Hello Fellow Cookie Lovers,
Today’s post is something completely out of the box – a new technique I recently tried and sort of….well, LOVE! It’s not for everyone; 1) because it is labor intensive, and, 2) perhaps the look isn’t your style. But…even if it’s not your style or too labor intensive for you, let me tell you what these cookies taste like!! Pure deliciousness!! You bite into the cookie, you get a crunch of the candy with a sort of caramel, pure sugar taste. Then the royal icing flavor hits your tongue and it’s a bit less crunchy. And then, the cookie; soft and a wonderful texture against the crunch of the candy and icing. YUM!! I tell you, it’s my all time favorite right now. If you’d like to give this a shot, I invite you to read further and try your hand at this. I’m new to it, of course, but hopefully I can share some tips with you that will make your initial try successful.
It’s sort of a joke that I came up with this idea after “dreaming” about it one night. True story. I woke up and thought, hmmm, that’s really odd…could it work? And, it did work. And I could not get over the look I achieved. They turn out looking like glass stones – even the royal icing parts that are painted look like stones. Okay, here we go.
These are the supplies you will need to get started.
- A Silpat mat
- A candy thermometer
- A wooden spoon and a smaller spoon to drizzle the syrup
- Vanilla or any other flavoring you like
- Corn syrup (here I had lite syrup on hand but it works with regular too)
- Food gel – any color you want to work with (I bet it would work great with BLACK for Halloween!!)
- Cookie cutters. I used cookie cutters to keep the syrup contained in the overall shape and size of the cookies I am making
The recipe below is the one I used when making the sugar candy. It’s not the only way to make a hard candy, I’ve seen the dry process but have not had luck with it, and, I bet if you melted down colored hard candy, it would work as wll. So, if you have another hard candy recipe you like, try it with that. As long as the candy sets hard after you create your design it will work.
- 1 cup of granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup of corn syrup
- 1/3 cup of water
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
- gel food coloring
DIRECTIONS FOR MAKING THE SUGAR CANDY
In a small pot, attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Add the sugar, corn syrup, and water in the pot and place on the stove over medium-high heat. As the sugar starts to melt, give it a quick stir with a wooden spoon and then DO NOT MIX the mixture at all during the remainder of the process.
Let the mixture come to a boil. I usually reduce the temp to medium heat once it comes to a boil and then let it continue to boil until the temperature on the candy thermometer hits 280 degrees which is considered just under a “hard crack.” (Most candy makers boil it to 300 – 310, but I find going to about 280 works better for this project as it is a bit less sticky.)
While your sugar boils down into a thick syrup, setup your Silpat mat with your cutter(s).
Also, have your vanilla and food gel color ready to add to the mixture after it boils up to the proper temperature.
Once the syrup reaches 280 degrees, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and then mix in the food gel (I used about 1/4 teaspoon of Wilton’s Teal food gel/icing color for this recipe.)
*** Be careful, because the syrup can burn you severely so wear a protective glove and use a wooden spoon to mix. The mixture will boil up a bit as you mix it. ***
LAYING THE SUGAR ONTO THE SILPAT
You have to work quickly at this point as the syrup sets up very quickly. The idea is to control the syrup as you lay it down on the Silpat. Poor the colored syrup into a glass measuring cup with a pouring spout so the mixture doesn’t get overheated in your pan.
I used a teaspoon to lay the syrup into the cookie cutter. If, during the process, the syrup starts to harden, you can “zap” it in the microwave to get it back to a flowing consistency.
A few tips about laying the sugar into the cookie cutter:
- Try to get the syrup close to the edge of the cutter to make sure you get a solid design of candy to lay over the cookie and then add some layering of syrup inside the outline. I’m still working this out as the height of the cutters and the quick setup of the syrup makes it difficult to get the syrup right to the edge of the cookie. I just work with the design as it comes out. You can pour it, but, due to the tendency of the syrup to set quickly, it tends to pour thicker than I like for the cookie.
- Try not to get large blobs of candy in one spot – the lighter you go with the candy, the easier the cookie is to eat. I think lines about 1/8″ to 1/4″ wide work best. You will get lines that are thicker and thinner and I would not worry about it as the royal icing sometimes covers the smaller lines, softens the wider lines, and the variations of thickness adds to the overall design of the painted cookie.
- Don’t move the cutters during this process; only when it sets up fully can you remove the cutter. The candy sets up really fast and you can remove the cutters in about 3 minutes or less.
- You will get some stringy syrup lines and drops outside of the cutters – I let them fall and simply remove them after they dry.
The picture below on the left is the design I made inside the cutter. The picture below on the right is what the candy form looks like after removing the cutter.
Once the candy has hardened (2-3 minutes!) I get my hand under the Silpat and roll the mat off of the candy while I gently let the candy fall into my other hand. (If you try to lift the candy off of the Silpat, rather than roll the Silpat off of the cookie, odds are the candy will break.)
I lay the candy over my baked cookie to see what it will look like.
PREPARING THE COOKIES
From here on, the process is so simple; more in line with what you probably do with your cookies normally.
Here is the baked cookie ready for royal icing. As you can see, sometimes the candy breaks. Don’t worry about it because the royal icing will help you cover up the break; it is very forgiving.
I simply outline as usual and flood the cookie with icing.
I used white for my flood color but you can use any color depending on the look you want to achieve. I like the white because it leaves me with unlimited options on final colors and designs and I know how the gels will appear on the white. With other colors, you will have to know how your gels react to colors – for instance, if you flood in pink and then paint over it with yellow, you will get orange in your final paint color, run pink over a blue base and you will get violet.
LAYING THE CANDY ON TOP OF THE COOKIES
The next step is to place the candy on top of the WET royal icing. For this stage I use both hands (not shone in picture because, well, I am taking the picture!) and hold the candy parallel to the royal icing. By doing this, you won’t have the edges hit the icing first, the flat back of the candy hitting the icing will prevent it from sinking unevenly. The candy will slowly sink into the royal icing and the royal icing will cover some of the very light lines and puff up inside the open areas of the candy design.
This is what the candy will look like on top of the wet icing. See how the icing covers up the break that occurred earlier?
Let the cookie dry overnight because the candy keeps the royal icing moist longer than if you simply iced the cookie and you do not want the candy to move when painting it.
Okay, I had to add another picture here because, after I let the cookie (pictured above) dry overnight, I DROPPED IT ON THE FLOOR!! It happens. So, below is a picture of the new cookie I’ll be using in the remainder of the blog. I wanted to post this picture so you weren’t totally confused and scrolling up and asking yourself if you are crazy…well, you may be, but not in this case. 😉 Same process though, as outlined prior to this section.
PAINTING THE COOKIE
After the cookie has dried overnight, you are ready to paint.
And, a note of encouragement here…if you are not a painter, or still aren’t satisfied with the results you’ve been getting, you can still make these cookies really look gorgeous with very little effort. In the following pictures, you will see that I go ahead and paint in most of the areas with various colors and leaving some white, all the while, keeping in mind what kind of designs I might paint on top of them later. You can stop after this stage and still have really nice cookies!! They look like stained glass. Also, you don’t have to be a painter either, you can easily use edible markers to color in the area and add details with the edible markers as well. Like coloring in a coloring book – so simple, right?
This is how I start most of the cookies that I paint. I “color block” a portion of the cookie so I get a balance of colors.
After I lay down my initial color blogging, I then go in and start adding some details to various shapes that I left white. Overall, this is really just a layering process. You can see in the picture the little brush that I used.
At this stage, you can see I added some more tools to the picture that I will use moving forward. Edible food writers, toothpicks, and my paintbrush.
You can see how I start building the design of the cookie. You’ll notice I added a “Craftsmart” wooden sponge-tipped instrument (below). I found this in the paint aisle of Michaels and I decided I wanted to use it for this cookie so I added it here for your reference. (More on these little sponges that come in different sizes and brands, in another blog post.)
It would be painstakingly boring to show you each step of the design process but I’ll try to give you some idea of how I did some of the more detailed designs in the final picture below.
In addition to the notes show in the picture above, I used the edible writers for the confetti-looking design and some of the dots. I typically go in last with the white, using the toothpick dipped in the white, the small paintbrush to paint some bubbles and swirly designs around the edges and some highlights on the actual glass. ***A note about white; I used Wilton white-white icing color in my designs but the one thing I do not like about it, it takes a long time to dry. So if you are going to package ANY cookies using white in this way, allow a couple of days for the white to dry completely or it will be sticky.
THE FINAL COOKIES
And here are the finished cookies I’ve done using this process. I really like the look…and TASTE…of the cookies and it’s something new to try. I’m sure it won’t be a weekly thing as it is labor intensive, but for some special looking, great tasting cookies, it’s a fun technique to try.
SOME ADDITIONAL WAYS TO USE THE CANDY
I’ve had fun exploring this new technique and I am sure I’ll work with it in several ways in the near future. For instance, I used the leftover syrup to make some organic designs simply by drizzling it on a Silpat and then broke them apart into smaller pieces. You can then use them in a myriad of ways; build an abstract design, use the pieces as mosaics, crush the candy to make your own sprinkle dust! And, since it becomes a hard candy, you can use it to make stained glass cookies by making cutouts in your dough, placing the hard candy in the opening, and cooking along with the cookie in the oven. Oh, and you can actually eat it just as it is too!! 🙂 Also, I found that if you keep the hardened candy and want to use it at a later date, you can reheat it in a pan or in the microwave with good results.
Have fun with this process and remember this is not a perfect technique, it’s very organic in nature since you have to work so quickly with the sugar syrup. And…I promise you will love the taste!
Your fellow cookie lover,