Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Cookies

Recently, I got this wild notion that I will learn how to bake and to decorate.  I don't mean just throw some icing or sprinkles on something, I mean fancy-schmancy, wow-gee-whiz that's so cool kind of decorating.  I guess this is what happens when you watch too many episodes of Ace of Cakes.  Problem is, I've never really tackled anything more difficult than drop cookies and the annual birthday cake for BabyBella.  Thus, when I was asked by my daughter's teacher to bring in something sweet for their Valentine's Day party I decided that this was the perfect time to learn how to use fondant. Seriously, even if I royally mess up, a bunch of kindergardeners won't mind.  Talk about low-pressure.

So, off I go to the local craft store where I grabbed a bunch of stuff I thought I'd need and merrily went home, excited to tackle this.  Yeah...maybe I should do some research first.  Seems I forgot the right extracts, rollers, cutters, etc.  Ah well, so I made due.  Here's the result after the break:

Chocolate Mint Valentine's Day Cookies
Butter Cookies
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2.75 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Creams butter and sugar until light and fluffy then beat in egg and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients.  Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, mixing well after each addition.  Roll out 1/8" thick and bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet for 7-8 minutes or until lightly browned.
A couple years ago I bought a set of 100 cookie cutters with every possible season and occasion imaginable.  As a mom of a school-age child I've used them so many times already.  So worth the investment!  And I always, always use parchment paper.  Its cheap, its easy to find, and after the incident where I wrecked two dozen rolled cookies when they got stuck to an old cookie sheet (the recipe said ungreased sheet!) I've never not used it.  Why take the risk?

Chocolate Buttercream Icing
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 2 tbl milk
Beat the shortening and butter until fluffy then mix in the cocoa and vanilla.  Scraping the sides frequently, gradually add the sugar.  Finally, add milk and beat until light and fluffy. 
For the sake of full disclosure, I know I got the recipes above from somewhere...but can't remember where as  I have them written down on recipe cards.  However, I checked all of my cookie and cake books and the two above are pretty much standard recipes.  As a note, the above recipe also makes way more icing than will be needed.  But I'm planning on baking cupcakes later in the week so I made more than I needed today.

I let the cookies cool for a couple hours then went back and iced them with chocolate buttercream icing. I made a mess of it.  I really should invest in something better than a butter knife to ice cookies with. 
I then pulled out my brand-new box of rolled fondant. Although you can make it yourself, I just went and bought the pre-made stuff you can get at any craft store.  I then sprayed a clean surface with cooking spray and dusted it with powdered sugar as recommended by a couple of articles I read.  In the future I'll skip the cooking spray as it made the powdered sugar clumpy which made lumps on the fondant as I rolled it.
I then cut off a big hunk of fondant (about half of one of the two packages inside the box) and kneaded in a teaspoon of mint extract.  I then split that it into four pieces, took toothpicks and put a couple dabs of gel coloring on three of them--rose, blue, and green, leaving the fourth white--then kneaded the fondant until the color was even.  I then rolled out the fondant and, using the same cookie cutter I used for the cookies, cut out enough hearts to cover each of the cookies.  To attach the fondant, I just pressed it gently but firmly on top of the buttercream and smoothed it with my fingertips. 
Then, using two different sized heart-shaped fondant cutters, I cut out enough to put two more hearts on each cookie.  To attach then, using my finger dipped in a cup of water, I dampened the back of the smaller heart cut-outs and pressed to the cookies where I wanted them placed. 
And voila!  I was done!

So, lessons learned: 1. Get the right tools. I really could've used one of those nifty fondant rolling pins with the thickness gauge.  I'm pretty sure I made some of them too thick, but ah well, I know better now.  2. Contrary to what I've heard/read--fondant is actually kind of tasty.  Once I added the mint extract it reminded me of Necco wafers.  3. Give myself plenty of time.  When all was said and done, this probably took me about four hours to do.  4. Learn how to properly ice cookies.  This would have made a major difference in how smooth the fondant was and the cookies wouldn't have been so messy around the edges.

All in all, it wasn't such a bad experience and wow, it really does make a pretty end result.  I'm so excited to work with fondant more! 

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