Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

No more baking posts. I promise! This is the laaaaaast.... I had always turned away from cookies in general, especially sugar cookies when presented on the usual platter of snacks. I don't have a sweet tooth. Honestly.  Then why oh why did I go and make these? One word. Kids! Yup, they were day dreaming as well as night dreaming about frosted cookies ever since Christmas came around. Since I haven't done cut-out cookies at all, I wasn't sure what or where to start. With work and some holiday activities going on I simply couldn't get to these until later.

Decided on this recipe from how2heroes mainly because of the video demo for both sugar cookies and royal icing.  Denise's instructions are clear and filled with useful tips. Both kids diligently watched with me and on their own and were a big part in the process. If you remember those superbly made Christmas Cakes from Casino in Cochin with the yummiest icing (yes, even for my non-sweet tooth!)  then you will know why I wanted hard (royal) icing. This one came out fine but nowhere close to that icing/cake combo. Maybe it was the combo of fruitcake/icing that made the taste so great. Wait a minute! I think I will check this out next time I make fruit cake.

I am repeating the recipe here for easy reference. I hope the video will stay forever as that helped the most.

For Sugar Cookies

In The Mix

unsalted butter - 24 tbsp (3 sticks brought to room temp)
ranulated sugar 1 1/3 cup
kosher salt - 2 tsp
egg  yolks - from 3 eggs
pure vanilla extract - 2 tbsp
all purpose flour - 3 3/4 cups (I sift this)
parchment paper or silpat - to line cookie sheets

How To Do

Beat the butter and sugar until the color changes to a lighter shade and fluffy. I used a hand mixer but an electric stand mixer is bothering me in my dreams ever since I saw how much easier it is to use it. But the sheer idleness it will face once the cookie making is over prevents me from getting my hands on one. We'll see how long I can hold off:-)  Add kosher salt and vanilla extract. Beat in the egg yolks one by one. Beat till well combined. Add in the flour in small quantities and beat till fully incorporated. Denise cautions that beating too much will move the cookie texture to that of short bread.

I loved the idea of using plastic wrap to spread the dough. So I made it in two batches as the recipe suggests. Just place the dough b/n two sheets of the wrap and roll away into a consistent thickness. This dough is totally flexible and my inexperienced hands found it to be an easy task. Repeat with the second part. Now keep the sheets in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour. This is to make the cookie cutting easier. The dough will obey the cutter and handling in general better when not too soft. I made the cookies the next day. Need to take it out a good 15 minutes before you start to cut so the dough will yield properly.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Remove the top plastic sheet, use cutters and other tools and have fun making all kinds of shapes like we did!

Line cookies sheets with parchment paper and place cut out cookies with a spatula about 1/2 inches apart. Cook for 12-15 minutes. I swapped the racks as well as turned the sheets around 8 minutes into the baking for even baking as suggested. Take out and cool on a rack before icing.

For Royal Icing
Denise gives a video demo for the icing too.  We didn't prefer the tartness of the icing from the lemon so for the second batch I didn't use lemon but and substituted with water instead. I also added almond extract the second time which came out good too. Used meringue powder (egg white mix) instead of fresh eggs.When she tasted it before the icing hardened, my daughter said it tasted like sweet tart. Once it hardened the tartness blended in and couldn't be detected as overpowering but kids still preferred not adding the lime. I made the icing each time but there was enough left over from the first time and so just making the icing once and using economically might last it for the two sets of cookie dough.

In The Mix
confectioner's sugar - 1 lbs
meringue powder - 1/4 cup (Michael's has it)
water - start with 7 tbsp
vanilla or almond extract - 3 tsp
food coloring
parchment paper - to make piping cones

How To Do

Beat the sugar and meringue powder at low speed first for a minute or two. Add in water and vanilla extract and beat together. Add more water 1 tbsp at a time till the right consistency is achieved. Being able to make a figure of 8 as the video shows and seeing it well before it melts back into the mix is the right indicator. Divide into as many colors you want to do. Add a few drops of the food coloring and combine. Remember to keep aside some as is for white coloring.

We had a few colors and so I made as many cones as I needs with the parchment paper. Fold the paper from one end till it meets diagonally to make a triangle. Cut off the sheet and cut the diagonal. Fold together into a cone with the diagonal side forming the tip of the cone. Taping the cone and standing it in a glass for easy pouring are all wonderful/quite useful tips. Thanks Denise!

Cut off the end if needed and start the artwork. This is the bestest part of the entire thing!!! Total unadulterated fun since elementary school days:-)) Cookies were cut in many imaginable shapes and were colored as it pleased us.

Will I repeat this exercise? But of course! Remember the adage, "It is the  participation that counts"? No, I am not talking about when India comes up with zeroes or close in the Olympic Gold tallies but about  real applicable situations:-) Well, this was one such situation. Once the cookies were done and the colorful icing was prepared and coned even the reluctant Dad jumped into the fray.

I told you we went to town with the icing and shapes. Didn't I?

Frosted cookies were left overnight for the icing to harden and while I won't advice the sweet fest for the health conscious or the slow metabolism crowd, the young citizens were happily devouring one crazy design after another. Enough said!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Melting Moments from spicyana/joyofbaking

Exactly to the day today, it's been two years since I started my food and book blogs. These are important spaces for me and I am glad that they still give me something fun and meaningful  to do when I have the urge.

Reflections has given me the sweet blog award. The little ice cream cake with a mint on top is mine.  I cannot think of a better way to celebrate this anniversary. Thanks Nancy! She is not just sweet but also very witty and intuitive and deserved it best.

I had wanted to try making coffee cookies. Had a recipe and ingredients all set to go. Unfortunately they didn't come out well most likely because of the coffee powder (not instant)  I used. Next time I'll try dissolving  instant coffee granules in hot water before adding.

Since that experiment went south I started on this with some trepidation. spicyana is an awesome baker and always has easy to follow instructions. The recipe from joyofbaking looked good and here I am with yet another attempt at making cookies. Luckily for me this time it turned out well and these melt in the mouth cookies are keepers. It didn't go well with the kids though and as good parents we did our duty by finishing it for them!

In The Mix
all purpose flour - 1 1/2 cups
corn starch (corn flour in UK) - 1/2 cup
salt - 1/4 tsp
powdered sugar - 1/4 cup
unsalted butter - 1 cup (bring to room temp )
pure vanilla extract - 1 tsp

powdered sugar for sifting/placing - 1 cup
you will need parchment paper to bake the cookies in.

How To Do

Whisk together corn starch, flour and salt and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (2 minutes) Add vanilla extract and beat together. Add the flour mix in small amounts while beating. Beat till all blends well. Do not over beat. The corn starch is apparently what makes these guys melt in the mouth by making the dough lighter. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Line three cookie sheets with parchment paper. Take dough out from the fridge and form 1 inch balls. Place these 1 inch apart on 2 of the cookie sheets. 12-14 minutes of baking will do just as the recipe says when cookie edges start to brown. Cool for a few minutes on a rack. Sprinkle half of the powdered sugar onto the remaining cookie sheet and place the cookies on it. Now comes the fun part! Sift the remaining sugar powder on top of the cookies and voila! You have picture perfect cookies calling out your names:-) If little ones made tiny cookies, those will come out fine too. 6-8 minutes might be enough for those.

To be honest, when I tried it right after baking, I didn't think it melted anywhere. But the story changed next day when I tried the tempting rounds again. Not only did it melt in the mouth but once you take up one, your hands keep reaching for more rather involuntarily!!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Out Of The World Ribs

Hope the year so far is going well for everyone.

We had the usual cold/cough/fever cycles but it was not too bad. We weathered it with a quick trip to Disneyland, one to the theater for The Princess And The Frog and watching Iron Chef episodes galore at home. Santa's visit was a success as expected and now we are all back on the hamster wheel.

Today's recipe is not of the ribs that came from Adam for Eve, but the pork rib appetizers that my husband prepares occasionally. They can pass for dinner when accompanied by  rolls or artisan bread or any other carb of your choice. H has developed a surefire method that yields the same delicious results every time. So please follow the steps exactly even if it is not that exact or else....

Kids and adults love this alike and each time we make this for a party they vanish in seconds. So he makes it just for us once in a while.

In The Mix

pork baby back ribs - 2 lbs (mostly from Costco)
Bull's Eye BBQ Sauce Original - as needed to coverall the meat (we love this particular brand)
freshly ground black pepper - to taste (start with 1 tbsp)
salt - to taste

How To Do

Cover meat with pepper and salt and marinate in refrigerator for 2-3 hours.
Now take out the meat, spread BBQ sauce, cover in an aluminum foil and marinate for 4 hours cold.
Take out and add more sauce, cover and marinate cold overnight.
Optionally put the whole thing in a sealable food grade bag to get better results. It tastes great even if you don't do this part.

Preheat oven to 350C.

Fill a medium oven safe pan with water and place all the way at the bottom of the oven.
Place marinated ribs on regular cooling racks and keep on top rack of the oven.
Place cookie sheets covered with aluminum foil under the rib racks to catch drips if any.

Bake for 30-35  minutes or till cooked.

Take out and let cool for 5 minutes. Slice gently following the rib lines and bite into tender juicy meat for hours of satisfaction! Ketchup is an easy dip for this.Finger lick cleaning is allowed during a satisfying session:-)