When I had the bakery and later, the retail shop, we made hundreds and hundreds of these painted cookies for holidays and for wedding favors. I originally came up with this method over thirty years ago because I could't use a piping bag with any grace or consistency. So instead of piping decorations on a cookie as everyone did then, I swirled colors though a lemon glaze and finished them with an explosion of color. Now, it is a common technique used by everyone professionally as well as baking enthusiasts even if they can pipe.
While the focus of this blog is the painted cookies, I have included a recipe for a sugar cookie that is the ideal for cut outs as it stays flat and keeps its shape.The number of cookies to a recipe depends upon the size of the cutters.
The dough is rolled between two pieces of waxed paper for easiest handling to about ¼ inch. Since this is a butter as well as a sugar cookie, the dough is very soft. After it has been made chilling will be a great help when rolling out. The reason for the waxed paper is avoid using additional flour when rolling out as additional flour can toughen the cookie and interfere with it's delicate flavor. I prefer waxed paper to parchment as the parchment is heavier and I think more difficult to use. The waxed paper also does not stick to the dough when it is removed which can happen with parchment.
However, when rolling between waxed paper, it is important to pull the paper back from time to time, keeping it flat to the dough, and replacing the paper. It is then turned over, where it undoubtedly will be wrinkled not he bottom. Remove the paper again, replace it and roll the dough out again. The paper should be removed in this manner several times.
Once the dough has been rolled out, cut the cookies out. If the dough is very soft, chill it first. After the cookies have been cut, place the cookies, on the waxed paper in the freezer. It will be really easy to remove them without stretching them out of shape or breaking narrow parts of the cookies. They also separate from the dough with clean edges.
While all this may sound rather complicated, it really isn't. Once you have cut out cookies in this manner, it will be your go to way of cutting them.
A temperature of 325 degrees for the oven allows the cookies to bake through browning minimally around the edges. This makes an ideal background for decorating.
I have not included how to photos for the making of the dough as it goes together very easily with no complicated steps.
These painted cookies are a great, easy way to celebrate any occasion.
2 sticks unsalted butter room temperature (1 cup, 225 grams or 8 ounces),
¾ cup granulated sugar (150 grams or 5 ⅓ ounces)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract or grated rind from 1 lemon
2 ½ cups all purpose flour (350 grams or 12 ⅓ ounces)
¼ teaspoon salt
Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until very light in color and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until completely incorporated. Add the flavoring. Combine the flour and salt and add it to the butter mixture. Mix until everything is well combined and comes together.
Divide the dough in half (it will be very soft at this point) and wrap in plastic film. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees when ready to roll the dough and cut the cookies out and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out between two sheets of waxed paper. It may have to warm up for a few minutes if it has been chilled for a long time.The dough has a tendency to roll only so far before the paper has to be removed, Pull the paper back, keeping it very close to the doughPlace the paper back on top of the dough. Flip the dough over and repeat. The bottom side will have wrinkles - just replace the paper and roll them out.
Cut out the cookies and place them, on the waxed paper in the freezer to harden on a cookie sheet. It only takes about 5 to 10 minutes depending upon the freezer. Remove them from the freezer. Place a pancake turner under a cookie and lift it up.
At this point it is very easy to place them on a parchment lined baking sheet with little trouble.
2 cups unsifted powdered sugar (260 grams or 9 ounces)
¼ cup lemon juice or water
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond if using water
Combine the powdered sugar and water or lemon juice in a bowl big enough to hold the largest cookie. Stir to make a smooth glaze. The glaze should run off your spoon but remain fairly thick. If the glaze it too thick, thin with water or lemon juice a bit at a time. If too thin, add a little more powdered sugar to get the right consistency. Try 1 cookie in plain glaze to get the consistency right. It should coat the cookie and drip off as in the photo.
Dot the surface with as few or many Gel Food Colors* as desired. With a bamboo skewer or toothpick, swirl the colors around. Do not over-swirl.Wipe the skewer clean each time it is used. Pick the cookies up by the edge and dip top side down, just to the top of the cookie, into the glaze allowing the glaze to drip back into the bowl..When most of it has dripped back, turn it right side up and place it on parchment paperIf there is a lot of glaze still on the top, wipe the excess off by dragging it very lightly on the edge of the bowl. Place top side up on parchment to dry. Additional gel can be added at any time to create more designs. Repeat until the cookies are all glazed or until the color becomes too muddled.
If the cookies run over the edge as will sometimes happen, use a clean bamboo skewer to remove the glaze. Push the cookie to a clean are of parchment to dry. Dry for 24 hours before packing to make sure the glaze as dried all the way through.
These cookies can be made a week or 10 days ahead and stored at room temperature away from heat or humidity.
*These gels may be found in grocery stores as well as cake supply and kitchen supply stores.