All I can say about the theme is "yikes!" I can handle the sugar cookie part. It's the decorating the scares me. Just the thought causes me to break out into a cold sweat. When I think of decorating cakes and cookies, I think of frustration and tears. However, I am a Daring Baker, and the host this month challenged me to decorate cookies, so decorate, I did!
Part of the challenge was to pick a cookie/decorating theme based on what we'd be doing in September. I racked my brain for awhile because, honestly, not much is going on in my personal life at the moment (*sob*). Then, I thought of this video of Mario Batali on "scorpacciata" from CNN's Eatocracy.
This video reflects exactly what I have been trying to do this September: since it is squash and pumpkin season in Quebec, I have been trying to incorporate and eat lots of squashes and pumpkin types in my meals while they are fresh, local, and in season. Therefore, my cookie-theme was squashes and pumpkins. I tweaked the Peggy Porschen's sugar cookie recipe to include spices that I am cooking with in September, namely, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. I also added salt to the recipe because I think cookies without salt are just not right. Here is my cookie dough recipe which yielded very tasty, lightly spiced sugar cookies.
Spice sugar cookie cutouts
Yields ~ 30–40 depending on the size of your cookie cutters
- 200 g butter, room temperature
- 200 g granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 400 g flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/8 tsp cloves
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar.
- Add the egg and vanilla.
- Whisk together all dry ingredients before adding them to the butter mixture. Beat until just combined.
- Divide dough in half and combine half into a ball.
- Flatten half the dough into a disk on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to ~1/5-inch thickness.
- Cut out shapes, and transfer them to a silpat- (or parchment-) lined baking sheet. Be sure to place similar sized cookies on same baking sheet for even baking time. Chill for at least 30 minutes to prevent cookies from spreading as they bake.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Bake chilled cookies for 10 to 15 minutes depending on size.
I had a few pumpkin shaped cookie cutters, but I did not have any squash shapes. So I made my own with some paper, cardboard, and a pencil. I drew the shapes I wanted on the piece of paper, then placed the paper over the cardboard, and cut out the shapes. I prepared templates for butternut, spaghetti, and acorn squashes.
Baking was a cinch. So far so good!
Then came time to decorate.... I gathered all the equipment I needed. I had plenty of icing sugar, meringue powder, and Wilton gel colors. I had toothpicks too for easy icing spreading. So, I dived right in. I prepared the icing, making sure that the consistency was such that a drizzle of icing on the surface would take about 5 seconds to disappear. I scooped ladle-fulls of icing into coffee cups (which I kept covered with saran wrap when not in use), and dyed them to the colors I needed. Then I carefully drizzled the desired icing onto a cookie (honestly, I used a fork for this), and spread the icing (with the help of a toothpick and gravity by tilting the cookie in the direction I needed the icing to go) over each cookie. I also decorated a few acorn-shaped cookies. For the little caps. I used dark brown icing, which I pricked with a toothpick when it was partially dried to give it that spotted look. For the green acorn squash, I swirled in a tiny spot of orange just like real acorn squashes have. Et voilà!
Quality control was performed by Zen. She inspected each cookie individually.
My squashes and pumpkins are not perfect, but I think their imperfections make them unique, just like every squash is different. I am glad that I kept to a simple theme, otherwise I probably would have been overwhelmed and frustrated. I still cannot say that I love decorating. But I can say that now, I have a better idea of how it is done. I also have to declare that royal icing does not taste good and I think that the cookies tasted much better sans icing. But that is just my opinion.
Thank you to the Daring Bakers for organizing another challenge.