I know everyone thinks that their mom is great, but mine really is.
For example, she made my lunch for school every day until the day I graduated Grade 12. From time to time, she would surprise me with a decorated cookie in my lunch box (store bought – my mom is an exquisite cook, but a reluctant baker).
After high school, I moved across the country – and for special occasions, my mom would ship me holiday-themed decorated sugar cookies in the mail. She’d often include one for whatever roommate I had at the time, too. And sometimes, I even managed to save the extra one for the roommate and not eat it myself!
A few weeks before Valentine’s Day, I received a parcel in the mail with a couple of these beauties:
Frankly, it made my day – and it inspired me to try my hand at baking my own special cookies for a few of my beloved Galetines.
I have long admired people who pipe and flood beautiful cookies, but I have never really given it a try myself. One of my goals for 2018 (besides measuring my ingredients by weight, not by volume) is to work at making my baking more “pretty”. [Note – yes, I wrote this blog post LAST YEAR for Valentine’s Day…] My baked goods usually taste wonderful (which is the top priority, I would argue), but they are sometimes lackluster from an aesthetic point of view. Prettily piped cookies seemed them to be a good exercise for flexing my beautiful baking muscles.
I was surprised to find that my Dorie’s Cookies cookbook – a book devoted entirely to cookies – didn’t have a simple sugar cookie recipe. Too simple for Dorie, maybe. Luckily, my Bobbette & Belle cookbook has a recipe for Decorative Sugar Cookies. Theirs includes piped flowers, those little silver balls, and some edible gold paint. Mine would be simpler, but still pretty (I hoped).
All too often, sugar cookies are more about the decorations than the taste, but this is actually a wonderful, flavourful recipe. And it’s easy to whip together, too.
First, you cream butter and sugar together until it is nice and fluffy. You add an egg and some vanilla, then mix in some flour/baking powder/salt.
That’s it! Those are all the ingredients! Easy peasy.
The dough looks really crumbly, but if you pour it out onto some plastic wrap and smush it together, it comes together just fine.
It has to chill in the fridge (literally and figuratively) for at least an hour before you can play with it, but one it has had a chance to rest, it is pretty easy to work with.
I kept my shapes simple: two sizes of cookie cutter hearts.
The cookies were baked until just barely golden (well… some of them were more golden than others), and while they cooled, I started working on the icing.
Making the icing was easy. Getting it to the right flooding consistency was HARD!
I kept it relatively simple by sticking to just two colours: white and pink. I filled a piping bag with each, only to discover that it was way too thick for proper flooding.
No problem – it’s easier to thin out icing than it is to thicken it, so I just squeezed out the bags and added some water. That should do it…
Not. The icing was still too thick to achieve the flood consistency. Impatience prevailed (the probable cause of my inability to make pretty baked things), and I started piping anyways. I decided to go for a minimalist approach and just outline the cookies. They looked nice, but plain.
I had heaps of leftover icing, so I started playing around with a few, and guess what? They kind of flooded! Only because I’d already outlined all of them (and the outlines were setting), it was impossible to achieve the perfect flood.
So I decided to just have fun with it – after all, that’s how you learn, right? I doodled on my cookies for at least an hour, then realized that my day was wasting away rather quickly and I still had a large to do list to accomplish. I ended up tossing quite a bit of icing, which was disappointing and wasteful.
Next time, I’ll devote more time to piping. I haven’t given up hope and the cookies are so simple to make that I’m sure I’ll get the chance to give it another go soon.
Luckily, my Valentines aren’t too critical – they loved the cookies, so all’s well ends well.
Thanks for the inspiration, Mom!