Yeah. I managed to miss the boat for posting something in time for Mothers’ Day AGAIN this year, dang nabbit.
Anyway, the edible giftlet that I prepared isn’t really Mothers’ Day-specific. It would totally work for … Spinster Day? Old People Day? Stitch ‘n’ Bitch/Sewing Circle gifts? Because… these cookies are not just any ol’ cookies, these are appliqué cookies.
If you’re scratching your head at the word “appliqué” you are most likely a guy, or under the age of 60. It’s a beautiful stitchcraft, like embroidery but with more layers. I’ve seen it emulated on cookies and even wedding cakes; I’d like to say I know about appliqué because I’m totally into craftsy stuff (big shout out to Pinterest!!), but let’s face it: Deep down, I possess the soul of a cranky 70 year old who snorts at all things newfangled and thinks ADSL is a disorder in children who eat too many artificial colourants.
I first saw the technique described in the Ideas magazine, but I’ve changed it a little to suit me; I did stick to their design of simple florals and polka dots, though.
The easy part is the cookies – all you need is a nice smooth surface ready for you to unleash your inner artist and/or needlework-prone old lady. Buy or bake, doesn’t really matter so long as they taste good. Life is too short to endure those vegetable-fatty “variety pack” cookies that leave a waxy coating on your palate.
Next, whip up a batch of royal icing.
For years, I was slightly terrified of royal icing. So intimidatingly pristinely white, plus it has a title (Well. It’s royal). So when I finally gave it a go I was kinda embarrassed that it took me so long – super-easy! One hand behind my back! Blindfolded!! You get my drift.
My version makes enough icing to pipe, oh I don’t know, about 3 dozen cookies depending on their size and how elaborate your design is. Beat one egg white until it’s frothy, with lots of big bubbles (we’re not going for any form of “peak”). Then add icing sugar, bit by bit while beating, til it’s white and glossy and thick but still pourable. The quantity of icing sugar is also difficult to pin down because every egg is different, I’d guess 250g-ish. I added a tiny drop of pink food colouring and vanilla.
Be sure to cover the icing up tight with a bit of cling over the surface – or it will solidify to the same consistency of wall plaster. Anyone remember the Iced Zoo Biscuits of the 1980’s? Yep, the ones that used to crack the enamel off your teeth – that was proper old-school royal icing. (Nowadays they aren’t nearly as scary, much gentler on the teeth. Meringue-like even).
Spoon some into a piping bag or syringe with a very fine nozzle and keep a toothpick handy.
Pipe floral patterns onto the cookies – one design element at a time. As soon as you’ve piped it, drag a toothpick in short strokes through each piped line towards the centre of the flower shape to form the appliqué “stitches”. It may help to practice on a plate at first. That, or keep several spare cookies handy in case there are any duds. In my kitchen, there are always duds and that’s why I have to go to gym eight days a week.
Let the cookies hang out in the open for a bit until the icing is dry and solid to the touch, then arrange them nestled in tissue paper in a pretty box and surprise everyone with your awesome stitchcraft skillz: