In the cookie world, icing is everything. And there are different kinds. Probably more than I even know. I just wanted to share a little info that I have learned since diving into this cookie world myself…
Most decorated cookie creators out there use what is called Royal Icing. All of the recipes I have seen include the same basic ingredients: powdered sugar, water, egg whites or meringue powder, and flavoring. In this type of icing, it is the meringue powder that makes it dry hard.
Royal Icing is a cookie creator’s favorite because it dries hard (very hard), holds its shape well, and can be thinned or thickened to the desired consistency by adding more or less water. The cookies are outlined with thicker icing, then filled in with thinned icing – this is called “flooding.” Also, it’s white to start – which makes coloring it easy. But, royal icing takes a long time to make – not recommended for someone who does not own a stand mixer! (I have memories of my grandmother holding a hand mixer for like 10 minutes making us the strong cement-like frosting to hold together our gingerbread houses.)
Here are a few googled images of cookies with royal icing:
A few cookie decorators out there live on the wild side and go a different route. Instead of royal icing, they use was is called Glaze, or Glace. Most recipes include these ingredients: powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup, and flavoring. In this type of icing, it is the milk that makes it dry hard.
Glaze does not hold its shape as well as royal icing, and it also does not dry as hard. It dries just hard enough for stacking, moving and displaying, while still being moist when you bite into it (rather than crunchy). To thicken or thin glaze, more or less milk is used. Just like royal icing, thicker for the outlining and thinner for flooding it. But with glaze, thick icing it a hand killer! Very hard to squeeze out… Unlike royal icing, glaze is fast and simple to make. And it dries shiny, whereas royal icing is a flat color. The shine is because of the corn syrup. Also, glaze is more clear than white, so white food coloring must be added to acheive the bright white color.
Here are a few googled images of cookies with glaze:
*** These were just pulled out of google. I could not find a source for the first picture. The second is from i am baker.***
Now I thought it would be a good idea to explain the above before I explain what I use. See, in terms of “normal” in the cookie world, I’m just plain weird! I have actually never attempted to make royal icing. I think it kind of scares me. It is so precise and complicated, and I tend to do recipes that are easy and fast. Also, I personally think that cement-hard frosting is just not appetizing. But maybe I just haven’t had any that was “professionally” made and flavorful, I don’t know.
What I use is something similar to glaze. Except even simpler. Just powdered sugar and milk. That’s it.
But here is where I get even weirder… for my outlining and details, I do not use a thicker version of the same icing like all other cookie decorators. I use frosting. Real buttercream frosting. It hardens well like my icing – not too hard, but perfect for stacking and moving.
Some might think I am crazy for making 2 different things everytime I decorate, but it works for me.. and I think the taste screams in my favor!
I have contemplated trying to make glaze the right way… but I don’t know, I feel like maybe the flavoring and corn syrup might just make it too sweet. I’ve also thought about trying to merge the 2 different icings above… glaze with a little meringue powder to make it just a tad harder? Maybe someday I will be adventurous, but for now I think I’m going to stick to my silly, tastey, unconventional icing ways!