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Archive for September, 2010

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

The rules were simple:
• You must make the Basic Sugar Cookie recipe provided (unless specific diet restrictions apply)
• You must decorate your cookies with the theme of September, whatever that means to you.

Following rule number 1 was pretty simple. Rule 2 was more complicated. September was actually a pretty significant month for me. I returned to work on 13 September after a blissful 8 months off with my babies and, on 19 September, I ran the Sydney marathon. I think it was my 15th or 16th marathon or longer race but I trained really hard for this one! And of course September means the start of Spring in Sydney.

Having quickly rejected the idea of making work themed biscuits (scales of justice, a pictorial representation of my billable hours target?) I did briefly consider making marathon themed biscuits. However, that meant either trying to pipe running shoes (too hard) or doing a whole series of “42.2”s (boring). Which is how I ended up decorating the biscuits with violets. I am explaining this thought process at length because I need you to know they are violets. Even if they look nothing like violets. OK?

Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4″ Cookies

200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
I also added the zest of a lemon

Directions
• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
• Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during
baking, losing their shape.
• Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
• Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
• Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
• Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
• Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an
hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and
then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.
• Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
• Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
• Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
• Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
• Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
• Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in
some cookies being baked before others are done.
• Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
• Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated
cookies can last up to a month.

Royal Icing:

315g – 375g / 11oz – 13oz / 2½ – 3 cups Icing / Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
10ml / 2 tsp Lemon Juice
5ml / 1 tsp Almond Extract, optional

Directions

• Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
• Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and
grease free.
• Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
• Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.
• Beat on low until combined and smooth.
• Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
• Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.

The biscuit dough, although too sweet for my tastes (and I was too scared to reduce the sugar content in case it changed the texture too much), was good in that it held it’s shape really well. It was really easy to cut and roll. You definitely need to chill it before baking it though, as the biscuits spread otherwise and you end up with messy shapes.

The icing was also really simple to make. However, apparently I am rubbish at piping. I’d like to blame the piping bag, and honestly I think it’s fair to attribute some of the blame to poor equipment, but I suspect I also lack the necessary delicate touch. So here are my VIOLETS:

A few days later, I made a second batch of biscuits. This time I didn’t even try for delicacy. I just whacked the icing in a plastic bag, cut the top off and blobbed it on. Sadly, I think that is my style. And here are the resulting dinosaurs and “effalunts” which, in their own way, show what September means to me. Starting again and hoping for the best.

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