I haven’t written a baking post in forever! Baking is pretty much my life right now and I’m ok with it. Since I lost my job I have been trying to keep busy any way I can without actually spending money, and I got the idea to try and sell some baking during the Christmas season- I love to bake so it’s something I would be doing anyway, I can just scale it up as necessary! It’s not a lucrative career but I do have a lot of time on my hands at the moment, and it sure beats the last season of Gilmore Girls on Netflix (ugh Lorelai, Chris or Luke? Make up your damn mind). I’ve been really lucky to have a lot of support from a great network of family and friends.
One order I received was for sugar cookie cutouts and I was a bit nervous about it, because in the past when I’ve made them they have not exactly been photo-worthy. They taste great, but the icing is always a bit too runny or a bit too thick, and I can never get the rich red and green colours that you want to see on a Christmas cookie. But I spoke to a friend who also bakes, and did a bit of research, and with some practice I managed to make them look quite presentable!
I thought I’d share some of the tips I learned, because I’m not kidding, these are LEAGUES nicer than anything I’ve made before. The proportions I used for the icing was as follows: 1 cup icing sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (or almond extract for pure white); adjust consistency as necessary.
Use gel food colouring for richer colours.
This really makes a difference! I could never get the liquid food colouring to the right red/green colour. You still have to use a somewhat obscene amount of dye and it will thin out the icing a bit, so you might have to adjust the consistency again. But I’ve never been able to get this colour intensity with liquid dyes.
Use a piping bag and a piping tip (#4 worked well).
Maybe a bit obvious, but in the past I’ve tried to get away with a ziploc bag and a hole cut in the corner. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t measure up! I bought a reusable piping bag (Wilton) and rinsed it out between colours; it’s very durable and I can minimize my consumer guilt by avoiding disposable bags. I just pop the tip in the bottom of the bag, push it towards the end, and fill the bag with icing; I found it works to use a glass to hold the bag and fold the edges over the rim so that you can get the icing right in the bottom; then I tie off the top of the bag with a rubber band.
Follow the 10 second rule for icing consistency.
This was really important! My icing usually falls off the cookie in a big messy puddle or is too thick to pipe. Here is a helpful video that shows you how to do this; basically the icing should settle into a smooth surface at about 10 seconds after disturbing the surface.
Allow icing to harden and set before packing.
It’s really hard to be patient and wait when it FEELS like the icing is set, but giving the cookies more time won’t hurt, and no one wants to spend hours and hours decorating cookies only for them to crush each other in the container. I laid them out in a single layer on baking pans, and covered the pans with a layer of plastic wrap (more as a cat prevention technique than anything- the icing forms a protective layer that will prevent the cookies from getting stale if they are left out for under 24 hours). When packing in containers, place in a single layer with parchment paper in between multiple layers.
And that’s it! They take some time for sure but the end result is both tasty and pretty. I really liked substituting the almond extract in the white icing instead of vanilla- vanilla darkens the colour too much, plus I love the almond flavour. The stars and snowflakes were my favourite!
Happy baking and Merry Christmas if I don’t post again before then!