I’m still hoping some bakers might join my little expedition into historical baking! Buy the book here!
My first journey into Cookies and More Cookies (here on out known as CMC) was my aforementioned nemesis, BROWNIES!
Why do I have such a difficult time with brownies? The only thing I can come up with is…well, they are BROWN! I always over-bake them. I’m afraid they are under cooked so I leave them in for another minute, then one more minute… then presto! They are crispy and taste terrible 🙁
As I am determined to overcome my fear, I will do my best to make some amazing brownies from some 80+ year-old recipes! Maybe not such a great idea, but here goes.
The Big Cookie Flop – My fail-proof recipe failed!
There was a request from my son’s teacher to make cookies for his Valentine’s party. After agreeing I realized I had to make more cookies as I had almost depleted my heart stash in the freezer. So I did what I always do; gather my equipment, get out my ingredients making sure I had all of them in the house before I started, and pre-heat my oven. Everything I normally do when I bake cookies was happening and going pretty, well, normally.
I even had the luxury of having my 10-year-old niece over to help me with my 2 youngest kids. This should have been prime baking time with perfect results!
I weighed and measured everything and started combining the ingredients. Creamed the softened butter and sugar, added my eggs and flavoring, then started adding my dry ingredients. This is where I realized there was a problem. Not sure exactly what caused the problem, but something was wrong and this dough was showing me no love. It was really wet and still very sticky.
Usually by the time I’ve added in all my flour I’ve questioned if it was too much, but not this time. I added more flour, then I added more flour, and then, I added a little more. Still too soft to work with. The counter was already dusted so I decided to try rolling and cutting a few cookies. Well, it kind of worked. I was able to cut 3 hearts, and one fancy diamond shape, but the arrow wasn’t happening. It stuck completely and I couldn’t get the dough out. I pulled it out, cleaned it off and dipped the entire cutter in flour. Try, try, again, right? Wrong. I should have stopped while I was ahead! I got a knife and poked the dough out in some kind of a resemblance of an arrow.
By this point I’m realizing this dough isn’t going to bake well, but I decided to try anyway. I don’t know if you’ve seen that Pinterest picture of a horse cookie and when it baked it spread like crazy, then they showed a picture of a photo shopped horse that looked just like that cookie? I thought that was so funny, but I wasn’t laughing as I pulled my blobby cookies out of the oven.
Well, this was just great. I still have 4 dozen cookies to make and decorate, and now all my mixing utensils are dirty, and I have a bowl full of dough that I can’t use for rolling and cutting!
In spite of the terrible look of the cookies, I was able to get them on a pan with a cookie scoop (imagine!) and baking them off anyway. They won’t win the beauty contest but they do taste good if you close your eyes before eating them. I won’t be using them for decorating, I’m actually not sure what I’ll do with them, but at least the dough didn’t go in the trash. I imagined myself vengefully and dramatically showing that dough who was boss as I flung it into the trash can… nope. Didn’t happen.
Time to Troubleshoot…
What went wrong? I’ve made this recipe at least 15 times without fail; what changed?
There are a few logical explanations I can think of that would make this happen. The big thing that jumped out at me was that I used a different brand of butter. I usually use regular store brand unsalted butter. Nothing spectacular about it, just plain old plain old. When I checked my ingredients before I started baking like I always do I realized I was out of said butter and decided to use my Kerry Gold. Because this butter is more expensive than my store brand, it’s specifically used for bullet proof coffee. Have I mentioned I love coffee? I digress, back to the cookies.
My first buttery thought is that the moisture content in that butter is higher and that threw off my ratios. Of course, I have no real idea but it’s just a guess. Second, I thought the measurement might be off. My cookie recipe is always doubled. Even if I don’t need 3-4 dozen cookies, I will freeze the rest for later. That way I always have cookies to decorate when I have some time to practice. My doubled recipe calls for 4 sticks of butter, the Kerry Gold is sold in an 8 oz. package, equal to 2 sticks. I need 4 sticks of butter for my doubled recipe, so I used 2 packages. I double checked this before I started. It looked like a lot, but that’s what the package said. I got out 2 packages, which I normally don’t have on hand but it was on sale at Aldi.
I’m still not convinced I used too much butter, my butter was prepackaged, I didn’t measure it out myself. There was no baker error in the butter category.
Too soft too fast?
My train of thought then led me to the softening process. I’ve mentioned several times I am a do-it-now person and I want things done quickly as possible, even if that means my butter might be softened a little too quickly in the microwave and is a little runny when it comes out. I put it in the microwave, pressed the quick 30 second button with every intention of standing right by the microwave and stopping it every 10 seconds to turn it until it was nicely softened all the way through. Lets just say when the microwave dinged I thought it was the timer to let the dog back inside. Oh yeah, I have butter I just left in the microwave on high for 30 seconds!
In spite of my microwave-capades, not convinced my butter was too soft because it creamed nicely with the sugar and eggs.
Too little flour?
So my last possible idea is this: I just didn’t put in enough flour. To make things easier on myself, I pre-mixed all my dry ingredients for several batches. That worked great until I ran out of pre-mixed goodies and have to do all the measuring again. If you could see my recipe, you might put it in the hot mess category of your recipe box. I have a print out of the recipe with all my scribbled changes, my measurements in grams, then doubled in grams, and all sorts of other secret code messages to myself. The need is great for me to just type a brand new one for myself so I can actually understand it!
You might have caught my possible mistake… I think I may have measured out flour for a single batch instead of a double batch. I’m not even sure and I can’t remember, but it’s entirely possible and I think it’s the most plausible of all my hypotheses.
Conclusion for my big cookie flop?
Yes, I have a conclusion to the blob cookie blunder. Have a well written recipe that’s easy to read, follow my own baking tips, and double check my measurements! Oh, and don’t walk away from butter in the microwave 🙂
I tried to make this as humorous as possible, but the reality is I have about 3 dozen hideous cookies that are now staring at me, another batch of (hopefully) pretty cookies to mix, roll out, cut, bake, and decorate, and another sink full of dishes.
Have you ever had a big cookie flop or a cake catastrophe? Lets laugh and cry together in the comments 🙂
Thanks for reading!
I realized I only added half the flour. While using a different butter might have changed it a little, it wouldn’t have caused that massive disaster! I looked at my messy recipe and realized I used the grams for the regular recipe, not the doubled one. Problem solved!
Royal icing is what gives the WOW factor to decorated cookies. It gives depth, dimension, and color, and can transform a plain sugar cookie into a work of art. Royal icing is also one of the most tricky things to get right in the beginning.
There are so many different recipes out there that give vague terms and amounts that are open to your own interpretation. If you are making a recipe for the first time, like royal icing, how do you know when enough water has been added? When is it over mixed? Does it need to be mixed? When I try to make a recipe, I want to know exactly what to do to replicate what’s in the picture. That’s what we’ll tackle today, making a great royal icing the first time!
Royal icing consistency is a whole other blog post, so I won’t be going over that here. I will be adding my own recipe and instructions at the bottom of the post.
What is Royal Icing?
Royal icing is an icing that gets hard as it dries. Its used in decorating cakes, cookies, and other confections.
Here are the basic ingredients that all Royal icing recipes include:
Meringue Powder or egg whites
The ingredients all serve a different purpose in the recipe:
Confectioners sugar ( or powdered sugar) is the base of the recipe. It’s what gives the icing its sweetness and body.
Meringue powder or egg whites cause the icing to harden.
The extract gives the icing its flavor. You can use any flavor to change up your recipes, although vanilla is the most commonly used flavor.
Water combines all the ingredients together.
Food grade vegetable glycerin or corn syrup is also added to some recipes to keep the icing from getting too hard as it dries.
The recipe is a balancing act of ratios. Most recipes call for a 2 lb. bag of powdered sugar to 5-6 Tbsp. of meringue powder. Two to Three Tbsp. of extract is used for 2 lbs of sugar, and if you are using corn syrup or glycerin, it’s usually 1 Tbsp. per 1 lbs of sugar. I like to add 2 tbsp. per batch.
How to Mix:
There are several different ways you can mix up the icing.
Sift the sugar and meringue powder together, then add wet ingredients and mix
Combine the meringue powder and water until powder is dissolved, then add to the sugar and mix
Add the extract to the water, then in the mixing bowl, mix the sugar and meringue powder together, then combine them slowly together and mix.
I’ve tried all of them and I prefer to mix the meringue powder and water together until the meringue powder is dissolved. I don’t sift the powdered sugar because it dissolves so quickly in the water I’ve never had a problem with it being lumpy. Then I add the water mixture to the sugar, add the extract, and right before I turn up the mixer I add my corn syrup.
There is nothing more frustrating than making a recipe, messing it up, and not being able to figure out what went wrong. Here are some common royal icing problems and how to fix them.
Icing won’t harden
The easiest solution for this would be not enough meringue powder and there’s not much you can do about it at that point. The ratio of sugar to meringue powder has to stay in that 1 lb. to 3 Tbsp. range.
Icing didn’t become “stiff”
Stiff icing is a must for certain types of decorating techniques, and most recipes will give you an end result of stiff icing. It’s a lot easier to thin it out than to go the other way. I had this problem multiple times, and I was under mixing my icing. The meringue powder has to be mixed on medium speed for about 4-5 minutes to get that stiff texture. When I was first making RI I was thinking it had to be like a glaze, where you just mix the liquid and sugar and it’s done. Royal icing has to be mixed for it to get stiff.
Icing crumbled after it dried
This could be a result of over mixing. If you mix for more than 5 minutes your icing will probably be crumbly and fall off the cookie after it dries. Again, not a lot to be done at this point.
This is a really common problem that all decorators deal with. It’s so frustrating to decorate a beautiful cookie and see an air bubble rising to the surface! The best way to deal with this is before it’s even put in the piping bag or bottle. Let the icing sit for a while, tap the container on a solid surface to bring those bubbles up, then pop them. I use a spatula to wipe the surface and pop as many as I can without creating more.
Icing too thin
If you started out with thick icing and thinned it too much for flooding, this is a pretty easy fix. The easiest way is to add more stiff icing. If your whole batch is too thin, you can add some powdered sugar but you have to be careful of your ratios. If you just add sugar your icing won’t harden. A good thing to keep on hand is a small bag of sugar/meringue powder mix. You can do 1/2 lb. of sugar with 1 1/2 tbsp. meringue powder. You can add this to thinned icing and not worry about your ratios being off.
The Simple Cookie’s Royal Icing Recipe
2 lbs powdered sugar
6 tbsp. meringue powder
2-3 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup warm water
2 Tbsp corn syrup
In a small bowl, combine the meringue powder and water. Wisk until combined.
In a large mixing bowl, add the powdered sugar and water/meringue powder mixture.
Turn mixer on low and combine.
Add extract and combine until ingredients come together.
While the mixer is still mixing on low, add the corn syrup.
Turn mixer on medium and mix for 4-5 minutes. The icing will form stiff peaks when mixed enough. Do not mix for more than 5 minutes.
A few tips…
This royal icing recipe is easy to make! I’ve tried to take the guess work out of it for you.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors and extracts, the sky is the limit!
This royal icing recipe will keep for about 3 weeks in the fridge. Place plastic wrap on the icing, pressing down to get out all the air bubbles, then cover with an air tight lid. This keeps the icing from drying out and crusting over.
Stir the royal icing after it has been stored, it will separate but is still good to use.
Let the royal icing come to room temperature before using or coloring.
I recommend Americolor food gel paste for coloring royal icing. You can find that here.
Will you try it?
I really hope I’ve inspired you to try this recipe! I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to own a bakery or have an art degree to create beautiful cookies.
Thanks for reading and I would love to know if you tried my recipe!
As I began my search for the perfect (for me) sugar cookies, there were a few criteria I wanted this recipe to meet. First, I wanted a dough that tastes UH-mazing! I wanted a dough that held its shape during baking, and produced a soft cookie. Probably most important to me was a dough that didn’t need to be chilled before it was rolled out. Really, who wants to wait for dough to chill? I can barely wait for the oven to pre-heat much less an hour for dough to chill in the fridge!
Where I found my basic recipe
There were a couple of recipe flops before I discovered The One. My go-to cookie blog and one of my big inspirations, The Adventures of Sweet Sugar Belle, has a basic sugar cookie recipe you can find here.
After making the recipe a few times I tweaked it a little so I can get the cookie results I’m looking for. Instead of using 2 tsp of baking powder, it’s cut down to 1 1/2 tsp. I found they don’t spread as much. I also use 1 1/2 tsp of almond flavoring. The first time I made the recipe I used 2 1/2 tsp of almond flavor and then wished I hadn’t. Have you ever heard the saying Too much of a good thing is no good? Well, that was probably said about almond flavoring in cookies. Maybe not, but it certainly applies.
Sweet Sugar Belle’s recipe calls for 2 1/2 – 2 3/4 cups of flour. I think I’ve used 2 3/4 cup every time. Converting all my dry ingredients into weight measurements gives me better control over the outcome of my product. A scale isn’t something everyone has in their kitchen, but it’s worth getting if you want consistent results for any baking. You can find the food scale I use here.
After making the recipe ‘mine’ I’m really happy with my results. I get nicely shaped cookies that are soft and flat. They freeze well and the recipe doubles easily. My favorite part of course, they are delicious!
My next post I’ll be going over supplies I love and can’t bake without.