2018 was a busy year for us. In the final month of the year, we were even more busy with all the chaos that ensues over the holiday season. One of the things we were busy with was actually spending more time with each other, as well as trying out some new recipes together.
One of the things that Ferah and I have tried in the past is making cookies and then attempting to decorate them with some funky icing. However, our icing is usually an epic fail. As soon as we attempt to add colour, it usually ends up too watery and no good to use. We decided to seek professional help.
A colleague of mine from work, Jenny, used to have her own bakery. She regularly brings us goodies and delicious treats to eat at our work potlucks – brownies are her specialty. With Christmas fast approaching, it’s always a fun idea to make and share some kind of Christmas treat with as many people as possible. In seeking help from my professional baking friend, it ended up turning into a whole event; suddenly we had an afternoon filled with kids, Christmas cookie decorating, some arts and crafts, and of course – wine!
Jenny lead the cookie instruction and shared with us her go-to sugar cookie recipe (off the top of her head, no less). While we prepared the dough, I also ran a craft table for the kids to decorate some home-made ornaments and paint pictures for Santa. We involved the kids as much as we could, so when it came time to cut the cookies, they lined up and took turns. We had trays of cookies to bake; at least 5 sheets, based on this recipe.
While the cookies were cooling, we worked on making (and learning) how to make icing correctly. Again, Jenny shared a familiar recipe from the top of her head on how to make the best icing. (I’d also like to note that I have not come across a recipe similar to this one, which has probably been the reason for our failure all along.)
On top of the icing recipe, we learned that a key ingredient was the type of colouring we were using. Historically, we’ve just grabbed the little Club House food colouring packages, available at every other grocery store – which tend to be pretty watery to begin with. Jenny advised us that we should be using a gel-based type of food colouring instead. What a difference! Our icing was perfect; on to the decorating.
Decorating was all kinds of messy fun! We got disposable icing bags from the bulk barn, so we set up a few bags of each colour (red, white and green, for Christmas). Then we had a bunch of fun sprinkles and decorations to put on top. The kids had a blast decorating cookies and we had a blast drinking wine decorating cookies too! We had tons of cookies for everyone to take some home and share some with their closest friends.
Here’s the recipe that we used to make about 60+ cookies (give or take), but you can half the recipe and make a little less, if you’d like.*
- 2 cups of butter (soft)
- 8 cups of flour
- 3 cups of icing sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 4 egg whites (beat)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 cups of icing sugar
Mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and mix the dry in another. It’s very important the the butter is room temperature soft – not melted. Mix together your butter, icing sugar, eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix your flour, salt and baking powder. When each are blended, respectfully – gradually start to add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
Warning: it will get hard to mix, and it will get thick. As it does mix though, keep an eye on how well things are sticking together. If it looks a bit dry, add some milk or egg whites to moisten it up a bit – just a few dashes. When all things mixed together become dough, leave it in the fridge for a bit. Take a break, and grab a glass of wine.
When preparing the cookies, use lots of flour on your workspace where you plan to roll out the dough. Roll out the dough to be about a 1/4 inch thick. Use your favourite cookies cutters to style your cookies. Lay them on a cookie sheet for the oven, lined with parchment paper. Bake on 350 degrees for about 12 – 16 minutes (depending on cookie size). Watch for them getting a bit golden in colour – perfect!
While you let the cookies cool on some cooling racks, get busy making your icing. It’s pretty straight forward, but whip up the egg whites, drop in your vanilla and gradually add the sugar. This part, I did not screw up in the reenactment.
As for the exciting colour bit, we separated enough icing for the colours we wanted into bowls. We added a drop of the gel to suit our colour preference and then we put the kids to work blending our coloured icing. We got some disposable icing bags from The Bulk Barn for this next part, but you can also use regular old Ziplock bags. Using a cup to be like a placeholder for the icing bag, we poured the icing in from the bowls. Sealed them up and cut off the tips – it was time to ice the cookies! [If your icing is ready before your cookies are cooled, leave your icing in the fridge so that it thickens up a bit.]
Once the cookies are iced, feel free to throw on any kinds of other decorations that you see fit. Seal them up and if you need to stack them at all, use parchment paper to avoid sticky cookies.
*About halving the recipe:
Okay, so a couple of weeks after we tried this recipe with Jenny for the first time, I tried to make a batch all by myself one evening – apparently I didn’t think supervision was needed. Of course, I did not need as many cookies as we made the first time around, so I halved the recipe. Everything was going great until I combined the wet and dry ingredients. Nothing was sticking. The dough wasn’t ‘doughing’. I ended up giving up, but just before I was about to throw out the mess of dough I had made, I realized that I forgot the icing sugar… [Yeah, epic fail].
Just last week, however; Ferah and I got together for the Grey’s Anatomy Season Premier, and we decided to give the recipe another try. With her supervision, I did not forget the icing sugar and the cookies turned out just a sweet as we remembered them. That being said, our dough was a bit dry and we had to add a bit of milk in the mixer to get it to really ‘dough’ itself up. Worked like a charm, but not part of the recipe. Basically, if your dough is dry, add a bit of milk as you mix the final product or some additional egg whites, if you prefer.