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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Big apple cookies

My friends B & E are leaving New York at the end of the month - they're moving back home to Kentucky.  Before they leave, they've arranged a picnic in Central Park as a send-off.  Of course I replied that I'd there and that I'm be willing to bring some food.  I was informed that B would be making a BBQ brisket and was asked to bring some sides.  I made some Mexican slaw (no mayo.....because mayo is ewwww (in my opinion), but also because mayo left out in the heat and sun is double ewwww).  But I also wanted to bring a treat.  This is, afterall, the JulieBakes blog and not a JulieCooks blog (although I wouldn't put it past myself to create that in the near future).

I tried coming up with some cute New York-themed desserts.  I already made those black and white cookies for the black-and-white-themed New Year's Eve party that I attended earlier in the year, and while I'm not against repeating a recipe in the less-than-one-year-life of this here blog, I'm not a super huge fan of black and white cookies.  Mini cheesecakes sounded like a cute idea, but it's July.  In New York.  And it's HOT!  I ended up sticking with my original idea..."Big Apple" sugar cookies!  They're tasty, easy to transport, and such a cute idea (if I do say so myself).

A few years ago I went on a cookie cutter buying spree.  I bought cookie cutters for events that I had planned (baby shower, bachelorette party); ones that I thought were versatile and "every day," like flowers and candy shapes; holiday-themed ones (Channukkah, Christmas); and ones that I simply thought were cute (fruit shapes, champagne glass).  One of those fruit shaped ones was an apple.  In my case a "Big Apple." 

I made the cookie dough a few days ahead and then baked them a few days before the BBQ.  I needed to leave enough time to make the cookies, decorate them with royal icing, and then let them dry before I packaged them up.  Then I made cute labels to put in the bagged cookies for B & E (The picture is kinda hard to read.  They say "We're going to miss you in the BIG APPLE" and they're red, but look pink in the photo.

Sugar Cookies (from Martha Stewart's Cookies, and available here)
(In full disclosure, the cookies you see above are actually butter cookies from my friend's grandmother's family recipe.  I used that version because they can be made further ahead than these sugar cookies and I had time constraints.  I have not yet gotten permission to disclose her family recipe, but this is my cut out sugar cookie recipe of choice.)


4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (the web version says freshly squeezed lemon juice instead of vanilla)

Sift flour, salt, and baking powder into a bowl.

Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy.
Mix in eggs and vanilla.
Reduce speed to low. Gradually mix in flour mixture.
Divide dough in half; flatten each half into a disk. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. Let one disk of dough stand at room temperature just until soft enough to roll, about 10 minutes.
Roll out dough between two pieces of plastic wrap (I use wax paper or in a pinch parchment paper...I also recommend flouring the paper.  The original Martha Stewart Cookies cookbook says to roll in out on a lightly floured work surface, but I always roll cookies between layers of wax/parchment) to 1/4-inch thick. Remove top layer of plastic wrap.
Cut out cookies with a cookie cutter. Transfer cut out cookies onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. dough on plastic wrap to a baking sheet. Transfer baking sheet to freezer, and freeze dough until very firm, about 15 minutes.
Roll out scraps, and repeat.
Repeat with remaining disk of dough.

Bake, switching positions of sheets and rotating halfway through, until edges turn golden, 15 to 18 minutes.
Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

Royal Icing (from Cookie Craft)
There are different recipes for the piping and flooding versions of the icing.  I'll be honest - in order to keep the colors the same, I made the piping incing, take what I need and pipe it onto the cookies while keeping the mixer going.  Then, when I have finished piping, I add the additional water to that version of the icing to make the flood version.

Piping Royal Icing
This recipe can be halved....see below
(I use meringue powder because I think it's safe and it's what I have....it can be made with powdered egg whites or liquid pasteurized egg whites, but the proportions are different, so don't replace those for the meringue powder in the same amounts)


4 cups (1 lb) confectioners' sugar
3 Tbsp meringue powder (FYI, if halving, use 4 tsp meringue powder)
6 Tbsp warm water (plus an additional 6 Tbsp for flooding consistency)


Combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer
Beat on high for 5 minutes (10 minutes if using a hand mixer).  If your mixer has a paddle attachment, use that (I used the whisk attachment and it works JUST fine).
When you reach the desired consistency, immediately cover the mixture or store it in airtight containers (As I did with the green and brown while I was using the red).

Add food coloring as desired.

Add icing into a bag fitted with a coupler and piping tip. 
Pipe away!

With the mixer going, slowly add the additional 6 Tbsp of warm water, 1 Tbsp at a time until you have the desired consistency.  You may not need all the water as you've already removed some of the icing for piping.....now you have flooding royal icing.

Let piping frosting dry and harden, then flood the area with the flooding royal icing.  I use a toothpick to spread that icing all the way to the piped edges.

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