The Season of Love (and Sugar Cookies!)

It's shaping up to be a really busy wedding season for us here in the cake studio.  Several weekends in June and July are already completely booked, as well as certain dates in March, April and May. Be sure to call us to check availability as soon as you've set the date and booked your venue.


Lately we've had a few orders for custom cupcakes with themed toppers, so in the next couple weeks we'll post a how-to on making gum paste discs with hand-cut appliqués for use on cupcakes.  Fun!


On to a different topic that hasn't come up much on the blog: sugar cookies. I don't like sugar cookies. I LOVE them. My go-to sugar cookie recipe is from Peggy Porschen, and it's absolutely delicious. Here it is:


BASIC SUGAR COOKIES
Makes about 25 medium-sized cookies

200g unsalted soft butter
200g granulated sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
400g plain flour, plus more for dusting

Optional flavours:
For vanilla cookies, add seeds from 1 vanilla pod (actually, I use a REALLY good Madagascar Vanilla extract, made with bourbon, instead)
For lemon cookies, add finely grated zest of 1 lemon
For orange cookies, add finely grated zest of 1 orange
For chocolate cookies, replace 50g of the plain flour with 50g of cocoa powder

Method:
1.With paddle attachment of electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar and chosen flavoring until well mixed and just creamy in texture. Do not overwork, or the cookies will spread during baking.

2. Beat in the egg until well combined. Add the flour and mix on low speed until a dough forms. Gather into ball, wrap in cling film and chill for at least 1 hour.

3.Place the dough on floured surface and knead briefly. Using two ¼ inch (5mm) guide sticks, roll out to an even thickness.

4. Use cookie cutter to cut out shapes and using a palette knife, lay on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Chill again for about 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 F, gas 4.
5. Bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on size, until golden brown at the edges. Allow to cool on wire rack.  Decorate as desired. 


I usually decorate the cookies with royal icing, piping a 'dam' first around the edge with stiff icing, and then 'flooding' the inside with runnier icing. I use Wilton gel colors to tint the royal icing in a variety of colors, depending on the design. Also: I flavor my royal icing with a little lemon juice, which adds 'brightness' and dimension to the otherwise-uniform, even bland, sweetness. I make it in my trusty five-quart KitchenAid mixer, always mixing on the lowest speed possible, which helps to avoid air bubbles in the final product. 


My royal icing recipe comes from Martha Stewart. I prefer to use meringue powder (rather than egg whites), as I feel the resulting icing is much glossier and more stable. Here's the recipe:


ROYAL ICING

1 lb powdered sugar
5 Tbs meringue powder
½ cup water
liquid or gel-paste food coloring (optional)

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, meringue powder, and a scant ½ cup water on low speed. Beat until mixture is fluffy yet dense, 7 to 8 minutes.

2. To thin the icing for flooding (filling in areas with a thin layer of icing), stir in additional water, 1 tsp. at a time. Test the consistency by lifting a spoonful of icing and letting it drip back into the bowl; a ribbon should remain on the surface for 5 to 7 seconds.

3. To tint icing, dip a toothpick or wooden skewer into food coloring, and gradually mix it in until the desired shade is reached.

Yield: About 2 1/2 cups

I'll leave you with a snapshot of some cute conversation heart cookies we're making for Valentine's Day this year. These are vanilla sugar cookies, with tinted royal icing flooded on top. They're left to dry completely before the letters are stamped onto them using food-grade rubber stamps and edible 'ink'.