Painted Sugar Cookies

I haven’t posted in the last week because I’ve been so busy making sugar cookies (I currently have 116 sitting in my fridge and freezer at home), plus a cake that will appear in another post soon.

I’ve refined my technique for the sugar cookie kilts a bit since last time I posted, so I wanted to show off my new and improved method (plus bonus dairy-free cookies at the bottom of this post).

Previously, I dyed some of my royal icing in various colours and some of it in black, then piped on the tartan pattern. While this worked well, the black didn’t always settle to be flush with the white and the colour, and the edges of the cookies turned out a bit wobbly instead of nice and straight.

Now, I start by icing my cookies with flood consistency Royal icing in white, and I let these set overnight (or around 8 hours):

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Once these are nice and set, I’ve not taken to painting on my colours. I’m using Americolour food colouring (they are guaranteed gluten-free and nut-free, which is great for my baking needs), and I tested a two methods for diluting these colours before painting. The first was to mix these colours with lemon juice. This worked alright, but it did slightly soften the royal icing (leaving a series of tiny holes on the surface). It also didn’t mix well with pink and purple (but only pink and purple, for some reason). The second thing I tried was to mix the colours with some clear alcohol, namely vodka. I was a bit nervous about this at first, because some of the cookies I was making are for kids, but (a) I added about 1/4 tsp to an amount of food colouring that could spread across 20 cookies or so, and (b) the alcohol is supposed to evaporate off anyway. This did a good job of diluting the colour so it goes on evenly, as well as helping it drydry relatively quickly.

I was making these cookies in packs of two, so I did 3-4 packs (6-8 cookies) in each colour. I made more of pink and blue because these colours are usually popular. I have a few brush widths so I did a thin plaid, a chunky plaid, and one in between. I did all of my colours in one stage before moving on to the black. At this step, my cookies looked like this:

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They are lovely and bright, but something is missing without the black.

I also played with a few approaches to adding the black food colouring.

On some, I used my thinnest paint brush and simply painted on the black. This is relatively quick, but it’s hard to get the lines as thin as I’d like, and they aren’t all exactly equal widths.

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My next approach was to use a toothpick to paint on thin black lines. This wasn’t my favourite method. Though it gave me the thin lines I wanted, I couldn’t make the black as dark on every cookie, and it was quite time consuming. But I was still pleased with the results:

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Finally, I had ordered a black food colouring pen and it arrived when I was almost done my order, just in time to try on the last few cookies. I found the lines to be faster to draw, more consistent, and still fairly dark. However, even when applying light pressure I found that the pen had a habit of poking through the icing. I’m not sure why this happened with the pen but not the toothpick. Still, I think the pictures below show that this is likely the best method:

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Overall I think all three of these methods work well, and they are definitely a vast improvement over my first set of kilt cookies! I’m excited to deliver these two giant cookie orders tomorrow – in part because it’s so hard to resist the temptation to eat them when I have over 100 staring me in the face every morning!

Now, on to those dairy-free cookies I promised. One of the sets of cookies in this order is for someone with a dairy allergy, so in addition to choosing a dairy-free cookie recipe I also made evey effort to avoid cross-contamination. I cleaned my kitchen and counters, then sat down and made a list of all the equipment I’d need, washed it with a fresh cloth, and used only that equipment while baking. I also placed the cookies in a clean Tupperware container while the icing was drying (since they have to sit out for so long to set I’d find it difficult not to touch dairy in that time, so I wanted to keep them safe from anything nearby in my kitchen).

The recipe is here. My only modification was to swap out the almond milk with full-fat coconut milk, since I’m allergic to almonds and can’t have almond milk in my kitchen. Unfortunately because the kilts are quite large, I only got 7 cookies out of this batch, but luckily I only really needed 2 for this order:

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I’m always nervous that cookies made with coconut oil will spread more in the oven, but these rolled and held their shape really well (the recipe does say not to reroll the scraps, as they become too crumbly, so I used the leftover to make essentially a dairy-free sugar cookie equivalent to millionaire shortbread and brought it into work the next day, so the scraps did not go to waste!).

I was able to use my usual royal icing recipe, as it contains no dairy. I just snipped the end of a disposable piping bag instead of using a piping tip, as I find those a bit harder to clean thoroughly and I’d rather be safe and avoid all chance of traces.

I had a tester and I found these to be quite good in texture, though they are a little sweeter than my regular sugar cookie recipe, so keep that in mind if you are interested in trying it out yourself. I added my usual spice blend to these (1/4 TSP cinnamon, 1/8 TSP ginger and cloves) but it came out a bit more subtle with this cookie so next time I might try doubling these amounts.

I’m using a new logo scheme, so these were packaged with a black logo to make sure they are easily distinguished from the cookies that do have dairy. I also like being able to show that I’ve thought about the allergy in question all the way through the process until packaging, which hopefully gives some extra peace of mind to those receiving their dairy-free (or egg-and gluten-free) goodies.

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