Cherry blossom cookies for Spring!

Spring has to be my favourite time of year! The sun comes out again, it’s warm, I can go for walks and runs outdoors, wear skirts, and the earth in general seems to come alive again. So for my first ever Daring Bakers’ challenge, where we were asked to make decorated sugar cookies with the theme September, Spring definitely sprung to mind! I was really looking forward to the challenge because I’ve never made sugar cookies before, and I already had lots of inspiration. Of course, flowers are now appearing everywhere, but what I look forward to most every September are cherry blossoms and tulips.

Canberra is the sister city to Nara, Japan, and so there are cherry blossom trees everywhere. They make me really happy when they bloom, because the whole tree becomes a burst of colour, from the palest blush pink to the richest magenta, or a pristine white. I love them all! I took these photos all in the same afternoon, when Soy and I went for a walk around our neighbourhood hunting for cherry blossom trees.

As for tulips, September is the month of Floriade, an annual flower festival held here. Living in Canberra, we kind of take it for granted, so unless we make plans to meet friends for a picnic, or just go for a walk, we don’t usually make it a point to visit. But every time I do, I enjoy it immensely because the tulips in all their rainbow colours and different varieties are just breathtaking. Not to mention the food stalls, with the aroma of Vienna almonds and popcorn (it always comes back to food, doesn’t it?).

So, for my challenge entry, I wanted to showcase one of my favourite flowers that only appear once a year- cherry blossoms. And how lucky that a friend gave me a cherry blossom cookie cutter earlier this year? It was simply meant to be!

I used the recipe provided by Mandy, the host of this month’s challenge, and added some lemon for a spring twist. I really liked how the dough turned out- smooth and velvety. The best tip Mandy provided was not to cream the butter too much, as you would for a cake. You need to stop creaming the sugar and butter at the point when it’s just starting to become creamy. If you overdo it, the cookies will spread out too much and won’t keep their shapes.

I rolled out my dough quite thick, because I wanted my cookies to hold their shape as they were quite small, and also I needed them to be thick enough for me to insert a bamboo skewer that would act as my blossom stem. A good tip here is to soak the bamboo skewers in cold water before you use them, so they won’t burn in the oven (I learnt this from Soy- she does the same when making satay).

Then came the fun (and daunting) part- the decorating! I followed all of Mandy’s instructions to a T, and was really happy with the results! When outlining and flooding the cookies with royal icing, I might have used a piping tip that was a tad too large, so my icing came out in a big gloop, and I initially wasn’t very happy with the neatness of the icing. But, after letting them dry overnight, the icing smoothed out and once I piped in the blossom petals, they started looking much better.

With some chocolate cake soil and verdant lettuce leaves that Soy allowed me to pinch from our garden, my cherry blossoms were blooming quite happily (until some giants came along and ate them!)

Please share with me, what’s your favourite thing about Spring?

Blog checking lines

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.

Cherry Blossom sugar cookies

Lemon sugar cookies

adapted from Peggy Porschen’s sugar cookie recipe

200g  unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g Caster Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

finely grated rind of 1 lemon

Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.

Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.
• Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid
flour flying everywhere.

• Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
• Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
• Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an
hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and
then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.

• Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
• Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
• Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
• Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in
some cookies being baked before others are done.

Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.

Royal Icing

2½ – 3 cups Icing Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
2 tsp Lemon Juice

1 tsp Almond Extract

• Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and
grease free.

• Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.
• Beat on low until combined and smooth.
• Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.

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  • http://www.honeyandsoy.com honeyandsoy

    Thanks Faith…. Pretty flowers are my favourite part of Spring!

  • MandyM

    Your cherry blossoms are just gorgeous! I really love them, they’re beautifully decorated.

    Welcome to the Daring Bakers & thank you for taking part of the September challenge :)

  • Sirius73

    Cute cookies! Love the way you arranged them in a flower pot for the picture!

  • Paper and Food

    Cute! I love pink cookies!