Have you ever decorated cookies with royal icing? Royal icing and butter icing are both naturally gluten free but they aren’t the same. Royal icing is stiff and hardens onto the cookie or acts as glue to hold cookie pieces together. It is used for special projects like decorating gingerbread houses, wedding cakes or fancy cookies.
Decorating cookies is a creative process, the kind of project I can get excited about. I hadn’t had a serious cookie decorating session for quite a while but my inspiration came when I saw these beautifully decorated cookies on Instagram. I love all things Asian and these cookies, decorated for Chinese New Year, were done by someone I know through my work as a health educator. What I didn’t know is that @ladybugnclover is a passionate cake and cookie decorator. I immediately called her and set up a cookie decorating date.
For our cookie decorating afternoon I met Dagmar in her kitchen. I brought two kinds of gluten free sugar cookies and she supplied a selection of coloured icing as well as some cookies she made. We spent hours decorating and she taught me a few tricks for working with royal icing.
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I have always made royal icing using egg whites. Raw eggs have a small risk of infection from salmonella, especially for people with a weakened immune system. You can use egg whites in a carton which are pasteurized but some people prefer to avoid raw eggs altogether.
Meringue powder is the modern solution and it is available in various sizes at specialty baking supply stores. Meringue powder is dried raw egg white but it is a product with an ingredient list. Some labels include cornstarch, gums and even sugar but many sources confirm they are safe for a gluten free diet. Wilton brand is popular and their website has a list of gluten free decorating supplies. Their meringue powder and gel food colouring are all listed as gluten free.
Bake your cookies in advance if you can. Whether it is a day or a week before you decorate, you’ll be glad you did it. Cookie decorating is supposed to be a fun project so there is no need to create stress by baking cookies on the same day.
The icing can be made a day or two in advance too but it’s not necessary. Making the icing, deciding what colours to make and putting them into piping bags gets the creative juices flowing so I prefer to do that just as I am about to decorate.
If you are serious about decorating there is no end to the variety of baking supplies you can acquire. If you just want to try it for fun this is a list of what you need to get started.
Sometimes it takes a challenge to get inspired to try something new, something you haven’t done before. So if making and decorating gluten free cookies is a challenge that appeals to you I encourage you to go for it. I wrote a blog post with ideas for organization and work flow titled Cookie Decorating Party. I think this is a fun idea for a birthday party.
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Sue Jennett of A Canadian Celiac Podcast specifically about cookies. Listen to the podcast here Episode 43 Tips For Baking Gluten Free Cookies. If you haven’t started listening to podcasts yet I suggest you give it a try. It’s the modern version of radio and you get to listen to what you want when you want. Listen while you workout, drive or bake cookies. You’ll probably learn something too.
|ROYAL ICING with egg whites|
|3 egg whites|
|4 cups icing sugar|
|water or lemon juice if desired|
|ROYAL ICING with meringue powder|
|3 Tbsp meringue powder|
|4 cups icing sugar|
|5 Tbsp water|
|SMALL BATCH with meringue powder|
|2 tsp meringue powder|
|1 cup icing sugar|
|2 Tbsp water|
|COLOURING ICING - Gel paste food colouring gives vibrant colours but liquid works too.|
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