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Friday, October 31, 2014

Sugar Skull Cookies

Dia de los Muertos is a big deal where I live in South Texas, really close to Mexico.  I really wasn't very familiar with it and, prior to living here, thought of it as a part of Halloween.  It is not!  Here's a link to a National Geographic article that describes the celebration, which is held on November 1st and November 2nd.

I remember first learning more about it in a Rick Riordan book I read from his Tres Navarre series.  As a native Texan, I loved the familiar locations and events and the description of traditions like Day of the Dead.  Rick Riordan is now so famous for his young adult literature that many people don't know about his adult mystery series.  It starts with Big Red Tequila and the whole series is worth reading!  As usual, I digress.

A friend asked me several months ago if I would make some sugar skull cookies as a decorative addition to her dessert her wedding...on Day of the Dead.  She just wanted a small nod to the date.  I had never done them before so I was somewhat nervous...but agreed, thinking I would have plenty of time to learn!

So, I studied a 2013 tutorial from Marlyn at Montreal Confections and actually watched it several times to get the concept sort of embedded in my head.  I also made a Pinterest board of make-up ideas for the holiday - thinking I could "cookie" them.  I also started making royal icing transfer roses for use on the cookies, as well as some fondant/white sculpting chocolate sea shell molds (my personal nod to our coastal location).  Those items may be made well in advance and stored in tightly sealed containers.

I also purchased some cookie cutters of various shapes and sizes and some stencils from The Cookie Countess to try out.

I planned out all of my steps and ended up using the complete basic layout method from Marlyn's tutorial...but wanted the nose and eyes to be black with depth to show some dimension.  I used the one piece of the 3-layer stencil to mark the eyes and nose for consistency (since I don't own a KopyKake projector...aka a KK).  So, using my Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookie dough, rolled at 3/8" thickness and the most basic and small skull cutter I had obtained which was about 3 1/2 inches in length, I got started by marking (with food color marker) and painting the eyes and nose sockets with thinned black royal icing.  Then I outlined everything in black outline consistency icing, using a template from Marlyn to get the jaw line standardized (just printed and cut that section, used a food marker to locate it on the cookie) and after crusting, filled first the jaw section with white RI, and then the top section.  After letting dry completely, I used Marlyn's technique with dry brushing lustre dust... my preferred color was bronze, although I tried rose and red as well.

After that, I wanted the cookies to be unique - two dozen needed so I made 28 to ensure adequate supply in case of breakage (or snackage).  I wanted to use the royal icing transfer roses (I'm not great at those yet, but Sweet Ambs has a great tutorial in her shop)  in the eyes but realized I hadn't made enough so made some small black drop flowers with a colored dragee in the middle out of leftover icing.  They worked really well! Perfect fit in the eye socket!

Several of the cookies used Marlyn's technique of "watercolor" with food markers instead of paint.  It did give great control and I was much more comfortable knocking out many of the cookies with that technique - others I just piped and did curliques (also technique learned from Amber's tutorial shop).  I still have trouble mirroring swirlies, but the more I did, the better they got.  I had so much fun looking at each cookie as a new piece of art.  I'm not overly fond of knocking out a lot of cookies that are supposed to look the same, so the freedom to make a couple of dozen unique cookies was much more appealing to me!

I'll end this with some encouragement for you to check out Marlyn and Amber's tutorials.  They are awesome.  The rest will just be show and tell of most of the cookies - I don't think I photographed each one...but this gives you a good flavor of my nod to Dia de los Muertos!  Partying with the spirits of your relatives who have crossed over feels like a good thing to me.  I am embracing it this year!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

(Mr. Flip Flop's favorite of the bunch)

Jessica sent me a Facebook post of the picture from their Day of the Dead Wedding Cookie Table... now I wish I'd packaged them a little nicer, I could have put some ribbon on them or something...I was more worried about them being intact and fresh, so I just heat sealed.  Oh well, they still look nice and decorative.  Hope they tasted good too!  Congratulations to Jessica and Michael!!!


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