Saturday, December 25, 2010
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...
A dusting of snow, cookies, Christmas movies, and family...it's officially Christmas! My brain is having a hard time grasping that Christmas is here (and nearly over). I think that's the downside of the last few years of a chaotic schedule; I have little concept of time as it relates to my personal life. My idea of days, weeks, months, etc revolve around due dates and my work schedule.
I watched Elf and Christmas Vacation today. That helped. And I received possibly my best present from my parents to date: a sewing machine! I'm quite excited about all the possibilities that the sewing machine brings. Cooking, sewing, and full of wit...is there nothing I can't do??!! (I kid, I kid.) And now I will present evidence of what I cannot do well: decorate sugar cookies.
The Pioneer Woman recently had a weekend where winners visited her Lodge (I entered, I lost, I wept). Bridget from Bake at 350 taught a class on cookie decorating. She's amazing. I want to be her. I tried to be her today. I failed. Okay, I did not fail, but boy howdy do I have room to grow.
Nielsen-Massey is the way to go. Trust me. Vanilla bean paste is a thicker consistency than vanilla extract, but it's still runny.
The bean paste leaves beautiful specks of the vanilla in the dough.
Disposable bags are easy when you use a coupler (the white part) with a tip (this is #2). I had no clue what a coupler was until a couple days ago. Bridget is changing my life. I used the bag and tip to pipe the outline of my tree... which you can't see, but let's pretend like I didn't mess it up. I ended up spooning the icing on instead of using the squeeze bottle for the flood icing since mine was too thick.
Here are her recipes:
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 sticks salted butter, cold
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (this is one of her alternate versions)
Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and paste, mix well. Gradually add the flour and beat until just combined, scraping down the sides.
The dough will be crumbly so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling.
Roll out on a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets (she recommends freezing the cut out shape on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes) and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooking rack.
4 TBSP meringue powder (Williams-Sonoma, Ateco or AmeriColor, for best results)
scant 1/2 c. water
1 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp light corn syrup
few drops clear extract (optional)
Combine the meringue powder and water. With the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat until combined and foamy.
Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. (Do NOT skip the sifting!) Add in the corn syrup and extract if desired. ( I think the corn syrup helps keep the icing shiny.)
Increase speed to med-high/high and beat for about 5 minutes, just until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form. (You should be able to remove the beater from the mixer and hold up and jiggle without the peak falling.) Do not overbeat.
Cover with plastic wrap touching the icing or divide and color using gel paste food colorings.
This "stiff" icing is perfect for outlining and even for building gingerbread houses and monogramming. To fill in your cookies, add water to your icing a teaspoon at a time, stirring with a rubber spatula, until it is the consistency of syrup. This technique of filling a cookie with thinned icing is called "flooding."
To fill the cookie, you'll need flood icing. To do that, you’d follow the steps above, adding small amounts of water (1 tsp at a time) until a ribbon of the icing disappears back into the bowl within a count of one thousand one, one thousand two.
Morals of the story:
1. Being tired and trying a new cooking challenge don't really go together.
2. I need way more practice.
3. This may not be my strong suit.
4. Merry Christmas!