I've had these Meri Meri Hip Hop Hooray cookie cutters for a while [discontinued]. It was time to use 'em! So, here are some Easter bunny cookies and carrots to nibble on!
All natural food coloring
This Easter bunny cookie design is pretty basic, making this a great project for a novice cookie decorator [like me]. What makes this project special is the all natural food colors. I've recently become obsessed with finding ways to naturally color my icings and frostings. I love the idea of using highly pigmented fruits and vegetables for decorating! But here's the thing, good results are hard to achieve. I tried 12 different plant based colorings in Royal Icing, here's how they performed based on color, taste and appearance.
Organic Strawberry powder: able to achieve a light pink color, slight strawberry taste when icing is dry.
Beet powder: able to achieve a medium pink color, strong beet taste when icing is dry.
Taro Root powder: able to achieve a light lavender color, slight sweet taste when icing is dry.
Carrot powder: able to achieve a light orange/peach color, significant carrot taste when icing is dry.
Organic Pomegranate powder: able to achieve a light skin tone shade, slight pomegranate taste when icing is dry.
Mango Juice powder: easy to achieve a light yellow color, delicate mango taste wet and/or dry.
Goji Berry powder: able to achieve a medium orange color, slight taste when icing is dry.
Matcha powder: easy to achieve warm green shades, slight tea taste when icing is dry.
Organic Wild Blueberry powder: able to achieve a dark pink color with speckles from undissolved powder, tart blueberry taste when icing is dry.
Spirulina powder: able to achieve a gray blue color with speckles from undissolved powder, strong seaweed taste when icing is dry.
Blue Majik powder: easy to achieve bright periwinkle blue color, very strong seaweed taste when icing is dry.
Black Cocoa powder: easy to achieve black color, tastes great, but compromises the integrity of Royal Icing keeping it from hardening completely.
The best natural food colors
My all natural coloring experiment didn't yield a complete palette of natural colors like I had hoped. But I did come away with some winners:
Organic Strawberry powder: If you're looking for a slightly flavored pale pink, this fruit powder does the trick.
Mango Juice powder: I love how this icing tastes and the pale yellow color is lovely.
Matcha powder: The subtle flavor works well with sweet icings and the yellow/green coloring is naturally beautiful.
And some losers:
Spirulina & Blue Majik powders: I just can't stomach the strong seaweed taste that these two leave behind. Even when the icing is dry.
Black Cocoa: Winning flavor, but no style points for this one. My royal icing crumbled under pressure when colored with cocoa. It destroys the ability for the icing to harden. I'll reserve this one for flavoring only.
Beet & Carrot powders: These have strong savory flavors I'd rather find in a salad.
Taro Root, Pomegranate, Goji Berry, Blueberry: These required large amounts of powder to achieve low impact colors and/or they had a gritty texture.
After all of that work I still didn't have a the vibrant natural colors needed to make Easter bunny cookies. So, I set out to see if there were natural food colorings made specifically for decorating:
India Tree makes a liquid variety that works well, but also leaves a veggie taste in icings. Plus, they need to be refrigerated and tend to separate and clump. I'm not a fan.
Chefmaster makes natural colors, but I haven't tried them yet [I'll let you know when I do]
ColorKitchen makes a powdered variety [yay no refrigeration] and they're available at my local Whole Foods Market.
Ta da! The ColorKitchen powdered colors are a delight to work with. They offer vibrantly natural colors and are virtually flavorless when the icing is dry. The only color I wasn't able to achieve with them was the black I needed for the bunny eyes and nose. Americolor to the rescue.
So, my Easter bunny cookies are 99.9% naturally colored. That feels pretty good and I think they look fabulous. I'd love to hear about your experience with natural colorings. Please leave a comment or head over to the whisk + wander Facebook Tribe to share your ideas, thoughts, tips and tricks.
Jes Best Cutout Cookies
Makes 2-3 dozen cutout cookies (depending on size)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 cup sugar
1 large free-range egg
1 large free-range egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla or lemon extract
Sift 3 cups flour, baking powder and salt into a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on high speed until well combined (butter does not need to be fluffy), about 3 minutes.
Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla; beat just to combine. Reduce speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients. Mix until dough comes together.
Separate dough in half and form two smooth discs for rolling.
Roll each disc to desired thickness (1/8"-1/4") between two pieces of lightly floured parchment paper on a Silpat mat or flexible cutting mat. Continue to flour top of dough so parchment doesn't stick or crease.
Transfer mat and rolled dough to refrigerator to chill for about 2 hours.
When ready to cut shapes, flip chilled dough so floured side is down. This will help cookies "release" easily.
Cut dough to desired shapes and place on baking sheet pans lined with parchment paper.
Re-roll scraps only once to avoid tough cookies. If dough becomes soft and sticky, return to fridge to chill until shapes cut easily. Chill again until ready to bake. Ideally, 20-30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325º
Bake until edges are slightly golden, about 12–16 minutes, depending on size. Rotate sheet pans half way through to avoid dark edges.
Let cookies cool slightly on pans then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Do Ahead: Cookies can be baked (left undecorated) 2 weeks ahead; separate cookies with wax paper, place in air tight containers and freeze.
Jes Best Royal Icing
Makes enough to decorate 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on size
970 g [2 lb bag] confectioners' sugar, no need to sift
80g [or 8-10 tablespoons] meringue powder (CK or Henry & Henry)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (to keep icing bright white)
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons water
Food coloring (optional)
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix sugar, meringue powder and cream of tartar on low for just a bit to incorporate evenly.
Slowly add 1/2 cup water while mixing at a low speed. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time until sugar is just wet.
Scrape sides of the mixing bowl. Increase speed one notch (#2 on Kitchenaid stand mixer). Mix for five minutes. When finished icing should have a matte (not glossy) finish and hold it's shape on the paddle when pulled up/out of the bowl.
Separate into clean, oil-free containers and tint with gel food coloring.
This recipe yields "stiff" consistency for piping details. Add water as needed to achieve flooding consistency.
Keep covered tightly and store for up to a week in a cool dry place or 10 days in the refrigerator. Mix well when ready to use.