Monday 22 September 2014

Halloween Monster Eye Cookies + Candy Eye Tutorial

   I spotted googly eye cookies on pinterest a few days ago and fancied a go at them myself. There was no link behind the image, however, so I had to use my head, and given how badly biscuits always seem to go for me - all except one - I decided to cheat a little bit, and opted to use a chocolate chip cookie mix from Betty Crocker that I found in my local corner shop.
   The cookies were only half of the problem, however. The eyes were the next, because what on earth was I going to make those out of? I considered different sweets, but there were absolutely none coming to mind that would be suitable. And then I thought about fondant. The trouble there was that fondant wouldn't do well in the oven if I were to bake them into the cookies, and it might well get squished or break if I were to push them into the cookies while they were still soft and fresh from the oven. So I needed something that would either bake well, or stay hard. And then I thought of it: royal icing. When mixed up well it dries rock solid. I'm quite hit and miss with royal icing, though, and only once has it ever gone well for me - but boy, did it go well or did it go well?! But I thought that it was my best chance, so I set about giving them a go.

To make the royal icing eyes, you need only royal icing, a non-stick surface like a silicone mat, black food colouring (preferrably gel, it's more concentrated, less messy and doesn't add much moisture to the mixture) and a piping bag with a couple of small, round nozzles.

1. Mix up your royal icing, or use a pre-made mixture like Beau. Transfer it into your piping bag with a nozzle attached and pipe blobs onto the non-stick surface. I used the back of a silicone macaroon mat which has never once been used for its original intention, but what are you going to do? Vary the sizes for a creepier effect. Make more than you think you'll need.

2. Wet your finger slightly - dip your finger tip in a bowl of water and then dab it into a clean towel - and tap the top of each eye down. The water will keep it from sticking to your fingers and subsequently offer a smoother finish, but you only want a damp finger, not a wet one, otherwise it will take longer for them to dry and possibly cause the pupils to run.

3. Once you've done this, you can either leave the eyes to set for an hour or so, use the same method I used to dry fondant quickly by putting them in a warm oven for about 20 minutes, or work with them damp.
   Mix up another lot of royal icing and colour it black for the pupils and transfer it into another piping back with a smaller nozzle, or the same nozzle after it's been cleaned and, most importantly, dried. If the nozzle is wet the colouring might be likely to separate from the icing a little and if your whites are still wet or damp, the black colouring might leak. Royal icing should be thick enough even with the colouring, however, not to run. I used it on my eyes while they were still wet, and only about 4 out of 75 or so spread, and these were on the wettest surfaced eyes. If you're uncertain, however, I suggest drying them first.
   Once you've applied the pupils, pat them down like you did with the whites, but make sure your finger is drier to prevent colour run.

4. Now let the eyes dry. I put them in the oven and they were done in about half an hour. Once they've cooled, peel the back away from one or two of them and see if they break, pull apart from themselves, or lift off. If they pull apart from themselves then they're still wet and you will either want to put them back in the oven or leave them to set at room temperature. To play it safe, I left them for an hour after taking them out of the oven, and once one lifted off perfectly, I removed them all and turned them all face-down so that the backs would dry a little easier.

5. I left the eyes over night before making the cookies, just to be safe.

6. Now, make your cookies. Gel food colouring is amazing because it comes out vibrant, doesn't interfere with the consistancy of the mixtures, and lasts a lot longer than liquid. Any cookie recipe will work, here, but you want a cookie whose surface will crack like chocolate chip cookies rather than sugar cookies. Like I said, I used Betty Crocker's chocolate chip cookie mix because I could guarantee that it would work better than if I'd made it from scratch.

7. Put the cookies in the oven and bake for the appropriate amount of time. No changes need to be made to this part unless the cookie recipe itself says so.

8. Move all of your eyes within reach before taking the cookies out of the oven, and while they're still soft and warm, start pressing the eyes in with clean, dry fingers. I had to use a knife to break parts of the surface because, obviously, they weren't still wet. The royal icing eyes didn't react to the warmth or the softness of the cookies; they remained solid and the only discolouration came from melted chocolate that I didn't notice get on my fingers, or that oozed out around them. The eyes might seem as though they'll fall out, but as the cookies cool they will harden, and the eyes will set in with them.

9. Once the cookies have cooled enough, move them onto a wire rack to cool completely, and hey presto, weird monster eyeball cookies.


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