So last month I had hoped to participate in my first Daring Bakers' Challenge. Alas, life got in the way and I didn't manage to complete the challenge. This time around, I was far more organised, and I completed the challenge!
Am I happy I did it? Yes, but my oh my.. I was in a world of pain with this challenge! Having never piped royal icing before it was rather tricky, made all the more so difficult by the fact I lost the piping attachment I needed. Without it, I decided to soldier on with a sandwich bag snipped in the corner. Not such a good idea, as it turns out, but oh well :)
September 2010's challenge was hosted by Mandy from What the Fruitcake?! Mandy challenged everyone to bake and decorate basic sugar cookies using recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking. We had to give our cookies/biscuits a theme of significance to us in the month of September.
For me (and fellow antipodeans) September marks the beginning of Spring! Spring themed cookies seemed like a good idea, and I decided to take it one step further and create a spring themed cookie bouquet.
I did this by baking the cookies on bamboo skewers. I inserted the skewers carefully before refrigerating and then baking.
Basic Sugar Cookies
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4" Cookies
200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
a pinch of salt
Cream together the butter, sugar, salt and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming creamy in texture. Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.
Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins. Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.
Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife. Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour. Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4. Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies. Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in some cookies being baked before others are done.
Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
Leave to cool on cooling racks. Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
315g – 375g / 11oz – 13oz / 2½ – 3 cups Icing / Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
10ml / 2 tsp Lemon Juice
5ml / 1 tsp Almond Extract, optional
Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined. Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and grease free.
Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites. Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.
Beat on low until combined and smooth. Use immediately or keep in an airtight container. Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.
I'm looking forward to reading all my fellow Daring Bakers' Challenge posts for this month! I'm sure there are some fantastic cookies out there :)