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Friday, February 11, 2011

VALENTINE COOKIE ANYONE?

A basket of Valentine goodies!
It was a full day of decorating cookies...and I don't know how professionals do it.  I completed 32 cookies (all but one dozen are finished - and the remaining dozen are the small ones)... and it took all freaking day.  I learned a lot.  If you follow my blog, you might recall that I don't decorate cookies more than one or two times per year.  Your skills diminish when you leave that length of time between practice sessions!  Add to that, I worked with squeeze bottles this time...learned some stuff there as well!  I wrote this on Thursday evening....but just posting this morning.  I was a tired girl!

Here's a few things I learned...

  • Have flat cookies...any lumps or unevenness will be obvious on a cookie flooded with royal icing.  Especially important on the edges...if there is a dip - your icing WILL run into that dip - and right off the cookie!  (one of the reasons I work on a cooling rack over a baking sheet - I frequently have uneven cookies due to my poor rolling skills - see post regarding pie dough - I am still working on it)
  • Royal icing, over the course of the day, changes texture and colors pool.  Must adjust accordingly - or work it into your decoration!
  • Get rid of any plastic squeeze bottles with small openings if you have minimal patience...they are too hard to fill.  I had some leftover from a party and remembered how challenging they were to fill.  I had also bought a couple of Wilton's squeeze bottles labeled for candy making.  Those filled beautifully.  The smaller opening means air is not displacing as the icing enters (the funnel just sits there)...and you get overflow if you aren't careful....okay, even if you are careful.  It's a chore!
  • Use a flexible funnel to fill your bottles if you have one.  I bought a collapsible silicone funnel - a mini - and it worked beautifully.  Also made cleanup easy.
  • It's humid today.  Did some research about how to get royal icing to dry in a humid environment.  Finally realized that the only thing immediately available which might help is turning on the rather hot lights over my sink area...never use them because they heat up the kitchen.  One site highly recommended using a heat lamp...and this is as close as I can come.  Between that and the heater kicking on from time to time, I hope that does the trick.  I'll know in the morning.
  • Tweezers, ramekins, and toothpicks are must-have tools to manage your decorations and icing.
  • A pile of paper towels (or dish cloths if you don't mind staining them), readily available (I tore them apart and stacked 4 of them) was very helpful in wiping my hands, bottle tips, tweezers tips, and toothpicks.  I also had a glass of water on hand for dipping my fingers or the tweezers (and then thoroughly drying before using again) when they got icing on them.
  • Mis en place is as important for decorating as it is for putting together a meal!  I only had to get up once because I forgot something.
  • Don't forget to put your piping tip collar inside the piping bag before filling the bag with royal icing...big duh!
  • Your icing will be much prettier and come together more easily if you sift your confectioner's sugar and spoon it into the meringue powder/water mixture slowly.  Stop and scrape down your bowl.  If you do, you are likely to be aware if your icing is getting too thick.
  • Put a damp paper towel into the bottom of a tall glass and put your piping bag, tip down, into the glass.  This keeps the icing from hardening in the tip.  Likewise, put the little red tops on the squeeze bottles you are not using at the moment.  It may seem like a hassle, but after you clean out a couple of clogged tips, you'll not mind the step.  You don't have to snap them down, just sit them on top.
  • Don't wear a long sleeved over-sized sweatshirt, regardless of how chilly it is in your home :-)  I can't tell you how much pink icing I have on the arms of my navy blue sweatshirt!  It took me THREE times before I had the sense to roll up my sleeves!
I started off my morning making a single batch of royal icing.  It was the perfect amount to decorate the batch of cookies made Wednesday.  The recipe for the cookie dough and royal icing may be found here.

Despite the humidity down here - I ended up having to add water to get it to the right consistency (see note above about checking more frequently when whipping).  I liked what Sweet Dani B said when she demonstrated with Martha Stewart...you want the consistency of craft glue.  That comparison will stay with me...and it is JUST right.  I also didn't make a separate recipe for flooding icing.  I followed Dani's lead and dammed (outlined) and flooded (spread the icing out and up to the outline or dam) with the same icing.  I found if I was careful, this worked great...and was a lot less hassle.

I divided the icing into 3 bowls...and one bowl got more than the other because I wanted more pink than any other color.  I was looking for pink, red, and white...traditional Valentine's Day colors.  The red was not getting very intense and I didn't want to use any more coloring.  It was different enough from the pink that I got the scheme I was looking for, so good enough.  I really liked the Wilton's pink gel...it was a "princessy pink" and just perfect :-)


getting set up

I decided to use a piping bag full of pink, a small squeeze bottle of pink, and the larger squeeze bottles for the red and white.  Despite the challenge of getting the pink IN the smaller mouthed bottle - I actually liked using it best.  I had the best control with it.  The pink in the piping bag seemed to change consistency...it got looser.  I had to kneed it to keep it "together".  I ended up using it for flooding icing towards the end, because it was thinner than that in the bottles.  A gentle shake of the bottles is all they needed...all day long!


Mis en place is really important... and keeps you relaxed!
I have to say, I really, really enjoy doing this cookie decorating stuff!  It's tiring though.  My back and shoulders hurt from sitting in my hard dining table chairs (that's the best place for me to decorate).  Waaa...okay, that's enough whining.

I'll show you the photos I have so far...and I'll be putting the finishing touches on the final cookies today.  When I'm alllll the way finished, I'll update this post, so check back if you are interested.



The "bleeding heart" - the dam broke - and there was a flood!



This is my favorite


Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon

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