St Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching and I got into the holiday spirit last weekend! I’ve wanted to really take the time to learn to use royal icing for a while and since Shane was out of town, I thought this would be a great weekend to do it. I made a trip to Michael’s and purchased some gel food coloring, disposable decorating bags and a cute shamrock cookie cutter and got to work.
I tried a new sugar cookie recipe for a change though I still highly recommend the other sugar cookie recipe I’ve used in the past. These cookies were just as delicious but the almond flavor is not quite as strong. The dough was easy to work with as well. The real challenge came when I started working with the royal icing. I referenced tips and hints from a few other food bloggers and found that those really helped. That said, I also think working with royal icing is simply something that you need to practice in order to get better. I struggled some with achieving the appropriate consistency but I’m confident that next time I use royal icing I’ll fare better. I can’t wait to try again soon because you can create such gorgeous cookies with royal icing once you are comfortable working with it! I thought these cookies came out pretty good for a first attempt and they were really yummy.
Shamrock Sugar Cookies
from A Year in the Kitchen
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tbsp lemon zest
5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream butter and sugars in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla, almond, and lemon zest and mix to combine. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into the mixer a little at a time. Be sure not to over mix the dough during this step.
Chill dough for up to a week in the fridge, or roll out and cut cookie shapes right away. Bake cookies for 7-8 minutes or until slightly golden on the bottom. The cookies should not take on a lot of color. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely before icing.
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp meringue powder
5 tbsp water
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes). Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container. The icing will be fairly stiff and you will need to thin it out a bit before you begin decorating. Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated. Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping. It takes some practice to determine the “appropriate” consistency for piping but if you have any trouble with stiffness, add a bit more water. Using a pastry bag (disposables work great for this purpose), pipe around the edges of each cookie. Let stand so the icing will set. Be sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.
Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container. Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl. If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again. Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a pastry bag, and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie. If the icing does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along. Allow to set.
If you want to color the icing, gel coloring is great as it does not add a significant amount of liquid. To color the icing, use a toothpick, swirl it in your gel coloring and pull out some coloring. Place the toothpick end into the icing and swirl to incorporate the color into the icing. Using a spoon, mix the icing until the color is fully incorporated. If you need more color in your icing, use a new toothpick to repeat the process so you don’t contaminate the gel coloring.