Remember how I made those lemon and lavender cookies a few weeks back? Remember how I promised to do a post on decorating them? Well, here you go. I finally did it!
Every year at Christmas (and on Valentines Day and sometimes Easter too) I make a huge batch of these fancy decorated cookies for giving away to friends. I take a few to each party I go to for hostess gifts, I make a pretty box up for the neighbours who look in on our cats. I love these cookies. Of all the things I make in my kitchen that make me feel great, these are the best. Baking and decorating a big batch of these really makes me feel all bouncy and cheerful. They're so bright and sweet and pretty. I love to see people's faces light up when they lift the box-top off and fold back the tissue paper I pack these in. They clearly look impressive, but really aren't as difficult as they look. I decorated about 50 of these on Saturday, and it took me about one and a half hours.
You can use any old sugar cookie or shortbread recipe for these, although this year I made lavender and lemon "shortbreads". I generally make up one big batch of royal icing consisting of:
- 4 or 5 egg whites (or meringue powder, reconstituted)
- a teaspoon of lemon juice
- about 6 cups of icing sugar, well sifted
- several drops of glycerin
If you don't use the glycerin, your icing will look very matte when set - the glycerin helps the icing to keep a nice sheen after it's dried. Two drops of glycerin in this amount of icing will get you an eggshell finish, 4 will get you a glossier finish. Mix your ingredients together thoroughly to make a nice creamy white icing that holds its shape when piped using a thin round tip.
I usually have a stack of little white bowls (I get mine at Ikea for 50 cents each) on hand in which to mix my colours. I take a about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the white into each of 4 or 5 bowls and stir in a tiny bit of Wilton paste colour. You only need the tiniest bit of this stuff - I use a bamboo skewer that I dip into the colour pot and then run through the icing - for great colour. This time I used pink, blue and two greens as well as the plain white icing. I also use heavy duty disposable plastic icing/pastry bags that I get in rolls of 100 for $6 from a cake decorating shop. That way, if all you're doing is straight lines, you don't have to have tips and couplers for all your different icing colours. Just snip off the ends of your icing tubes (carefully!) and pipe away.
I snip off the ends of the tubes only far enough to make a hole the size of the shaft of a pencil lead. Then I put several tablespoons of coloured icing in each one so that I have half the coloured icing in tubes and the other half still in the bowl. To the icing left in the bowl I add enough water to thin it to the consistency of pancake syrup or whipping cream.
Then I either pipe designs right onto the bare cookie, like this:
or I pipe in an outline of icing, wait ten minutes for it to dry, and fill in the centre with the runnier icing of the same colour to make a solid colour. Then I either wait for it to dry totally before piping another colour on it to decorate, like this:
or I decorate it with another colour right away and let that second colour sink into the first colour like this:
When I'm done I package them up all purty like and give them to my friends!