It’s that awful time of year. Mixed messages abound: temperatures outside beckon us to the shore to enjoy what’s left of summer while the countdown to the beginning of fall is slamming into us at every juncture. Clothing ads show happy people cavorting around while dressed like Nanuck of the North. Halloween candy is making its debut in grocery stores, and that holiday is more than 2 months away! As if that isn’t enough to turn your stomach, there are the [gulp] ‘back to school’ ads. Everywhere. For everything.
Now,when I was growing up, my mother used to start merrily chirping about a new school year around the beginning of July. Oh yes, my mother would sing song “It’s the 4th of July! Summer’s half over! You kids will be back in school before you know it!” I’m pretty sure she rubbed her hands back and forth while emitting a scary “Mwahahahahahahaha”, too, all mad scientist style. She brainwashed us into skipping merrily to school on those first days. I think she even had us going to sleep early, too; at least one month in advance of September.
It’s different now. The time leading up to the first days of school are chock full of anticipation and trepidation. Arms trembling with fear encircling the waists of the stoic. Then there’s the tears and the wailing. And that’s just the mothers!!!
Consider these cookies your lifeline. They are what will distract you from concentrating on the fear while giving those idle hands a purpose, and ultimately, a sweet treat for happy recipients.
The how-to on this is pretty straightforward. But, I know everyone likes illustrations and pictures with their dose of written information, so I will comply with my non-DSLR fancy schmancy no-trick trick photography.
Start with cookies. You knew that. Because I knew I wanted to over pipe the finished cookie with a black outline that would crisp up the final cookie, I began by outlining everything in white stiff royal icing.
Begin by filling the darkest color first and letting it dry (you knew this, I know you did.) Fill darkest color first, to avoid the heartbreak of the dreaded ‘bleed’.
To change things up a bit, I decided to have the windows on the schoolhouse raised up a bit, for added dimension. So, I outlined the windows on a piece of parchment and quickly filled them in. *NOTE: Do not just outline on parchment, and then walk away and go shopping or go to the gym. When the royal icing is drying on parchment, it shrinks because the liquid is evaporating. I once made this mistake only to hear HUNDREDS of little ‘pings’ and ‘pops’. The outlines were leaping around on the parchment like Mexican jumping beans. I’m. Not. Kidding.
Now, fill the little windows. Another major tip for you: when filling small spaces, avoid filling to the point of the beautiful puffy stage. You’ll only then experience the heartbreak of implosions, or potholes or whatever you want to call them. Again, not to belabor the science experiment aspect of this job; it’s all about the evaporation and the small, confined space. The royal wants to naturally puff up on it’s own, because it’s actually shrinking on the parchment or the cookie. Less royal filling = fewer potholes. You’ve got enough to worry about with your overwhelming emotions about your kid going to school and abandoning you growing up.
OH, and you know about these, right? Squeeze bottles from CK & Co. are available at cake & craft stores everywhere. They’re what I use for all my flood consistency icing.
Now, on to the cookie. Here’s my next cookie decorator/brain surgeon secret: When filling big spaces, quickly fill one side at a time. Thusly:
This method fills the cookie in a much more efficient way (IMHO) with less chance of the royal setting up before you’ve finished flooding the area. Don’t forget to take your toothpick or skewer and pop the bubbles. I didn’t as I was too busy trying to ‘get the shot’.
Let everything dry. Carefully peel off your windows, pipe a bit of stiff royal on the back of each window and affix to cookie. Continue decorating to your heart’s content.
There. You did it. You look like the most together Mother of the Year by making these cookies for the students and even the teacher. Now send that kid marching out the door. Then sit down, eat a cookie and have a good cry. Your secret’s safe with me.