Happy Friday! And a Fun Shoutout for Flipping the Block

Flipping the Block

Have you guys had a chance to check out Flipping the Block on HGTV? Our friends, Curtis and Amanda (from here in San Diego) are one of the four teams in the competition! It’s been great fun to watch their creative style as they compete in crazy competitions (two bathrooms in six days? a kitchen in less than a week?). Be sure to check it out on Sunday nights. Curtis grew up in Phoenix with Kevin’s brothers and became a Navy seal in San Diego before joining the show. Now he and Kevin work together frequently and he really is the nicest, friendliest guy. The girls adore him. Fun fact: HGTV actually did a little filming at our house to prep for the airing of the show (Kev may have a teeny cameo in an episode coming up on the competitors’ hometowns) and I was dying the whole time that the HGTV crew was in our home (it was one of those ‘come on in to my unusually clean and recently remodeled kitchen so I can pour you a glass of lemonade, dear producer. PS here’s what the room looked like before!’ moments. Ha!).

We are checking out a little early this week to spend some time with family in Sedona on a mini vacation. That beautiful red rock! The sound of the creek at night! Looking forward to some family time and especially to a little rest and relaxation.

Happy weekend!!

PS we actually created a submission video to try out for the show on a complete whim in the spring – on deadline day – at the urging of HGTV who found us through the blog. We had no idea Amanda and Curtis were also applying – it was so awesome to hear their experience! We had a 4-month-old T at the time (who makes a little appearance in our very awkward home video), now watching the show there’s NO way competitors could have had babies around! This is a little embarrassing, but you can see our audition video here ☺.

Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies – The Icing (Part 2)

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

On to the icing! Happy mid-week and happy day! If you didn’t catch part one for these little flower cookies, you can jump back here for an intro and dough overview.

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

I’m just starting to experiment with royal icing, so for one of my first recipe batches (also used on the sunflowers featured here), I used an ever-so-modified version of Jennifer’s from SeaKettle at a friend’s suggestion.

Powdered Sugar Icing

2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 T butter, softened
1/4 t vanilla
3+ T milk

Other items used for these cookies: flower cookie cutters, yellow nonpareils (that’s fancy speak for round sprinkles)

In a mixing bowl beat butter and vanilla until fluffy. Slowly add sifted powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time. Finish the icing by pouring the milk one tablespoon at a time into bowl, mixing until smooth.

I found that the key to royal icing is to have two different icing consistencies – a slightly thicker icing for piping, a smoother icing for ‘flooding’. I started by making the somewhat thicker icing in all white using the above recipe, and then divided my batch between small bowls.

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

To those small bowls I added different amounts of food coloring:

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

I piped the outside shape of my cookies using the various colors and a plastic bag + metal piping tip.

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

Here’s a picture of what that combination looks like:

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

That’s an everyday plastic sandwich baggie with the corner cut off (just a small snip) and a standard piping tip that can be purchased from the grocery store.

I also piped a small circle in the center of the cookie – these barriers will be what keeps my ‘flooded’ icing in place. Repeat for each color and all cookies (convenient if you have multiple tips, but just as easy to wash between uses).

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

Once the icing has had a chance to set (perhaps 15-20 minutes), now comes the fun part – flooding!

I experimented with watering down my current little bowls of icing with water and with milk and found that I preferred the water. To create a thinner icing, simply add a tablespoon of water to your current icing and mix with a spoon by hand. You may need to continue to add water until the icing coats and drips off of the spoon easily.

See? I told you I was fairly fresh at this (ignore the imperfections):

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

It’s amazing at how not precise you can be with flooding. Simply glop teaspoons of icing between piped edges and allow the icing to fill in. Use a toothpick or the back of a spoon to help nudge along if needed (but you probably won’t).

I’m not too worried about the center of the flowers because next up is covering those in a yellow icing and LOTS of sprinkles.

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

Bring on the sprinkles! I love how they cover the center and then a good chunk of the flower as well. I used a plastic sandwich bag again as my piping bag and filled it to the brim with yellow icing (you could use store bought lemon icing to make it easy, or mix up another batch of powdered sugar icing) and ice in a circular shape to fill the center of the flower. I omitted the piping tip and just used the snipped corner of the bag as my control – this part doesn’t have to be as precise. Use the back of a spoon to help spread if needed.

Shake generously with yellow nonpareils!

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

And enjoy :).

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

I wish I could claim the little sugar bees as my own but they were a craft store find but my co-hostess and added later at the party to match the rest of the decor. Though they may be my favorite part of the full flower!

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

There you have it. And now possibly a favorite sugar cookie of mine (though looking at these photos I’m dying to do this project over again and better). Don’t forget to start over here for a great sugar cookie dough recipe. Have a bee-autiful day.

PS more dessert recipes right here. More party ideas chronicled right here.

Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies – The Dough (Part 1)

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

We recently celebrated my younger sister’s new baby with a ‘Mommy to Bee’ themed shower. I was in charge of desserts and made up a sugar cookie (very similar to T’s sunflowers) that I thought would be a nice twist on the everything-yellow-and-bumblebee (which was adorable, by the way!!).

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

I chose a variety of blues and pinks (with yellow mixed in for fun) to make these fairly gender neutral, though she’s expecting a boy!! So I ended up making more blue than the rest. I really, really dig a giant center on flower cookies (someone recently pointed out that this is how Starbucks makes their flower sugar cookies and it might even be a subconscious preference based on my frequent trips there – ha).

I tried out black and yellow nonpareils for the center (sprinkles that are completely round – I think that those add a little something special) and ended up preferring the yellow for the shower, but the black for photos. Will share those soon. They are so unique.

My goal was not perfection, just cute. I’m still learning the art of royal icing and I have a ways to go, but I found this technique (giant center, one color flower petals) to be fairly forgiving.

My friend, Stephanie, and I put together a nice little royal icing tutorial for my FAVORITE sunflower cookies back in June – she’s quite good, but they were amongst the lost photos during my recent photo card catastrophe…

Taylor's First Birthday | Sunflower Royal Icing Sugar Cookies| PepperDesignBlog.com

If you are looking for an easy way to make the above, copy the royal icing steps for this cookie and use a basic off-the-shelf brown chocolate icing for the center + brown sprinkles. I used this cookie cutter to create a sunflower and this set for these flower cookies that I’m sharing today.

I took some shots of Liv and I baking these guys to help make up for the adorable imagery now gone. (PS these are all iPhone photos so I don’t know that they’re the best… but I think that they illustrate the steps well!)

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

I think that the first step to an awesome royal icing sugar cookie is a recipe that will hold up well in the oven. I’ve been through SO many I’ve lost track – it’s all about finding that cookie recipe where the cut-out shapes don’t bleed/spread out and become blobs in the oven (I’m talking hard lines and pointy edges stay intact for, say, a Christmas tree or simple square), or a sturdy enough recipe that rolls out well with a rolling pin without falling apart, but still tastes sugary and light. I can’t say that I’ve found the answer, but the one I’m about to share with you is the best I’ve discovered so far! I would say about 90% of my cookies came out of the oven as hoped, and the dough – while troublesome at times – was pretty easy to work with.

Cookie Cutter Sugar Cookie Recipe

Borrowed and just slightly modified from Bridget over at Bake at 350

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 c sugar (I use sugar that I’ve stored vanilla beans in)
2 sticks (salted) butter, cold & cut into chunks
1 egg
1 T pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix together flour and baking powder. With a mixer, beat the butter slightly. Add egg and vanilla and continue to mix. Slowly add sugar and butter until these ingredients blend to make a nicely creamed dough foundation (careful not to over mix).

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

Slowly add flour mixture (about a half cup at a time) with mixer setting on low until ‘chunks’ of dough breakaway from the side of the bowl and dough becomes clumpy.

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

Divide dough into two segments and create a little ball out of each. I love to work on a well floured surface (but note that the crazy amount of table flour will slowly blend into the dough ball as you go, making the dough tougher to work with).

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

A couple of tricks worth mentioning:

* No need to pre-beat egg before adding to mixer, overly beaten eggs add to a cookie’s toughness (so I’ve read)
* I prefer butter somewhere between cold and room temperature, I’ve also read that cold cold is not necessary
* I flour everything that I’m working with – rolling pin, cookie cutter, Liv, everything
* No need to refrigerate these dough balls before rolling out (Bridget’s recommendation)
* She does recommend putting cookie cutouts in the freezer for five minutes before baking though to help them hold their shape in the oven
* Bake on parchment paper (I always, always – it’s the best) on top of your cookie sheets

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

I found that this dough allows for one great rollout and maybe a second. Don’t count on multiple, so work efficiently by using up as much of that dough space with your cookie cutter (butt cutouts right up against each other as you cut out of the dough) before re-balling scraps and starting again. Here’s the flower cookie cutter set that I used for this batch.

Preferred thickness is at least 1/4″ or more. The thicker the better!

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

The above recipe makes about 18 large cookies (my cookies were about 4-5″ in length).

As mentioned above, I put these guys into the freezer for five minutes and then into the oven at 350 for 10-12 minutes (watch carefully). Allow to cool completely – I cooled mine partially on cookie sheets and then on a rack) before getting ready to ice. And if you make a second batch, be sure that cookie sheet is completely cool, too.

We decorated Liv’s mini flower cookies while we patiently waited…

Good Eats: Flower & Bumblebee Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing | PepperDesignBlog.com

Now on to the icing!! I’ll be back tomorrow to walk through the piping, flooding and serious sprinkling process. There were so many photos I had to break this into two parts to browsers loading – but I hope you’ll come back and join the fun!

Spoiler alert: the little sugar bees are from a craft store like Michaels and not handmade :), cute though – right?

I love me some desserts, especially now with this serious pregnant sweet tooth going (I just want chocolate – a big bar of milk chocolate – at about 3pm every day) – so here’s a link to more desserts featured here on the site :). I wish it was this that I was craving right now because really that wouldn’t be so bad…

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