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06/12/2013

Biscuit icing


During my "research" :p , I've found out that pros don't necessarily work with the expensive tips and bags so I wanted to compare the different options. Here are the result of my very unscientific experiment:

I started off with the tip (n#2), thinking that it would be the best it was going to get. And it was, only just...
The piping bag with just the end cut off: I found it very difficult to work with as it didn't make a proper circular hole, more a flattish one so piping curves wasn't easy but it was comfortable to hold. Maybe a different brand would give better results?
The freezer bag wasn't very comfortable to hold and I had some issues with the shape of the hole too. I would probably be ok using it for outline piping but not details.
Finally the paper cone. I was very worried about that one, thinking the icing would come out everywhere. It was actually very easy to use. Perfect for small quantities and piping details that are not too fine.

I would strongly recommend trying out the different options as it makes such a difference when you don't really know what you're doing! 

RECIPES
Plural because it depends on what egg white/egg white substitute you are using. Options are: egg white, liquid pasteurised egg white, meringue powder and egg white powder. You need to find out what's available where you live and find an appropriate recipe. A lot of other factors will affect the icing so you need to find what works in your kitchen.

I can find egg white powder at the supermarket so that's the one I use. 

The method is basically the same: mix all the ingredients for 5-10min. The icing should be opaque white and glossy, toothpaste like. If using an electric whisk, try not to move it about too much (to avoid air bubbles in the icing).
Have a small bowl/ramequin ready for each colour you need. Add colour a drop at a time, use a cocktail stick if it's in a pot (make sure you take a new one each time not to put icing in the pot).
Cover the bowl straight away so the icing doesn't dry out.

The question on everybody's lips: What is the right consistency? Just have a google and you'll see loads of numbers: 5sec, 10, 12, 15, 20. Basically you need to find what works for you. But I "think" there are different icing schools here:
- the outline and flood gang: you need a thicker icing to do the outline and a thiner one to flood the inside. Once totally dry, you can add more details with the thicker "piping" icing. 
- the middle of the road gang: one consistency for pretty much everything, thiner than "piping" but thicker than "flooding". It means you need to use a cocktail stick or similar tool to distribute and even out the icing. The big advantage is of course that you only need to prepare one bag per colour. If you watch videos on youtube, this is the method usually used.
When you start spending a bit of time hours on cookie decorating blogs, you'll start to notice the different methods and when to use them.

I haven't got enough practice to have good results with the second method. I think the outline and flood is more forgiving if the consistency is not spot on. So yes, extra prep for me.

TIPS  from books, blogs, videos, comments, experiments:

- if you feel you need to, practise your piping onto greaseproof paper first
- use a glass/jar to hold your bag while you're filling it with icing
- have cocktail sticks, moist kitchen paper ready.
- alway close your bag at the top (elastic or twist tie work well) fold down paper bag several times
- liquid colourings don't give strong colours and they can make the icing too thin
- alway keep some white icing "just in case"
- icing is best used straight away but can keep in the fridge for a few days (mix it well before use as it might separate).
- darker shades (reds, browns, black) take a while to develop so prepare them a day in advance to check the colour. Another option is to add some cocoa powder (mixed with a little bit of water to make a paste).
- wash up asap: fresh icing disolves in water. Dry icing, not fun...
- the cocktail stick is your best friend: use it to flatten peaks on dots and end of lines etc., to burst air bubbles in flood icing, smooth and repair
- some colours tend to "bleed" while drying. If possible let the first colour dry before applying the second and dry the icing as quickly as possible (see next tip)
- some people like to dry their biscuits in the oven fan only or 50°C
- use your leftover icing: practise piping techniques (yes, how sad...) or add some icing sugar to make it stiff enough to make embellishments. Small flowers, rosettes, butterflies etc can be piped onto greaseproof paper and left to dry. Use them to decorate cakes, cupcakes, etc. They can be kept in a airtight container for a month. 
- make transfers onto greaseproof paper to add dimension or help with tricky details
- use food pens or a cocktail stick/tool to trace the design before icing (or buy a projector...).
- for an harmonious colour palette, mix the colours. For super clear instructions have a look at these two blog posts - be prepared though, you're going to spend hours looking at their work, ahhh-ing and ooooh-ing! Thank you Georganne from Lilaloa here and Callye from The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle here.   

If you'd like to share tips, feel free to leave a comment or join our Facebook group.  

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