Daring Bakers: Decorated Sugar Cookies

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 challenge this month was to decorate cookies with a September theme. September honestly doesn’t have any special significance to me. When I was in school it did, but I finished university 7 years ago and seem to have gotten past the urge to buy notebooks and agenda’s at this time of year (although the agendas do tempt me).  So what’s happening? I’m eating fall foods, watching the leaves change colour, and waiting impatiently for the hockey season to start. (Go Habs Go!)

I have zero decorating skills, so this challenge scared the bejezus out of me.  The smart thing to do would have been to start right away and decorate as many cookies as a possibly could until I got the hang of it. That is not what I did. I waited till two days before the challenge deadline to start working. I baked the cookies Saturday, “decorated” (ie dropped splotches of colours on said cookies) on Sunday afternoon, and started writing this post Sunday night.My attempt to make the Montreal Canadiens logo was very quickly abandoned and I moved on to simple apples and leaves.

It turns out royal icing is tricky. To use it properly you need to know what the consistency is supposed to be for the edges and for flooding the center of the cookies. I think what I used for the edges was probably a flooding consistency, but without more practice I really couldn’t tell you. When I forget about the food colouring stains on my fingers I might try again.

I used the recipe as given in the challenge, but found it much too dry to roll out so I added a couple of tablespoons of milk to it.

Basic Sugar Cookies

  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups plus 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  1. In a standing mixer, beat butter and sugar until well combined. Beat in the egg and lemon zest.
  2. Add flour and salt. Mix until dough just comes together.
  3. Form two disks of dough, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 5mm thick. Use cookie cutters or a sharp knife to cut out the desired shapes.
  5. Chill the cut dough for another 30 minutes, then bake at 350 for 8 to 12 minutes.
  6. Decorate with Royal Icing (I used the Joy of Baking recipe)

If your cookies are funny looking, don’t worry about it. Decorating and taste are not correlated.


Daring Bakers do Beurre Noisette

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.

This was my first Daring Bakers Challenge. I signed up at the beginning of July and then anxiously awaited the challenge. When I found out what it was I felt a mixture of both excitement and dread. Excitement because I had never made ice cream before and dread because I don’t own an ice cream maker. I’ve heard horror stories of crunchy ice cream that was impossible to scoop. I considered buying an ice cream maker but storage is an issue in my apartment, so I decided to try the machine free way (this is a challenge after all).

Next up was deciding if I wanted to do both the baked Alaska and the petit fours, or just one. Would I have time to make both? Could I eat both and not gain a million pounds? Once again I decided to go for it; I’m a Daring Baker!

The final decision was what kind of ice cream to make. At first I wanted to do vanilla with cinnamon chips or maybe something fruity. Then I read a post about mango tea ice cream and decided I needed to make tea flavoured ice cream, Earl Grey to be exact. (To the author of that post: I’m so sorry, I really can’t remember who you are but thanks for the inspiration!) When I got to work on the ice cream I realized that doing it without an ice cream maker actually made it pretty easy to make two small batches of different flavours so I made a batch of raspberry along with the Earl Grey. I thought the raspberry would go nicely with the chocolate ganache covering the petit fours, and it turns out it was. Plus the pink stripe looked pretty cute too.

Step one in the process was to make the ice cream. I made the Earl Grey by steeping some tea bags in the milk and sugar mixture. I also added a little Grand Marnier which went really nicely with the citrusy flavour of the tea. For the raspberry I just added some raspberry puree to the vanilla recipe. Making ice cream without an ice cream maker is surprisingly easy, all you have to do is blend the custard every thirty minutes while its freezing. Both flavours turned out very well; easy to scoop and no crunchy bits! It is time-consuming though, so if you don’t have several hours to kill I wouldn’t recommend it.

Once the ice cream was done I moved on the to beurre noisette pound cake. The smell of butter simmering is possibly one of the best smells there is. I really need more brown butter in my life. The pound cake was light and fluffy, not at all what I was expecting, and the butter gave it an amazing flavour. I think the cake was my favourite part of the challenge.

You can find all the recipes for this months challenge at Elissa’s site.

All in all I think this was a very succesful first challenge. I can’t wait for the next!