January 27, 2012
I’ve noticed that every time I post a photo of containers of my cookie icing on Facebook I get a number of comments from people curious about what I use, how I make it and how it works. So today’s the day I put this baby to rest and give you the all the news that’s fit to print on corn syrup glaze.
For those brand new to cookie decorating there are four primary ways to cover a cookie; royal icing, buttercream, fondant, and corn syrup glaze. That list doesn’t include covering it with the roof of your mouth since that usually takes place after it’s been covered by one of the aforementioned toppings.
Royal icing seems to be the most used icing among the cookie decorators I know and Callye over at Sweet Sugarbelle has an excellent tutorial on making royal icing. If you want to know what you can do with royal icing, are willing to practice, and have a bucket load of dormant talent hidden somewhere deep within you, look over her cookies while you’re checking out her tutorial.
I’ve only used royal icing a couple times and personally, it’s not my thang. I can’t tolerate the taste of royal icing and I can always taste that unpleasant back note of wall spackle flavor behind whatever extract flavorings is added. Not that I actually ever eaten wall spackle but when I imagine how it tastes royal icing comes to mind. With all due respect to every royal icing cookie decorator I love and adore, I have no doubt that your royal icing is the exception; that it tastes like a creamy rich blanket of sweet deliciousness but I all I have to say about everyone else’s royal icing can be summed up in two words with a hyphen. . .icky-poo. The other problem I had with royal icing is that it’s temperamental, meaning it doesn’t like me. No matter what variation of it I tried it never came out right. I ended up with multiple clogs in my piping tips, outlines that cracked and fell off the cookie, and bumpy flooded areas. Royal icing was a royal pain. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
But on the upside, the highlight and major selling point for royal icing is that it gives a dimension and detail that can’t be had with corn syrup glaze. One of the only times I used royal icing that fell anything within the ballpark of success was in making these knitting cookies. With royal icing I was able to lay wet lines of icing over one another without having them run together as they would with glaze. An equal version of the same cookies would be possible with glaze but not without requiring multiple drying times which involves more patience than I’ve ever had in my entire life collectively.
Buttercream icing is a huge mystery to me so I won’t poo-poo or praise it but instead you might want to read this buttercream recipe and glowing report on it’s wonderful powers on an adorable set of Valentines cookies over at TidyMom. You might also want to check out this blog post at The Other Side of 50 on buttercream-iced cookies.
Fondant is a word I use broadly. There’s the traditional rolled fondant that can be applied on cookies as it has been on umpteen million wedding cakes. Here’s a basic tutorial on covering a cookie with rolled fondant over at Cake Journal. Again, there’s a flavor factor with fondant. Just call it the sugar silly putty of the baking world. I’m pretty sure I offended a few fondant decorators out there with that little phrase but let’s move on, shall we? Marshmallow fondant is a little messy and time-consuming to make but it rolls out well, can be stored airtight for a couple months (soften for seconds in your microwave) and if Marshmallow Fluff is a tasty delicacy to you then you’re going to want a ticket for this ride.
Within the same category of a rolled or modeling clay like covering for cookies is chocolate candy clay which I use frequently and enthusiastically and will save for another post but since I’m all about building suspense and intrigue here are a couple photos to whet your candy clay appetite.
The chocolate candy clay roses and leaves were placed on top of a corn syrup glazed cookie, and in a reverse method….
Corn syrup glaze peace signs were drawn onto a chocolate candy clay background.
But enough about all of that! Let’s move on to why we’re all here…..corn syrup glaze!
The Downside of Corn Syrup Glaze
- Intricate detailing and fine point writing is near to impossible.
- Dimension and detailing requires added decorating time to allow glaze to set between layers, sections, and colors.
- Glaze takes 18-24 hours to dry completely and even when it’s completely dry there’s a tendency for it to leave a little moisture smudge on any surface of the bag you put it in that it has contact with.
The Upside of Corn Syrup Glaze
- Unlike royal icing, glaze doesn’t have a flavor of its own that needs to be covered up, allowing whatever flavoring you add to it to shine.
- Glaze is simple and quick to make. Add a couple common ingredients together and mix until smooth. Easy-peasy, mix and squeezy!
- Glaze can be stored up to several months. As you’ll see below, I make multiple batches at a time and then refrigerate or freeze the glaze depending on the time until I plan to use it. Leftover glaze can be re-frozen over and over again without any noticeable change to the taste, texture, or color.
- Glaze keeps the cookie moist. Again, only my experience so tell me if I’m wrong (just do it gently) but I think the added amount of corn syrup in glaze over what royal icing has, retains the moisture of the cookie.
- Glaze has a glossy finish. When completely dry glaze holds a shine while royal icing has a matte finish.
- Glaze is a people pleaser. I’ve heard nothing but glowing comments from people who’ve eaten Sweet Hope Cookies. More than a few times someone has mentioned how they’ve eaten other decorated cookies that have a funky taste in the icing (me thinks royal icing) and so they were surprised at how delicious my icing tastes.
I can’t talk about corn syrup glaze without first giving credit where credit is due and the one who gets the credit is Pam, over at CookieCrazie. The recipe I use is the one Pam has on her blog and the techniques I use I learned from her. From what I’ve seen at Pam’s blog and what I’ve come to experience through my own cookie adventures I’ve come to believe that what you can do with glaze is limited only by your creativity and willingness to practice, fail, learn, practice, fail, learn, practice, succeed, and squeal with joy!
Where I’m sure there are a number of variations of corn syrup glaze out there, I’ve never found a reason to try one other than Pam’s recipe.
- 1 pound box of powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- a scant 1/4 cup water (scant means “just less than”)
- 2 teaspoons more or less of extract, flavoring, or emulsion depending on the flavor and your preference. I use half vanilla extract and half almond extract. Pam prefers clear vanilla extract but I haven’t found the color of pure vanilla extract to be a problem.
- Coloring gel. I primarily use Americolor.
- Pour the powdered sugar into your standing mixer bowl. Don’t bother to sift the sugar. If you don’t have a standing mixer use a big bowl and electric hand mixer. If you don’t have an electric hand mixer use a heavy wooden spoon and those lean muscled arms of yours.
- Add corn syrup, flavorings, and water.
- Using the beater blade attachment (not the whisk) mix the ingredients until smooth. Add additional water a half to one teaspoon at a time until the glaze has reached the consistency you want.
- The consistency of icing is often described as being a specific second count, meaning the number of seconds it takes from the time you run a knife through the top of the icing until the trail the knife made on the surface disappears. Because the color gel remains to be added which will thin the icing to varying degrees depending on how much color you add, I typically aim for a 15-18 second count as I would rather add a little more water to thin than add additional powdered sugar to thicken after the gel has been added.
- Before dividing and coloring the icing I mix a couple drops of white gel into the entire batch. Just a little white gel rounds out any other color you’ll add later.
- Now divide the icing into as many containers as you need colors and cover with air tight lids.
- Color one container of icing at a time, adding the coloring gel drop by drop. Keep in mind that the colors will darken slightly over the next 24 hours and when they dry on the cookies.
- When you have the desired color, check your second count again. I go for a 15-18 count for writing and detailing and 10-12 for outlining and flooding.
- You can use the glaze right away but I suggest waiting for at least an hour, allowing time for some of the air bubbles to come to the surface which can then be gently stirred down before pouring into piping bags or bottles. This waiting time will reduce the among of bubbles that show up when flooding the cookies. I normally make my icing 1-2 days before using it which allows it not only to rest but allows me to rest along with it. I prefer beginning a decorating day with all the icing made and ready to go since making the glaze, coloring it, and filling the bottles can take much of the morning.
Storing Corn Syrup Glaze
- I leave the tightly sealed icing containers or icing bottles at room temperature for up to three days when decorating.
- I refrigerate left over icing up to a week.
- Corn syrup glaze freezes beautifully! I’ve never had a negative consequence of freezing and using and re-using glaze multiple times and as shown in the series of photos below I make huge batches at a time and freeze it uncolored. When I need to mix up some colored glaze for a new batch of cookies I just remove as much as I need from the freezer and set it on the kitchen counter overnight. The next morning I color it, add more water as needed (freezing causes some evaporation of the water), allow it to rest for an hour (or until the next day) and then I’m good to go.
- Don’t throw out any leftover icing. Combine any little amounts of colored icing you have remaining into one container and then stack it away in the freezer to serve as a starter for your next batch of black icing.
- Always stir glaze before decorating to prevent any color separation that might have happened and check to be sure the glaze is the right consistency as time allows for evaporation of water, whether on the counter, fridge or freezer.
A Typical Glaze Day at Sweet Hope Cookies
I typically make up 12-20 quarts of glaze at a time. Those are 4-pound bags of powdered sugar. I mix two bags at a time, something I can only do since getting my Randy Red standing mixer.
To keep my working area clean I put the bowl into the kitchen sink when adding the ingredients to prevent powdered sugar dust and corn syrup goo from getting everywhere. This is what 8 pounds of powdered sugar looks like in a 7 quart bowl. I know what you’re thinking but stay with me on this one, because before the mixer ever sees this mountain, I carefully pour in the corn syrup, flavoring, and water and hand stir just until the powdered sugar begins dissolving. Doing this not only compacts the powdered sugar so the mixer has room to do its magic but it’s been saturated with moisture that will prevent it from flying everywhere once the blade begins spinning.
Free Tip! Every Kitchen Aid comes with one of these fancy clear splash guards.
I don’t like it. It’s awkward to use, and both the large spout area and a large opening in the back allow ingredients to escape.
What I did was buy one of the plastic lids made for the Kitchen Aid standing mixer bowl. I cut away the center of the lid, leaving an opening just large enough for the blade to comfortably spin in, and then I cut a slit from the outside edge to the opening which allows me to slip the cover on and off when the bowl and blade are in place. And in case you don’t already know, a large plastic disposable dinner plate will do the same thing but I like the bowl lid since it snaps in place and I don’t have to hold it on. It’s also re-useable and I’m already using too much disposable plastic…as you will see in a mere moment.
And here is that moment…
1/2 pint, pint, and a quart disposable deli food containers from Smart N Final. With lids. Not pictured. Use your imagination. I use these little puppies for everything. I keep my #0-1.5 piping tips in the small one, #2 piping tips in the medium one, and #3-6 piping tips in the large one. I then snap a lid on the small one only before slipping the small one into the medium one and the medium one into the large one, so that I have all my tips separated, sealed and stacked. It’s organizational awesomeness.
But I steered away from what we were talking about, didn’t I? And what was that? Oh. Corn syrup glaze. How quickly my mind wanders.
So with the glaze mixed to a smooth consistency and hovering somewhere between a 15-18 count, I divide the icing into manageable portions. And once again, to reduce the mess and to save my anemic biceps from holding up the weight of eight pounds of glaze, I put my containers into the sink, rest the bowl on the counter and pour.
And then I start the process all over again. And again. And again.
And then it’s time for my quick and easy clean up. Rinse the glazed glaze kitchen ware in the sink and toss in the dishwasher.
Put the gorgeous, shiny, beautiful, amply sized Randy Red standing mixer in the sink and hit it with the water sprayer and a sponge.
And finally, lug the 12-20 quarts of corn syrup glaze out to the garage freezer where it will share the space with a few bags of rolled cookie dough and a bottle of chilled lemoncello. Be sure to be careful when carrying the containers of glaze out to the garage because if one happens to slip out of your arms and spill open onto the floor you’ll end up increasing your clean up time beyond the limits of your wildest imagination. And yes, it happened to me and no, I don’t want to talk about it.
There you go. That’s what it is and that’s how you make it. Maybe next time we can talk about how to use it since I’m pretty sure you could figure out the how to eat part on your own.