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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Adventures in Cookieing, Part Three: Icing Consistency


Now that you’re happy with your cookie rolling and cutting skills, it’s time to move on to the next step, applying the base coat. While you can paint or stencil directly onto a plain cookie (I’ve tried it), the colours show up much better against bright white, which means some variant of royal icing. This should not be applied on cookies fresh from the oven as it will just run everywhere. Give the cookies time to not only cool but dry out a bit.

There are plenty of icing recipes out there, and it’s even possible to buy mixes that just require the addition of water, but for household consumption you can easily make your own, no expensive stand mixer required.

Cookie Icing

1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon meringue powder (my grocery store carries it in the cake mix aisle)
food colouring (if you want a base other than white)
flavouring (optional)

In a small bowl, stir together the icing sugar and meringue powder. Add colouring and flavouring (1/4 teaspoon of vanilla or almond is nice) if desired. Then add water a few drops at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

That’s the tricky bit. You want icing that’s thick enough to stand on its own (it will be forming a dam) and thin enough to be piped. There are lots of videos online and everyone seems to have their own idea of what the right consistency is. Most say that the icing needs to be thick enough that a line drawn through it with a knife will stay there for several seconds, but I’ve seen several versions of just how many seconds that is. You’ll need to experiment. And remember, if they don’t come out looking right, you can always eat the evidence. It took me a few batches to get the technique down.

Add more icing sugar if it’s too thin or more water if it’s too thick, but be careful. On my second attempt, the icing came out perfectly for the first cookie but I couldn’t squeeze any more out. So I added a few drops of water directly into the piping bag. My next squeeze sent icing out the top of the bag and all over the cupboard rather than through the tip. Speaking of which, a small round tip which will allow you to “draw” a straight line is all that’s needed. You can buy disposable piping bags, but I prefer silicone bags, which are fairly easy to clean up and can be reused multiple times.

Pipe a line of icing around the outer edge of the cookie. Let that stand a while to harden and then fill in the interior with more icing (that’s called flooding). You can either use the icing you’ve already got made up as is, or thin it a little bit first. Either way, something pointed, such as a skewer, is useful for pushing icing into the unfilled corners, popping bubbles, or generally smoothing things out. You want enough icing to hide the surface of the cookie and come to the top of the outline (you’re aiming at a flat surface) but not so much that it won’t dry in a reasonable length of time.

Set your iced cookies aside for several hours or overnight and you’re ready to stencil or paint.

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