Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Snowman 101 -- Sweet Hope Cookies Guest Post

I would like to introduce you to my enabler  FRIEND. I meant to say friend. Her name is Anita. She makes cookies. Just like me. That's why we are friends. And because she's funny. And because she's really nice to me for reasons that I will never understand. And because Anita makes cookies with love, for the love, and because of love. See, she never sees a penny for any of her cookies. Literally, people give that money straight to the ALS Association and then she makes their cookies. It's a cause she believes in. What a doll, huh? I invited her over here from Sweet Hope Cookies because I like her. And I think you might like her too.

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It was only a year ago I stumbled across a new blog and saw this . . .


I loved absolutely everything about what I saw! The deep chocolate colored cookie dough, the color palette of the icing, the different sized iced panels, the pure design. Who knew a simple rectangle cookie could woo me but woo me it did and for the next hour I binged on LilaLoa cookies and cakes. Oh, and let's not even get into her completely adorable and hysterical style of writing and storytelling. You're already here following her blog so you know. Georgeanne and her cookies wooed you too.

And so when Georganne, who happens to be my friend and yes, I'm gloating when I tell you that, asked me to do a guest post on snowman cookies I was totally over the moon delighted. I should probably tell you the reason for my enthusiastic response was that I was being given the chance to do something for my new and wonderful friend. That would make me sound so sweet, wouldn't it? But no. The real reason for my delight in a guest blogging gig was in hopes that by association with Georganne some of the admiration and love that flows her way from all of you would land on me. There. I said it and I'm ashamed. But enough about my emotional neediness. Let's talk cookies.


Since snowman cookies are generally white, unless they're yellow which is never a good thing since as any child knows you never eat yellow snowman cookies, I wanted to go with a contrasting cookie color and by that I can only mean one thing. Make your snowman cookies with LilaLoa's The End-All for Chocolate Cookie Recipe. Oh, who am I kidding. Whether you're going to bake snowman cookies or elephant cookies or just pop raw balls of cookie dough into your mouth (I'm not suggesting that any of you do!), make them with LilaLoa's The End-All for Chocolate Cookie Recipe.


This is the chocolate cookie recipe I use exclusively and as long as people continue to rave about them, I'm not looking anywhere else. Just so you know in case you even care, I follow Georganne's recipe as it appears with two minor exceptions. I replace the 1/4 cup shortening with another 1/4 cup of butter because shortening grosses me out on principle and I always make a double batch because there is always, and I mean always, a couple sheets of chocolate cookie dough in my freezer for emergency cookies, as in "Emergency! Emergency! I need a cookie stat!"

If you look real close at the ball of cookie dough above you'll notice little white and pink specks because during the holidays I added one bag of Candy Cane Kisses to each double batch. I just tossed the bag (minus the cellophane bag and foil wrappers) into a food processor and pulsed the blade until they were finely ground, and threw them into the cookie dough along with the flour which added an amazing peppermint candy flavor. I recommend pulsing the candies in short bursts to avoid the blade from heating and melting the chocolate but be sure to not stop until it's finely ground so it doesn't create bumps and lumps on the finished cookie. Do you know how many flavors of Hershey Kisses there are in the world today? Now stop and marvel for a moment at all the incredible flavors you can add to this incredible chocolate cookie recipe. Go ahead. I'll wait.

(Please note: This guest blogger has not accepted any financial compensation from either LilaLoa or Hershey Inc. for this enthusiastic endorsement. It's not that the guest blogger wouldn't accept compensation. She just hasn't been offered any.)

 
I have a ridiculously obscene number of cookie cutters. Less than a million but more than a thousand, and that includes about a dozen snowman cookie cutters. Maybe you don't spend your money on cookie cutters. Maybe you flitter your cash away on new shoes for your three year old, paying the mortgage, or supporting the local soup kitchen. We all choose our priorities and knowing this I opted to make my snowmen all the same using 3 circle cutters and 1 mini top hat. If you don't have circle cookie cutters or biscuit cutters then open a few kitchen drawers and cabinets and think creatively. Better get, duct tape the loose sole on your little guy's shoe and buy some biscuit cutters. Everyone needs a set of round biscuit cutters and if your shoeless son starts whining just give him the biscuit cutters and some playdoh and that will take care of that. If you don't have a top hat cookie cutter then DIY them with a knife. You can do it. I believe in you.
In case you're wondering, those are pretzel sticks, not actual twigs. You can use twigs on inedible yellow snowmen but otherwise I suggest pretzel sticks. Chocolatey, salty goodness. Only sugary icing could make it better and that's coming. Hold on.

Since I'm writing with the new-to-cookie-decorating person in mind, let me encourage you to think simple. I know. We all want to decorate cookies like Georganne and Sugarbelle at our first cookie rodeo but it's not going to happen. Nor should it. Keep watching and learning from all the creative cookie decorators. Gather ideas. Get inspired. But don't get in the trap of comparing yours to theirs. Whether you intend to decorate cookies for family and friends or for funds don't forget to have fun. If you play with cookie decorating and practice some skills that lead to results you like, then you'll eventually find your style. Your cookies will be unique. Your cookies will be an expression of you. Your cookies will be amazing! Trust me on this. I know these things.

The three little snowman cookies above are as simple as cookies can be. Just a thin outline of icing, a few extra dabs for details or a sprinkling of cocoa and powdered sugar, but here's a little secret I'm going to let you in on. Lean in close because I'm only going to say it once. The simplest designed cookie will taste just as good as anyone elses' out there and my guess is no one in your family is going to complain about those first practice batches.

Now let's pull out the icing. Here you have a number of choices with variations of each. There's buttercream, royal icing, glaze, and fondant. In the beginning I had a relationship with royal icing that was doomed from the start but once I tried the corn syrup glaze recipe I found on Pam's blog at CookieCrazie, it was love at first squeeze.


You can outline your cookie with icing and then flood the entire surface but to add a little more detail and definition, I like to flood in sections. I outline the entire cookie (left), flood non-touching sections (middle), and in about 20 minutes when the flooded sections have developed a skin, I flood in the remaining areas (right). Now, let me show you my favorite new and easy way to decorate this basic white flooded cookie.


Outline the dried cookie with black icing. Let dry. Color with edible markers.
Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.


Another quick, easy, fun, and cute way to decorate a cookie is with cookie bling that you apply when the icing is still wet. From left to right we have jimmies, non-pareils, coconut, and sanding sugar. Cookie bling is great for adding texture and a little crunch. You can still add some fun texture to cookies without the bling. Watch.

You can create texture with royal icing right out of the bag with different tips and a swoosh here and a swoosh there but glaze doesn't hold texture and instead dries flat and smooth. To add texture to glaze icing I let it dry for about 40 minutes until I can touch the top of the cookie without breaking the surface skin (the icing will still be wet underneath), and then I add bumps, divots, creases and holes using whatever I can find around the house that's food-safe and hygienic, meaning it's been carefully washed, dried and not dropped on the floor before use. In these examples I pinched the hat texture with a toothpick and created the round divots in the snowman with the round end of the cap from a ballpoint pen. I can't afford the fancy schmanzy decorating utensils made for this very purpose, what with all the expenses related to purchasing cookie cutters. As I said, we all have our priorities.

Texture on this snowguy was made by pinching the partially dried icing with tweezers.
The tweezers were purchased specifically with cookies in mind. They reside in the kitchen. They have never so much as seen a wood splinter or facial hair. I felt it was important to tell you that.

And here are some other snowfellas. Just look at them. I'll withhold any commentary because I'm fairly sure you're stopped reading my ramblings three photos ago, and truth be told, I don't blame you. I should never write a post after a double espresso.

So there you have it. A whole bunch of basic snowmen that anyone can do and if I do say so myself, they look dang near adorable when they're all stacked up together in a field of marshmallows.


And remember, the most important part of decorating cookies is to have fun.
And wash your hands. That's always good too.
And don't forget, and I paraphrase Shakespeare here, "a cookie by any other name (Georganne, Callye, Pam, Bridget or YOU) will taste just as sweet."


Including the broken ones.

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