This house renovation business is turning out to be a much bigger deal than I thought it was going to be. It's been about six weeks since we got the keys, but we are still living in a building site and I'm sure it's getting worse before it gets better. There really hasn't been a lot of time for baking... in fact there hasn't been much time for anything fun, and I'm starting to wish we'd bought a new property (and probably bankrupted ourselves in the process). At least I'd have a living room. And a bath. Still, it'll all be worth it in the end... I hope!
I did manage to find a bit of time last week to whip up some cookies for an Olympic-themed baking competition at work. These were fairly quick to make, although royal icing can be a little bit fiddly until you've got the hang of it (judging by my piping skills, I need a LOT more practice). I think these would be great for a child's birthday party, maybe one with the initials of each guest, or as prizes for party games. I had hoped to enter them into this month's Calendar Cakes blog challenge, but sadly time ran away with me!
Lovely Steenbergs vanilla paste on top of the pile
I didn't manage to take any step by step photos, as I made them in a hurry very late at night (hence the hastily-snapped iPhone photos)! But the recipe comes from The Biscuiteers book and can be found here, with apologies for the Daily Mail link. You just roll out the dough, cut out your shapes, and bake them at 170ºC for about 14 minutes. If you want to use the biscuits as medals, cut a hole in them before baking.
This recipe is really tasty - all that golden syrup makes for a delicious cookie - but I also added a teaspoon of Steenberg's Organic Vanilla Paste. If you're read any of my previous posts, you'll know that I'm extremely fussy about what vanilla extract I use, so I was really interested to try this - it's a paste made from real bourbon vanilla pods and vanilla powder and gives a wonderful deep vanilla flavour. Not to mention it smells absolutely divine! It's definitely the next best thing I've tried to using vanilla pods, but a lot more convenient and cost-effective.
One of these makes mixing royal icing much easier.
When it comes to icing the cookies, you want to mix up some royal icing. I use ready made royal icing sugar - all you need to do is add water, and give it a really good beating with a food mixer if you have one. Make sure you keep royal icing covered when you're not using it, because it dries out very quickly. And if you're using a piping bag, push the piping nozzle into a damp cloth when you're not working with it to stop the end drying out. Put some in a separate bowl and water it down to a runnier consistency. Pipe the outline with the thicker icing, and then use the runnier icing to fill it in. When it dries, you can pipe letters, numbers or whatever you like over the top. I wrote BA (the initials of my team at work) and 2012, plus attempted to draw the Olympic rings and failed miserably as you can see!
Now for the clever bit. When the icing is completely dry, spray the whole lot with edible gold or silver spray paint. I used Dr Oetker Shimmer Spray, which I bought from Waitrose but I believe it's available in most supermarkets, and I think they even do a bronze version. Spray the cookies one at a time and place them on a sheet of kitchen paper while you spray, to avoid turning your entire kitchen gold.
I bought some red, white and blue ribbon from ebay to thread through the cookies, which finished them off nicely. If only my piping skills were better!