Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Christmas recap, continued (baking edition, part 2)

After winning Bridget's book (from Bake at 350) this December, I got a little excited to decorate cookies. Plus, I knew it would be a fun activity for LE and me to do. Once I started, I didn't want to stop. It was a lot of fun for me even though it kind of makes a bit of a mess during the prep.

I didn't actually receive the book until January, but I was familiar with Bridget's recipes and website already. I coupled the recipe with some helpful tips that I have mentally filed away over time from a few different cookie blogs:
  • Use two clean yard sticks or wooden dowels on the counter to roll on so that your cookies come out perfectly uniform in thickness. You have to roll less dough at once, but it's foolproof.
  • Roll out your dough on top of wax paper/parchment/Silpat as well as with a piece of wax/parchment paper between the roller and dough in order to eliminate the need for flouring your surface.
  • Bake your cookies on day the day before you prep your icing and decorate to prevent energy burn out. Decorated roll out cookies create a lot of dishes and mess (especially if doing alongside a child). 
  • Start with the right supplies to make it easy. For beginners, everything aside from the mixer can be purchased at a craft store, like Michaels, with coupons to make it inexpensive. Grab at least two squeeze bottles, disposable piping bags, some couplers, and piping tips (I used a size 1, 2, and 3). According to the cookie experts (not me), the AmeriColor gel food colorings and Ateco meringue powders are best in quality/taste, though you could definitely make do with the Wilton brand ones that you'll find at Michaels. 
  • Use tall glasses with damp paper towels at the bottom to hold your piping bags when they're not in use.
  • Try to come up with designs that only use 2-3 colors to simplify how many bags/bottles/mess you'll create.
  • Freeze your cut out dough on the cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes before it goes in the oven. This helps the cookie keep its shape while baking.
These cookies were made with Bridget's gingerbread recipe and royal icing recipe (also found in her book), which is firm enough to package up and stack without crumbling yet still chewy and soft. I'm not a gingerbread cookie person (or so I thought), but I found myself enjoying these. 

Simple Bite's Aimee also reviewed the recipe on her blog, which is where I won the cookbook and got the idea to use this gingerbread recipe to begin with.

Also, LE decorated her own cookies next to me. She helped me roll out the dough and press down the cookie cutters. Then, she had her own baking sheet with a bowl of pink icing (surprise, surprise!), some sprinkles, and a spoon to pour the icing onto her cookies. This let our 2 1/2 year old do hers without needing help while I decorated mine.

(Christmas recap, baking edition part 3 is coming tomorrow!)


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