Decorated Sugar Cookies for Daring Bakers:

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

I've always stared in awe at gorgeously decorated sugar cookies,but never tried doing them myself. This challenge was just the push I needed to dive in and get those creative juices flowing. It was a very fun challenge and the cookies were absolutely scrumptious.

• You must make the Basic Sugar Cookie recipe provided (unless specific diet restrictions apply)
• You must make your cookies with the theme of September, whatever that means to you

We were allowed to decorate the cookies any way we wanted as long as it represented what the month September meant to us. To me, September is a month of birthdays of some very good friends. They are an important part of my life and so made cookies thinking of them.

Variations Allowed

• While you must use Peggy Porschen’s sugar cookies recipe, you are allowed to add your own flavourings to the dough, so if you’d like to add a pinch of cinnamon & nutmeg, substitute some of the flour for cocoa, or maybe add orange zest, go for it!
• You don’t have to make your own royal icing from scratch, you may use a store bought mix.
• You may make any shape cookie you like so long as it has the theme of September, this means you could do round or square cookies and pipe pictures/words on them or use specifically shaped cookie cutters (butterflies, flowers, hearts etc)
• You may also use coloured sugars, luster dust, edible glitter or flakes, dragees and coloured sprinkles to decorate your cookies.
• I’ve provided links to vegan, egg free and gluten free sugar cookies at the end of this post. To make the recipe dairy free, use margarine or your favourite dairy free spread instead of butter.

Preparation Time
30 minutes: Making dough & rolling
1 hour min: Refrigeration
8-15 minutes: Baking per tray depending on size of cookies

Equipment Required
- Parchment paper
- Rolling pin
- 5mm guide sticks (optional)
- Cookie cutters or sharp knife
- Baking trays
- Wire cooling rack
- Spatulas
- Mixing bowls
- Measuring cups/spoons or weighing scale
- Sieve
- Icing bags / Parchment Cones
- Sizes 1 to 5 plain icing tips (2 and 4 being the most common to use)
- Star icing tips (optional)
- Couplers (optional)
- Toothpicks
- Elastic bands

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

• Cream together the butter, sugar 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.
• Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid
flour flying everywhere.
• 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.
• Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated cookies can last up to a month.

Royal Icing:
I used the Wilton recipe for Royal Icing.

3 level tablespoons Meringue powder
4 cups Powdered sugar
5-6 tablespoons luke warm water

Ensure all vessels are completely grease- free. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand-mixer and combine on low-medium speed for about 7-10 minutes until the icing loses its shine. Scrape sides of bowl mid-way if necessary. Store in an air tight container. Do not refrigerate.

This is full strength royal icing. Thin it out as required by adding a few drops of water at a time.

Decorating Your Cookies: Flooding
“Flooding” a cookie is a technique used when covering a cookie with Royal Icing.
1. You outline the area you want to flood which helps create a dam
2. Then fill or flood inside the area you’ve outlined

Decorating Your Cookies: What You'll Need
- Piping bags / Parchment Cones / Ziplock Bags
- Elastic bands
- Piping tips (between sizes 1 & 5)
- Couplers
- Glasses (handy for standing your piping bags in)
- Clean clothes, dry & damp
- Toothpicks
- Gel or paste food colouring

Decorating Your Cookies: Royal Icing
The most important thing when it comes to decorating with Royal Icing is the consistency.
There are two ways of flooding your cookies. Some like to do the outline with a thicker icing and then flood with a thinner icing. Some like to use the same icing to do both which saves time and you don’t have to have two different piping bags for each colour you’re using.
The Same Consistency Method

• Mix your royal icing according to the recipe/instructions
• Drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing and count to 10
• If the surface becomes smooth between 5 & 10 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency
• Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, do the 10 second test, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.
• Tip: To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 10 second test

Two Different Consistencies Method Consistency:
• Mix your royal icing according to the recipe/instructions.
• Separate into 2 different bowls, one lot of icing for outlining, the other for flooding.
• For the outlining icing, drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing.
• If the surface becomes smooth at around 10 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency.
• Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, count to 10 seconds, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.
• Tip: To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 10 second test.
• For the flooding/filling icing, drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing.
• If the surface becomes smooth at around 3-4 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency.
• Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, count to 3-4 seconds, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.
• Tip: To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 3-4 second test.

Color icing anyway you want.

Prepping and Filling Your Bag
• Attach your icing tips to the piping bags using couplers
• Tip: You don’t need to use a coupler but it makes it easier if you want to change tip sizes
• Tip: A size 1 tip is best for doing intricate details. A size 2 tip is good for some details and outlining. Fill or flood with sizes 2 – 5.
• Tip: You don’t need a piping bag, you can use a parchment cone or ziplock bag with a tiny bit snipped off the corner. I would however recommend getting a piping set if you don’t have one as it will be much easier and more precise.
• Stand the piping bags in glasses with the tops of the bags folded over the top of the glass.
• Fill your icing bags with each coloured icing.
• Tie the ends of the piping bags with elastic bands.
Decorating: Outlining
• Fit the piping bag with a size 2 or 3 tip.
• Tip: Or snip a very small bit of the corner off of a parchment cone or Ziploc bag
• Hold the piping bag at a 45 degree angle above the cookie where you want to start the outline.
• Gently squeeze the piping bag and start moving in the direction you want to outline the cookie.
• Start lifting the piping bag away from the cookie so that the flow of icing falls onto the cookie, making it an even and neater outline.
• As you start to reach the beginning of the outline, bring the piping tip closer to the surface of the cookie to meet the start of the icing outline.
• Tip: If you’re doing an intricate cookie, like a snow flake, you won’t be able to lift the tip as far away from the cookie.
• If you’re doing a different colour border, eg a black border, let the outline dry before flooding. If using the same colour for the outline as you’re flooding with, begin flooding after doing the outline.

Decorating: Flooding
• Fit the piping bag with a size 2-5 tip, the bigger the area being filled, the bigger the tip.
• Tip: Or cut slightly more off the corner of a Ziploc bag to create a slightly larger opening.
• Quickly zigzag back and forth over the area you want to fill.
• Tip: You need to be quick when flooding the cookie so don’t worry too much if it’s not filled in neatly.
• Using a toothpick or clean paintbrush, push the icing around into the gaps that are still remaining.
• Either pick up the cookie and tip it from side to side to even out the filling, or lightly bang the cookie down on your kitchen counter.

Packaging and Storing
• Once fully decorated, allow cookies to dry for 24 hours in a cool and dry area.
• Stack cookies in an airtight container, from largest cookies at the bottom, to smallest and more intricate at the top, with parchment or wax free paper in between the layers.
• Store in a cool and dry area with the container’s lid firmly sealed.
• Will last for about a month if stored this way.

Snowballs - a summer dessert

This is one of those desserts which will make you go mmmm at the very first bite. A cold delicious combination of fruits, custard and bread perfect for the summer. A bit of a lengthy process, but worth every bit of it.

You will need:

4 slices of white bread
¼ cup Mixed fruit jam (or flavor of your choice)
½ cup cold milk
1 cup chopped fruit- apples, bananas
2 tsp Sugar
½ tsp Lemon juice

For the custard:

2 cups whole Milk
4 tbsp Custard powder
6 tbsp Sugar

Whipped cream (can)
Cherries to top

Dissolve the custard powder in ½ cup milk (from the 2 cups). Bring remaining milk to a boil on medium heat while stirring to prevent burning. When the milk begins to boil, add the sugar and then remove from heat briefly while you add the custard mix. Stir till mixture thickens and then return to heat. Cook for 4 minutes till custard thickens completely and coats the back of your spoon. Remove from heat and cool.

Combine the cut fruits, lemon juice and sugar. Set aside.

Cut away the sides of the bread. Apply jam on one side of each of the slices. To bring all the components of this dessert together I like to keep all that’s required side by side, sort of like an assembly line. Have this order : Prepared bread slices, cold milk in a shallow plate, fruit mix, dessert bowls, and prepared cooled custard.

Take a slice of bread, dip for a second on both sides in the milk, gently squeeze out the excess milk, place on the palm of your hand. Fill a spoonful of the fruit in the centre. Squeeze into a ball, and place in a bowl. Pour enough custard to cover the ball.

Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Top with whipped cream and cherries before serving.

Dig in!! :)

Dahi Baingan – Eggplants in Yoghurt

Dahi Baingan is a dish native to Orissa, a state on the Eastern coast of India. I have an Oriyan friend and she had mentioned this dish to me a couple of years ago. I had never gotten around to making it until today. This dish uses a spice blend called Panch Phoran meaning five spices. It does consist of five spices which have distinct flavors. Panch Phoran is commonly used in Oriyan cuisine.

If you don’t have Panch Phoran in your pantry and don’t intend to buy some either, then here’s how you can make it.

You will need:
1 tsp Cumin

1 tsp Fennel seeds
1 tsp Fenugreek seeds
1 tsp Nigella seeds

1 tsp Black mustard seeds

Combine the above ingredients and use as needed. Store as you would store any other spice, in an air-tight container.

Dahi Baingan

You will need:
3 long purple eggplants
½ cup Yoghurt, lightly beaten

1 ½ tsp Panch phoran

¼ tsp Turmeric powder
4 green chillies, split horizontally

Few curry leaves

Salt to taste

3 tbsp Oil

Wash the eggplants, wipe dry and then cut into 2 inch pieces. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan. Add the eggplants, sprinkle a pinch of salt and cook on medium heat until soft but still holding shape. Transfer eggplant to a bowl.

Return pan to heat and add remaining oil. Add the panch phoran and allow it to sizzle and flavor the oil. Now add the green chillies, turmeric and curry leaves. Saute for a few seconds until the chillies are blistered. Turn off heat. To the eggplants, add the yoghurt and blend to combine. Then add the prepared seasoning and salt.

Mix well and serve with hot rice or rotis. We enjoyed it with hot rice and ghee.

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