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Friday, May 31, 2013

Graduation Cookies

I made a little over 6 dozen graduation cookies this past week.  The entire endeavor took about 6 days...a day of baking, another day of baking and making royal icing, a half day of preparing 12 bags of royal icing in various consistencies and colors (at the time I was thinking I'd be decorating Memorial Day cookies too...but those only got base coated and I gave up on them to finish the cookies that needed to be shipped).  The rest of the days were spent decorating, drying, balancing family time, putting on another layer, more drying... and it was very humid.  I had 3 fans going almost the entire time.
It was a labor of love!

Shipping cookies has not been successful for me in the past.  My poor kids and grandkids have received cracked and crumbled cookies when I have tried sending via US Postal Service.  This time, I bubble -wrapped the heck out of them and put them in a larger box.  Mission fairly accomplished. I have heard from both of the moms now.  One batch had only 1 cookie broken...the skinny #1 in the number series 2013.  The other mom reports 4 cookies broke...a tassel on one of the caps, one of the diplomas, and 2 stars...not bad I guess...but not 100%)...here's a picture my niece sent of the survivors.  I'm hoping for a picture from the other mom too :-)


The survivors for Addison - Lago Vista High School grad 2013 - yay!
Photo by Melanie Wiesman


I made several  large cookies to go on a platter, if desired, and a lot of medium-sized cookies and about a dozen or more minis.  I'm not the best at writing on cookies, but I made the attempt anyway.  The more I did it, the better I got at spacing.  That's my downfall...spacing.  I don't have a KopyKake projector, so it is always free-hand for me.  It's another of those things I need to practice on more!

So, to Addison (my nephew) and Karlie (our dear friend) - congratulations on your graduation from High School, I hope you both have wonderful graduation parties, and I hope you know that our family is there with you in spirit.  Hope the cookies are yummy and you enjoy eating them and sharing them with your guests.

The dark brown ones are Apple Butter Sugar Cookies.  I've linked to a post with the recipe.  The light cookies are Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies - you can see the black vanilla bean seeds in the dough - I like them a lot.  They are also a bit more sturdy for decorating and packing.  The Apple Butter are softer (but also tastier and I like the mouth feel better than the crisp sugar cookie).  The recipe for the Vanilla Bean cookie is below:

Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Recipe for World's Best Sugar Cookies
by Laurie Mather

Ingredients:
1 cup salted butter - softened
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 Tbsp Vanilla Bean Paste
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp Cream
1 Egg - room temperature
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Method:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the softened butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the egg and blend until incorporated.  Add the cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean paste and beat until fully incorporated.

Whisk the flour and baking powder together and add about 1/3 of it at a time to the wet mixture, mixing just until incorporated, scraping down to the bottom of the bowl before the next addition.  The last cup can be mixed in by hand but I usually add it and give it a little pulse or two then turn it out on my counter to insure complete mixing by hand - being careful not to overwork the dough - a couple of kneading mixes is all that's needed.

This cookie dough may be rolled and baked immediately, but I find my edges are much crisper if I divide the dough into two or three portions and wrap in plastic, gently patting flat to prepare for easy rolling.  I put in the fridge for at least 2 hours and more-frequently overnight.  This dough also freezes well when wrapped in plastic wrap and then placed in a freezer bag.  I actually try to keep some in the freezer at all times.

When ready to roll out the dough, let sit on the counter for 5 minutes or so.  Prepare your rolling surface with a light dusting of flour on the counter/surface and the rolling pin.  I bake on a silicone baking mat.  Have your prepared pans at hand.  I roll my cookies to 1/4" thickness and work in small batches to ensure the dough stays cool and firm enough to transfer to the cookie sheet without getting messed up.  If anything sticks to the counter, I slide a floured offset spatula gently underneath to release.  I will re-roll twice with flour and then if I have a lot of bits left (which is almost always), I will roll them between parchment paper and put the parchment paper covered and rolled dough on a cookie sheet and place it in the freezer to firm up.  This keeps the dough in perfect cutting condition.  If you keep re-rolling in flour the cookies get tough and dry.  I freeze my cut outs on the cookie sheet while I'm rolling out the next pan and another pan is baking.  This firms up the butter and the cookies don't spread much at all!  I keep alternating into freezer, into oven, onto rack, cool, remove to rack to continue cooling, roll, cut, freeze, etc... it's a process!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes...if a really large cookie, sometimes it takes 11 minutes to get the light brown color at the base of the cookie.  That's what I'm looking for - no color on top, light brown on bottom edges.  That's perfect.  Once they come out of the oven, I take the pan and sit it on a cooling rack.  I immediately take a fondant smoother and gently "iron" the cookies flat.  This ensures a smooth decorating surface.  I allow them to cool on the pan until cool to the touch.  I use a sharp-edged Wilton cookie spatula to remove them to another cooling rack to finish cooling completely, gently cleaning the edges of any crumbs.

My usual process is make the dough(s) on one day.  Refrigerate overnight.  Bake the cookies the next day and allow to cool all day then put in containers with wax paper between each cookie.  Make the basic extremely thick royal icing batch and let it sit, covered with plastic wrap on the surface, to release air bubbles.  While I'm waiting on that, I write out my plan for each cookie, drawing my idea, identifying the consistencies and colors I need then I go mix and color my icing and place them in piping bags.  I used to only use squeeze bottles...I've gotten away from that and am back to piping bags.  The next thing is to lay down the base coats and leave them to dry overnight under a fan.  Depending on the number of layers, decorating can take 3 days total.  Then, I individually bag all of my cookies.  They stay fresh longer.  It's quite the endeavor.

Unfortunately, I had already bagged up a LOT of the graduation cookies by the time I realized I had no photographs!  I was quite tired and it was Monday night.  I grabbed a few photographs and finished individually wrapping all 6 dozen cookies then wrapped them in bubble wrap and boxed them for delivery to the post office.  Here are the few I photographed!  I think I got a sample of each type of cookie I made...graduation caps, rolled diplomas, some shooting stars, some plaque cookies, a lot of mini and mid size stars, a bunch of scallop-edged rounds and each set had number 2013 cookies in their package...all done in their school colors (or as close as I could get to their school colors).

A basic sampling of the items included in each packet (obviously multiples
of each cookie...except the number set).



I stenciled a few of the cookies (with varying degrees of success).
It was helpful that the two grads had similar school colors!
I talk about this stencil in my post on stenciling
trials and tribulations.  You can click here to
check out that post.

Another cookie featured on my stencil post.  Hopefully,
my fighting Viking, Addison, didn't think it was too girlie looking.
That boy can put away the cookies...I doubt he cares what is on top!!!
I wonder if he will share???  Of course he will...he's an awesome person.

Well, that's all the photos I took.  I can't believe I didn't do more...but I was NOT unpackaging a ton of cookies!  Photos of cello-bag wrapped cookies are never good - too reflective.  I hope the kids love the cookies and, again, Congrats Grads!!!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon

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