Monday, September 23, 2013

Owls & Onesies - Decorated Sugar Cookies for a Girl's Baby Shower

By: Sarah

My husband has a big family! He has 3 brothers and a sister, which are all married or engaged.  Our kids make up the 6 & 7th grand kids on his side.  As wild as it can be with all of us together, I love Nick's family! His brothers and sisters, and their significant others, are all genuinely nice and they are always accepting of every one's thoughts and opinions (which there are a lot of). I always hear people complaining about their significant other's family, but not me! My husband's family is so close and they love to get together as much as they can. When we are all together, it's a little chaotic, but you have never heard so much laughter.  Nick's parents are also amazing! Nick reminds me so much of his dad.  His dad seems to know everything when it comes to fixing things and he is such a sweet, gentle man. His mom is also one of the most compassionate, caring, and patient women I know, which also reminds me of Nick.  All in all, I am blessed to have married into such an amazing family! 

Anyway, this past Sunday I made cookies to take to Crystal's (my sister in law) shower.  She is having baby number 2 (the 8th grand kid) and I couldn't be more excited. It is going to be so much fun for Caroline, my daughter, to have a cousin so close in age.  For Crystal's special day, I decided to make a variety of cookies including an owl* and onesie shape.  

*To make the owl cookie, I used a tulip cookie cutter and cut off the stem. 

Sugar Cookie Recipe 
**2.5 cups unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 t vanilla
5 cups flour
1 t salt

**I only used 2 cups of butter because my cookies kept spreading.  Christy always uses the full amount the recipe calls for and her cookies turn out amazing, so it depends on your oven. I couldn't tell a difference in the flavor.    
1. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer on low to medium speed.  (Use the paddle attachment).  Mix until thoroughly incorporated – for about one minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula and mix again for a few seconds more.
Over mixing the butter and sugar in this step will cause too much air to be incorporated into the dough.  If you’d like a light and fluffy cookie, that’s ideal, however the dough will spread more during baking; not ideal if you’d like the cookie to hold its shape.
2. Add eggs slowly and mix.  Scrape down the bowl with your spatula at least once and mix again.
3. Add liquid vanilla extract.  Stir briefly.
4. Sift your dry ingredients together.  (Flour and salt).
5. Add all of the flour mixture to the bowl.  Place a large tea towel or two small tea towels between the edge of the bowl and the electric mixer so that the flour won’t escape.  Mix on low speed for 3o seconds.  Remove the tea towels and observe the dough mixing; when it clumps around the paddle attachment it’s ready.  It’s also important at this stage not to over mix the dough (the gluten's in the flour develop and the dough can become tough).
6. Roll the dough out between 2 large pieces of parchment paper.  Place on a baking sheet and into the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.
7. Once the dough is cold, remove from refrigerator, peel off the parchment paper.  Cut out the cookie shapes and place shapes on baking sheet.  Re-roll scraps between the parchment paper and place back in refrigerator.  Repeat until out of dough.
8. Put cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again.  They will then hold their shape better when baked.
9. Preheat your oven to 350°F or 176°C.
10. Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes or until the edges become golden brown.  The baking time will depend on the size of your cookie.
11. Let cookies cool to room temperature and decorate!

Royal Icing Recipe
3/4 cup warm water
5 T meringue powder
1 t cream of tartar
2.25 lbs powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1.  Mix water and meringue powder with whisk for 30 seconds.
2.  Add cream of tartar and whisk for 30 seconds. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla. 
3.  Add all the powdered sugar and mix on slow with mixer for 10 minutes.
4.  Tint with food coloring.

Use the 10 second rule when determining if your icing is at the right consistency.  Basically, drag a knife through the icing going about 1 inch deep.  Count to 10. If the line disappears right at 10 seconds, the icing is perfect.  If it disappears before 10 seconds it is too thin.   If it is very close, I go ahead an use it to decorate.  However, if it is far off and the line quickly disappears, add some powdered sugar.  If it takes much longer than 10 seconds, it is too thick.  Add some more water.  I usually add water 1 tsp at a time to make sure I don't over do it.

How to decorate these cookies:
The hardest part of making these cookies, is making the icing the right consistency.  My biggest piece of advice is that it is much easier to make it thin than it is to make it thick, so go slow when you add water to the icing.  

1.  Determine how many colors you will use and divide your icing accordingly.  I usually sketch my cookies out so that I have a blueprint of what my cookies will look like and I can see what colors I will need the most or little of.  Once you have your icing divided, it's time to add the food coloring.  I use Wilton food coloring.  

In the picture you can see that I have wet paper towels covering my icing.  If it's just going to be a few minutes that I'm away from the icing I use a wet paper towel, but if I plan on being away longer, I cover my icing with saran wrap.  Have the saran wrap touching the icing and keeping as much air away from the icing as possible.  This icing dries out super quick so please be careful.  For extended periods of time, I use a plastic covered bowl (like Tupperware) along with the saran wrap under the lid.  

2.  Prepare your bags.  This is also something that takes a few minutes so I recommend doing this in advance.  I use Wilton's disposable icing bags, couplers, and tips 1, 2, 3. 
3.  Once your bags are prepared, it's time to fill them up with icing.  I find it is easier to put the icing bag in a tall glass because if I fill it while holding it, I make a huge mess.  Once it's full, I twist the top of the bag and secure it with a Wilton rubber band.  Royal icing is pretty runny and if you aren't careful it will pour out the back of the bag, which is why I secure it with the rubber band.  Once I have the bags filled with icing, I cover the tips with a wet paper towel so the icing doesn't dry in the very tip.  If it does, a toothpick will come in handy.  

4.  Finally, it's time to decorate!  Take your cooled cookie and outline it with your base color using tip 3.  Once it is outlined, fill it in.  You will want to do this back to back while the outline is still wet.  To make the polka dots, once you have filled in the entire cookie, take the 2nd color and place little dots where desired.  As you can tell the icing is somewhat raised and you can see a lot of lines.  In order to make it smooth, I hold the cookie between my thumb and middle finger and I shake it side to side.  Once it is smooth I sit it down to dry.  When shaking it, it's important not to shake it too hard because the icing will start to roll off the cookie.  

5.  I usually let the cookies dry for about 30-45 minutes before adding the details on top of my bottom layer.  

For the onesie, all that is left to do is to outline the onsie shape on top of the cookie and add an initial. I usually use tip 1 or 2 for the outline and writing.

For the owl, I then added the wings, eyes, and beak using tip 3 for the wings and eyes and tip 1 for the beak.  I added the wings by first outlining the shape of the wings and then filling it in with the icing.  A few shakes and it was super smooth.  Then I added two large dots for eyes.  No need to shake for that because I wanted them to be somewhat raised and to stay in a circle.  Next I added a tiny triangle for the beak.  After 30-45 minutes, I finally added the outline on top of the cookie, the small dots for eyelashes, and two dots for the eyes using tips 1.  

For my circular "baby" cookies, I decorated the base just the same as the onesie and owl cookies.  I let them sit for 30-45 minutes and then came back to add a border.  When adding a border of the small dots using tip 2, I spaced the dots pretty far apart.  If I had placed them next to each other, they would melt together to form one big dot. I then let the spaced dots dry for about 30 minutes and then came back and filled in the spaces. Finally, I wrote baby with tip 1 and I was done.  

I usually let these cookies dry over night and by morning the icing has hardened up and the cookies are stackable.  These cookies travel very well. 

These cookies are not hard to make, but it does take patience and quite a bite of detail work.  I love making them and I love eating them even more! 

Here are some pics of my son decorating some cookies.  His technique is much more fun and messy!! I think he ended up eating more icing than what he put on his cookies.

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