Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Calaveras Cookies

I meant to get these posted before Dia de los Muertos [All Souls Day], but that didn't happen.  Instead, you can marvel at them this year and plan to make your own next time... They would, of course, work as Halloween cookies, but since I was using my Mexican Chocolate Cookie dough it seemed only appropriate to wait for November 2nd.  Sometimes decorated cookies don't taste as good as the look, but that cookie is a workhorse and has enough flavor to power through my as-tasty-as-it-gets royal icing. [Royal icing looks great but tastes flatly sweet, even with a goodly amount of almond extract. That's why the flavor of the cookie underneath is so important.]

These were pretty fun to make.  As you fill them, different features appear and I'd intentionally leave "highlights" here and there and I found the emerging characters very entertaining... which is good, because I made a double batch (~80) and it did take a while.  On further consideration, I could have made the cookies twice as thick (1/4") and it probably would have made them even tastier.

You also don't need the fancy cookie cutter.  I have one (that I think I got after Halloween one year at Williams-Sonoma) so I use it, but you could do the same technique with a simple oval and get almost the same effect (minus the little teeth).  I have no artistic talent*, so I like guidelines.

Recipe: Royal Icing
This is a classic royal icing as it was made before the creation of meringue powder or pasteurized raw eggs.  You can use either if you're squeamish, but the sugar does "cure" the whites.  My cookie recipe calls for yolks only, so it made sense to use the whites I had on hand... and if you didn't get sick from eating the raw dough, the icing won't make you sick either... It's the best kind of litmus test as far as I'm concerned.

2 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract

Combine whites and salt.  Whip at a low speed until foamy, then increase to maximum until soft peaks form.  Add sugar and continue to whip until fully incorporated (it'll be thick and shiny).  Use the whisk to stir in the almond extract, then use a funnel to transfer to a squeeze bottle (like a ketchup bottle, I got mine in the little kitchen supply section of my hardware store). 
To Pipe Calaveras: 
Outline the shape, leaving a 1/4 rim on all sides.  Make 2 big circles for the eyes and a triangle nose directly below them.  Add two curving lines for the mouth.  If your icing is on the thin side [it varies with the ambient humidity] let it dry for ~30 seconds before filling in the gaps.  Use a toothpick to fill the voids, leaving markings where you see fit.  Let dry overnight [I stuck them on sheet trays in the oven] before bagging or stacking to store in airtight containers. 

*Yes, I'm craft-y [and crafty], but it's not the same thing.

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