Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies

Until very recently, when I grew an appreciation for even the smallest of holidays to use as a baking excuse, I was anti-Valentine's Day.  There was something about the holiday that made it "stupid" in my mind.  I didn't understand why it was necessary to have a separate holiday for people in LOVE..shouldn't they be in love every day?! Sounds like the rants of a cynical valentine-less young girl now doesn't it..
One of the benefits of being in a sorority was the comfort in knowing that at least 20 other girls had the same outlook as you on any topic at any given time.  From "Nicki Minaj looked like a clown at the MTV awards" to the "Chocolate Chip vs. Snickerdoodle" arguement, someone always had your back.  So it was guaranteed on Valentine's Day that there would be a posse of single ladies with the same idea in mind-- let's go out.  After an organized group dinner and a few bottles of wine, it was easy to forget it was anything but another night out on the town. But now that I've grown older and wiser and entered the real world away from all the pointless college drama, I've developed an appreciation for Valentine's day. I've even started to get those funny things called feelings back..you know the butterflies and overflow of emotions that normal people get when something cute happens.  I actually just CRIED in my first movie the other day. There must have been something in my eye...
Or maybe it was just Channing Tatum's smoking good looks that finally melted my cold heart.

Anyway. I've been dying to try working with royal icing for some time now, and got so caught up in the rest of my Christmas baking that it managed to slip through the cracks yet again.  The lonely, naked, festive-shaped sugar cookies were baked and ready to go, waiting hopelessly never to be fully dressed.  So I figured why not jump the gun and start early with some Valentine's Day treats.
Now you should know I have a weak spot for holiday M&M's. It's not even so much that I like to eat them, but they just look so perfect untouched in a heart shaped bowl or baked inside a cookie that I can't resist buying them and figuring out their usefulness later.  So of course walking through CVS to get my gummy vitamins resulted in the undeniable stroll down the pink and red overloaded center aisle and the self-controlled purchase of only ONE bag of M&Ms{I'll be back}.
Using my newly purchased baby heart cookie cutter, I had an idea to spice up these sugar cookies with a "hidden surprise" and turned them into M&M filled heart-shaped boxes that came out like the picture above.. pretty cute right?

I must've blacked out during my trip to ACMoore when I ran in to pick up the new cookie cutters because I swear I didn't mean for this to happen.  Something just comes over me and I go off on a tangent.  Perhaps it's my deep addiction to sprinkles and candy coating <3
How To:
Grab your favorite sugar cookie recipe{make sure it's good for cookie cutters so they hold their shape!}
After testing out various recipes over the years and adjusting trying to make the perfect combination, I decided to give one last try to CookieCrazie's recipe found here and it was absolutely fabulous! The cookies held perfect shape and tasted delicious..I think there's some magic in the use of sour cream that I've been missing all along.
As for the royal icing, there are many variations in recipes using egg whites vs. meringue powder {which can be found at your local craft or baking store}

Although Meringue powder can get pricey, it is way beyond worth it and will last for many uses! I used Sweetopia's recipe and it came out absolutely fantastic! * I halved the recipe and had PLENTY left over so you may need to adjust depending on how many cookies you plan to make*
Tips for Using Royal Icing:
1. PATIENCE! Something I genenerally dont have much of, but I have desperately been trying to learn especially when it comes to my baking.  When writing with royal icing, you need to allow the base layer to dry completely before you begin to write onto. The first few cookies I learned the hard way as the letters began to spread.  I need plently of practice, but not too bad for the first run.
2. Consistency.  When you first follow the instructions for the royal icing it will end up with somewhat of a thick, fluffy texture that won't be useful for piping.  Gradually add small portions of water until you reach the desired consistency. *The test for pipable consistency noted on Sweetopia's page is the 10 Second Rule. Works like a charm.*
3. Flooding. There are generally too methods to filling with royal icing. This word flooding comes up often and refers to using this ticker icing to outline the shape, and then adding a bit of water to thin the consistency and "flood" the empty space.  The second option {which I chose to follow instead of making different consistencies}, is to use the same icing as you outline with to fill the shape..you'll just need to shake the cookie a bit to help smooth it out evenly.
4. Piping tools.  When I was at ACMoore I also managed to pick up some "Model Makers" chocolate bottles with a thin tip to make my first time piping somewhat easier.  As I continue to practice I will use icing bags and varying tips to change the technique and thickness. This will be especially useful when writing!

Next time I attempt royal icing I will be sure to include pictures of each step along the way{outline, filling, writing, etc}!
 <3 Get creative with your decorating ideas and Happy Valentine's Day <3

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