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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Turkey Cookies (a tutorial)

I have struggled with turkey cookies for years...just couldn't seem to "get it" because I'm not really an artist when it comes to drawing and painting on paper.  My drawings are rough and only used to guide me through the decorating process.  This year I must have looked at a hundred different examples from all over the Internet.  I even looked at photographs of real turkeys and turkey feathers (that just confused me even more).  I finally decided to "break it down".  First I did it on paper, using the cookie cutter for the outline...then I used a pencil (and used up an entire eraser) and I plotted the parts like I was doing plastic surgery!

Fortunately I only had 6 large turkey cookies baked...and nine minis.  I considered skipping the minis, but you can see from the photo above I pressed on.  Somehow this time it seems to have gelled for me.  If I'm unhappy with anything, it's that it seems like there should be a wing.  The core body looks bare.  Maybe next year I'll address that issue!

After preparing the royal icing (I'd prepped many colors because I had a total of 108 cookies to decorate).  For this particular project I used a lot of brown, small amounts of blue, orange, yellow, red, and white.  I primarily use squeeze bottles with a coupler that allow you to change decorating tips.  Sometimes I use piping bags too, especially with thick icing.  For this project, though, it was all bottle work.  All icing was roughly the same consistency.  Makes for an easier task!

I decided to start by drawing on my bare cookies.  Yes, draw.  I got out my little pack of Wilton Food Writer edible markers with fine tip...mostly just use them when I'm making turtle cookies.  I dot-outlined the areas I needed to pay attention to.  The body, the wattle, the beak, leaving room for the feet.  I wasn't really sure what those little feathery things to the left of the feet were (a photo showed them to be a series of white and gray feathers).  Maybe it was supposed to be the wing???

Then, I outlined and filled the body section on all of the large turkeys. I use a #2 tip for outline and filling - spreading out the fill with a toothpick until it touches the outline.  Then carefully hold the cookie with your fingers and give it a little shimmy shake to help everything even out.  I carefully placed, with craft tweezers, a black sugar ball in position for an eye while the first brown set was still very wet.  I pushed it in and it looked better than leaving it sitting on top of the icing.  It looked a little bug-eyed until I pushed down.

I set that rack over on the chair where I had a fan blowing.  This allowed that section to crust while I worked on other cookies.  You have to be careful - you can work on the next sections after crusting - but the icing is certainly not dry.  That takes many hours down here in humidity land.  Always at least over night.  Just let it get crusted.  You can "see" the difference - but don't touch it - you'll have an indentation - I promise (been there done that)!

Next I filled in the wattle on each turkey with red icing, taking care to leave room for the beak (as outlined in in the first step).  Using a #1.5 PME Supatube tip I completed all the wattles and then moved on to start on the tail and feathering.  Since you won't have fresh icing touching the red, you don't have to wait for it to crust...just be careful.  It was at this point I decided to leave the lower feathers unfilled.  You can see how I just outlined the tail section.  (Note - the brown icing ALWAYS darkens as it dries...this was the same bottle of icing!)

Since feathering is a wet-on-wet technique, you must move quickly before crusting begins on the tail section.  So, rapidly outline and flood brown on the tail, then pipe the 3 or 4 curved lines which will become your feathers, working on one bird at a time.

Taking a round toothpick, start at the top of the "tail" and drag the toothpick down through the wet icing.  Wipe the toothpick and move to the next feather, drag, wipe, repeat, circling around the tail...viola, you have tail feathers!  Set that tray of cookies aside and let the tail and wattle crust.

Next I decided to fill the lower feathers with brown and pipe three "sort of" horizontal white lines and, using the same feathering technique, pulled straight down to make the lower feathers.  Since the next section I worked wasn't touching anything that wasn't crusted,  I was able to go ahead and put a fine tip on my icing bottle (I used a #1 PME tip) and piped on some little feet and filled in the beak.

Ta da - that's all there was to it!  Just let them dry up overnight and they will be ready to package as a nice gift for your Thanksgiving guests to take home - or you could use some white icing to write names across the body and use them as placards for your Thanksgiving table...or, like my family is wont to do, grab them off the cookie plate...dig in and eat it!
Note how the browns all became the same color after the turkeys were dried!

The mini turkeys were much easier - I outlined and filled the entire body, leaving room for the wattle, beak, and feet.  I quickly feathered the tail and tweezed in a black sugar ball for the eye and set them aside to crust.  Next came the wattle...let it crust, then pipe in the feet and beak.  Easy peasy compared to the big birds!

These are fun and not too challenging once you break it down into "parts" and "steps".  I feel much better about my turkey-bility now that I've got this set under my belt!

Gobble, gobble!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon


  1. Oh wow - those turkeys are seriously adorable! Awesome job!!

    1. Thanks so much! I had loads of fun doing these once I got the steps all worked out!


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