Another year, another baby shower, another set of sugar cookies! This time, pink elephants were the star of the show.
Sugar Cookie Logistics:
Start with this recipe.
I tend to do this over two days. Either make the dough and bake one night, then ice the next or make the dough one night and bake plus ice the next. All in one night will drain you!!
You can dye the dough to make cute cookies with less icing. Keep in mind that butter cookie dough has a yellow cast and therefore blues can have a greenish, unappetizing cast (ask me about the blue elephants I didn't photograph for you).
The dough needs to be C-O-L-D when you work with it. If you have it out too long it will stick to your counter or rolling mat and you'll lose your hard work.
Ideally, the baking sheets should cool between each batch. A failure to do this will mean your cookies could have random bubbling. I am lazy and don't care. But if you're going to go fancy, you very well might.
I've never had trouble with this recipe spreading. If you usually have trouble with spreading, try this one. If you still have trouble, let me know. I'm really curious.
You must pull the cookies before they brown. You might think they're underdone, but they look so ugly when they start to brown. Act quickly!
I use meringue powder for safety reasons, especially when baking for a baby shower. Real royal icing means raw egg whites. Ew.
Most meringue powder has its own recipe printed on the container. Mine calls for four cups of confectioner's sugar. I could probably coat every surface in my kitchen with that amount of icing. I made a quarter recipe for the detail work on about 4 dozen cookies. If you're flooding (covering the whole surface of the cookie), you may want a much larger amount, but if you're only piping on details (much easier to do well if you're a beginner), don't do it. Unless you have some holes that need spackling.
If you make a quarter recipe, like I did, you'll really want a hand mixer, not a stand mixer. It doesn't have enough volume for your stand mixer to really work with. (Yes, I've held the bottom bowl up so that the mixing attachment could actually mix it, but it's a much bigger pain that you want to deal with).
If you're flooding, you need two consistencies of icing, a thick and a thinner. Do the thick first, then when you've done the details, use water to thin out the remaining icing.
Use a ziploc bag to pipe. It's cheap and accessible. You can use a knife to poke out the bottom hole or a pair of scissors to snip. You want a TINY hole. Much easier to control that way. I usually fill the bag and dye the icing first and then snip.
It's easiest to fill the ziploc bag if you put it in a glass. Think trash bag. So pop the ziploc in a cup and arrange the edges over the side. Then the glass will hold it up for you while you pour in your icing. You can even do your dying then and stir it around with a spoon, and only squish the sealed bag to evenly distribute the colors.
A little goes a long way when it comes to color. Also, plan ahead. If you want blue icing and green, then make the blue first, use it and then add your yellow dye to that bag to make green.
Also, I'd rather run out of a color and have to dye more of the base icing than have an excess of pink and nowhere to use it. I dye each color as I need it rather than making the colors in advance.
If you trace the cookie cutter onto paper, you can use a pencil to plan your design so you know about where the eyes should go or if a tail makes it look like the elephant is pooping (hint, yes, it does).
Unless you're perfect, you'll have a couple of substandard cookies. Ice these first. You can keep them, rather than bring them to your event or serve them at your party, but it won't matter if you wreck them and it will help you get in a rhythm for icing and try out new ideas.
Icing can be really tiring. I do it sitting down at the dining room table. I find I have a steadier hand and better stamina when I sit.
Make sure you let the icing dry completely before putting the cookies away! You don't want your hard work to go to waste!