Monday, September 27, 2010

September 2010 Daring Baker Challenge - Fun with Sugar Cookies!

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.

Thank you Peggy for such an amazing challenge. Am I the only one that was a bit intimidated with all the just gorgeous cookies?

Ok, wow, am I ever blown away by all the creativity in the Daring Baker group! And, more than a little intimidated. You see, I don't have the patience or the artistic talent for some of the beautiful sugar cookies and decorations I saw. I'm much better at creating recipes, making things taste good, and figuring out how to do things than I am at decorating cookies without the cheats of cute little cut outs and sprinkles. And, after chipping a tooth on some royal icing gone wrong a long time ago, I hate the stuff..

Butttt, this gave me the perfect opportunity to do something for my AWESOME niece, Amanda. The optional part of the challenge was to do "what September means to me". Well, September means my birthday, and the beginning of fall. After a not so perfect cupcake I made on my birthday, I really wasn't feeling my birthday any more. Sure, the cupcakes tasted fantastic, but they required a risky frosting fix, and prying those little buggers out of the pan when they didn't want to come out. They tasted amazing though.

My niece Amanda loves to race. She normally races quarter midget carts, and this September saw her last *ever* race. So, I had to memorialize her career in the famed purple 37x by making her some sugar cookies. No, she's not done racing, she's simply outgrown the quarter midgets and is moving on to a different thing to race.

Since I'm experimenting with the best way to photograph my food (and I need another light), I also decided to experiment with the cookies. Amanda is currently infatuated with the colors orange and green, so that was what I started with. I really like dying the cookie dough in colors and then decorating from there, so that's where I started.

I remembered when I was in school, one of the teachers had us decorate cookies with a mixture of egg yolks and food coloring. While that was fun, I remember thinking "eww eggs", and it not tasting the best, so I did some research and discovered you can do the same with corn starch and water! Just think - do it yourself food paint with cornstarch! I was hooked. And, it's amazingly easy - just a little cornstarch and a little water in a small bowl, then color it with your favorite coloring. Adjust the cornstarch or water to get the right texture, and you have paint to use before you bake your cookies.

I also did a little experimenting with luster dust. Although it was new to me, I'm sure everyone knows this - you can wet your paint brush and paint the luster dust on with that wet paint brush. That's to make everything sparkly. So now I have painted, sparkly cookies!

The end result of both, I was ok with. I did notice the paint cracked a bit in the oven. I suspect my paint was a bit too thick, and I will continue to work with it so I can use these techniques for some Christmas cookies.

I did want to tell you a bit about the cookie dough - it's great! I will definitely use it again. It's not sticky, not too sweet, and you can use your detailed cookie cutters, and this recipe keeps all the detail when you bake the cookies. The only thing you have to be careful of is when you bake them, they get dark very quickly, so you should really watch them when they are close to done. This is true of all cookies though, so don't get caught in text land and let some of your cookies over brown like I might have done...

Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4" Cookies

200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Directions
• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during
baking, losing their shape.

• Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid
flour flying everywhere.

• Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
• Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
• Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an
hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and
then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.

• Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
• Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
• Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
• Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in
some cookies being baked before others are done.

Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated
cookies can last up to a month.

4 comments:

  1. Hey! These cookies look so nice! I don't like to decorate very much, as I don't have a lot of patience for that type of thing either. I need to be more 'zen' about that (smile).
    You know, I have a really old camera. It's one of the first digital models ever. Lately, it has been getting harder and harder to get good shots, hence I'm no photography expert. I do get my stuff on FoodGawker and other sites a lot considering my nasty, old camera;) If you want to know my 'trinity' for good photos as well as some stuff I've learned, you are welcome to e-mail me...

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  2. Haha, I'm with you on the photographing! I apparently suck at photography. And when I'm at work, I'm usually just taking a picture with the phone on my camera b/c it's easiest to have it in my pocket at work.

    I love the idea of dying the dough! I do that with shortbread sometimes, but not with sugar cookies.

    I also used the egg/food colouring paint as a kid. I'll try the cornstarch method next time.

    Happy Birthday!

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  3. Beautiful cookies and a Happy belated birthday! I too have been having so much trouble photographing as of late..I'm close to throwing the towel in and just drawing my results..lol

    On another note, can you imagine using raw egg yolks and food coloring in this day and age? Amazing we all survived..lol

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  4. @Stella - yea, I need to be more "zen" about it too. I have so very little patience, maybe this is something I can work on.

    @soulfood - My mom used to dye sugar cookie dough for Christmas, then buy all kinds of little sprinkles and such so we could decorate before baking. So I got that idea from her!

    @Lisa - yea, I have a thing about eggs. I'm a bit sensitive to them, so I don't eat them unless they are in things, but sometimes I crave them, which is strange. The raw egg yolks didn't bother me so much except they tasted nasty on the cookies. You painted the cookies before they were baked, so it did get baked in the oven, I just remember them tasting foul.

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