Cookie Art: Part 3
Today, we are going to tint and thin our royal icing. I use Soft Gel Paste Food Coloring made by AmeriColor. Gel paste food colors are very intense and come in a vast array of colors. You can also make custom colors by combining two or more base colors. For the firworks cookies that I made to celebrate the Fourth of July this year I used AmeriColor Super Red, Bright White and Navy Blue gel pastes.
I know what your are thinking. White gel paste food color?? Really? Why would we need to use a white food color when the royal icing is ... well ... white? Untinted royal icing will look off-white when it is dry. If that is what you want, then you don't need to white gel paste, but if you want WHITE, then you need to use the gel paste food coloring.
After you have mixed up a batch of royal icing, divide it into separate bowls for each color of piping and flood icing you will need for your cookie design. For my fireworks cookies, I needed white flood icing, red piping icing and blue piping icing. So I divided my icing into three separate bowls. The first step is to tint your icing. Squeeze in a small amount of gel paste and gently mix it into the icing. Look at the color. Is it what your design calls for? If you need it darker, add in a bit more gel paste. Keep in mind that the color will darken a bit when it dries. Here's my red piping icing. I needed it to be a bit darker so I added in more gel paste.
Piping icings are ready to go after tinting. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap or damp paper towels while you work on your flood icing. Flood icing needs to be thinned with a small amount of water so that it will flow smoothly on the cookie. Thinning royal icing can be tricky. You don't really need that much water to thin the icing to the consistency that you need. Remember, you can always add more water if you need it but you can't take water out so go easy when adding water. I start thinning royal icing by adding a teaspoon of water. Stir gently to avoid adding in too much air. Keep adding water a couple of drops at a time until it thinned to the proper consistency. What is the proper consistency? When you spoon up the icing and drop it back into the bowl, the ribbon of icing you drop in should disappear into the rest of the icing on a count of "one thousand one; one thousand two." Here's the white flood icing for the background of the fireworks cookies. Can you see the difference between the white and the red icing above?
Your icing is ready to be applied to your cookies. Piping icing is spooned into a piping bag fitted with a no. 2 icing tip. Flood icing is spooned into a plastic squeeze bottle. Are you ready to decorate? Let's go!
I work six cookies at a time in an assembly line pattern. First, I pipe an outline on each cookie. My design for these cookies calls for either a red or blue border on the cookie. After piping on the border on each cookie, I then go back and squeeze on flood icing onto each cookie. By the time I have applied the flood icing on the sixth cookie, the icing on the first cookie has started to spread an fill in. To help it along, I use a toothpick and push the flood icing gently to fill in the gaps to totally cover the cookie.
The fireworks design is created with dots and lines of red and blue piping icing. The flood icing background needs to dry about 30 minutes before I can apply the fireworks so I am going to outline and flood all of my cookies first. By the time I have completed that task on all of my cookies (about 2-1/2 dozen), the first six are ready for the fireworks design.
I piped dots, lines and arcs following the fireworks design that I made. Not bad if I do say so myself!
Once you have decorated all of your cookies, let them dry undisturbed for 12 to 18 hours. Yes hours! I put the cookie sheets with the decorated cookies on my dining room table. Do not cover the cookies!! You will smear your icing design! The cookies will be fine to dry uncovered overnight. By the next morning, the icing is dry and your cookies are ready to serve!
Creating decorated sugar cookies is not a quick task. These cookies require planning and time. It is all worth it when you see the delight on the faces of your family members and guests when they see your art work.
I hope that you consider adding these cookies to your baking list. Happy baking!