Since I haven’t been seriously baking for that long. My best Christmas bake previously was a chocolate chip cookie that is a bit like an undersized muffin. It was not a pretty sight. Last year’s Christmas baking was my first real attempt to try to impress. I know, I know, the name of this blog is Bake to SLIGHTLY impress but you know deep down I do want to massively impress, it is just that it doesn’t always turn out right.
I have this wonderful recipe from The Kitchn for the best cut-out sugar cookies. I have baked it three times now and I see no reason to find a different one. It is freezable, you can make ahead of time, makes a decent number of cookies and taste great. The only thing I need to worry about it trying to make them pretty and festive. I have tried this easy icing, she made it look easy and pretty. Mine turned out with a lot of crystalization on top and nothing quite as nice. The internet suggested royal icing is the way to go. It will looks nicer, and the details would be crisp and beautiful.
Royal icing is an icing involving meringue. Traditionally you beat an eggwhite till it peaks (never done it so I am not sure what kind of peaks), then sugar and water. I used meringue powder, because it smells nice and I don’t have to break any eggs.
On last year’s cookies the steps went like this.
1. Make border icing. Ice the border. Wait till it is a little set.
2. Make flood icing. Fill the shape. Wait till it dries and sets.
3. If your first border icing is still liquid and you didn’t need a different colour, use that to add some details.
Border icing and flood icing needs to be different consistencies. To make the right consistency you lift it with a spoon, count to 20, say a prayer and make an animal sacrafice, that sort of thing. You have to keep it moist by covering it or else it hardens and flakes. If you need more than one colour or didn’t make enough of the same colour you will have to try to match the batches with your tired and jaded eyes which no longer see colours. Only the end when this is all done. So all and all, it is a bit of a pain in the ass.
So I thought, yes, I will be smart about this. You only have to ice cookies with decoration because a simple shape looks plain. If you get cookie cutters that are interesting in shape already, all you have to do is do an outline and it’d be pretty enough! That, is a GREAT plan. I am so smart. So I got this set of awesome cookie cutters in the shape of fancy snowflakes. This will be SO easy I decided I will make two kinds of sugar cookies. There will be the snowflakes with royal icing. And then there will be round cookies dipped in chocolate, then coated in candy cane. Someone at work made it, it looked easy and tasted good. Great plan!! I am going for the win! It would be spectacular! They will talk about this for YEARS. I will make 60 of each type of cookies all in one weekend! It is a damn unsually snowy and cold weekend here in Raincouver anyway and there is nothing better to do. It’ll be great! It will be FUN!
If you think that sounded like an overly optimistic statement and it is sure to go wrong from there, you would be correct. Turns out, I am just S-M-R-T.
I planned. I made the cookie dough a week ahead and froze them. All I have to do on day 1 is to roll them out and bake them. We can decorate the chocolate ones on day 1, and the royal icing on day 2. …. Oh ya, let me introduce you to the third project I added to the mix because I thought it was a great idea a week ago. I will also make 24 mini panettones. It would be the showstopper. People are going to be impressed! It is the ultimate Christmas treats! …. What a great idea. We will talk about what happened to that in part 2. For now, we just focus on #cookiegaddon
The first thing that went wrong was the cookie cutters.
If you are smart instead of smrt like me, you might have already seen the flaw in my plan.
*follow me on instagram by the way! Lonely over there.
It is obvious isn’t it. These cookie cutters makes delicate snowflake shapes. They make cookies that are only connected to each other by a flimsy bits. While this cookie dough is very pilable and not prone to breakage because of the high butter and cream cheese content, tends to get sticky with handling and your body heat. The dough grown attached to the cutter and would not come out no matter what. I tried chilling it for longer to make sure it gets a bit more rigid. I tried dipping the cutters in flour, rolling it out a bit thicker than I normally do. They all help but in the end, the secret weapon were -chopsticks-.
Yes you read it right.
Chopsticks. The ultimate Chinese weapon. Is there anything chopsticks can’t do? I certainly haven’t found it yet.
I tried to get into the nooks and crannies with a small spatula, a bamboo skewer and little spoons. But they are far too sharp, all I ended up doing was putting new holes on the cookies where holes shouldn’t be. A chopstick with a broader, round tip gently poking the chilled cookie shape out in slo-mo was the ONLY way to make it happen. Baking boyfriend and I made a fantastic team with me cutting the dough while swearing, and him poking the cookies out with extraordinary care and patience that I apparently do not possess.
So that problem was solved.
Now onto the round cookies. Oh cutting them was a joy after the snowflakes. The cutters had a nice rounded top for comfort. No sticky, no fuss. Just round and simple.
And did that thing with the concave bottom. I really need to figure out why that happens.
That bit is not important though. It was fine. My palms and arms were sore from rolling too much dough so I decided icing would have to wait another day. Chocolate and candy cane it is! I don’t know about you, but I thought smashing candy canes into bits would be easier. I put the pieces in a bag, smash them with a hammer. I got candy dust, and then some gigantic chunk and some sort of candy explosion. I don’t have photos to show because I had to put the camera somewhere else away from the mess. I thought the food processor is made for occasion like this right? … again, powder and chunks. At least the mess was mostly contained I guess?
I also bought a HUGE block of chocolate brick for this, I am not sure why I thought this was a better idea than chips. I think my ability to make sensible judgement has been on vacation since I decided I want to do all these baking. How do you even break up a brick like that? I looked at the hammer, and then decided I don’t need to spend the next decade finding chocolate bits lodged into the crevasse of the third cabinet from the left. I tried cutting it up, I tried shaving it. It took a while and I think most of the chocolate ended up on my hand, but I got just enough to dip my cookies.
The recipes I have seen, you dip half the cookie into chocolate, then put it into the bowl of smashed candy cane. It was a mess. The candy cane chunks were too big so the cookies looked like a cactus after the dipping. Baking boyfriend thinks it might be better to just dip the top of the cookies and sprinkle the candy cane on top. …. which might be a much better idea. I only ended up using the dust and the smaller bits.
It took a lot longer than I thought for the chocolate to set. By the time the chocolate cookies were done the day was gone, and I have only gotten one out of three projects completed….. which isn’t bad. Just that thought I’d be further along.
Icing was done on day 2 in between waiting.
It ended up being one of the easiest and most relaxing thing out of the three projects. Baking boyfriend did the white. I did the blue. It was actually fun! Except when he tried to help me with the blue and I thought it wasn’t good enough and shooed him off.
Ya, I am so charming when stressed. Even though I have no idea how much MORE stress I am about to become. This was the last bit of fun before Part 2.