Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cut-out Cookies and Icing

After months of nothing but hamburger meat and vegetables, a girl can start hankering after some flour and sugar. But there was none to be found in the house, so I made a trip to the wonderful Main Street Market in Algood, TN. Of course they had flour and sugar, but they also had lard! Unhydrogenated lard. But that's not the subject of this post: I didn't put lard in these cookies!  However, the moral of the story is: you don't always have to go to Walmart. And, if you can't find it in Algood, you can probably get along without it.

I used Mark Bittman's "Refrigerator (or rolled) Cookies," from How To Cook Everything. It's a basic sugar cookie recipe, made with butter, sugar, flour, a little baking powder, and a little vanilla flavoring. I mixed up the dough last night (just using a fork, not the electric mixer) and refrigerated the dough overnight.

This morning I surveyed my cookie cutter collection. I have some great ones!  I got out the heart-shaped one of course, it being almost Valentine's Day.  Valentine's Day is associated with the ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia, which I like because it involves running naked through the streets, shepherds, wolves, and fertility. Makes sense to me! So I got out my coyote cookie cutter too. Also, I have two Star Wars cookie cutters: Boba Fett and a generic storm trooper.  I used the storm trooper. It doesn't have anything to do with Valentine's Day. Also, I used my wooden Buddha cookie mold. 
These are apparently traditional in China for making mooncakes. There was a very impressive full moon last night, so it seemed appropriate. It's useful for using up extra dough too: you simply press it into the mold, then rap it on the table and a Buddha pops out. Then you cook him and eat him.

I used all those cutters and baked the cookies about 6 minutes. The Buddhas took a little longer because they're thicker. The coyotes' tails mostly fell off.

Then I did something that was pretty challenging for me. I made icing and piped it onto the cookies! I used a recipe for "decorative icing," from Gourmet. 
I didn't have any Just Whites powdered egg whites, so I just used real egg whites and decreased the amount of water. That is, I didn't add any water. This turned out to be a mistake: the icing was way too thick and wouldn't pipe easily onto the cookies. I added some more water to it (I did use the electric mixer this time) and voila! Icing you can draw with! So point taken: to draw with icing, it can't be too stiff.

It's fun to draw with things other than pencils. Once I got to draw with a free-arm sewing machine at the Quilt Show in Houston. So alternative drawing media are attractive to me. To draw with the icing, I had to get it into one of those pastry bags with a metal tip on it. My sister gave me one of those cake decorating sets years ago, but it has taken me years to figure out how to screw on the tips. Today I got it working, and it was really fun. I put the "writing tip" on the bag.  I found out why cakes always have cursive writing on them instead of printing: when drawing or writing with icing, you can't really stop and start too easily. You have to go with the flow.

As for the coyotes, it was a little harder to figure out what to draw on them, so I just kind of scribbled:

The storm trooper got some highlighting on his eyes and helmet, and the buddhas just got scribbles too.