Monday, July 4, 2011

Lightning McQueen cookie puzzle (tutorial)

My nephew recently turned 4 years old. I wanted to bake something for him but wasn't sure what. We had a gift for him already but I wanted to supplement it with some bakes since I know he likes sweets. Okay, which kid doesn't like sweets, right?!

Now that I think about it, it was the perfect idea and could be the perfect gift for any kid really. Kids love cookies! Kids love puzzles! Especially my nephew! Ta da! I've seen cookie puzzles before but in smaller form. I wanted something simple and something big so that I would only have to decorate one cookie, in theory. I kind of thought up this idea at the last minute too. That one big cookie turned out to be more work than I thought!

I brainstormed online with Tristan on what I could use for my cookie design. When I think of little boys, I think of trains, cars, dinosaurs, etc. A car would be simple enough. Then I thought about Cars 2 playing in the theater right now. Lightning McQueen! My cookie puzzle idea only got better and better :)

Since I had no giant cookie cutter of a car and I didn't really want to hand cut one, I decided just to do a rectangular cookie with a car inside. I typically bake lemon flavored vanilla sugar cookies but for this particular occasion, I made a chocolate cookie. I've made the chocolate version before without icing and it was quite good, plus I knew my nephew loves chocolate. Did I not say this idea was getting better and better?! Not only would it be a hit but the color of the cookie would make a great background for the car since it would look like dirt. For anyone thinking of making a puzzle cookie and needs a background in color, tint your cookie dough the color of your main background. That would definitely simplify the decorating process :)

Here is the basic process for making a cookie puzzle. Make and bake your cookie as you normally would. Once they are removed from the oven, cut them into desired pieces while they are still hot and soft. Let the pieces cool. When it comes time to decorating, put all the pieces together and then decorate. While the icing is still wet, separate the pieces again and let each individual piece dry.

Drawing the car was a bit tricky, especially since I used a lot of icing, some on top of each other and the colors were bleeding into each other. Oops. I couldn't let the colors dry beforehand since the cookie had to be separated into its parts before the icing hardened. The challenge here was that the heavy icing started to drip off the cookie and I had to cut and clean off the excess. If I didn't, there would be no way to assemble the pieces close together. The other challenge was that I didn't know how to carefully separate the pieces without breaking the cookie up. Luckily, Jean-Louis had taken a picture of it when I had cut it up into tetris pieces. I used his photo to help guide me into cutting and pulling each piece apart. Phew! :) I realized at this point, I was aiming for just a recognizable red car, rather than a sharp clean Lightning McQueen :)

The next morning, when the cookie was completely dried, I put the pieces back together and did a bit of trimming so that they would fit together nicely. I then took a new tin container, decorated it with some wrapping paper, printed out a picture of what the car would look like assembled and taped it on top of the tin. Voila! It looked like such an amateur job but it was just a great idea and I managed to pull it off in time for the party! Since it was my first cookie puzzle attempt, I was quite proud of myself :)

Happy baking and make sure to take lots of pictures, before and after each step! You never know when a photo will come in handy :) If you're going the rectangular cookie route, I would also recommend giving your cookie a border to help with putting the puzzle together. It will also allow you to make use of more icing on the cookie.

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