It all started one night when I was surfing the internet and discovered a website selling all kinds of cookie cutters. They were extremely reasonably priced, with most selling below $2. Now, if you ask me I’ll deny it but I think I might have a secret agenda to collect all the kitchen gadgets and pastry tools ever made, so finding this treasure trove really had me over the moons. An hour of blissful shopping later my wallet was $200 lighter. Who knew $1.99 could add up so fast?!
With the impending arrival of cookie cutters in more shapes than I know what to do with, I did some research on cookie decoration. To achieve the sophisticated look I want, there are basically two methods: flooding with royal icing, or covering with rolled fondant. I’m familiar with royal icing, having used it extensively to decorate gingerbread cookies, trees and houses, but I’ve never worked with fondant before. In my first semester at Le Cordon Bleu Tokyo, I managed to injure my wrist, so detailed royal icing work always results in achy joints that hurt for weeks afterwards. What’s more, it’s fun to try a new challenge, and that’s how I found myself doing more internet surfing on fondant tools. Another few hundred dollars later, I had placed an order on a great variety of fondant tools, most of which I’d never seen or heard of before.
By the time the two boxes finally arrived via Vpost USA a month later, I was in the midst of a year-end baking frenzy, which put a damper on my initial fascination over the whole idea of fondant-decorated cookies. I tried my best to organize the cookie cutters into themes but there were just so many of them that I finally gave up and chucked them all back into the original shipping carton that they came in. As for the fondant tools, I had no idea how to use them. I bought a bag of white fondant but let it sit in the drawer unopened, so I still didn’t know what fondant looked or felt like.
Then a friend of mine wanted something different this year for Chinese New Year. Here’s a little bit of background information: during Chinese New Year, people go around visiting friends and relatives and it is tradition (at least in Singapore) to bring the host two oranges. In return, the host gives the visitors two oranges to bring back. Somebody explained it to me once, and I can’t remember for sure, but I think it has something to do with the exchange of luck or prosperity, or both. Anyway, my friend thought that instead of giving out oranges, she could give out orange shaped cookies. She wanted me to think about what I could make, so I thought about it, hard. The challenge is that orange is a boring round shape, but not perfectly round, and I have no cookie cutter for it. Then there’s the problem of texture. Poured royal icing would yield a smooth surface, but for it to really look like an orange, it has to have those little dimples. I was stumped, until I thought of fondant. So this is what I did. I colored the fondant orange and cut them into shape, then I pricked them all over with a marzipan tool to give it texture. Voila!
It was my first time working with fondant, having shunned it in the past due to their less than desirable taste. But I have to admit, I had fun with these cookies. Have you ever played with clay when you were young? Then fondant is for you! It was like play clay, for adults. And being an adult, the result is much more eye-pleasing than the shapeless globs that used to come out from under my fingertips. And I’m happy to report that my friend is very pleased with the results too.
After the success with the orange cookies, I decided to break out the baby cookie cutter set that I ordered and make something really pretty for a friend who’s having a baby girl. I thought she could use them as gift tags as part of her baby’s one-month confection gifts. Aren’t they pretty?
I was even pleasantly surprised by the taste of the cookies. Because I used freshly grated lemon/orange zest, the cookies were fragrant and I rolled the fondant really thin so it was not overwhelmingly sweet. And above all, I had so much fun making these cookies I’m going to go through the cookie cutters and experiment with designs so I can add them to my Cookie Factory. Next up, wedding/engagement themed cookies.