Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dye-Free Decorated Heart Cookies--The Sweetest Way to Say "I Love You!"



Decorated cutout cookies always seem magical. That's why so many of us enjoy getting out our stash of cutters and making whatever shapes  are right for the season. With just a few well placed cinnamon red hots,  multicolored sprinkles, and drizzles and swipes of icing, we can create edible works of art as pretty as those depicted on holiday cards and wrapping papers.

 These days I mostly make cutout cookies with my own grandchildren, Charlie and Lizzie. We started when they were just toddlers, and, in fact, one of the first sentences Charlie learned to say was, "Nana make cookies?" The quick video of us in my kitchen last summer shows how much fun we have. For a how-to video showing the easy dough rolling method we always use, go here.

Baking with my grandkids has led to one major change in my cookie decorating: I often skip the usual petrochemical-based food colors and create icings and even homemade sprinkles with fruit juices and other natural botanical colors instead. (Research has shown that even "government approved" food dyes can cause allergic reactions and hyperactivity in some people, especially children. And allergies run in my family.)

So, ALL the cookies featured here are completely DYE-FREE. The secret to all the appealing pink shades is pure, frozen (thawed, undiluted) cranberry juice concentrate found in the supermarket frozen juice section! Incidentally, Simply Sensational Cookies (available on line  here) has many additional naturally beautiful buttercream frostings, icings, homemade sprinkles and decorating ideas both for Valentine's cookies and other gorgeous seasonal treats.

As the cookies at the very top and at right above suggest, it's possible to get really razzle-dazzle results with a bit of piping; and it's easy. The technique is called marbling, meaning that an accenting color is piped onto a wet layer of a complementary-colored icing, then immediately marbled into it with a toothpick for a dramatic patterned effect. Scroll down below for how-to pics. Or, check out my how-to-marble Youtube video, which shows how use the exact same technique on Christmas cookies.

Valentine's Day Beautiful Dye-Free Powdered Sugar Icings

This basic, versatile recipe is adapted from one in my new Simply Sensational Cookies book. The icing calls for a little meringue powder or egg white powder, and it's best not to leave it out because it helps set the natural berry color and also keeps shades from bleeding together.  Many discount department stores stock the Wilton brand of meringue powder along with cake decorating supplies. Supermarkets and nutrition stores sometimes carry the Deb El “Just Whites,” product or another brand of pure dried egg whites in their baking aisle.


This recipe is designed so you can make smallish batches of 3 or 4 different colors--bright pink, light pink, chocolate and white. For the intense pink shown, mix the ingredients with all cranberry juice concentrate. For a light or medium pink, use about half cranberry juice concentrate and half water.  For the rich, reddish chocolate color shown, use some cocoa powder and cranberry juice concentrate instead of water when you mix up the icing.

All together these batches of icing will yield enough to generously decorate 40 to 60 cookies. Notice how nicely the chocolate and the white contrast with the bright pink.

 By the way, I made the cookies using the Good & Easy Sugar Cookies recipe in Simply Sensational Cookies, but for another a rolled sugar cookie recipe that works well, go here.

Remember that the following icing quantity makes one color of icing.  For every color you want, start with 1 1/4 cups powder sugar and 1 teaspoon meringue powder and proceed from there.

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted after measuring if lumpy
Generous 1 teaspoon commercial meringue powder or dried egg white powder
2 to 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted after measuring if lumpy, optional for chocolate icing
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla extract, optional
About 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons water, or frozen (thawed)  cranberry juice concentrate, as needed for bright pink, pink or white icing

For each color of icing, thoroughly stir together the sugar and meringue or egg white powder until well combined in a small deep bowl; for a chocolate icing incorporate the cocoa powder also (the maximum will yield the darkest color).  Add the corn syrup, and extract if using, then gradually stir in enough fruit juice or water (or a combination)  to yield a fairly wet, fluid icing. Stir until very well blended, adding in more juice (water) or powdered sugar to produce the color and consistency desired. Use the icings immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to a week. Let warm to room temperature before using, then very thoroughly stir in a little juice or water if they are too stiff to spread.

 If simply icing cookies, set them on racks over paper or parchment to catch drips. Then spread the icing over the tops with a table knife; the icing will flow out evenly and dry with a sheen.

 If marbling cookies, also have on hand toothpicks and the accenting colors ready in piping cones; pastry bags fitted with fairly fine writing tips; or in small sturdy baggies with one bottom corner snipped off at the very end. Working quickly before the base layer of icing can set, pipe on the accenting lines as desired, then immediately draw through them to create the marbling desired. 

Let all iced cookies dry for at least several hours and preferably 4 to 6 hours before storing airtight. It's best to pack them in a single layer or with wax paper between each layer. Keep 1 week at room temperature; or frozen airtight for up to 1 month.


For step-by-step pics of how to form little hearts using the icing as shown in the pic at the top, go here.
For a whole gallery of  my dye-free decorated cookies and pastries, check out my Pinterest board here.  






10 comments:

Mary Hart Perry on February 5, 2013 at 7:30 PM said...

I adore these cookies! So beautiful. And though I suppose I can't include them in my list of "healthy choices" for my diet, serving them to my family I'd feel better. Why not do without the dye?

Rebecca York on February 5, 2013 at 8:56 PM said...

These cookies are gorgeous. And your detailed directions and pictures mean that anybody can make them!

Nancy Baggett on February 7, 2013 at 3:27 PM said...

Thank you both. I taught my grandkids how to do these--they are really not difficult yet look quite fancy I think.

Librarian Alli said...

These are beautiful! I love all of the natural flavorings you have in Simply Sensational Cookies. I am a librarian at a medium-size public library in a community that is just beginning to embrace the "whole foods/local/natural" movement, and I've been recommending your book to everyone! All of the recipes I've made turn out to be delicious, and I feel good serving up baked treats made with natural, non-synthetic ingredients to my family, friends, and yes, library patrons. Thank you very much for writing such a lovely book. It is truly one of my favorite cookbooks and I've had quite a few happy library patrons tell me the same. Happy baking!

Toby Devens said...

What a perfect Valtentine's Day project to do with my granddaughter. So glad we have an alternative to artificial colors, especially since two of my grandchildren are allergic to them.
And I love the marbling effect.

cronshi on February 8, 2013 at 1:23 PM said...

Amazing cookies! By the way, just heard someone mentioning kneadlessly simple on midday by Dan Rodricks. He remembered your appearance there, by the way, didn't realize you wrote a book on knead-free bread.

Holly @ abakershouse.com on February 8, 2013 at 2:27 PM said...

Simply gorgeous! I love the idea of dye-free and want to try this at home. I must get your cookie book. That will be my Valentine's gift to myself!

Nancy Baggett on February 8, 2013 at 2:33 PM said...

Alli, Toby, Holly, so glad the idea of dye-free appeals to you. And by using cranberry juice concentrate, the colors come out bright and pretty, and there's no work to do (like cooking beets!) Appreciate your recommending my Simply Sensational Cookies to others--or buying a copy to give yourself.

Nancy Baggett on February 8, 2013 at 2:34 PM said...

Cronshi, thanks for the heads-up on Dan Rodricks. I may send him an e-mail mentioning Kneadlessly Simple.

Patricia @ ButterYum on February 8, 2013 at 11:57 PM said...

Absolutely gorgeous - just like Martha's!

 

Welcome

Welcome to Kitchen Lane. It's a comfortable place to drop in, relax, and unwind. A place to browse through recipes and read the related stores. A place to enjoy the communal spirit and kitchen pleasures that bond us together.

Nancy Baggett's Kitchenlane Copyright © 2010-2011 All material on this website is copyrighted

and may not be reused without the permission of Nancy Baggett.

WoodMag is Designed by Ipietoon for Free Blogger Template