Saturday, October 31, 2015
Martha & Me - October
This month, I tried a cookie idea from the October issue of Martha Stewart Living, making these cute and playful Dia de los Muertos cookies with the small Bears (click the link to see a post about them on Martha's website). Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, on November 1 and 2, to honor the deceased. I've always been drawn to its traditions, such as the creation of sugar skulls, which are delicate skull shapes made of sugar and decorated with candy flowers and other designs. Martha's cookies are meant to mimic this style, using icing, candies and baking decors to create interesting designs. Our cookies are somewhat less precise than Martha's, but we had a lot of fun making them.
Martha suggested a recipe from her website for the cookie dough, a chocolate-cinnamon one. This sounded really tasty to me, but I wasn't sure how the rest of the family would feel about it. (Probably just fine, I've realized in hindsight, but I would never want to stand in the way of cookie-devouring). I decided to use my old faithful sugar cookie recipe, from the Betty Crocker cookbook. I know it well; it tastes good and it always works. We mixed up our dough and left it in the fridge for a couple of hours as directed.
Martha wanted me to bend an oval-shaped metal cookie cutter at one end to create a narrow face shape. I don't have any cookie cutters like that, and I'd balk at altering one if I did, so I had some help from the Bear in the form of a 3-D printed skull-shaped cookie cutter. He jumped at the opportunity to use his 3-D printer to make a special item for me. He designed the shape himself and it printed up nicely. My lovely Bear.
The cutter did a good job on the dough. I liked the general shape but I had some concerns about the side pieces on the cheeks. I had a feeling they might not stay in shape during baking...
I was right. The side bits didn't come through well in the baking, but the cookies still looked skull-like. He plans to make a new cutter without the side pieces; I'm ambivalent but I'll take any custom cookie cutters he feels like producing. It's just too cool to pass up.
I put the cookies on a sheet pan with sides to help contain messiness, and we got to work. I made icing from powdered sugar and milk, put it in a bag with one corner cut off as a piping tip, and iced the cookies one at a time. I couldn't do more than that because the icing dried so quickly, but it was a quick and easy job. I piped around the outline of the cookie, then did some squiggly lines across inside the outline, then used a spoon to spread it all around. I'm not especially good at icing but I enjoy doing it, so I liked this part.
The small Bears and I raided my big bag of baking decors, coming up with sugar flowers in two sizes, blue gel icing, and chocolate and colored sprinkles. For noses we decided on Red Hots, which are small disc-shaped cinnamon candies. The eyes are chocolate chips. Martha's skulls were a little fancier, but I think we found a good assortment of things to use. I considered getting out some tools - hemostats, tweezers, etc. - for decor-placement, but in the end I let them use their fingers and I did too.
I really loved how they turned out. The cookies were delicious and they were so festive and fun to make. My kids were so proud of them! I had them on a pan in the dining room to finish drying and they dragged the Bear to see it as soon as he walked in from work. I liked that we all had a part in making them; it's the best kind of creative adventure.