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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Just Desserts

So I intended to do much more visibly productive things this weekend, but then Alex asked me to make the clerks at the courthouse where he works some cupcakes. (I do this sometimes for him since they are very nice women who work really hard at a very under-appreciated job, and really they only get noticed when something gets screwed up, which isn’t fun for anyone.) It is one of the clerk’s birthdays tomorrow, too, and I wanted to do something extra-special. 
 
 
Enter: My recent obsession with trying out iced and flooded cookies. This is all the fault of that time-suck vortex phenomenon that happens when you are reading one blog and they reference another blog, so you go there, and THEY reference ANOTHER blog, so you go THERE, and so on … and suddenly you have eleventy-billion new things you want to do. Anyway, I got sucked into Sweet Sugarbelle’s amazing world of cookies and since I already do cakes now and again in my spare (ha!) time, I had all the equipment, not to mention a 7-pound bag of powdered sugar. (Pretty sure I didn’t have the skills, but I did have a LOT of sugar so I figured that gave me room to maneuver.)

Disclosure: I don’t really like cookies. (I KNOW, but hear me out first!) I like cookies when they are warm and gooey and just out of an oven (a la the quintessential chocolate chip cookie). Cookies in real life, however, are usually so hard they’ll break your teeth and then they crumble into a bajillion pieces when you do bite into them. I find this less than desirable.

However, on Sugarbelle’s blog, she’d mentioned a chocolate cookie recipe from a friend that was fabulous and amazing and impossible to screw up, that was also SOFT AND CHEWY yet you could decorate on them, and I was SOLD! (They are from LilaLoa’s blog here, and yes, the recipe is exactly as advertised, possibly more so. I may now make chocolate cookies all the time, for every event in the foreseeable future.)

So, here we go. First, I got all my stuff together for LilaLoa’s “The End-all for Chocolate Cookies Recipe” --  I realized later I forgot to get the flour out for my nice staged photo, but I swear I actually did use it, as specified by the recipe. Kindly ignore the omission.


 So I am fortunate enough to have gotten a KitchenAid stand mixer as a wedding gift (thanks Aunt Sallie!!), and I tend to make almost everything in it because, as previously mentioned, I am lazy. Two minutes with a hand mixer seems like FOREVER now, and I can’t go back. This recipe did not specify, so I used the stand mixer til the end and then pulled the dough out and shaped it up by hand into the nice ball, shown below.



 
Did the typical roll-out-the-dough, cut with cookie cutters (I was doing autumn leaves since it is finally fall-ish in Atlanta, which mainly means the temperature got below 65), and baked according to the recipe. I did three sheets of cookies, because that’s how much dough it made and also because I had 3 different kinds of cookie cutters to try out (large, medium and teensy).


 
While they were all cooling, I made the icing. I used Sweet Sugarbelle’s recipe (here), since I was following her instructions for the piping and flooding bit. She has a really, really nice walk-through with excellent videos and pictures of consistency for each step, so I highly recommend checking her out.

Here is where I really recommend a stand mixer, because it takes like 10-12 minutes of solid mixing to make the icing, and it is unbelievably wonderful to be able to turn it on and let it mix while you do something else. Also, my arm might fall off if I had to mix for 12 minutes. Just sayin’.


 
After that, I colored the icing. I’d like to note here that this step alone took me more than an hour, because it makes sense to go ahead and mix all your colors at one time and just bottle them all (bottles sold at cake stores, craft stores and also Wal-Mart). I used Americolor to tint mostly, since that’s what I have a ton of for the cake-making stuff (the picture here is of the top lift-out shelf from my giant tackle box that I keep much of my cake supplies in).


 
So, following Sweet Sugarbelle’s detailed instructions, I first piped the outline on all of my cookies:


I let that dry about half an hour, and then went back in with the flood icing (which is a more watered-down consistency and does exactly what it sounds like when you put it on a cookie – it floods). I also decided here that the teensy cookies were too small to outline, so I used a slightly thicker flood icing to just flood each one.


 
Now, here is the only issue I have with piped and flooded cookies: WAITING. After you flood them, you have to wait like, overnight, for the things to dry before you can do the next step. So I had to set these out with a little fan to make them dry evenly, and walk away.

ARGH.

However, this morning I got up to a huge bunch of wonderful cookies, and right away I got to pipe in the details on the teensy cookies, so that was very satisfying.



Shameless plug: I am also going to briefly digress here and mention that I did this using my spinning cake stand (like a lazy susan, really). If you don’t have one, I highly recommend it. It makes decorating many things much, much easier when you can just spin it to get to the other side. I stuck the whole pan of cookies on it and spun it while I sat to decorate them. They aren’t expensive, and it’s incredible what you can end up using it for once you have it. End of shameless plug.



So anyway, THIS is what I ended up with:


 
Yay! The flood icing isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than I thought it would be, and I think that’s just a matter of practice with the consistency of the icing.

And then I decided the teensy cookies really needed to go on something. Like cupcakes. Which is what Alex had asked for originally. So I whipped up some basic chocolate cupcakes, and then did the fancy-looking-but-very-easy Wilton 1M Swirl trick to top them when they’d cooled. (It seems like an extra step to get an icing bag out, but I promise it ends up being WAY quicker than icing them all with a knife.)


 Then, I just stuck the cute teensy cookies on top! How cute is that??



Now they are all boxed and ready for Alex to take in to the clerks in the morning. Cookies AND cupcakes! I feel like a productive wife. :)



Also, when I told Emily and Sheila that I was attempting piped and flooded cookies, Emily said she made some for her husband once when they were dating long-distance, but she used Martha Stewart’s recipe and it was tedious. Emily, I’m not surprised – Martha has a way of making EVERYTHING harder than it should be. I like Sweet Sugarbelle because she takes shortcuts like I do, so I know that I’m not doing any unnecessary steps (which makes me less likely to skip them….). What did you send Reid when you made him cookies? And Shelia, have you done these before? What has your experience been like?

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