This recipe is so easy – you just make the dough and roll it out, then cut out any shape you wish. I use this to make lovely cookies for treats, presents, party or wedding favours, as well as cake decorations. You can also use this recipe to create cookie ‘lollipops’ by baking with a stick embedded into the dough. I give these as gifts and treats. If you want to spice things up a bit, you can change the flavourings in this mixture. For example, if you want orange or lemon cookies, instead of vanilla, you can use the grated zest of two oranges or two lemons. To make them chocolatey, replace 25g of the plain flour with 25g cocoa powder.
MAKES APPROX 20 MEDIUM COOKIES
200g softened butter
150g golden caster sugar
50g soft light brown sugar
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
Ice cream cookie cutter
20 lolly/cookie sticks (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC/Gas mark 5 and line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Mix the butter and both types of sugar with the vanilla seeds (or orange or lemon zest if you prefer) until just combined but still grainy. Do not cream like you would for a sponge mix or you may find your cookies spread, puff up a bit and lose their shape definition. Either do this with a wooden spoon, hand mixer or in a electric mixer on a slow speed. If using an electric mixer, you may need to pause it a couple of times and scrape the mixture down into the centre of the bowl before continuing, to totally incorporate the butter.
2. Add the egg, a little at a time, mixing in each addition with a wooden spoon or with your mixer on slow. Repeat until all the egg is mixed in.
3. Add the flour to your mixture and mix slowly until a dough forms. If you like, you can do this with your hands. If your dough is still a bit sticky you might needto add a little more flour, or if it’s dry, add a tiny bit more beaten egg. You need it to be firm and easy to roll out without sticking to your rolling pin.
4. Dust your worktop with plenty of flour and roll out the cookie dough. Work from the centre, rolling away from your body, then from the centre towards you. Keep turning the dough a quarter-turn. This will help you to roll out a uniform oblong as opposed to a spidery shape, which is more difficult to cut shapes from. Take care to apply even pressure, and roll to an approximate thickness of 5mm. If you have guide sticks, use them to ensure you get an even thickness and that the cookies all bake evenly.
5. Now cut out your required shapes with an ice-cream cookie cutter. Alternatively, you can draw or print out a shape, glue it onto card and cut around it with scissors. Place this template onto the top of the dough and cut around the shape with a sharp knife. You might need to gently smooth any jagged edges with your fingertips to make them look neat.
6. With a palette knife or very careful fingers, place your cookies on the prepared baking sheets. At this point, if you want to add sticks to the cookies, simply push a stick gently into the dough, to about half way, with the fingers of your other hand pressing gently onto the point where you are inserting it, to prevent the dough from breaking. It takes a bit of practice, but you can always re-roll the dough if it goes wrong.
7. Bake for around 10–12 minutes. Check after 10 minutes; you may need to give them a few more minutes. The cookies should be golden brown, firm and springy to touch but not too dark. Cool on a wire rack and then decorate as required.
Baker's tip If you bake the cookies until they are vey dry, they will last longer. You can give them 10–20 minutes extra but do this at a lower temperature so that they properly dry out and don’t burn – turn the oven down by 10–20°C.
Once you have mastered this recipe, it will be a loyal friend to you in your cake-decorating quest. We use it every day at my cake boutique Fancy Nancy, for piping messages, trims, borders and patterns, covering cakes or making run-out decorations to go on cakes and cookies. We also use it for sticking cake tiers together, attaching decorations and images, filling gaps and even for covering up mistakes. It’s invaluable.
This recipe makes enough royal icing to decorate around 20 cookies if you are using several colours for the designs. In each icing bag you will need at least 100g (any smaller and it’s tricky to pipe with), so you will probably have some left over. If so, it can be stored in an airtight container or food bag for up to a week. You can also multiply this recipe to make larger amounts if you are making more than 20 cookies or creating larger cakes. You can also buy ready-made royal-icing mix from most supermarkets; you just add water to it.
MAKES APPROX 600G ROYAL ICING
500g sifted icing sugar
2 medium egg whites
Juice of 2 lemons
1. Place the icing sugar in a large bowl or use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the egg whites and whisk by hand or run the machine on its slowest speed to start mixing them in. Once it starts to amalgamate, add the lemon juice, then mix by hand or on the slowest speed for 5 minutes.
2. Adjust the icing to the consistency that you need, by adding more icing sugar or liquid.
3. Once ready, cover the bowl with a clean, damp tea towel or cloth, to keep the icing from going hard. If exposed to the air, it will begin to skin over after just a few minutes. This is not good; even if you stir the flaky bits in, they always block up your piping nozzle.
Follow our step-by-step instructions to decorate these delightful Ice Cream Cookies
Taken from The Cake Decorating Bible by Juliet Sear (published by Ebury, £20)