Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Cookies On a Stick, Almost Too Pretty To Eat

Here's a little project I am pulling out of the archives.  I made these fancy cookies some time ago, but was reminded of them recently by way of a request to make more, since Valentine's Day is right around the corner.  When I originally dreamed these up, someone had asked me to make.... oh.... any old cookie with some kind of Valentine theme, for an event at my local art gallery.  I had several heart shaped cookie cutters, and debated using them adorned with some girly touches in pink and white.  But that seemed too expected.  Something with roses on them, perhaps? .... same ol' same ol'.  Well, finally I imagined this chocolate-dipped strawberry cookie, and it seemed to have the right of degree of difficulty.  (What do I always say?  "Expect complications!")

First things first.... the dough.  When doing cutouts, it's necessary to use a dough recipe that will keep its shape during baking.  Some cookies end up swelling so much that you barely recognize the intended shape.  The dough recipe I've used for a few years now is not my own concoction.  I admit I found it online, and it works so well that I need to search no further.  It keeps its shape very well during baking, and it also tastes great!  Since I scribbled down the recipe years ago, I can't recall the source.  I don't make any claims of creating this recipe, and wish I could give credit where it's due.  Sorry about that.

Once you've conquered the dough recipe (which is listed at the end of this post), the cutting and baking is very standard.  Just keep the dough chilled, returning it to the fridge when necessary, and after rolling and cutting out, put the tray of unbaked cookies back in the fridge for an additional 20-30 minutes to rechill them before popping the cookies into the oven.  This also helps them keep their shape while baking.

*Helpful tip*   To get even dough thickness when rolling it out, use something raised on each side of the dough for your rolling pin to rest on.  I use square wooden dowel pieces.  These are available in a variety of sizes from home improvement stores, as well as most hobby shops.  I lay out parchment paper first, then the wooden sticks, with the dough in between, and top it off with more parchment.  For smaller cookies, I roll out the dough to about a quarter of an inch thickness.  Larger cookies, or ones baked on sticks, should be about 5/16" to 3/8".  That's about what I've opted for here.

Now comes the cutouts.  I'm using a scallop-edged heart-shaped cutter, which closely resembles the outline of a strawberry.

So far, so good, right?  Now, cut out the shapes of dough, and let's stick these cookies!  Press the cookie stick into the dough (as pictured below) so that it does not get submerged lower than the surface of the dough.  The side facing up, at this point, is the bottom (back) of the cookie, so right now, there is only dough in front of  the stick.  We'll add more in back of the stick to secure it.  Did ya follow that?  The stick should only take up about half of the cookie's thickness, but if it's pressed down so that it's centered in that thickness, there would be too shallow of an amount of cookie in front of, and behind, the stick, and it would likely break when handled.

Don't worry about having a naked stick... We're about to patch some more dough over that exposed part.

Place a piece of cookie dough to cover the stick, press down slightly, and smooth it out with your fingers.

The dough will be mounded slightly, but that's expected.   The alternative would be to have less dough on both sides of the stick, making the cookie fragile.  You don't want the cookie to break apart while someone is eating it. Another alternative would be to have a thicker cookie all over, but it would start to be heavier than you'd want.  The edges and bottom might brown too much while you're getting the centers baked enough.  I wouldn't attempt a cookie thicker than 3/8" unless it was a cookie cake (with no stick).

Okay, so we're almost ready to bake.  But remember, don't skimp on the final trip to the fridge.  Chilling the tray of cookies will greatly improve your odds of keeping the shape intact.  Once the cookies have re-hardened in the fridge, I like to flip them over at this stage, so they're right side up.  I could've done that earlier, but they're much easier to handle when they're colder, and you don't risk so much 'mis-shapen-ness' in the process.

This is the back of the cookie after baking, and it really doesn't look all that bad where it was patched.

Now comes the tedious part!  I decided to put 'seeds' all over my strawberries, so that required tiny dots of a dull gold color of royal icing.  This is the part that never seemed to end, even though I was only making two dozen cookies.

Now we get colorful!  The red icing will flow around all the seeds and start to swallow them up.  The thinned down flow icing will be somewhat self-leveling, but using a toothpick helps to guide it into nooks and crannies better.  First, I outline each cookie with a red line of a thicker consistency (the same consistency as the seeds).  You don't want the perimeter to flow!

Generally I complete one step, stage, or color on ALL cookies before moving on, but in this next step, it was necessary to start the flowing red icing, quickly insert some white to give the appearance of glossy highlights, and then go back to the red, finishing the outer part of the cookies.  If I waited until the red was all in place, it would've started to develop a crust on the surface, and I would've made a real mess trying to insert the white highlight.

The white icing looks very random and sloppy, but that was intentional.  I'm considering making a cookie that is decorated to look like water highlights.  Something like this:

Image result for reflections on water

Hmmmm.  So where were we?  Filling in the rest of the flowing red parts of the strawberry cookies.

Now, for some reason, I failed to photograph the steps where I added the green leaves and the chocolate dipped effect.  You can make your own chocolate or use the melty pieces.  Anything that results in a hardened shell of chocolate will work.  Then a zig-zag drizzle of white icing makes them look like the fancy strawberries they sell in the stores around Valentine's Day.  And finally, arrange the sticks in a bouquet, and you have an impressive looking presentation.  The cookies were a big hit at my gallery event.  I replaced the cookies in the bouquet, as they were taken.

*Another helpful tip*-   Provide cellophane treat bags when offering any ornately decorated cookie.  I found that many people claimed the cookies were too pretty to eat, and they wanted to save them for later.  People carried their cookies all over the art stroll (great advertisement for our gallery, by the way), and treat bags (or at the very least, zip-loc bags) kept them better protected.

Okay, here's that dough recipe:

Keep-Their-Shape  Cut-Out Sugar Cookie

1 C. Unsalted butter, softened
2 oz. Cream cheese, room temperature
1 C. Sugar
1 Large egg
1 t. Pure vanilla extract (I prefer vanilla paste)
1/2 t. Almond extract
1 t. Lemon zest
3 C. All-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. Baking powder
1/2 t. Salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, cream cheese and sugar.  Beat a couple minutes until light and fluffy.  Then beat in the egg, vanilla, almond extract and lemon zest.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Gradually add these dry ingredients to the mixer bowl with the butter mixture.  When well incorporated, divide dough in half and form two balls.  Roll each ball of dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of 1/2".  Refrigerate dough for at least an hour.  On parchment paper (or silicone baking sheet), re-roll your dough to the desired thickness for cutting out your shapes, insert cookie sticks (if using) and pop the tray of unbaked cookies back in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees while the dough is chilling.  Bake cookies 8-12 minutes (depending on their thickness.  Cookies on sticks should be baked slightly longer than ones without.  This recipe makes a tender cookie, but still hard enough to stay intact on the stick.  They are not chewy.  Let cookies cool completely before icing.  Enjoy! 

No comments:

Post a Comment