Sunday, 14 June 2015

Princess Crown Strawberry Shortbread Cookies (icing-free)

Here are some princess crown shortbread cookies for a little girl's princess-themed birthday party!

Icing-free cookies were requested so shortbread cookies are a natural choice.

The design may seem simple but it was a challenge to cut out the shape without a crown-shaped cookie cutter. More challenging than My Melody and Piano shortbread cookies, which I also made without store-bought cookie cutters. As usual, I resorted to using homemade templates to cut out the crown shaped dough.

The recipe for this is a simple one, following the golden ratio of 1:2:3 for icing sugar: butter:plain flour that Guaishushu mentioned in his famous blog post. I usually replace some plain flour with cornflour to create a more crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth texture for the cookies. But because of the shape of the crown with thin sections sticking out, I was afraid that a more delicate texture would mean that the cookies will not remain intact in the cookie bag and break into pieces before the kids get to eat. Therefore for this batch of shortbread cookies, I didn't use cornflour.

All the shades of pink you see are coloured using strawberry paste/emulco. Red gel food colouring was added only for the red hearts.

Ingredients (makes about twenty 7cm wide crowns):
Pink dough
80g icing sugar
160g unsalted butter
240g plain flour
3/8 tsp salt
3/4 tsp strawberry emulco

White dough
30g icing sugar
60g unsalted butter
90g plain flour
1/8 tsp salt
Few drops of white gel food colouring

1. Sift together flour, salt and icing sugar. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a knife or pastry cutter until mixture resembles fine crumbs.

2. Knead to form a ball of dough while added food colouring or strawberry paste.

3. Form various intermediate shades of pink by combining different ratios of white and pink dough.

4. Divide the main pink dough (for crown base) into two portions and place between baking sheets. Roll to thickness of 5-6mm(1/4"). For the rest of the small portions of dough used as decorations on the crown, roll between two baking sheets to thickness of about 2-3mm. Freeze the dough for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

5. Use the homemade template to cut out the crown shapes. Place the cutouts in baking tray lined with baking sheet. You may find it helpful to place a reusable freezer pack under the dough as your work surface to keep the dough firm for a longer time in Singapore's hot weather. Place the tray of cutouts in the fridge while you work on another tray.

6. Add in the decorations on the crown. I used a combination of cutting with a knife and small heart and round cutters. I used a jumbo straw for the circles at the tips of the crowns and regular straws for the smaller circles.

Some geometry and trigonometry was needed to figure out what size of diamonds to cut and how to form a tessalation of diamonds :p. Yes, baking involves a lot of Math as well with ratios and scaling being the most predominantly used ones.

For diamond cutouts, try to work quickly and place the cutouts on an empty tray lined with baking sheet. Freeze the tray to let the diamonds harden before transferring onto the crowns. Reason being, the small, thin cutouts soften in no time in Singapore's weather, making them very hard to handle once out of the fridge/freezer for more than a minute.

7. Place the whole tray of assemble crowns in the fridge/freezer. Preheat the oven to 150°C and set the rack to second lowest position. Once the oven temperature is stable, bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through baking. Keep a close watch for browning. Once the base of the cookies show telltale signs of browning, they are done.

8. Leave the cookies to cool on the tray for 5-10minutes before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.

Cooling crowns!

I had to pack the cookies carefully into cookie bags, inserting a rigid plastic sheet and ice-cream stick as supports to protect the cookies from breaking. Relieved that none of them broke and they were well received!

With love,
Phay Shing

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