Thursday, April 7, 2011

Easter Egg Sugar Cookies

Perfect for filling Easter baskets!

Start with your favorite sugar cookie recipe.

The one I use:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 to 3 cups sifted flour (2 1/2 to start, because the dough will pick up flour during rolling)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
dash salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until fluffy.

Add vanilla, sifted flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
Cover and refrigerate. (Dough can be refrigerated for several days.)

When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 350°.

Roll out cookies and put them on baking sheets. I like to put cut-out cookies in the fridge to chill for a bit so they’ll hold their shape while baking. I slide them in the fridge and then turn on the oven to preheat. By the time the oven is ready, the cookies are chilled just about the right amount of time.

The copper cookie cutters come from Kitchen Collectables. Their web site has step-by-step lessons, recipes, and lots of fun baking supplies.

Bake cookies for 9 to 11 minutes, or until cookies are just beginning to brown on the edges.

Cool on the pan for a minute or two, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

Start with a batch of royal icing to outline the cookies. It can also be used for detail work, such as polka dots, stripes, writing a monogram or name on a cookie.

1 pound confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder*
4-6 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons flavoring (such as vanilla, lemon, butter, or almond)

*Meringue powder is available at cake decorating supply shops as well as many craft stores and large discount stores.

Sift powdered sugar into large mixing bowl. Add meringue powder and combine. With mixer running on medium, add about 3 tablespoons warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add desired flavorings and additional water as needed.

To outline cookies and pipe details, icing should be fairly stiff. After outlining and piping, simply return any unused icing to the bowl, mix, and add more water until icing is thin enough to spread or pour easily.

Tip: Royal icing is like glue. When it dries, it’s like really, really hard glue. In fact, royal icing is the “mortar” that’s used to build gingerbread houses. So when you’re not working with an icing that’s in a pastry bag, store it upright in a drinking glass, into which you’ve first put a dampened paper towel in the bottom. Rest the tip on that and it won’t dry out.

Next make a batch of royal icing that is "flow consistency." To make flow consistency, add water a tablespoon at a time, until the icing falls from a spoon about the same way cake batter does. It needs to be good and thin.

Divide the icing into bowls and use food coloring to tint each bowl the colors of your dreams. Spoon a bit of icing in the center of each cookie and use an offset spatula to get it even.

To quickly fill in large portions of cookies that have been outlined, fill a squeeze bottle (like ketchup and mustard come in at hamburger joints) with icing and use it to fill in the areas. This is a quick method, great especially if you are making a large quantity of cookies. Be careful not to overfill the cookie, causing the icing to run over the “dam” created when you outlined the cookies.

Now we can get creative. While the icing is still wet dust some with colored sugar or sprinkles. Add small dabs of icing to the base color and use a toothpick to swirl the colors around - it will produce a marbelized look.

Use the outline consistency icing to layer on stripes or polka dots.

Allow cookies to dry completely, several hours. After they are dry, cookies can be stacked or wrapped in cellophane bags.

Place a bit of Easter basket grass in the bottom of a cellophane bag and top with the cookie. Tie with ribbon. I love this part.

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