Sugar cookies are one of my favorite ever things to bake. I am more of a cook, not a baker. (This means that I don't like to measure.) But these cookies are tried and true favorites. This year I tried some new methods of icing the cookies and actually sold my first batch--woot! I'm not sure if it counts when you sell to a friend, but I supposed the changing of money (and peppermint patties) makes it official. (Thanks, Feisty!)
As for icing, I have long been a fan of using thick icing made of confectioners sugar, almond & vanilla extract, and milk. (I think this may also come from Paula Deen.) To apply, I use tiny paintbrushes and put a big glop in the middle, then spread it, leaving some room at the edges so it won't overflow as it settles.
Apparently, real cookies makers use real royal icing, which includes meringue powder to help stiffen it up. The preferred method for this is outline and fill. I wasn't sure if I wanted to try something new, especially since I have been doing this the same way for years (see a pre-baby post with my signature Texas Christmas cookies here). But since I really wanted to make sure the ones I was selling would harden, I figured I'd give it a whirl.
I used a few sites for reference that I really like. The first is an article written about my friend Sara of Sara Belle's Bakery in Austin. She makes the most beautiful cookies I've ever seen, hands down. You can find her tips and tricks here. The best trick I used was to roll out the dough and let it chill in the fridge already rolled out so you don't have to fight it when you are cutting shapes. This also made for better, firmer shapes.
I'm not great with piping bags, so I tried using squirt bottles, as shown in this Pioneer Woman post. I both liked and didn't like this method.
My first problem was not finding meringue powder. Because of the car/flat tire/foundation issues this week, I was confined to home. The few minutes I had to run to the store, they did not have this at my store. So I used cream of tartar, which I know can help firm things. I don't like the taste it adds to anything, and I struggled to get the consistency right--something that doesn't happen as often when I'm doing my straight-up confectioners sugar and milk recipe. Plus it involved a mixer, which is not something I generally use when making icing.
As for actually using the pipe and fill method, it took some getting used to. I would get the right consistency for the outside line (which should be a firmer to hold the fill icing) and then it would harden too much in the bottle, leading to the issue of having to re-mix while in the bottle or somehow get a hard, thick icing out of the bottle, remix and then get it back in. Really annoying.
This was sort of my perfect take on it, but of course I figured this out after I'd made 60 cookies already. Sheesh. I'll know for next time and use my hybrid method.
Of course I let the boys do some decorating of their own. Mostly they threw some icing down on like two cookies and then wanted to eat.
On second thought, maybe I should wait on cleaning the kitchen.