Monday, April 29, 2013

Flower Cookie Arrangement


Yes, these cookies are cute, but they are also delicious.

ME&A know that I am not big on crafts, you won't find fabulous family photos of adorable children in creative Halloween or Purim costumes. These cookies are one of the few instances of "cute" in my repertoire. 

Choreography & How To:
The cookies in the photo are actually 2 different cookies, a modified shortbread with currents and a sugar cookie flavored with vanilla and orange. The leaves are made of the basic sugar cookie dough with green food coloring.  I used a variety of cookie cutters for flowers and leaves. The larger cookies were made in a Wilton Flower-Pop Cookie Pan, the smaller tulips are part of a set from Nordic Ware's Flower Garden Cookie Cutters. The decorations are available in the baking aisle of the supermarket, or through  the  Cake Mate/Signature Brands LLC website.  You can use any cookie recipe(s) you choose, as long as you can shape the dough by either rolling and cutting out flower shapes, or filling a flower shaped pan.

The baking portion of the project can be completed in stages: freeze the cookies and brownies as you make them. You can work with the frozen baked goods while you assemble the flower pot. The flower pot itself took me about 45 minutes to assemble. 

The pot is a terracotta flower pot that I purchased at Home Depot. I did a bit of research, thinking that I wanted to try a recipe for baking "dirt" in a flower pot, but I have found no evidence that I trust regarding the safety of baking in unfinished terracotta pots. So I skipped baking in the clay pots, lined this one with foil and filled the flower pot with finished baked goods and candy including cookies, brownies and gummy worms. The last time I made a cookie flower pot was years ago for Adam's bar mitzvah, at that time I used small (1 quart) metal paint cans used for mixing colors; those pots were also purchased at Home Depot. I also lined the metal pots with foil and did not attempt to bake in the container itself.


  All of the cookies were baked with a stick attached- either a cookie pop stick, wooden BBQ skewer or a toothpick. Cookie pop sticks can be purchased through Wilton or any website carrying cookie making equipment. 








The large cookies are heavy and require the pot to be weighted, so I lined the pot with foil and filled the hollow space with glass marbles.  I cut the lower third of a 2 liter coke bottle, punched holes with an awl and inverted the bottle over the beads to form a holder for the various cookies.

 
 
The holes in the plastic must be large enough to accommodate the cookie pop stick. 
The larger cookies are arranged in the plastic, the stick is anchored in the marbles. For additional support, fill around each cookie with small squares of brownies to keep them in place. Smaller cookies can be anchored directly into the brownies. The brownies form the "soil" around each cookie. Leaves and worms can be scattered among the brownies as well. 


Ingredients for a basic sugar cookie:
1 cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg (slightly beaten)
2 tsp baking powder (sifted into the flour)
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1 tsp orange or lemon extract (or flavoring oil)
3 cups (13.5 oz) all purpose flour 

Equipment:
Baking pan, parchment paper 
Large bowl and either a mixer or wooden spoon
Cooling rack 
A variety of flower and leaf cookie cutters
Spatula for removing cookies from baking pan

Making the cookies:
1. Prepare and measure the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 360 degrees. Take an extra minute, measure the flour and sift the baking powder into the flour. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
2. Cream the margarine and sugar, add the egg and extracts.
3. Add the flour, continue to mix until the mixture comes together in a ball (about 3-4 minutes).  You can mix this batter together by hand if you choose.
4. Separate about 1/4 of the dough. Wrap or cover the larger portion and chill for 30 minutes.
5. Add a small amount of green food coloring to the separated smaller portion of dough (Cake Mate makes coloring gel in tubes). Knead by hand, add more color if you need it.
Roll out the dough and cut small leaf shapes 
6. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake the leaves for 8-10 minutes, you will see the edges turning barely browish. Cool the hot cookies on the baking sheet for five minutes and then move them to a rack and completely cool. 
7. Remove the chilled dough and roll out to about 1/2 inch. Cut with cutters and move cut-outs to a baking sheet. Insert a stick into the raw dough. 

                       

8. Decorate and bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes. The cookies will turn barely brown around the edges. Remove the cookies from the oven, allow to cool in place for about 10 minutes and then carefully move them to a cooling rack.  The cookies can be frosted or you can further decorate with icing after they are completely cooled. Cookies can be frozen, in plastic containers at this point. 


9. Prepare the washed and dried terracotta pot (or other small container) before you begin to assemble the arrangement.  Line the container with foil, fill with glass florist marbles, Invert the plastic anchor in which you have punched holes. Work slowly, the cookies will break if you handle them roughly. 

10. Place the cookies in the plastic holder, fill around the cookies with brownie pieces, leaf shaped cookies, gummy worms or gummy insects (I also found gummy frogs) should be placed between brownie pieces. If you plan to transport the flower pot, wrap plastic wrap around the arrangement to minimize movement of the cookies.