In the Kitchen: Ombre Frosted Sugar Cookies

I'm trying another new feature today- In the Kitchen. Cooking is one of my favorite things to do- I used to do it for a living in fact-so I figured it was about time to share that part of my life here at Gather and Hunt. 

For Valentine's Day this year I picked a slightly less traditional palette of corals and peaches and realized that these colors lend themselves well to the ongoing ombre trend. Sugar cookies have always been one of my favorite Valentine's treats (my mom used to make really pretty ones each year), so I quickly decided on this combo of ombre and tasty sugar cookies. 

I prefer a soft, chewy sugar cookie so I used this recipe. This is the second time I've used it and I think it's a winner. The recipe isn't written for rolled cookies, but I just divided the dough into quarters, refrigerated it for a few hours, rolled it out, and cut it with a heart shaped cutter. Depending on how thin you roll the dough out, you might need to decrease the bake time by a minute or two.

For the icing, I tried something I haven't done before- royal icing with meringue powder. I used this Joy of Baking recipe, and pretty much stuck to it, except I used 1 1/2 teaspoons of almond extract (more than was called for) and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla- I hate the taste of powdered sugar, so I always use more flavoring than is called for.

I sorted through a few different techniques for achieving the ombre look with the icing, and though I didn't end up using it (I did try)- I settled on this one as the best. Using Wilton's 'Creamy Peach' gel food coloring, I made four shades, each a little bit darker than the last. A little goes a long way with the gel color, so always start with less than you think you'll need- you can always add more. 

Loosely based on that technique, I'll walk you through what I did.

To keep the cookie from getting overloaded with icing, I started with a crumb coat. Just add a little more water to a portion of the royal icing until it's the consistency of runny sour cream and brush it on. Let dry for a few hours until completely set. 

Once the crumb coat is dry, set up your decorating station. Depending on how many cookies you're decorating, you'll probably want to sit since it takes awhile. I laid out parchment paper on our table to protect it from stains from the food coloring. Since I only have two cloth pastry bags, I picked some disposable ones for this project. Setting the bags inside a glass will keep the icing from getting all over. 

You'll be working with one color at a time- icing all the cookies in that color before moving on to the next. The timing usually works out so that by the time you've finished one color, the cookies you iced first are set and ready for the next color. 

It actually took me two layers of color to figure this out, but the easiest method was to pipe icing onto the area I wanted covered first. 

Next, to even out the coverage, I used a small paint brush (a new one) to gently push the icing around until the whole area was iced. Since I opted not to pipe a border, I just made sure each color of icing reached all the way down the sides of the cookies.

See- that top layer of icing looks much better than the bottom two-proof that things are often trial and error, even in blog land. Instead of re-doing them, I figured you could learn from my mistake. 

After letting them dry for a few hours, the icing should be set and the cookies are ready to go. Though they're not perfect, I still think they turned out pretty cute.

Just to add some variety, I made a few big hearts and thought I'd try a slightly different design- using concentric hearts. The mister and I were talking about Care Bear hearts the other day and this reminds me of that design. Again, not perfect, but cute. 

If the icing is fully set on these cookies they can be stacked and packaged- perfect for giving as a Valentine. I plan to use mine at the ombre party I'll be posting later this week.

So, what do you think of this new feature? I'd love to hear your thoughts- just comment below.