Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Learning all the hows-to of making sugar cookies

I'm not a big cookie person. In fact, I see myself more of a cook than a baker. I tasted sugar cookies a few times before and they were just okay. I do like shortbread and butter cookies though and when I found a sugar cookie recipe that tasted a lot like those, I have been a fan. To be honest, I am more of a fan of making sugar cookies than eating them. The challenge of decorating them is appealing to me. It's all about the presentation and presentation is something I don't focus a lot on in my cooking. Now, I get to work on that a bit. I'm learning a lot in the process too.

I made my first batch of sugar cookies during Thanksgiving. I had one piping tool, which I didn't use correctly and a cookie press that did not work. I manually cut out pumpkins with my knife on the dough. I bought icing but the only orange they had was cake icing, which ended up looking thick and horrible on the cookie. It took forever and even though they tasted great, it was overall a bad first experience:(

My second attempt at sugar cookies was during Halloween. All the other Mommys were baking for their kids so I thought I would too. Like everything I do though, I set out with overly optimistic goals for myself. I learned from my first experience and this time I made sure I had all my cookie cutters. No more of this manual nonsense! :) I cut our pumpkins, cats, and round cookies. I made my own royal icing so I could create whatever colors I would need. I tried mixing liquid food colors to get orange and black but failed miserably. Orange looked like pink and black was a muddy gray. My piping tool was too big so I couldn't add the fine details on the cat. It just looked like a blob. My spiderweb looked cool on the round cookies but the spider was another blob. I didn't have enough piping bags for all the colors so I made my own out of plastic bags. I just cut a whole in one corner. I was still using the piping tool all wrong and icing would ooze out of everywhere. It was a huge mess:( On top of that I ended up throwing away one of the decorating tips in the trash! It must have been hidden in the icing and I didn't see it:(

My third attempt was much easier but I didn't have very optimistic goals for decorating. The cookies had colored dough and messages on them. They were birthday cookies for Tristan. The decorations were minimal. Since I kept getting my piping tool wrong, I researched on youtube beforehand on how to prepare a piping bag for icing. It turns out I had to unscrew the couplers before attaching the tip in between. I didn't even know that part unscrewed. Duh. What a cookie noob I am!

My fourth and most recent attempt was good. I can only get better at each attempt, right? This time I made sure I researched everything I needed. This attempt was going to be gifts for the daycare staff and I didn't want to look like a fool. I went out and bought more supplies such as disposable piping bags, couplers, a replacement tip for the one I accidentally threw away, gel colors, and Christmas themed cookie cutters. I even researched the designs I would do instead of free-styling it. There was one design in particular that I was worried about. I had a Santa cutter and it looked difficult. I made sure I drew this one out properly so I would have the right template. I traced it a few times and colored it with Tristan's crayon markers. I had a bad feeling it was going to be a big fail. Fine details on such a small cookie? But knowing me, I did it anyway. The result was a fail but not a huge fail. I tested out my foodsafe pens beforehand but when I went to color on the cookie, it wouldn't color right. Go figure. I had to improvise and my Santa turned out recognizable. That is about all I can say. The Christmas trees were the nicest. The snowflakes had potential. The cookies were give-able! Yay.

Every time I make sugar cookies, I learn something new. Next time, I need to get a few more finer decorating tips. I know some people use a paintbrush to decorate and I thought I would need one too but it turns out I can use a tiny spoon to spread the icing and for the smaller areas, a toothpick works just fine. I wouldn't have known if I didn't try :) Piping the edges and then flooding the cookie is too painful to do so I'm glad this shortcut works. I also have to be more patient and wait for icing to fully dry before applying more icing or color. Liquid food color doesn't work well for drawing eyes. Next time I will need to use gel colors or just thicker icing. I have to be careful not to make my icing too runny as well. This was definitely the case for my Santas!

So there you have it. I have been obsessing about decorating sugar cookies lately since it's Christmas and all. I plan to give away lots for gifts. Since I took so many pictures, I thought I would document it here so that other sugar cookie newbies can learn from my experience. It's new, it's challenging, it's fun, and it actually tastes good :) Good luck!


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