Monday, September 27, 2010

September Daring Bakers: Fancy sugar cookies!

Mandatory blog-checking lines:
The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.


Wow, this month's Daring Baker's Challenge was a total blast!

Yeah, I say that almost every month, but this month I really mean it! I reeally do!

It's quite uncanny how each month a new challenge is put forth to us, and so many times the challenge involves something I've seen somewhere that I thought to myself I'd never be able to do at home in my own kitchen, or just never actually tried to do but kind of thought in the back of my head that it would be fun to try---someday.  

 Have you ever been in a bakery and seen the really cute seasonally decorated cookies and thought to yourself that "Wow, somebody's really got an artistic eye--and a lot of time!"?  Well, this month we had to make those cookies.

It turns out that even with only the tiniest dab of creativity, and really not all that much time, anyone can make really cool little cookies.  I had fun, and I definitely want to try again. The flooding technique we used was easy to accomplish.  I actually used little baggies with the tiniest snippet cut away from a bottom corner. By first drawing a line with icing around the perimeter of the cookie and letting that dry, you can then "glop" a bundh of icing in the center of the shape, smoothe it out, and end up with a remarakably professional looking end product. 

Mine aren't quite there yet, but with a bit of practice I think I could be there on my second attempt at these little suckers!

I'm thinking I could get really carried away if I had another baby shower to cater... 

For this challenge, however, we were required to bake cookies our cookies and decorate them in a manner conveying our ideas of autumn.  I therefore humbly submit to you, oh gentle reader:

Turkey hunting...

pumpkin harvesting...

The secret to these cookies lies in creating a tasty but sturdy cookie dough, then cooking the cutouts just until firm (definitely not to the golden state), and then topping with nice basic royal icing.

The recipe with which we were provided proved perfect on both these accounts. 

Here it is, straight from the challenge to you.  I'd love to see what you guys make, should any of you choose to try this out!

Basic Sugar Cookies:

Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4" Cookies
200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming creamy in texture.

Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.

Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.

Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid flour flying everywhere.

Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.

Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)

Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.

Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.

Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.

Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.

Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.

Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.

Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.

Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.

Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.

Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in some cookies being baked before others are done.

Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.

Leave to cool on cooling racks.

Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.

Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated cookies can last up to a month.

Royal Icing:

315g – 375g / 11oz – 13oz / 2½ - 3 cups Icing / Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
10ml / 2 tsp Lemon Juice
5ml / 1 tsp Almond Extract, optional

Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.

Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and

grease free.

Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.

Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.

Beat on low until combined and smooth.

Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.

Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.


  1. Well, looks like you had a great lot of fun, I did too! Your cookies are amazing, and I love the way you photographed them!

  2. Cute cookies! Love your outdoors pictures :-)

  3. Thanks guys! And can I just say I'm having way too much fun with October's challenge already?!