The imperative was clear: get creative. Bake your cookies and decorate them with a September theme, whatever September means to you. September, September… end of summer? Too sad, and right now I’m already enjoying a steaming cup of masala chai to face first cold feet and rainy weather. Vineyards and ripe grapes? why not, but it’s not my September.
As long as I can remember, September means new beginning, if possible with the heady smell of freshly printed books, sharp colorful pencils and white notebooks, ready to be filled with trembling new letters and signs. Besides this, this year was the first year of Elementary school of my colleague’s son, so I could live again on first hand experience the true emotion of that exciting days.
September means to me glossy and colorful letters and numbers, signs to play with that slowly will become words, phrases, thoughts and emotions, that is my beloved way to make live feelings and experiences on paper or on the luminous screen of a notebook.
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. Basic Sugar Cookie recipe adapted from Peggy Porschen. Also found in her book: “Romantic Cakes”. Royal Icing recipe adapted from The Joy of Baking. I followed step by step both recipes, without any changes.
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 30 mins. 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. 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.
- 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.