Labor of Love...

Yesterday was a very busy day for me. My parents stayed with me on Saturday evening, and we went out for brunch, after which celebrated our nuclear family Christmas by listening to some festive tunes on my new stereo and opening our gifts so that we wouldn't have to carry them to Grandma's house later this week. I got some great gifts, most of which pertained to cooking and entertaining, and some of which I had acquired early and pressed into service at my cookie exchange and in my cookie baking efforts this season.

One of my gifts was a Martha Stewart cake and cookie decorating kit, full of piping tips and bags, gel food colorings, and other useful utensils. With this new tool in my arsenal, I decided to tackle a new realm of cookie for my annual holiday giveaway, one which I have long avoided as too complicated and daunting -- the iced sugar cookie. Generally speaking, I seldom make cookies that have to be cut out, because I don't like icing, and most of them are too bland to eat without it. Plus, they are a ton of work, and I didn't have the proper tools to do a nice job decorating, and anything that's worth doing is worth doing right. With the proper tools in hand, I decided it was time to expand my repertoire.

First, you have to pipe all of your borders with a slightly thicker version of the icing and allow it to dry. I had troubles with my piping, as it was my first time, and I was wary of making the icing too runny, so I erred on the side of too thick and I made my hand sore from having to squeeze the piping bag so hard.

After the piping has dried, you fill in the large areas with a thinner consistency icing. This is called "flooding." Again, I did not thin my icing sufficiently, so my icing was not very smooth. However, one benefit of the thicker frosting was that it had less moisture to evaporate, so my cookies were dry enough in an hour to pipe the final decorations. Ordinarily, the cookies need six hours or so to dry first. Also, you will note that there is one fewer snowflake now, because I ran out of icing. Oops...

The final product. Overall, they aren't quite as perfect as I had envisioned them in my mind, but I'm trying to cut myself some slack since it was my first time decorating cookies with royal icing. The snowflakes and the stockings turned out to be my favorites.

Although the snowflakes have perhaps the least-attractive base coat of icing, I really liked my piping job, and the sugar pearls that I decorated them with. I used tweezers to place the pearls, which was tedious, but well worth it.

The snowmen ended up being my least-favorite. I'm not crazy about their little smiley faces, which I think makes them look like they were decorated by a little kid, and I had a lot of trouble with the black flood icing I made for the hats. I got it too runny (in contrast to the rest of my icing), and most of it leaked out under the piped edges. I also experimented with putting the sanding sugar directly on the wet frosting, which took forever to dry.

The stockings ended up being the most fun to decorate, since I could let my imagination run wild and experiment with different patterns and piping techniques. Basically, each one represents a test sample for future piping endeavors. For these, I used a technique for adhering sanding sugar that I had read about on a cookie decorating blog: instead of pouring sugar on the wet icing, I allowed the cookies to dry and painted on a mixture of meringue powder mixed with water and poured the sugar on that instead. I found that it worked much better and took less time to dry.

Labor has been much on my mind this past week, since my cousin Aimee gave birth to her first daughter, Mya, last Wednesday. After working on these cookies for nearly twelve hours, I could only hope that cookie decorating would be somewhat akin to childbirth -- that eventually the memory of the suffering would fade away and I would find the motivation to do it again some day. These cookies were a lot of work. Granted, now that I have some experience under my belt, my future attempts might go more quickly, and turn out more attractively. Still, I don't think these were so bad for a first try. I've certainly seen worse on the blogosphere this season. Practice makes perfect they say.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really impressed. I think they are adorable! Love iced sugar cookies. And about that labor...atleast an epidural is an option for pain during child birth. Perhaps you should have had a few drinks to help numb the 12 hour labor pain associated with baking?!?