We know that lots of people do lots of different things to relax. We know that Kate enjoys the Zen of knitting on 4 needles, going round and round in an endless spiral of blissful meditation. We know people who paint for pleasure and people who doodle. Winston Churchill was a pretty high-powered guy and he found relaxation in brick-laying. Whatever works, we say. We make no value judgments because we've discovered a fairly off-beat relaxation technique ourselves.
We seem to gravitate toward cookie decorating. Not the way Paula does it. Not quite. She makes beautiful cookies, worthy of sale. Professional-looking cookies (that no doubt taste great!). And, she makes them in quantity. She can turn out several dozen cookies, all nearly identically perfect.
If we had to make 3 dozen of ANYTHING, we'd probably tear our hair out. No, what we like to do for relaxation is ... dabble. (You're shocked. We know.) So, just in case there are any other dabblers out there, or anyone who'd just like to give this cookie decorating lark a try, here's our (low-cost) approach:
First of all, you want to spend some time baking up a stash of cookies to decorate. We have our favourite recipe for Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies. We cut out a bunch of circles or squares, nothing fancy. Just be sure to make them big enough so you have a good-sized canvas to work on. When they're cool, we put them in an air-tight container and pop them in the freezer. That way, we'll be ready when inspiration strikes (or stress overwhelms us).
We take a half-dozen cookies out of the freezer and let them warm up to room temperature. While we're waiting, we mix up the icing. Here's the recipe for just the right amount of Royal icing for a few cookies:
Beat 1 tablespoon of pasteurized egg white (the kind you get in a carton in the grocery store now) in a small bowl until it's stiff. Next, add a tiny pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp of flavouring (vanilla or almond or peppermint). Measure out about 1 cup of icing sugar and add about 3/4 of that amount to your icing. Keep adding icing sugar until it's a good spreadable consistency. If you're unsure, have a look at this tutorial. (What that lady doesn't know about cookie decorating isn't worth knowing.) Cover the bowl of icing with plastic wrap ... lay it right down on the surface of the icing ... and prepare your wax paper cones. The air that was trapped in the icing will surface while it sits and you won't get unsightly bubbles in your finished icing.
Our paper is 12 inches wide so we cut 12 inch lengths from the roll and then we cut the 12 inch squares in half diagonally.
Now, you're ready to ice!! Or, as we like to think of it....you're ready to paint with icing. We use a spatula to cover each cookie with a base coat of white. This makes a nice blank canvas for our painting. Once all 6 cookies are primed, set them aside to dry. For best results, we leave them for several hours until they're completely dry.
In the meantime, the icing you'll paint with needs to be a bit stiffer so you can add in some of that leftover icing sugar until you get the consistency you like. Now, you can make the colours you think you'd like to work with. Put a dollop of icing in a small bowl and add food colouring to get the correct tint. We use the gel colourings you use for cake decorating. They're a bit pricey but they give nice, deep colours (and we had some on hand). You can use the cheaper, watery food colouring you get in the grocery store but your icing will be paler. Don't forget that cocoa powder will make a nice dark brown.
Put a spoonful of the icing in your cone, twist it shut and squeeze the icing down to the point. Snip off a tiny bit from the point and you're in business! When you're finished for the day, you can toss the paper cones in the garbage. No clean-up required! OR you can put the cones in a ziplok bag and refrigerate for another day. (You'll have to squeeze the icing out and adjust the consistency and use a new paper cone though. They get a little soggy. Don't try to keep the icing for more than 7 days in the fridge. We think it would probably not be safe to eat after that time. And you know how Grandma Coco feels about food safety.)
If you try our system of cookie decorating, we'd love to see photos of the results.
~ Stay cool ... and calm and soldier on! And as our good friend Winston said, "We shall not flag or fail!" (We don`t think he`d mind if we chilled out from time to time though!)