Tuesday, January 12, 2010

F. A. Q. 's

Last week, I asked for your questions about cookie decorating, and you all had a couple! ;) I'll be splitting this up into 3 posts....this one, one of royal icing specifically and a third on troubleshooting. Some questions fall into all three categories, so check for the next couple of weeks for your answer. If for some reason, you don't see it, please feel free to email me.

{Disclaimer: I am not a professional...I am totally self-taught. These answers are what work for me. I hope they work for you, too.}

What sugar cookie recipe do you use?

This one is my favorite. Sometimes, I change up the extracts, but this makes a perfectly yummy and sturdy cookie on which to decorate.

A lot of the recipes call for "softened butter", so I usually use the butter that comes in a tub. Do you think that could be my problem?

Well...I wouldn't go there. I use cold butter; you can read more here.

How do you cut a nice cookie without using insane amounts of flour?

I actually DO use an insane amount of flour. I flour the rolling pin, I dip my cookie cutters in flour between cuts and I flour my rolling surface (wax paper). Periodically during rolling & cutting, I'll run my hand across the wax paper and rolling pin to make sure I can still feel the flour (even if I don't see it). If I can't feel flour, I re-coat the surface with more. Just sprinkle a couple tablespoons on the surface, spread it out with your (clean) hands, run your rolling pin over it to coat it as well, and you're set. Some have luck using powdered sugar instead of flour...I have tried it and I still prefer flour, but sometimes it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

How do I roll dough?

See the tips above for flouring the surfaces and the cutters. I roll on wax paper, but not in between sheets. I roll my cookies to about 3/8" to 1/4" thickness...I eyeball it.

Is it OK to use the "scraps" after cutting shapes from dough?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I use my scraps. Just knead them in a little with the remaining dough to incorporate.

After cutting out your cookies, how do you pick them up without denting or squishing them?

Cold dough, a thickly cut cookie and rolling on wax paper help here. I start with cold butter. Cut out as many cookies as you can from one piece, then scoop up the excess dough. Slide your fingers under the cut shapes and transfer.

How do you keep your cookies from getting bumps? It seems that after the first time the dough is rolled out and cut, after that each time the cookies get these air bubbles that ruin the flat surface of the cookie.

When you are using dough scraps from a previous cut, be sure to "knead" the scraps into the remaining dough. As you are cutting the dough, if you notice the top layer is lifting, re-knead and re-roll. When rotating cookies in the oven, check for large air bubbles and lightly tap them down with your finger. Otherwise, I wouldn't worry...they'll be covered in icing.

What is an easy, non-intimidating way to start baking/decorating cookies?

Just Do It....yes, it's a new Nike for cookies promo. Start with a simple design to get the hang of it. Here are a few from the blog. If flood icing is intimidating, fill in the entire cookie with the thicker piped icing. It won't be as smooth, but it will still be cute!

If you are doing a small cookie order for someone - what do you do with the left over dough?

I eat it.

What kind of camera/lens/lighting to you use?

***update*** I now use a Sony a230 dSLR with a 50mm lens. ***

This may horrify you, but I have a point & shoot camera...a Fuji FinePix that has flour in every crevice. I try to take pictures by a window in natural light...my husband constructed a light box out of white foam board for me, but nowadays, I don't use it much. Most of the finished cookies pictures are taken near the window on my kitchen table.

In several of your posts, you say to let the cookie dry overnight. I've always wondered...if the cookie is left out overnight, won't it get stale?

Nope, not at all. The icing needs to dry overnight before being packaged. Now, if it's not iced, just let the cookies cool and then put them in a baggie or Tupperware container until you're ready to decorate.

I made some spritz cookies recently and added sprinkles. I put the sprinkles on before I baked the cookies. The sprinkles looked melted. Do I have to put them on before I bake them or would it work to put them on right when them come out of the oven?

I don't really know about much spritz cookies, but I would guess that you could sprinkle them as soon as they came out of the oven and the sprinkles would stick....kind of like Hershey's Kisses do on those thumbprint cookies.

How long will the cookies keep and what's the best way to store them?

Once decorated, I think they are best within a week. They stay freshest...is that a word?!? It's late and that sounds weird...either bagged individually or in a baggie. Longer than a week, and I would freeze them. More about freezing cookies is here.

Can you freeze cookies? Can you freeze them after decorating? Can you freeze the plain cookies, thaw and decorate them and then re-freeze them?

Yes! Absolutely, cookies can be made ahead and frozen, with or with out royal icing! For more details, click here. Now, freezing, decorating and re-freezing, I'm not sure. I don't want to try it and ruin a perfectly good cookie. Anyone else tried it? Anyone?

How long do you give yourself if you need to make 3-5 dozen cookies?

Well, that depends. OK...I figure it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to bake one batch/dozen sugar cookies. Then, another 45 minutes or so to make and tint the royal icing. Decorating? It really depends on the number of colors and how detailed the cookie design is. Plan on a couple of hours...even with the simplest cookies, you'll have some down time where you are just waiting for them to dry before going on to the next step. If I'm making 3-5 dozen, or more, I usually try to either make the icing or the cookies the day before.

Where do you get your supplies?

Here's a list of some of my favorites. You may also click the "recommends" button at the top of the blog for some items that can be ordered through Amazon. (Of course, Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma are "frequently visited places" on my GPS.)
Where do you get your cookie cutters?

Everywhere I see a new one! And...
How do you "fill" a cupcake?

Use a large decorating tip...I last used a Wilton 4B. Put the tip in a piping bag, add the filling. Then stick the tip into the top of the cupcake and squeeze. The cupcake should feel full, but not so full that it breaks apart.

Where do you get the clear cookie bags?

I buy mine by the case from ULine. I buy the 6x10" bags which fit most all of my cookies. They are a little big for cookies 3" or smaller, but that's ok.

Overwhelmed? I hope not! Remember...more posts are coming on royal icing and troubleshooting. If you don't see your question here or you haven't emailed it to me, please ask away!

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