About a week ago I made some Spring chick sugar cookies that, in all honesty, I wasn’t completely satisfied with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly pleased with how they turned out for a first attempt at decorating with royal icing, but a little voice in the back of my head kept telling me I could do better. After all, that first go with royal icing had already taught me about 20 things I did wrong and would not do again. As much as I wanted to redo those cookies and repost them with better results, I decided to move on. So on I went to browsing for more designs and inspiration. With an impending Easter dessert tray in mind, I stumbled across these gorgeous lilly of the valley cookies from Haniela. My Mum used to grow these in her garden when I was a little girl, and fond Spring memories came flooding back to me as soon as I saw them. I couldn’t resist but make a batch!
Lilly of the Valley Cookies
Yields 20-24 cookies
For the cookies:
2 sticks (227 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tsp. vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
For the royal icing:
4 tbsp. meringue powder or powdered egg whites
1/2 cup luke-warm water
500 grams (just over 1 lb.) powdered sugar
Food coloring gel in various shades of green
This is a three step process that, in my opinion, is best accomplished over a three day period. To start, you’ll want to make a couple dozen sugar cookies. Preheat your oven to 400* Fahrenheit (205* Celsius) and line your baking sheets with parchment paper. I like to cut out as many sheets of parchment paper as I’ll need (usually four for a batch of two dozen) so I can cut out all my cookies and just slide the parchment paper, cookies and all, onto the baking sheets as they become available. To make your cookies, cream the softened butter on high until smooth, then add the granulated sugar. Mix until small, sugary lumps form. Add the egg, vanilla extract, and baking powder, and mix until all of the ingredients are combined. A cup at a time, add the flour, mixing between each new addition. The dough should be pliable but not sticky, and should easily pull away from your fingers when pinched. If the dough is still sticky, add an additional 1/4 cup of flour until the dough reaches the right consistency. Roll the dough out to a 1/4 inch thick, and cut the cookies using a round cookie cutter. Place the cookies on the baking sheets, six to a sheet, and bake for 7-8 minutes or until the bottoms are just slightly browned. Set aside to cool. I suggest giving them at least over night to completely cool and leech out any oils before decorating, but they can be made up to a week in advance if stored in an air-tight container.
To make the royal icing, whisk the meringue powder/powdered egg whites with the luke-warm water until frothy. Add the powdered sugar and whisk on high until stiff peaks form (about 5-7 minutes). Given my inexperience in piping small, delicate flowers with royal icing, I decided to pipe my flowers on wax paper the night before, and apply them to cookies later with a little royal icing as glue. This allowed me to not only practice my piping technique for this flower, but also to pick the best ones of the bunch once the time came. To do this, thin one heaping tablespoon of icing with water until it reaches a 20 second consistency (20 second consistency= a small dollop of icing dropped back into the bowl is reabsorbed into the rest of the icing in approximately 20 seconds). Spoon the icing into the corner of a small plastic bag, and clip a small amount of the tip off. Make sure the cut is straight across. To pipe the flowers, create an upside down “u.” Fill in the middle and draw a small dot of icing down. Add an additional dot of icing on each side to create two additional petals. Let the flowers dry at least over night. Be sure to cover the rest of the royal icing with plastic wrap pressed firmly against the surface and refrigerate.
To fill and prepare the background for the flowers, spoon a heaping tablespoon of icing into two separate bowls. These will be colored two different shades of green for the stems later. With the majority of icing at hand, add green food gel until the desired shade of green is reached. I wanted a vivid light green, so I played around with adding some yellow as well to lighten the shade. Once you’ve gotten the color you want, add a small amount of water at a time until the icing reaches a 20 second consistency. Spoon about two tablespoons of the mixture into the corner of a plastic bag, twist, and set aside. This will be your piping icing. Take the rest of the icing and continue thinning it until it reaches a 10 second flood icing consistency (10 second consistency= a small dollop of icing dropped back into the bowl is reabsorbed in approximately 10 seconds). Pour the icing into the corner of a plastic bag, twist, and set aside. This will be your flood icing to fill into the cookie. Take the two small spoonfuls of icing you set aside earlier, and color them two different shades of green for the stems. Thin both to a 10 second flood consistency and pour each into a separate bag, twist, and set aside.
Take your piping icing, and pipe the rim of each cookie. Once all the cookies have a rim, flood the center with the flood icing. I like to work back and forth making a long, close-knit zig zag across the cookies. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of icing here. You want your cookies to be filled out and have a smooth finish, which is going to take a good deal of icing. Once all of the cookies have been flooded, you can go back through with a toothpick and drag icing around to fill in any gaps. While the flood icing is still wet, take the two different shades of green icing and make lines across the cookies for the stems. Be sure to cut the piping holes small on these bags so the stems remain slender and delicate. Set the cookies aside to dry, at least 3-4 hours.
Once the tops have dried, peel the royal icing flowers off their wax paper and apply a small bead of icing to the back. Be careful not to apply them to the cookies too early as the green icing can leech into the white flowers, discoloring them. Using a pair of clean tweezers, apply the flowers to the cookies. You can also pipe a few dots of icing onto the cookies to complete the look. Let the cookies dry completely before packaging.