Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful for Desserts - Day 1: Turkey Cookies

I am thankful for many things in life.  My family, my health, Hubby, my dogs, my kitchenaid mixer, the amazingly talented world of bloggers out there who have given me inspiration over the past year to try new things and no be afraid of baking, The CW, fried chicken, I could go on. 

Lets go back to one item in particular on the list: The Bloggers! One year ago today, I was scared to death of baking anything more than a boxed cake mix or roll of store bought cookie dough.  And decorating said cookies or cake? Ha! Never! But then a funny thing happened.  Faced with a lot of free time (I had lost my job in September 2010) and armed with Good Housekeeping's Cookie Swap Cook Book from my mother in law, I decided to try to bake and decorate a batch of cookies from scratch.  And.  It worked! Sure the cookies were a bit crisp for my personal tastes and the icing was a little messy.  But no one got food poisoning.  And I didn't burn down the house.  Two major successes in my book. 

I have spent the last year devouring food blogs and instructional videos to try to perfect my sugar cookie with royal icing decorations.  Some attempts have worked better than others.  But I think I am happy to report, that I have finally cracked the code on the perfect combination (for me at least.) Behold my proudest - and most topical - cookie moment to date:

To quote Rachel Zoe: "I die!"

I simply adore my little turkey flock.  From their colorful tails to their inquisitive looks.  Love! Let me break it down for you:

I started with my favorite sugar cookie dough.  I like my cookies soft but they need to hold a shape and this recipe does that.  They also freeze fabulously and and stay fresh for weeks.  Which is very important for someone I know who tends to over promise herself but still has a full time job and is in school part time and occasionally likes to see her husband and dogs. 

After letting the dough chill overnight, I rolled it out to about 1/4 inch (it may have been a bit thicker) and cut large circles.  I used a large biscuit cutter which I think it about 3 inches.  I also always always always line my cookie sheets with parchment paper.  I own a silpat (thanks for the wedding present Annette) but I find washing it to be a pain and parchment works just as well. 

Little tip, chill the dough again before you put it in the oven.  This will help the sizes/shapes stay uniform.  What I typically do is roll and cut my first cookie sheet worth of dough.  Put that in the freezer and turn the oven on.  While the oven pre-heats, I cut my second tray of cookies and put them in the fridge.  After 15 minutes, the oven should be ready and the freezer tray will be good and chilled so those go in the oven.  Meanwhile, I continue cutting cookies out and stacking trays in the fridge until I run out of space in the fridge.  I then move on to the counter.  When the first batch of cookies are done, they go on the stove top to cool slightly before moving to the cooling rack and the 1st batch I put into the fridge goes into the oven.  The counter cookies now move to the fridge.  I keep rotating through until all the cookies are baked and are cooling. 

Now, what we actually came for.  Decorating these sweet little turkeys.

Start with Royal Icing.  I have had some major issues with royal icing and I have finally discovered the chief culprit was that I wasn't using enough powdered sugar.  In this case, 2 cups does not equal 1 lb.  Oops.  But while I was experimenting I have found the best parts of each recipe and melded them into one super recipe:

Melly's Unfailable Royal Icing
  • 4 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Meringue Powder
  • Slightly Under 1/2 Cup of Warm Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Corn Syrup
Start with your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Put the sugar and the meringue powder in the bowl and give it a stir.  Add in the water and the corn syrup and stir on low until it is all incorporated.  Kick it up the medium/high and mix until medium stiff peaks form.  About 5 minutes.

Fun tip #1 - After coloring the icing, separate some for outlining/details.  I discovered this little tip from Karen's Cookies You spoon a bit of your icing into some plastic wrap, spin it a bit to make it tight.  Fit the little plastic wrapped icing bundle into your piping bag and snip the end off.  Brilliant! So much neater and easier for clean up.  And I feel like it reduces air pockets in the piping bag.   

Fun tip #2 - Now, to loosen the icing for flooding I discovered this awesome technique from Sweet Sugar Belle to use a spray bottle and mist the frosting with water.  It is SO much easier and neater than using a little cup of water and adding water to the icing 1/2 tsp at a time.  I usually start with 5 spritzes and then stir.  I keep up with 5 spritzes at a time until it starts getting close and then I do 2 spritzes at a time.  You want the icing to flow like shampoo and disappear into itself within 10 seconds.  Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and let it sit for at least 15 minutes to let all the air bubble rise to the top. 

(No you aren't imagining things, we don't use green for this cookie.  This is for another cookie I was making the same day that I promise is coming soon.  But it shows really nicely what consistency you want in your flood icing.)

So, back to the Turkey Cookies.  We won't be outlining anything so you can skip the need to make outlining versions of your colors.  We will just be needing a thick version of the orange for the beak and the feet a little later.  (Please pretend I have a picture of my squeeze bottles all lined up with tan, brown, red, orange and yellow icing.)

I was deep in the throws of other decorating at this point so the only available work space was my stove top.  I covered it in parchment paper and set out all my cookies. 

Starting with the tan (body) color I made a figure 8 in the middle of the cookie and then using a toothpick, I filled in the center and evened out the shape a bit.  Next I added the tail colors.  Start with brown, I made a feather/oval/thick line/leaf shape on either side of the body.  I then worked my way up/around with the red, orange, yellow and then brown again.  I let the icing ooze into itself and meld together and then I went back through and using a toothpick helped guide any errant icing into place to fill any holes. 

To make the wattles (Did I just make that word up? That is the name of those red dangly things right? Wattles? Well it is now!) Anyways, to make them, put a red dot on the middle of the neck of your turkey body.  Using a toothpick, drag it up and through the dot to make a heart shape.

Once all the tail feathers and the wattles are done, let the birds rest for at least an hour before going in with orange outline icing and adding the beak (a dollop shape) and the feet (a Y shape.)  And finally, after letting them dry overnight, I added little dots for eyes with black food coloring markers. 

Be careful, these birds really fly.  That is, if people can stop exclaiming how cute they are and actually eat them.  And since there are no outlines, they are super easy!

 Gobble Gobble!

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to eating these. Charlie is already saying he doesn't want to eat any Turkey...I think he will change his mind when he sees these!!