Table Assignment Cookies

As some of you know, I took on the huge task of making the table assignments for my wedding reception.  They weren’t just table assignments, they were chocolate chip cookies decorated in the shape of wedding cakes with everyone’s name and table number piped onto them.  And I had to make 75 of them.  It was no small task, and the only excuse I can give as to why I procrastinated so long was that I didn’t know how long they would stay fresh after I made them, and I didn’t want people to have to eat stale cookies.

Another issue I ended up running into was how to make chocolate chip cookies that wouldn’t spread out excessively during baking.  If you’ve ever made chocolate chip cookies, you know that you can just put a glob of dough onto a cookie sheet, and when it’s done baking it will be completely spread out and flat.  Well, I didn’t want that to happen with my cookies, because I really wanted them to maintain their wedding cake shape.  I went through about 3 recipes before I found one that wouldn’t spread while baking but still tasted good.  When Steve was taste testing the cookies, he immediately spit out the first batch, it was that nasty.  Ha! Luckily the 3rd time was the charm.

I ended up staying awake until 3:30am the night before my wedding so that I could finish the cookies and not have to work on them the DAY of my wedding!  Luckily I had my friend (and bridesmaid) Tiffany staying at my house, and she was such a big help.

I started out by adding a cup of butter, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and 1/3 cup of granulated sugar to my mixing bowl.

I blended the butter and sugar until thoroughly combined and creamy, then added one egg yolk and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Then, I mixed all that together until it was thoroughly combined.

Here is where the dough really starts to take it’s shape.  I sifted about 2 cups of flour into the bowl (one cup at a time) and mixed until it had the consistency I wanted.  I could tell it was pretty much ready when the dough started getting dry enough to where it was scraping the sides completely clean as it was being mixed.  See how there is barely any dough residue on the walls of the bowl?

I poured a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips into the dough and mixed on the lowest setting on my mixer.  I didn’t want to break up the chocolate chips too much.

Here is the trick to making chocolate chip cookies that won’t spread out.  Freeze the dough for about 5-10 minutes before rolling it out.  Then when you cut out your cookies with a cookie cutter, they won’t fall apart on you when you’re trying to lift them onto the cookie sheet.  You might notice the dough starting to get too soft after a few minutes of rolling it out and messing with it, and if that happens you can just stick it back in the freezer for a couple minutes to firm up again.

I rolled the chilled dough out between two sheets of parchment paper so that I wouldn’t have to mess with flour everywhere.  It actually worked really well.

Once you have your dough rolled out to the correct thickness (I think I rolled mine to about 1/4 an inch or so), take your cookie cutter and start cutting away!  I normally cut all my shapes and then peel away the outer edges, instead of trying to remove the cut out cookie from the rest of the dough.

Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper (this also helps them not to spread too much) and chill the raw cut out cookies in the freezer for about 10 minutes before placing them in the oven.  You want them very cold and firm before you bake them.  This is the main thing that helps them keep their shape.

Bake the chilled cookies at 350° for 10-12 min.  I baked mine for 10 min because I didn’t want them to get too brown and crunchy.

Once your cookies have cooled, it’s time to decorate!  You can find instructions on making Royal Icing here.

I outlined each of the 75 cookies and let them dry overnight.  You really only need to let them dry for about an hour or so, but it was about 3:20am on Wednesday night and I decided that I was done with cookies for the night.  You can see how I had to “glue” one of the cookies back together on the left side of the above picture.  If a cookie ever breaks on you, it’s very easy to glue it back together with some Royal Icing, and then when you finish decorating the cookie, you can’t even tell that it was ever broken.

Once the outlines are dry, you can thin the rest of your icing to a syrup consistency and flood your cookies.  I pour the thinned icing into a plastic squeeze bottle to make it easier to spread onto the cookie.  You will probably need to use a toothpick to make sure the icing gets into all the corners.

Steve even helped with one or two cookies!

Here’s what the cookies will look like once they are completely flooded.  I love this method, because you can get such a nice smooth surface to decorate.

After we had flooded all 75 cookies, I needed to make some more Royal Icing so we could go back over top with lavender and write the names and table numbers, and add some decorative dots around the edges.

Tiffany was a little too generous putting the icing in the piping bag, and she had to squeeze about half of it out.

Writing the names was definitely the most tedious part!  My hand was starting to hurt after only a few names.

Tiffany did a great job putting lavender dots all around each cookie.  That might have been even more tedious than the names!

It was 3:30am when we finally finished.  Oh, and I didn’t even mention that I had to paint that Thank You sign at the bottom of the picture.  On the other side of the sign it says “Just Married”.  My sister in law and photographer, Stacey Pentland, had us hold up the signs in our wedding attire so that our thank you cards could have that picture on them, and so we could have another picture of us holding the Just Married sign.

All in all, I’m glad I did the cookies.  Everyone seemed to love them, and it was a nice personalized touch to our wedding.


Bridal Shower Sugar Cookies

I was a little naughty last week.  My Aunt Sally sent our wedding gift a couple months ago, and I’ve had it sitting in my sewing room unopened, because after all, it’s bad etiquette to open wedding presents early!  However, a few days ago I was updating my bridal registry and noticed that one item had been purchased.  And when I saw what it was my heart started to pitter patter.

I brought the box downstairs and set it on our kitchen counter.  To open or not to open…..that was the question.

Surely taking it out of it’s cardboard prison would be acceptable.  And to leave it in there would be an injustice!

Oh man!  I know I need what’s in this  box desperately!  It would make the next few days so much less stressful, and make my baking for the bridal shower so much faster!  Have you guessed what it is yet?

I’m seeing some pink!

Oh my goodness!  I’m starting to get excited!

It’s my pink Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer!!!!!!!!  I’m very sorry for opening your generous gift early, Aunt Sally.  I thought if you knew how much I needed it this past week you’d understand.  At least my wedding is less than 3 months away! 🙂

And I LOVE IT!!!!  Mixing is a breeze!  If you don’t have a stand mixer, I HIGHLY recommend getting one!  Now, onto the cookies.

Start by putting 2 sticks of cold butter and 1 cup of sugar into your mixing bowl.

Cream together using the paddle attachment.

Next add an egg, 3/4 tsp of vanilla extract, and 1/2 tsp of almond extract to the butter and sugar.

Mix until combined.

Next, add 3 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour and 2 tsp of baking powder.  You might not want to add all the flour at once.  Try adding it a cup at a time, and start mixing on a low speed, or else you’ll have flour all over your face and your kitchen.

Mix until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.  I didn’t take pictures while rolling out the dough and cutting out the shapes.  For one, I had flour all over my hands, and the main reason is……I forgot.

So just know that you need to roll out your dough on a floured, flat surface with a floured rolling pin.  Dip your cookie cutters in some flour before you press them into the dough.

Place your cut out cookie dough on some parchment paper on a cookie sheet, and bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.

Next it’s time to make the royal icing.  Clean your mixing bowl and add 4 Tbsp of meringue powder and 1 scant cup of water.

A scant cup means not quite 1 cup.

Beat meringue powder and water until nice and foamy.

Add 1 lb. (about 4 cups) of sifted powdered sugar to the bowl.  Beat on low until combined.

Add 1/2 – 1 tsp of light corn syrup.   Try not to notice my lovely chipping nail polish.  Oh man, I just directed your attention to it, didn’t I?

Beat the icing on medium-high for about 5 minutes, or until a stiff peak forms.  This is not quite stiff enough.

This is perfect!  The peak should stand straight up even if you wiggle it around.

Transfer icing to bowls where you’ll add the coloring, and cover with plastic wrap so that the plastic is touching the icing.  Royal icing dries really quickly so you need to make sure no air comes in contact with the icing if you’re not working with it right away.

Add some coloring with a toothpick or knife.  There are several different gel colorings out there.  I use Wilton brand since it’s what I have on hand.

Mix all the colors you’ll need and cover the ones you’re not using with plastic wrap.

Transfer the icing to piping bags filled about half way.  Place the bags in a cup with a wet paper towel at the bottom.  This will ensure that your icing doesn’t dry up at the tip when you’re not using it.  Place plastic wrap over the remaining icing in your bowls.

Start outlining your cookies using a #2 tip.  You’ll want to outline them in the same colors that you’ll be filling them in with.

When you’re done piping, take your remaining icing in the bowls and add water 1 tbsp at a time until it has the consistency of syrup.  Place a wet paper towel over the bowls and let sit for 10 minutes to allow the air bubbles to come to the surface.

Stir the icing gently with a spatula or knife to pop all the bubbles.

Pour into a squeeze bottle.

Now you have both piping and flooding consistency icing.

After letting the piping dry for about an hour, flood the cookies with the thinned icing.  You can use a toothpick to spread the icing into all the corners.

Let the cookies dry overnight, and then you can pipe on the decorative details.  If you’re in a hurry, you can let the cookies dry for a couple hours and then decorate them, but since I had applied the flooding icing pretty late at night I decided to let them dry overnight.

Use the piping icing you had in your bags from before (just put the whole cup with the piping bags in the fridge until you’re ready to use them).

Above all, remember to use your creativity and have fun!  This cookie and royal icing recipe can be found on Bake at 350.

My First Time Decorating Sugar Cookies

I’ve been enjoying looking at several baking blogs lately, and many of them display beautifully decorated sugar cookies.  I’m planning on incorporating pretty sugar cookies into my wedding design, so I thought I’d practice on my Dad and my friend, Katie.  Their birthdays are this month, and what better way to celebrate than by eating cookies made by yours truly?!

Sugar cookies are not my favorite cookie.  I’m a chocolate chip girl all the way; and I also appreciate a good peanut butter cookie now and then, but since sugar cookies are the traditional cookies for decorating, I decided to go with them.

I didn’t document the process since it was my first time making these from scratch, and I didn’t want you all to follow my instructions in case they didn’t turn out that good.  The batter was VERY crumbly, and I had to knead it together as I scooped it out of the bowl.  I had a hard time keeping it together as I was rolling it out.  Next time I think I’ll add a little more liquid.

I went to a bakery supply store and Joann’s and picked up some cookie cutters, squeeze bottles, and a few other supplies.

Here are the cookies I made my dad.  Since it was my first time making them, I wasn’t very organized with the frosting, and so I wasn’t able to do as many colors or details as I wanted, so I finished decorating with an edible marker.

He is turning 70 this year.  70!!!  I can’t believe it!  He’ll always be young to me.  When I look at him, and I look at other 70 year olds, he still looks WAY younger!  Maybe it’s because he still has brown hair, and doesn’t even color it!

These hammers are my favorite.  He has been a contractor since he was about 16, so a hammer seemed pretty fitting for him. 🙂  I know hammers don’t usually have white handles, but I didn’t have any brown….so you’ll just have to deal with it.

The butterflies I made for Katie turned out pretty good.  Although, when the icing dried, it left a couple craters.  Hopefully she won’t notice. 🙂

I know I’ll get better with practice, so if anyone would like me to practice on them, feel free to let me know!  I certainly can’t eat a bunch of cookies, especially before my wedding!

Here are the rest of the butterfly cookies.  I made several different sizes so she won’t feel too guilty if she wants to eat more than one at a time.  I hope they don’t break during shipping!  Thanks for sharing my first sugar cookie decorating adventure with me!