Monday, 21 August 2017

Orange Chocolate Sunflower Shortbread Cookies

Want to bake something simple yet yummy and impressive looking for Teacher's Day? Why not try making these lovely sunflower shortbread cookies :). They smell and taste lovely too!

I love shortbread cookies because they are simple to make (no special equipment or technique involved) using few ingredients. The original recipe just uses icing sugar, butter and plain flour in a very easy to remember ratio of 1:2:3 by weight, and therefore very easily adaptable for scaling the quantity and various flavours.

The baking part is easy. It is the rest of the craft portion that may be more time consuming. So feel free to improvise the design :).

Ingredients (makes about 50-55 4cm sunflowers):
Orange dough
50g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter
150g plain flour
1/8 tsp sea salt
Zest of 2 oranges (orange part only)
1/8 tsp orange paste/emulco (optional)
A drop of lemon paste (optional)
A few drops of Queen's natural yellow food colouring (optional)

Chocolate dough
20g icing sugar
40g unsalted butter
55g plain flour
5g Cocoa powder (I used Dutch processed cocoa powder)
A pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)

Decorative items
Royal icing*
Cake pop sticks/ wooden skewers (cut to about 5-6cm)
Styrofoam board (cut to fit inside cupcake case)
Green coloured paper (cut to leaf shapes)
Green shredded paper
Large cupcake cases (about 5cm at the base)

* The icing consistency should be less runny than the recipe link I provided. To do so, add a bit more icing sugar until the icing is able to form peaks that can hold for 20 seconds.

Orange zest! The key to awesome tasting orange cookies!

1. The method of making the dough differs depending on whether you are using electric mixer or not. I will describe both over here. Resulting texture may be lighter for the electric mixer version but both are still yummy.

A) Without electric mixer:
Sift together flour, icing sugar, salt and cocoa powder (for chocolate) or orange zest (for orange). Add small pieces of butter into flour mixture and use your finger tips to rub the butter into the flour and knead until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add flavouring/colouring and knead the mixture until a ball of dough forms.

B) With electric mixer:
Cream icing sugar, salt and softened butter with mixer until creamy and well combined. Add flavouring/colouring and orange zest (for orange) and mix well. Add flour and cocoa powder (for chocolate) and fold in with a spatula until a ball of dough forms. Use your fingers towards the end if necessary.

Divide each coloured dough into two or three portions. The reason for dividing the dough is this, Singapore is really warm so the dough softens quite fast at room temperature. It is easier to work with a firm but pliable dough. At any one point the dough becomes too soft, simply re-roll, freeze it and take the other frozen batch out of the freezer to work with so there is no in between waiting time for the dough to firm up again.

Coloured and flavoured dough

2. Roll each ball of dough to thickness of 4mm between two baking sheets. Freeze the dough until firm. The dough can keep in the freezer for a few months in airtight condition.

3. Prepare a small portion of cornflour or plain flour for dusting. Use a Daisy (or any flower cutter you have) fondant cutter to cut out the orange base flowers. Dust the surface of the dough and spread a thin coat of flour on the dough before cutting out the shapes. Let the dough soften a little before cutting otherwise it will crumble. Place the cut-outs on a baking tray lined with baking paper, about 2-3cm apart from each other. Dust the cookie cutter with flour if necessary but knock off the excess flour as much as possible.

Cookie cutouts

4. Use a small knife to make imprints on the petals if you wish (optional). Make criss cross patterns on the brown portion using the knife as well. If you find that the dough sticks to the knife, dust and coat the brown portion with a teeny bit of flour before making the imprint. This is also optional if you are feeling lazy.

5. If you feel really hardworking, you may add on a little darker yellow highlight on the petals near the flower centers. Dissolve a little golden yellow gel food colouring in water and use a fine paint brush to paint on the highlights. I am providing these options for details just in case you want to make more realistic looking flowers but these steps are just cosmetic.

6. Refrigerate the whole tray of cutouts until firm. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 150℃ and set the rack to second lowest position.

7.  Bake for 12-15 min or until the base of the cookies show telltale signs of being browned.  This is perhaps the trickiest part. It is safer to underbake, check the cookies and return them to the oven to bake longer for a few more minutes than to overbake them at the start. But don't worry, they still look pretty and taste yummy even when slightly browned. Keep a close watch on the browning towards end of baking time.

Freshly baked sunflowers!

8. Cool the cookies on the tray. Place the cookies on paper towels for an hour or even overnight to absorb excess oil from the base of the flowers. You may place the whole tray of cookies in jumbo ziplock bag to keep it in airtight condition.

9. Flip the cookies over such that the base is facing upwards. Prepare royal icing and cake pop sticks. Pipe a generous dollop of icing at the center of the flower base and insert a cake pop stick as shown below.

Leave the icing to dry in aircon room or under a fan for at least a few hours until fully hardened. Cookies won't turn soft if they are thoroughly baked through.

10. Cut pieces of styrofoam such that it can fit into the large cupcake cases. Cut leaves of appropriate size too.

This is to show the rough sizes of the styrofoam

11. Insert three flowers into the styrofoam block. You may find it easier to poke holes using a toothpick/wooden skewer first before inserting if you are using cake pop sticks. Carefully place the flower block into the cupcake case. Insert leaves and shredded paper as you wish.

Depending on how you want to pack, you may place in airtight container large enough to fit the whole assembly. I didn't have that so I packed them in large cookie bags but I had to make a more rigid barrier around the flowers to protect them. I also placed the base of the cupcake cake on a rigid piece of plastic. You may use small round cakeboard for this purpose but I didn't have them on hand too. The rigid barrier around the flowers and piece of plastic under the cupcake case are transparent so they aren't very visible as you can see here...

These cookies can keep for a month in airtight condition in a cool and dry place.

Inspired to try :)? Feel free to adjust accordingly to what you can manage. You can even do away with the flower pot idea and simply place each flower on pretty paper cupcake cases and pack a few in a box. Go on and bless your teachers or loved ones ;)

With love,
Phay Shing

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