Monday, January 9, 2012

Royal Icing Experiment

So as a newly obsessed cookie-decorator-wannabee, I've been struggling with lumpy flood icing. Sometimes it's smooth, but more often it's a mess. It's never as flawless as the cookies I've admired.

Each batch of cookies I've made so far has been an experimentation, trying to learn about royal icing consistencies mostly.

Some decorators outline with a thicker consistency and flood with thinner.

Some people outline and flood with the same medium consistency.

Sometimes they'll outline and flood with a thicker consistency.

They seem to have found what they prefer and go to for certain things. I know that besides getting my icing smooth, I have to find what works for me.

I realized that trying these one at a time will take me forever. I want improvement now. Instant gratification and all that. I don't want batches and batches of stinky cookies until I find my groove.

So it came to me. Whip up some cookies. Random shapes. Whip up some royal icing. No coloring. Just different consistencies of icing. Then play. Test. Write down what's what. So that's just what I did and I learned a whole lot in just one batch of cookies.

I made three consistencies of icing. One straight from the mixer. One was just over twenty-seconds. The last was just over ten-seconds.

For my timing, I "cut" the icing with a butter knife and counted until the icing came back together.

What I'm calling 20-second icing is much thinner than Sweet Sugarbelle's 20-second. She used a small spatula to cut and count. I think that she uses hers to outline and fill small areas. I'll have to remember that.

So here's what I found in my experimenting....

The icing straight out of the mixer was awful. I couldn't control it at all. I doubt that I could have used it anywhere with anything, so that icing was out of the rest of my experimentation. (I read that some decorators do use it that way. Theirs must be much thinner than mine!)

Then I started outlining and flooding. My first cookies looked fine while wet but as they dried, they were lumpy. Yes, lumpy, again. 20-second was lumpy. 10-second was lumpy. Well, that answered my question as to whether or not the consistency was the culprit.

Exhibit A......

So what else could it be? The way I applied the icing? I flooded it, not excessively and used the tip or a toothpick to move it around to spread it out. I've seen decorators use a spatula to smooth the icing and I've seen them use a toothpick.

Maybe not enough icing? BINGO!

Exhibit B......

Smooth as a baby's bottom. With these, I flooded round and round very tightly. I got my tip down in there and moved the icing a bit as I went. When I say that I flooded the cookies, I FLOODED the cookies. But carefully. Maybe a shake here and a quick toothpick there at the end. That was it.

Doh. I guess they used an offset spatula and not a toothpick for a reason!

So besides learning how to flood correctly, I learned a few other things....

For outlining and flooding together, the 20-second icing held its shape much better. The 10-second works but does spread a bit. I prefer the 20-second.

For outlining with a thicker piping consistency first, then I'd prefer 10-second or less for the flooding.

Then I started playing with piping dots, letters, and lines with 10-second and 20-second using #2 tips and #1.5 tips.

The 10-second was bad. Way too loose for any detail work.

The 20-second wasn't good with the #2 tip. It was okay with the #1.5. That's what I used for the flower petals above. They're not bad. I think I'd prefer a thicker consistency for details though.

I now wish that I had made a few piping consistencies for this super-jam packed lesson. But I learned something about that anyway. Before, I was careful, trying to get it just the right thickness where if I scooped it up with my spatula, it would fall off in just a few seconds but would still be flowy. (Does that make any sense?) Now I realize that since the 20-second icing worked okay for outlining and it's a long way off from what I was using before - anything in between will work just fine.

Woo hoo! I feel like I've just taken an abbreviated, royal icing course in just one class.

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