Monday, September 27, 2010

Sep 27, 2010: Daring Bakers - Decorated Sugar Cookies

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.

She has challenged us to make Decorated Sugar Cookies. She's not talking squiggles random squiggles and dots. She's talking about beautifully decorated cookies that are perfect to give as a gift or to make for party or wedding favours. On top of that, we should theme the cookies around the month of September.

For the cookie, Peggy Porschen’s recipe is ued for the challenge recipe. Sugar cookie recipes commonly have either baking powder or bicarb of soda, but this recipe is a little different in that it doesn’t use a raising agent which makes them great so if you’re using intricate cookie cutters, they hold their shape while baking. Perfect for decorating with royal icing!

[My comments are in red... I'm inexperienced at decorating so there's no way I can make wedding favors... lol.]

[This will be my last Daring Baker's challenge.]

[Life has been very busy and trying to do both a Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks challenge in a month has been difficult to complete with the detail and time I like putting into each challenge.

Also, I don't feel right calling myself a "Daring Baker" if I'm not doing ALL the challenges (even if we are given an option of miss a few challenges a year) or cherry picking the challenges that fit my schedule.

Since I have two years of Daring Baking under my belt where I completed 26 out of 27 challenges, I've decided to retire from Daring Bakers and focus on Daring Cooks. :-)

Who says that guys are afraid of commitment? lol!]

Recipe Source:
Basic Sugar Cookie recipe adapted from Peggy Porschen :
Also found in her book: “Romantic Cakes”
Royal Icing recipe adapted from The Joy of Baking :

Mandatory: You must make the Basic Sugar Cookie recipe provided (unless specific diet restrictions apply) You must make your cookies with the theme of September, whatever that means to you.
Variations allowed:
You are allowed to add your own flavourings to the dough
You don’t have to make your own royal icing from scratch, you may use a store bought mix.

Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes approximately 36 x 10cm / 4 inch 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

[Fortunately, this challenge doesn't require a lot of ingredients and fancy preparation or equipment.]

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

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.

[I used a hand mixer to incorporate a majority of the ingredients. The dough needed some kneading to consolidate the crumbly dough. I poured it all into a ziploc bag and kneaded. No messy hands! lol!]

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.

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.

[After the dough was rolled between parchment paper, a 3" cookie cutter was used to make rounds.]

[Rounds ready for baking at 350F for 15 minutes. 8 minutes didn't brown the cookies enough]

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.

[I opted to avoid using raw egg whites so I used Wilton meringue powder instead.]
Royal Icing
3 T Meringue Powder
1 lb Powdered Sugar
6 T Water

Beat until stiff peaks.

[For the meringue, I used food coloring to make a yellow color and 1 tsp of cocoa powder mixed with a little water (to form a slurry which makes for easier mixing into the royal icing) to make a dark meringue.]

I've always been fascinated with sunflowers. These are tall, majestic plants that are able to follow the sun and give us sunflowers seeds to eat. Sunflowers are usually abundant in September.

Last year, a sunflower grew in a patch of soil where no seeds were planted. I think it was a seed from two years ago that survived the winter and decided to grow the following year.

Here's my "evolution of the Sunflower" photo. As I mentioned, I'm not that good at piping, especially when using a plastic storage bag with a end cut off. You can see the different things I've tried to to come up with something decent looking.

Early attempt at piping the petals. I tried to form a leave.

As I experimented around, I started piping lines... which looks better.

Finally, more lines and a ring in the center to hold the eye.

My flower arrangement... lol

Of course, the best looking cookies were in the center. :-)

My inspiration... I'm not sure if this is a sunflower that was in the bouquet, but I think it is. :-)

I've had fun in my 2 years (and a bit) as a Daring Baker. I enjoyed learning new things... My favorites are salted caramels, making puff pastry and making cannoli. The salted caramel is a recipe I make quite often as gifts. :-)

On to Daring Cooks!


Renata said...

Beautifully piped! So sorry to hear you're saying goodbye to the DBs, hope it is temporary!

Cakelaw said...

These are lovely - they make me feel happy just looking at them.

Maria Beatrix said...

I loved your sunflowers. I doesn't seem that was your first time piping!

So sorry you are giving up DB. I myself have thought quiting DB or DC hundreds of times, and for the same reasons you did. But I've always come back for more fun. I hope you will do that too!

Anna said...

Love your sunflowers!!! Sorry to hear you're leaving DB - but I understand you perfectly - I also don't have time to do challenges each month (had to skip this one, cos Baby J is teething and it's been a nightmare...! thanks god we don't remember things like that in our adult life...).
Cheers and all the luck with your future DC challnges so :)

P.S. Have to try that salted caramel you recommend :)