Four gel paste colors, three cups of flour, two sticks of butter, and a 200-count box of double-pointed round toothpicks!
That last part doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like “a partridge in a pear tree”, but it was a stretch anyway.
It’s holiday cookie time!
We skipped the mixing and baking this session and just jumped straight into decorating.
I had about five dozen sugar cookies at the ready, along with a large amount of royal icing.
We had used piping bags once before in baking class, but I felt a little reminder would be helpful.
I demonstrated how to hold the bag, placing the closure in the crook of my hand.
“You’ll squeeze the bag from the top of the icing so it comes out at the tip, just like toothpaste. What do you think would happen if I were to squeeze it from the middle?”
“You’ll get icing coming out the other end!”
“Exactly. That would be super frustrating. And messy. So, from the top, you can twist the bag a bit to increase the pressure. Easy peasy.”
I know what my bathroom looks like after the kids brush their teeth, so I was fully prepared for icing bag explosions.
“The icing in the bag is for outlining. It is thicker than the icing in the bottle which is called flood icing.”
I showed them how to make a little dam of icing on the edge of the cookie, keeping the tip of the piping bag close the the surface and steadying it with the fingers of my other hand. Then, I partially filled in the outline with the thinner flood icing.
The flood icing shouldn’t be so thin that it flattens out completely on its own. A toothpick comes in handy for spreading it to the edges of the outline.
After I had a base color down, I used contrasting flood icing to add dots and lines. Then, using a toothpick, I enhanced the design by dragging the tip of it back and forth through the still wet icing.
That little trick never fails to thrill.
They were chomping at the bit to decorate at this point, but I wanted to show them how they could create other designs by drawing lines from the center out…
Or by drawing concentric circles. Or how to turn dots into hearts by dragging the toothpick through the center of them.
“Just play around with it.”
So they did.
They tackled the decorating, without trepidation.
They shared piping bags and bottles and encouraging words.
There were a few breaches of icing dams, one or two dropped cookies, and at least one masterpiece was ruined by a 95 lb. dog, but there was nary a fight or complaint, and only a couple of tears were shed, (thanks to the dog).
And there were no icing explosions!
Just lots of creative color combinations.
And inspired designs.
And meticulous work.
And excellent piping technique!
And compliments, enthusiastically given.
And proud children.
And moms who happily took up the task of decorating when the kids had had enough.
Oh, and messes.
But it was totally worth it.
“Sure”, you say, “but what am I going to need to make this a tear-free, (parents included), cookie decorating party?”
Let me lay it out for you:
Gel paste colors, I prefer Americolor.
(please note that all the decorating supplies aside from Americolor gel paste colors, can be found at many craft supply stores or even party supply, near the wedding or cake decorating items, and they are usually cheaper than Amazon.)
Piping bags, I prefer Wilton.
Round #2 piping tips (do not pay more than $2 a piece for these)
Couplers come in handy when decorating with kids because they provide a secure seal around the bag. There is nothing worse than springing a leak near the tip and dripping icing all over your just finished masterpiece.
Plastic squeeze bottles
Damp dish towels or plenty of paper towels
Cookies! Baked and completely cooled, (I usually bake them the day before). After trying many different sugar cookie recipes, I found that I like this one the most. I usually double the smaller recipe to get about 6 dozen cookies. Simple shapes are best for the kids, they are easier to decorate and less likely to break.
Royal icing, this recipe works well if you are using pasteurized egg whites from a carton, which I recommend because it is just easier, especially if you are making a big batch, which I also recommend. You do not want to run out of icing. For our decorating session, I used 9 oz of egg whites and 12 cups of powdered sugar. That gave me more than enough to tint several colors. Remember, you will need two different consistencies of icing, the thicker outline icing, and the thinner flood icing. To do that…
Make it. It should be thick enough to make a little peak, but not so thick that it is hard to pipe. To adjust the consistency, you will be adding water to thin, or more powdered sugar to thicken it. But before you thin it…
Tint it. Working with one color at a time, place some of the thick, white icing in a small bowl. Use the gel paste colors, (a little goes a long way!), to tint it. When you have the color to your liking, place a third of that into a piping bag fitted with a piping tip. Use the side of a spatula to press all the icing forward, like you would a toothpaste tube; you do that right? Do not overfill it, a third full is good for a child’s smaller hand; no more that half full for an adult. Twist the bag at the top of the icing and tie it with a piece of string.
Thin it. Add water, a half teaspoon at a time, to the other 2/3 of tinted icing left in your small bowl. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it thins out fast. Stop adding water when, if you lift a spoonful of it up and drag a ribbon of it across the surface, the ribbon disappears in “1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi”. This is all very scientific, I know. Pour your flood icing into a squeeze bottle.
Continue tinting and thinning as before. Don’t make yourself crazy with the colors. The kids were fine with red, yellow, green and blue. And white, of course! Don’t forget to save some plain white icing, outline and flood.
Now, go make some cookies!
Wishing everyone a very happy holiday and a joyous new year.