Back to School Cookies and the not-so-secret secret to perfect black icing.
When I was kid, I started thinking about going back to school approximately 2.1 hours before bedtime on Back-To-School Eve. Before that, I had a vague sense of impending doom, but never quite grasped the idea that it would actually come. I was free. My summer was destined to last forever. I could run and play and live outdoors until winter came. And then I would build my own log hut of dreams and a small fire and do exactly as I pleased for the rest of my life. And there would be ice cream. Because if you live in a log hut of dreams that you built yourself, I think you can pretty much eat ice cream whenever you want to.
Until Back-To-School Eve. And then the crushing reality of the coming morning would hit. Deep dark depression would seep into my happy colored sunshine and sprinkler thoughts. Devastation would cripple me. I couldn't possibly move. I couldn't possibly put my *own* pajamas on and brush my teeth. My legs were practically broken. Until I remembered that shining stack of brand new school supplies waiting to be put into a stiff new backpack. And then my legs would be just fine. But my sunshine and sprinkler thoughts had been shattered. Ruined. I still couldn't possible go to bed. At least not without cookies. Maybe some cookies like these.
I know half of you are looking at those chalkboard apples and thinking I'm basically a bad person for even *thinking* about giving that much black food coloring to a child. Well, first, I have to say that I didn't plan on sharing these. So there. And second, they actually don't have very much food coloring at all. I ate an entire cookie (for research -- you know how it is) and my tongue was barely a different color. Do you want to know my super top-secret black icing secret?
1. Start with THICK icing. It's important that you don't thin it out at all.
2. Okay, so cocoa powder isn't exactly a top-secret icing ingredient. Do you see all those big chunks though? We don't want those in our icing.
3. So you should add just enough water to dissolve the cocoa powder into a paste. The paste will turn out to be about a 4-5 count consistency. AND.... when you add water to the cocoa powder before adding it to the icing... it darkens the cocoa. And dark cocoa is a lot closer to black than light cocoa.
4. Add the cocoa powder paste to the icing like you would food coloring.
5. Add only a few drops of black food coloring. It will be a nice, robust black color. Not partially purple. Not mostly gray. You don't even have to wait overnight for it to darken. You could though, if you wanted to. I don't mind.
You should know - the icing will taste slightly chocolatey. Which is no big deal for me because I usually make chocolate cookies. But even when I make vanilla sugar cookies, I think that a slightly chocolate taste is much better than the bitter taste of too much black food coloring. But that's your call.