Cookies for the 4th of July

by Sara on June 30, 2011

cookies and coffee

After taking an unplanned vacation from baking when my oven died, I quickly got over my withdrawal when my new oven was delivered. You already saw the first baked good to emerge from the new oven when I made these chocolate shortcakes. That wasn’t enough, so then I made a super-secret dessert (super-secret because I haven’t shared it with you yet…in due time), which quickly succumbed to the warm temperature and humidity.

It was enough. I had my fix.

plate of cookies

Or so I thought.


I blame Martha Stewart. More specifically, one of her many magazines. There it was, sitting next to the grocery checkout, adorned with red, white, and blue iced cookies, all decorated to look like fireworks.

I couldn’t get it out of my head, you see. And with the weather about to go all tropical on me again, if I were to bake cookies, and cover said cookies with royal icing, I had a limited amount of time to accomplish this goal. If I was going to do it, I had to do it NOW.

Out of the fridge came two sticks of butter, over to the store I walked to purchase a bag of confectioners’ sugar, dough was made then chilled, and a counter was cleaned off and thoroughly disinfected to become my workspace. Dough was rolled, cookies baked then cooled.

Then came the real project: icing. It’s not difficult, but egg whites are notoriously temperamental when the moisture content of the air is high. Even though I was tired and hungry for dinner, I had to set that aside to ice the cookies, so the icing could set before the humidity went through the roof.

flower "fireworks"

The thing is, these cookies aren’t difficult to make (or ice), as long as you’re organized. (They are time consuming, however. You don’t want to know what time I finally ate dinner last night.)

I didn’t always know they were easy, though. I shied away from royal icing for years. Years. All because I was intimidated. So, I thought rather than just list the recipes, I’d do a step-by-step of both components: the cookies and the icing. So get ready for a lengthy, picture-filled finish. (That said, it was a challenge to get some of the pictures, holding a camera in one hand while using the other to demonstrate a technique.) Please note, you will still want to print the recipe, but the pictures serve as a guide to each step.

The Cookies
Print recipe

mixing in the butter

Cut butter into the dry ingredients with 2 knives, a pastry blender, or the paddle attachment on your stand mixer.

eggs

Crack the eggs into a small bowl.

eggs, sugar, vanilla

Add the sugar and vanilla, then whisk or combine with a fork.

make a well...

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture.

pour in the wet ingredients

Pour the egg mixture into the well.

mix!

Mix with the paddle attachment or a wooden spoon until combined. If you use a mixer, you’ll still probably need to use the spoon a little at the end, to get that stubborn flour hanging out at the bottom.

dough on plastic wrap

Spoon 1/3 of the dough on a generous size piece of plastic wrap, smack-dab in the middle.

pull the plastic over...

Fold one side of the plastic over.

flatten and smooth the dough before wrapping

Spreading the dough out a bit with your hands, then press the plastic together around the edges.

wrapped and ready for the fridge

Fold it up to seal, then repeat with the rest of the dough. Into the refrigerator they go for at least an hour, up to 48.

cutting cookies

Roll out dough (1/8-1/4 inch thickness) on a floured surface and cut into desired shapes. Bake at 350*F for 8-10 minutes. Cool.

The Royal Icing
Print Recipe

sift the confectioners' sugar

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl.

beat until foamy

Combine the meringue powder and water in mixing bowl. Beat with paddle until foamy. Add the corn syrup and extract, mix.

beat in the confectioners' sugar

If you don’t want to wear a bunch of white powder, turn the mixer off and add the sifted sugar. Slowly increase the speed until you reach medium-high. Beat until glossy with stiff peaks.

smooth the decorator bag

If outlining in white, add some icing to your pastry bag fitted with a small round tip (I use #2 or #5). Use way less than you think you need. I used about 1% of what’s in this bag. Smooth the icing towards the tip, twist the bag above the icing and secure with a twisty tie. Get out a tall glass and pour enough water in to cover the bottom. Place the decorator tip into the water so the icing doesn’t dry out.

divided icing

Divide your icing into clean containers for each color. Notice my glass of water with the pastry bag in the back?

gel paste

Get your colors ready…

mixing in color

And mix! Remember, in general, a little of the paste coloring goes a long way. Well, except red. I think I used half the bottle. If you need some of the thick icing for outlining, add it to a prepared decorator bag.

transferred to squeeze bottle

Thin the remaining thick icing with water, a teaspoon at a time, until a ribbon of icing falls back onto itself after 3 seconds. Pour into squeeze bottle and cover the tip with a damp paper towel.

get organized

Get organized! Try to have a clean tray or board nearby for decorated cookies, as well as your work area. Make sure the bottles are easily accessible.

toothpicks

If necessary, move things around a bit. Notice my glass with icing has moved? I remembered from experience that it’s more convenient to have it located off to my right. Also, make sure plenty of toothpicks (clean ones!) are available.

outline the cookies

My least favorite part: outlining. The first ones are always the worst. Work in batches of 4-6 at a time.

flood

My favorite part: flooding. Just squeeze the thinned icing around the cookies; try to get pretty near the outline without touching it, then move in towards the middle in a swirl.

filling in gaps

Use a toothpick to spread the icing a bit to fill in the gaps…

ready for color

so it looks like this.

the beginning of hearts

To make hearts, place dots on the cookie in the pattern you want the hearts to go in. Here, I plan to make a circle of hearts.

drag the toothpick through

Slowly drag the toothpick through the dots, creating hearts.

circles in alternating colors

To make a “flower firework”, add circles in the desired colors.

beginning of a flower

With your toothpick, start at the outside and drag it through the circles to the middle, then back out towards the edge. (Sorry for the crazy picture – I had the camera in one hand, the toothpick in the other.)

making the petals

Continue the toothpick pattern, creating petals.

flower "firework"

So it looks like this. Well, minus the part where I hit the edge because the camera slipped. Whoops.

(For the more traditional fireworks pattern that I somehow didn’t get a picture of but resembles a spiderweb, do the colored circles, but run each line from the middle to the edge, pick up the toothpick, go back to the middle, run it to the edge, etc.)

finished!

When you’re done, your kitchen might look like this. If necessary, move everything to a safe area (kitty-, child-, significant other-proof area) to dry. Overnight works perfect.

Enjoy your cookies! They’ll keep quite awhile.

Royal Icing recipe adapted from Bake at 350

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking July 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Sara, this is my first visit to your blog. I love the cookies, you did a great job! I thought about doing them, but then the thought quickly passed and another thought entered my head. ;-)
I CANNOT imagine what I’d do if my oven died!! I think I’d be distraught only because I am nearly in the middle of baking for 365 days. I probably shouldn’t even put it out there in the universe…

Sara July 2, 2011 at 6:25 am

If I had been in the middle of a project like that, I would have used someone else’s oven. Or figured out how to “bake” on the grill.

It was actually easier to handle than I thought it would be, because it’s been sooo hot. It would have been much more difficult in the middle of winter…

I can’t wait to catch up on your baking adventures!

Baking is my Zen July 5, 2011 at 11:40 am

I saw this in the Martha Stewart Magazine too while waiting to check out my groceries in the supermarket. But, opted to make beignets instead. However, I made berry sauces which I put on a plate (using Martha’s design idea) before placing beignets.

Great tutorial.

Carmen

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