08 Sep Alaskan Wonderland
I tend to bake my emotions. I’m not the best at actually expressing myself through words but those of you that have read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake will understand my emotional relationship with food (minus the mystical powers). When my Alpha Phi Omega mentor and friend, Melanie, announced that she would be moving to a remote Alaskan city in order to teach, I was both excited for her new adventure and sad to see her go. I brainstormed many ways to honor this new chapter in her life, but she managed to come up with the best idea of all—sending a care package of baked goods.
Thanks to Amazon, I was able to hunt down some Alaskan themed cookie cutters (which can be found by following this link). Although the cookie cutter shaped like the outline of Alaska was a bit small for my taste, they worked out perfectly. Since I would be shipping these cookies a full 3,527 miles (as the crow flies) I decided to bake the cookies a little bit thicker than usual in hopes that they might survive the trip. Below, you will find the recipe that I used. The “No Fail Sugar Cookie” recipe is absolutely fantastic for when you’re using intricate cookie cutters. The cookies will not spread and they taste delicious. My only complaint is that sometimes they can seem a bit dry but I suppose that’s the price that you pay for reliability.
After baking my cookies, I whipped up a half batch of Antonia 74’s royal icing (recipe below). This royal icing—when thinned—is perfect for flooding cookies. In this post, I didn’t put together a video tutorial of the flooding process, but I promise it will follow in subsequent posts. Until then, I highly recommend that you check out Sweet Ambs and a few of her free tutorials.
For my dyes, I use a combination of Wilton gel dyes as well as AmeriColor. I find that the AmeriColor dyes are easier to deal with when I’m working with an icing and the Wiltons are good for fondant because of their thick consistency. I have a nasty habit of always making my dyes a pastel shade of the color that I actually wanted, so I have to remind myself to add more dye than I think is needed (one day I’ll tell you the story of the orange pumpkin-themed cupcakes that were too pastel and ended up looking like boobs). For this reason, it is also likely that Melanie’s mouth will turn black when eating the sled dog cookies.
When working with this royal icing, it’s important to make sure that the unused icing always has a dampened cloth covering it so that it won’t dry out.
It is both with great sadness and excitement that I announce that my very first baking-related blog post has a “What went wrong?!” incident. Throughout my adventures, I will be posting links and photos of every mistake that I made along the way and hopefully the instructions for how to fix it the next time. This time around, I made two mistakes.
The first is baking related. I was incredibly excited to get started on decorating some Alaskan cookies so I rushed the recipe a little bit. There’s a part of the recipe that says “add dry mixture a little bit at a time”. Yeah… I didn’t do that… not even a little bit. I just dumped the whole pile of flour into the mixer at the same time and watched in horror as the mixer created a bizarre crumby cookie mixture. Once it had all finally come together, the dough seemed dryer than usual and once baked, a few of the cookies had cracks (don’t worry, I didn’t send those to you Melanie… I ate them). In order to fix this, you just have to be patient and actually follow the recipe.
The second mistake that I made was while decorating the state of Alaska. My original intent was to use little star-shaped sprinkles to make the shape of Big Dipper and North Star on a field of blue icing (mimicking their state flag). My mom took one look at the cookies and said “I don’t think you’ll have space for that”. I didn’t listen and realized very quickly that I had a problem—these cookies were way too small for that entire shape to fit. So I improvised (ok I actually stole my mom’s idea but at this point I’m too proud to admit it) and I cut up my star sprinkles to make tons of tiny yellow sprinkles to use for the Big Dipper and used a full star for the North Star. The moral of the story? Listen to your mom’s advice the first time around. We just won’t even discuss our disagreement about the orientation of Alaska.
Overall, I was very pleased with how the cookies turned out—especially the moose (mooses? meese? Stupid English language…). My only concern is that the cookies won’t survive the trip, and in that case, let these pictures serve as proof that they existed! I hope your time in Alaska is wonderful, Mel! All of us in the lower 49 miss you greatly!