Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Icing on the Cookie, Part Two

Okay, so we made it through the mixing process. If you have a big bowl of shiny white icing, pat yourself on the back! If you haven't started it's okay, just pop over here and check out my quick tutorial and recipe The Icing on the Cookie, Part One, I'll wait for you :)

For me, once the icing is whipped up, I can relax. When I first started, that was always the scariest part. I never knew if I was going to over-beat it, under-beat it, add too much corn syrup or otherwise mess it up and waste costly ingredients!
If you are thinking the same thing, it's okay. You're just gonna have to take the leap and see what happens! I can honestly tell you, I've never messed up bad enough to toss it!

Part two of this series is going to focus on mixing and coloring icing. I think this is the most time consuming part of the whole cookie operation! It takes lots of practice and lots of patience. But if you do it right here, there is less work in the decorating stage. Fewer mistakes, fewer air bubbles and that means time saved in the long run!

Here are the things you'll find most helpful for this part of the process. You don't need to have exactly what I have, as long as you have a set of bowls or any container, really. Some good spatulas, smaller ones are best and chopsticks! I am kind of obsessed with spatulas and chopsticks ;) everyone should own a few good spatulas and a nice set of chopsticks!

Those nesting bowls are made by KitchenAid, they come 4 bowls and 4 lids to a set. I have 3 or 4 sets of them. They range in size from 1 cup to 4 cups and are really great f mixing and storing icing. You can find them here. I have seen them frequently at TJ Maxx/Home Goods and I think Target may carry them too.

You can use any bowls or cups you already have on hand, but I like to have these as designated icing bowls. The lids make it easy to place a piece of plastic wrap over top and snap it shut to store and I don't worry about cross contamination because icing is the only thing that has ever been in them.

Now for spatulas, I have many different one and each has a purpose. I have a ton of the larger ones that I use for scraping the sides of the mixer when I make cookie dough and icing. I also use the large ones to scoop the icing into the smaller bowls for coloring. I bought a ton of the smaller spatulas and actually don't use them often. So I gave most of them away ;) Now I use the little rounded ones almost exclusively for mixing and coloring icing, and I'll show you why!

If you are like me and prefer bottles to bags when it comes to cookie decorating, you may already know that chopsticks are the most important tool you can have! I have a couple sets of the cheap plastic ones and mostly use them for icing. We have other "fancy" ones we use for eating, but occasionally have so many people over they have to use the plastic ones too.

If you're icing is prepped and you are ready to go, grab your tools!

The first thing I do is scoop out as much icing as I think I'll need for a particular color, for the set of cookies I am working on.
It's hard to get this part down, the last thing you want is to mix too little and have to try and match that color when you run out!

I use my big, (standard size) rubber spatula to scoop icing from the big bowl and put into the little mixing bowls. This big spatula stays he designated "naked icing scoop". But keep it tucked into the bowl and covered when you aren't using it or it will get dry and crusty.

I like to grab a clean cookie sheet and place the bowls on it. So I can move it around if I need to and once I am done I can place the whole tray in the fridge until I am ready to decorate.

I do one color at a time so the icing doesn't dry out while I work.

This little spray bottle changed. my. life. Seriously! I wouldn't trade my chopsticks for it, but it's still a great tool! One of the best cookie tips I've learned so far.

Royal Icing straight out of the mixer is very thick and very stiff, too much to actually decorate with. It always needs to be thinned down the way I make it. So I squeeze the trigger a few times and dust the icing with tiny water droplets,  this really reduces the air bubbles in the icing.

You can add your food coloring first if you want and then spray on the water. I don't think it matters just be careful when you spray so the food color doesn't spray out.
You'll have to spray a few times depending on how much icing you are color in each batch.

Spray and stir and spray an stir and scrape the sides until you get a nice homogeneous color. No white streaks and no color streaks.

These little rounded spatulas are great for mixing in small containers, the curved edge on all sides really hugs the sides of the bowl and helps mix everything.
Once I get my color all mixed in and the consistency is where I want it (usually 15 seconds)
I cover the bowl with a moist paper towel and move onto the next color. I do this until all the colors I will need are mixed.

At this point I make my cookie dough and leave the icing to "rest".  If I have a ton of cookies to make or other plans between baking and decorating I cover all the bowls with a damp kitchen towel and place the whole tray into the refrigerator.  It's perfectly fine to leave it on the counter, especially if your fridge is full or has several freshly cut onions of blue cheese in there ;)

If your cookies are ready to go at this point, I just let the icing sit for about 5-10 minutes. And when you remove the towel, you should see something like this,

Some big air bubbles! You may have more or fewer depending on how thick your icing is. Letting the icing rest with the damp towel draws all the bubble to the surface and this makes life much easier! Air bubbles are my nemesis!

I like to pick the bowl up and drop it a few inches, maybe a foot back onto the counter, all the exposed air bubbles will pop when you do this. Similar to when you are making a cake and drop the pan with the batter a few times to get the large air bubbles out and have a smoother, more even cake.

Now your icing should look relatively bubble free when you stick the spatula in. I use the small rounded ones for this too. And now I am sharing why I love these little guys so much!!

Do you see?!?! They are the same width as the little icing bottles!! I run the spatula around the edges of the bowl and scoop it up onto the top, flat side of the spatula and let it flow into the bottle, when it's mostly in I scape the spatula down the opening of the bottle and all the remaining icing goes right it! No mess! I don't usually even get any on the rim of the bottle!

It only takes about two scoops to fill up the little bottles. If you are interested in buying them, you can find them on most supply sites, but I usually order them from Coppergifts.com or Karens Cookies

These bottles come with the coupler and a plastic tip. I always replace the plastic tip with a metal one in whatever size I need for the cookie I am working on. I haven't thrown the plastic ones away though, I don't know what to do with them, but I don't want to waste them either!!

I pretty much only have one consistency of icing. I start with 15-20 seconds and us it for all my flooding. 
I know you're wondering what happens with the chopsticks?! Right? Why did she bring them up 40 times if she wasn't even going to use them?!? 
I know... But It's coming! Don't worry :)

Thanks so much for reading!! I'll be back with part three soon and hopefully when we're done you'll be an RI pro! 

Flour De Lis
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