Sorry I’ve been away from the blog, but I have good excuses that will come forth as more posts! I’ve been baking like a crazy mama for the past few weeks for multiple events, but I’ve recently returned to my regular only mostly-jam-packed busy life.
One of the big events for which I baked was the Austin Family Music Festival which was held on Pioneer Farms in north Austin on May 7. I was also a volunteer for that event as part of my ongoing fan-a-teering for The Biscuit Brothers, the musical hosts. Since they had eight other bands lined up to come perform at their fundraiser, I thought it’d be nice if each of the bands had a thank-you gift. I decided to bake some cookies and put them in pretty boxes, since I’d never done anything like that before. It gave me the opportunity to try out some new cookie recipes without being stuck eating them all myself, and it was low-risk because the bands were hardly expecting these treats so if it all went awry, nobody would be the wiser.
Also, coming off of my recent failed attempt to ice cookies, I wanted to make sure I could successfully pull off cookie decorating in advance of a volunteer gig I had coming up for Bake A Wish Austin.
I had a small music note cookie cutter and decided to try two new recipes with that, then add in an improved version of my parsnip cookies (more on that here), and depending on the yields, fill in any empty slots with my ultra-decadent chocolate-chocolate-chip World Domination Cookies. I’ve been making those last ones since my teen years, tweaking the recipe over the decades to perfection. A friend gave them their name on the notion that one cookie would be given for free, but more could be earned through small favours from time to time that would advance me on my path to World Domination. I no longer have time for World Domination, but I still keep that recipe secret. Nope, not sharing it. I share everything but that one. My kid(s) can inherit it when I die, if I get around to writing it down before then.
Anyway, the first note cookies were made with Allrecipe’s Best Ever Chocolate Cutout Cookies with modifications taken from several comments there. I added an extra egg yolk and 1 tsp of vanilla, rolled them out to 1/4″, and baked for 7 minutes on parchment. With these modifications, I was quite pleased with the results: a tasty, dark, chocolatey rolled cookie that holds its shape very well. Using the cocoa for rolling instead of powdered sugar, as suggested by a commenter, meant the cookies stayed dark and weren’t messed up with white globs. That is definitely a great tip I’ll use in the future when rolling darker cookies.
(UPDATE NOTE: the above recipe can now be found in full here.)
Since this was a test of the dough, I made one cookie with a shaped, imprinted cutter to see if it would hold lines. It did, quite nicely, although it stuck in the cutter fairy badly.
I made my usual recipe of a small batch of royal icing which I found online ages ago and can no longer find a link for. Luckily I have it saved as text exactly as written on the source site (if you know the source, please tell me so I can give proper credit):
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. powdered egg whites
3 tbsps warm water
1 tsp clear vanilla extract
Mix powdered sugar and egg whites in mixing bowl. Mix with paddle attachment on low. Slowly drizzle in water and extract. Scrape down bowl and turn mixer back on to med/hi. Beat for about 5 minutes. It makes probably about 1 cup of icing.
I thinned it to squeeze-bottle consistency, then tinted some green, some blue, and some orange, just because I wanted some bright colours to go in the boxes. I knew I’d be making yellow for the lemon cookies so I wanted to contrast that. It went on the cookies quite well, although I did manage to get some air bubbles in some corners that showed through as it dried:
I got this many out of the cookie dough and the cup of icing, with some icing left over:
For the lemon cookies, I used the Ann Clark recipe as printed on this CraftGossip post, including the icing, except that I added a bit extra powdered sugar to the icing to stiffen it up a bit, knowing that these things were going to sit all day in a barely-air-conditioned environment at best.
When I zest a lemon, I do it the Alton Brown way: I use a microplane grater. As you can see below, this yields a very fine zest and doesn’t get the bitter white part in there at all. I also find it easier and faster than using a traditional zester, and it doesn’t leave as many wasted track lines behind either. Also, since this zest is so fine, I was able to skip the part about putting the sugar and zest through a food processor. I just put both in the Kitchenaid with the paddle on and let it whack ’em together for a bit.
The dough came out very well and, as with the chocolate dough above, I tested an indented cutter to see how it holds its shape. While the lines aren’t quite as crisply held as with the chocolate dough and are harder to see on this light-coloured cookie, the kookaburra came out okay. It too stuck in the cutter, however, albeit not quite as badly as the chocolate dough.
I tinted the lemon icing very slightly yellow (it already had a somewhat yellow hue from the butter) and used a squeeze bottle to apply it to the notes:
Even with extra sugar and left overnight, the lemon icing didn’t harden up like royal icing. It’s tasty, but will smush when stacked or bumped hard enough. Also, there was a good deal left over. I’ve made these cookies again since and the icing recipe should probably be halved relative to the amount of cookies.
Using some summery-looking Wilton boxes with windows on the top that also came with four little interior boxes, I arranged the cookies thusly:
I had some bright, cheery ribbon from Costco lying around so I tied the boxes shut with bows. I also found a free printable sunflower tag and ran it through OpenOffice to mangle it to my own needs, and printed out each band’s name along with a thank-you and a description of the cookies. I even gave them musical names: Notes of Chocolate, Lemony Licks, Double Chocolate Two-Steps, and Parsnip-Nutmeg Melodies.
And here they all are, ready to go to the event:
After all that, wouldn’t you just know it, most of the bands didn’t pick up their cookies! Oh well. Other volunteers were all too happy to adopt the boxes, so they were all enjoyed, which is the important thing.
Oh, and for those who may have thought I was kidding when I threatened the Kookaburra above:
Evidence duly consumed!