Sunday, 25 April 2010

Twinkle twinkle little star biscuits

Rad art by Marc johns

I recently had a new filling.  So what better way to reward myself than with some 
sugar cookies?

I found a recipe with about three and a half thousand reviews on allrecipes, a site I visit very regularly.  I am slightly addicted to it.  I think it can be a bit foolish to trust the recipes of just anyone on the internet, simply because they call themself 'bestcook2010'. I wouldn't accept food from a random on the street, so I'm not going to accept a recipe from an internet random either, unless they can back themself up with nice reviews.

Anyway, I've used this recipe to create quite a few interesting looking biscuits!  These stars looked particularly lovely.


  • 340 g butter, softened
  • 400 g white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 625 g all-purpose flour
  • 9 g baking powder
  • 6 g salt

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. 

Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.

I used 2 different sized star cutters.  First the bigger one and then the smaller one to cut a star out of the middle.

To decorate...

I used Royal icing.  It is tasty and dries really hard with a lovely smooth finish.  You can add colouring to it easily.  It can be used to make all sorts of decorations as well as to glue edible things together.  If you ever have any leftovers, keep them in an airtight pot with some cling film inside, touching the icing mixture.

These days, less cake decorators use royal icing to cover entire cakes, such as wedding cakes.  Many opt for sugarpaste instead as it is a lot softer and easy to use.  Royal icing can be messy to make and many of the techniques used to ice with it are fiddly and take a lot of practise.  They are also often very easy to break!

Making Royal Icing

There are a number of ways to make royal icing.  The easiest is to buy the royal icing powder, which you simply add water to.  Other recipes include using egg white or egg white powder (see below for one of these).

Royal icing is used in a number of different ways, to decorate cakes and biscuits.  Several consistencies of the icing may be required for a single decoration.

It is very important, when making royal icing to make it to the right consistency.  Even if you intend to use a really runny icing, you should begin by beating the ingredients together until the icing is quite stiff.  You can check that it is the right consistency by dipping the end of your whisk into it and pulling up some of the icing.  If it makes a peak in the icing which slowly falls over, it's about right.  This way you can be sure that you have used the correct quantities of the ingredients.  Once you've achieved this, you can begin to 'let down' your icing.  This is what icingy people call it when you thin out icing by very gradually adding water to it.  The best way to do this is by dipping your pallet knife into a pot of water and then mixing the icing with it.  You would be surprised just how much difference a tiny dribble of water can make to your icing.  Therefore, adding the water in this way really is your best option.

Royal Icing (using egg whites)

2 egg whites
1 pound (450g) icing sugar, sifted

Whisk the egg whites for about 4-5 minutes until they are bright white and frothy.

Gradually add the icing sugar a couple of spoonfuls at a time whilst whisking.

if your icing is too powdery and not sticking together, add a tiny bit of water (a real tiny drizzle at a time)

If the icing is too wet and not forming peaks, add some more icing sugar.

Once you have made your icing, it is important to keep it from drying out.  the best way to do this is to dampen a tea towel and put it over the bowl.  It dries very quickly and although a big batch wouldn't dry out if left uncovered, the top layer might.  If you then try to pipe with icing that has little dried bits in it, your nozzle is going to get all blocked and, quite frankly, there will be icing havoc.

For my stars...

 I made up a batch of the royal icing and coloured it with a pink gel dye.  You can use liquid dyes, but remember, this will let down the icing so you may need to add more icing sugar afterwards.

I began using stiff icing (little peaks which slowly fall) and piped outlines round the outer and inner edges of the stars, using a number 1 nozzle.  This technique is known as flooding.  It is usually used to make decorations which can be peeled off of a non stick paper and put onto cakes.  It's important to make sure there are no gaps between the icing and the biscuit and to make sure all the icing joins up.

This will dry quickly.  You can test by giving it a little tap.

I then let down my icing a lot.  To test whether your icing is the right consistency for flooding, you can pick up a bit of the icing with your knife and then drop it back in.  If the outline of the icing disappears into the rest of the icing within about 5 seconds, it should be alright.  Using a slightly wider nozzle, or a paper piping bag with the end cut out (not too big though), I carefully coloured the stars in, using a paintbrush to push the icing right the way to the edge.  The outlines act as a wall, which the runny icing shouldn't be able to go past, if you're careful.

I then carefully sprinkled some brightly coloured balls onto the icing and left them to dry.  This took several hours, so try to resist the temptation!

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