Advent is upon us and it’s time to get that holiday cheer. I am a huge fan of all things Christmassy and to get myself in the mood I decided to make some Christmas cookies. I was really excited about all the festive things I would be able to make. I ventured off to the baking mart in Dongdaemun to stock up on all the things I would need to create my wonderful winter snacks. There were cutters and decorations galore. I bought plenty of food colouring to make my iced treats and watched a few tutorials about how to make royal icing and flood icing to decorate them.
Since my baking experiments had been going so well lately, I think I overestimated my talents. Although I think my cooking usually tastes pretty damn good, my fall down is always my presentation. In my head I imagined creating something beautiful like these.
Sadly mine came out more like this.
My basic icing layer was fine but my decorating was poor at best. I really should have put them in the fridge and left them till the next day when I would have had more energy to decorate them rather than half assing it. It’s about now that I really wish I had some children so I could palm off my poor skills on them. Mine look as though they were made by a 5 year old. In the end they still tasted really nice, better than I thought actually. I’m not usually a fan of plain biscuits, but these were great. And I still have half the dough left over in the freezer so I shall have another go and see if I can do any better. The recipe for the cookies and the icing comes from the Joy of Baking. So I can’t actually claim any kind of creative talent on these whatsoever.
3 cups (390 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (227 grams) butter
1 cup (200 grams) white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Royal Icing Using Egg Whites
2 large (60 grams) egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups (330 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
In a bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. In a second bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in centre of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or just butter them up.
Remove one half of the chilled dough from the refrigerator and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch (1 cm). (Keep turning the dough as you roll, making sure the dough does not stick to the counter.) Cut out desired shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter and transfer cookies to baking sheet. Place the baking sheets with the unbaked cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to chill the dough which prevents the cookies from spreading and losing their shape while baking. Note: If you are not going to frost the baked cookies, you can sprinkle the unbaked cookies with sparkling sugar.
Bake cookies for about 8-10 minutes (depending on size) or until the edges are just starting to brown. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Frost with royal icing, if desired. Be sure to let the royal icing dry completely before storing. (This may take several hours or overnight.)
To make the royal icing, beat the egg whites with the lemon juice until they have quadrupled in volume. Add the sifted sugar and beat on low speed until smooth. If necessary, to get the right consistency, add more sugar or water. Add food coloring, if desired. You will need to split your icing into several different contains and add all the different colors you are planning to use. The icing needs to be used immediately or put in an airtight container as it hardens when exposed to air.
Pipe a line of icing around the outside of your cookie and allow it to set. Thin the icing a little while you are waiting for it to dry then apply a second coating in the middle of your cookie. This should be runnier and hence why it is called flood icing. If you are wanting to make cookies like me then you can just throw on the decorations at this point and allow them to set. If you are looking to make a more professional batch then allow them to set once again before decorating them with different colours of piped royal icing.
There are plenty of sites out there, for those of you more creatively abled than I. But hopefully I have given you some ideas and got you into the Christmas spirit a little. Merry Christmas!