Ahh springtime - when all the flowers awaken from their slumber, the air smells fragrant, the world looks brighter, and the weather gets warmer. Err, wait - in Melbourne, the weather has not got warmer - I am still in my winter coat, and most days are still dreary and grey. It's the coldest September for 23 years (according to Livinia on Nine News), and it has not creeped above 19 degrees Celsius since May (courtesy of Karl on the Today show). The flowers must know something we don't though, because they started to bloom in late August, and my street is now like The Nutcracker Suite with a ballerina-like row of delicate, white flowered bushes in full bloom. This leads me on to the point of this post ...
The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.
We had to decorate our cookies according to a "September" theme. As it is spring, and I associate spring with new life - flowers and lambs and butterflies - I chose butterflies. I also had an ulterior motive, as for months, I have had Marian's butterfly cookies on Sweetopia bookmarked, because they are gorgeous. I wanted to make them, but had never gotten around to it. Mandy's choice of challenge gave me the perfect motivation.
I have made sugar cookies in the past, and have been underwhelmed by the taste, as they seemed to be a tasteless vehicle for pretty icing. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe - the cookies smelled and tasted wonderful without any icing at all. I did in fact eat a couple of the browner ones without any decoration at all, and really enjoyed them. Sugar cookies are redeemed in my eyes - at least if they are made using the challenge recipe (which is on Mandy's site, for those who are interested). Because the weather is still cool, I had no issues with the cookies sticking and giving me problems at the cutting out stage - which is a huge relief. I rolled and cut out the dough on baking paper rather than using a flour-dusted benchtop, as it is less messy, makes it easier to peel off the cut-out cookies, and means that the dough doesn't absorb extra flour.
Having accomplished the first task without a hitch, it was time to pipe and flood the cookies with the royal icing recipe provided by Mandy. I used dark brown gel colouring to colour royal icing for the outline of the butterflies. It was surprising how much colour I needed to get the shade of brown I wanted:
Next, it was time to flood the outlines with more royal icing in bright colours (as butterflies are bright and beautiful!). While at Preston Market with Elisa, I had picked up some powder colours in red, yellow, green and blue, and these were a God-send for colouring the icing in vibrant, true colours. Red has always been a problem for me in the past, but the powder colour enabled me to achieve a vibrant, nail-polish red colour (albeit using quite a bit of colouring). To pipe, I just made paper piping bags - thanks to Greg at William Angliss for teaching me to make these.
Immediately after flooding the cookies with the base colour, I used the techniques in Marian's butterfly cookie post to add contrasting detail to the cookies. Finally, I sprinkled my butterflies with edible gold disco glitter/fairy dust:
These cookies were lots of work, but I had so much fun making them. And doesn't the end result warrant it - I loved them, and almost didn't want to eat them. However, I remembered how shameful it would be for such wonderful cookies to go to waste, so I took them in to work to share. The ladies loved them - no idea about the blokes, but then again, I wouldn't expect a shed-full of macho engineers to be overly impressed by butterfly cookies.
Thanks to Mandy for hosting Daring Bakers this month. You can check out the truly inspirational creations of the other Daring Bakers by visiting the Daring Bakers blogroll.