Easter Cookies

The week before Easter, my mum and dad visited us in Edinburgh. As a present, my mum brought me four Easter cookie-cutters that she had picked up in Germany (where they had spent the previous month). She brought me a fat (woolly) sheep, a thin sheep with long legs, a leaping rabbit and an egg.

Hunting around online, I found a few recipes and this is the
Sugar Cookie that I made to try out my cutters:

500g flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
240g butter
300g white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, whisk (or sieve) together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, one cupful at a time.

Stir until you have a smooth dough.
Divide the dough in half and place each lump onto a piece of plastic-wrap.
Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Remove one half of the dough from the fridge and roll out, on a floured counter top, to a quarter-inch thickness.
Cut out cookies and lay on a baking-sheet covered in baking parchment.
Place each tray of cookies into the fridge for twenty minutes.
Bake the cookies for ten minutes.
Leave to cool on the tray for a minute or so, before removing to a wire rack to cool.
I use the fingers of one hand to get the butter and sugar started, as I am often not organised enough to take the butter out of the fridge. Once roughly combined, I switch to a spoon to avoid melting the butter.
When refrigerating the dough for the first time, I press the lumps out into half-inch thick disks. This way the dough cools faster and more evenly.

Sugar cookies are not really very exciting. The icing is what makes the whole thing fun. This time I made white royal icing for flooding and used cocoa and different food colours for decorating. Quantities are rather inexact as I always seem to need more egg-whites and sugar than I expect I will.

A rough recipe for Royal Icing is:

350g pure icing sugar
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons lemon juice.

Beat together the egg whites and lemon juice.

Slowly beat in the icing sugar (mixed with cocoa, if you want brown icing for brown bunnies) a little at a time, until the icing is the appropriate consistency.

For outlining and decorating the cookies, the icing should form peaks in the bowl.
For flooding the cookies, test the consistency by lifting the spoon and dribbling icing back into the bowl. The trail of icing should sit on the surface for a few seconds, before disappearing back into the mix.

I only have one piping bag, so I use baking-parchment to make icing cones. I find it easiest to fold a square of paper in half, then use the folded edge of the paper to form the point of the cone, by wrapping up and around at each side. I usually secure the cones with some tape. I also snip the smallest possible hole in the bottom and have a go on some paper before starting on the cookies.

I outlined and flooded the bunnies in white icing. Then I used coloured icing for the bows. On the sheep, I swirled the firmer icing in circles to look like wool and gave them bows too. The eggs were a bit of a mess: stripes, dots, squiggles and I even played with marbling (dipping cookies into flood-icing with food-dye only partially stirred through.) It was great fun, and extremely messy!

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