Happy Valentine's Day!
The awesome thing about royal icing for cookies is that it sets rock hard, so you can pack them in layers and move them. I guess I'm really saying it's a very practical type of decoration. But - unlike shoes, which can only ever be one or the other - that doesn't mean they can't be pretty.
This type of decoration requires royal icing of two different consistencies: line icing (around the edge to hold everything else in place) and flooding icing (everything else).
First to the cookie: I used a 'Super Chocolatey Biscuits' recipe from the Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits - in fact you'll know if you see this book around because there is a polka-dotted heart cookie just like this one on the front cover. Great book. GREAT book.
275g plain flour
100g self raising flour
125g granulated sugar (I used caster, it was fine)
125g salted butter, diced
125g golden syrup
I large egg
Sift the flours and the cocoa into a large bowl, then add the sugar and mix well. Rub the cubes of butter into the dry mixture with your fingers until you get a consistency like moist breadcrumbs.
Gently mix everything together just until it forms a solid ball of dough. Then turn this out onto your benchtop.
Divide the dough into two equal parts and wrap both in clingfilm. Place one part in the fridge while you roll out the other part.
When it's at this stage, lift the dough still in the baking paper and clingfilm onto a baking tray and pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes or so before you cut the heart shapes - it's supposed to be for longer than that, but I get impatient.
When you've filled the tray, place it back in the fridge for half an hour. This prevents the dough from rising and distorting too much during the baking process. Preheat the oven to 170C. Bake the biscuits for 14-18 minutes (check after 14) until the biscuits look firm and cooked and slightly darker in colour.Gently lift each shape onto a rack with a spatula and leave until completely cool.
You need two batches of icing: first the line icing. The consistency of this needs to be quite thick but not so thick that you can't pipe it - something like the consistency of very thick pure cream, or maybe slightly thicker. If you're unsure, keep it thick and test it in a piping bag - can you pipe it in a thin line? If not, thin it down until you can pipe a thin, hard solid line with no gaps.
Secondly you need to make a batch of flooding icing, which is thinner - you can make this, obviously, from your line icing by simply adding a little more water. The consistency of flooding icing needs to be like pouring cream.
You then need to tint the icing - I kept half the flooding icing white and tinted half of it rose pink, and I tinted the line icing pink.
Snip off a tiny end piece of the piping bag and pipe a thin line inside the edge of the cookie. I was trying to make these lines as smooth and parallel to the edge as possible, but it takes a bit of practice and a very steady hand.
I discovered that this can happen for two reasons (I guess they're both obvious). The first is that you put too much flooding icing on, and it just gets too high to be held back by the line icing. The second is that you damage the line icing somehow, either in piping or subsequently. This particular cookie was ruined because I brushed the edge of the line with my finger and shifted it. Goddamn.
You can rescue this disaster by waiting for the icing to harden a little and cutting the excess away.....
Happy Valentine's Day everyone ... may you have a wonderful, happy, romantic, awesome day!