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Monday, December 24, 2012

3D present cookies.

Hey hey, Christmas is coming! And naturally, Christmas means presents. I stopped giving store-bought gifts like stationery a long time ago when I started baking, because I felt that it was more sincere (and more fun) to give others homemade gifts. As much as I enjoy the baking and packaging, edible gifts have always been a source of nerve-wrecking decisions because I never really know what I should make. There are so many factors to consider, like how can I pack it into a box, how long can it be kept, what sort of flavours do the recipients like. Then also there's me and my stubborn reluctance to make the same thing twice so I have to think of new ideas that can suit the above criteria. Not to mention that I like to give an assortment of bakes, just to make the gift more interesting. And then if I decide to pack an assortment of sweets in the same box, I would have to consider if one would make the other harder or softer because of the loss or gain in moisture.

I've always felt that cakes are very versatile flavour carriers and make beautiful gifts but they are not that great a choice because their storage life is shorter and can't fit into a chic little box. Cookies and brownies are almost always the default choice because they travel well and can be kept for a while. Hence, I turned to cookies. But I had to make it Christmassy, which was another hurdle to overcome, and I eventually did after deriving inspiration from here.

I was absolutely smitten with the idea- 3D present cookies filled with some M&Ms and a small Merry Christmas! note that you could see once you pried off the top cookie. I have always felt that if you like the gift, there is a higher chance that others would like it too and you would feel better about yourself for giving a nice surprise.

I set off on this project with excitement and apprehension because I've never decorated sugar cookies before. Baking sugar cookies is already draining enough, what with the mixing and the chilling and the rolling and the cutting and the chilling. I did so once, and it was enough to put me off sugar cookies for a year. Although I have to admit, I did make things difficult for myself.

I used Sweetapolita's sugar cookie dough again because I made it once before and was satisfied with how the cookies didn't spread much. Her recipe doesn't contain any baking powder, hence the minimal expansion. Actually, I'm starting to think that I should try out cut out cookie recipes that contain leavening agents. That is because this time, my dough ended up on the dry side from too much flour and it cracked when I rolled it out. Most of the squares were cracked and scaly, and if they had contained leavening, they would have puffed up slightly in the oven and the cracks would have smoothed out, resulting in a smoother and prettier surface. I was lucky this time because I was going to cover the surfaces with icing so the cracks didn't show.

I basically created a border with icing of a stiff pipe-able consistency, let it dry, flooded the middle of the squares with very fluid icing, then pressed hundreds and thousands onto the surface. Because sprinkles are mandatory for every festive occasion. This way, only the centre of the cookies would get the sprinkles and not the borders. After the centre has dried, I piped a cross on top of the sprinkles to achieve a present-like image, tamping down the ends with dragees. Looking back, it's probably a better idea to pipe the cross at the same time as the borders so that they are on the same level. But that would mean more time spent on filling the gaps with sprinkles.

I had some icing leftover so I piped the initials of the recipients on top of the sprinkle surface. I also did some borders on the sides of the cookies. I thought that it was extraneous in an ugly sense at first, but after a while they started to look kinda nice. It would be good if I can find a way to completely cover the sides so that you can't see three cookies stacked on top of one another.

These were a lot of work, but equal parts of fun! The links for the recipes are as follows: cookie dough and icing. I made 1/4 the recipe of the sugar cookies and got 9 presents using a square cookie cutter 2 inches in diameter. I made 1/4 the icing recipe as well and had plenty left over.

P.S. I'm submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #26- Creative Christmas Motif Bakes! hosted by Alan of Travellingfoodies.

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