sticks butter
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
For the royal icing:
- 4 Tbsp meringue powder
- Scant 1/2 cup water
- 1 lb powdered sugar
To make the sugar cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter. Beat in the egg, extract, and vanilla bean. Gradually add in the flour mixture, beating until crumbly.
Form the dough into a ball.
Roll out on to a floured surface and cut into shapes.
Place the cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake 10-12 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.
To make the royal icing, combine the meringue powder and water. With the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat until foamy. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine (do NOT skip the sifting). Increase the speed to medium-high/high and beat for about 5 minutes until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form (you should be able to remove the beater from the mixer and hold it up and jiggle without the peak falling). Do not over-beat.
Divide and color using gel paste food colorings. Outline the cookies.
To fill in your cookies, add water to your icing a teaspoon at a time until it is the consistency of syrup. Use this icing to “flood” the cookies.
Let dry for several hours. Add any finishing touches and then let dry overnight.