These Stars + Stripes Watercolor Cookies are my easy breezy treat for the 4th of July holiday weekend. These sugar cookies go together in a snap with rolled fondant icing and food coloring watercolors.
Why I use fondant for watercolor cookies
Renshaw fondant is quickly becoming my favorite rolled icing. It’s easy to work with and dries true white. I’ve made marshmallow fondant in the past and Renshaw wins by a mile for availability, convenience, ease of use, flavor and texture.
Painting on fondant vs. royal icing is like night and day. Royal icing soaks up alcohol quickly (even 151 proof Everclear) destroying the integrity of the smooth icing surface and resulting in splotches of color. When food coloring watercolors hit fondant, they pool up just long enough to create uneven areas just like true watercolors would. I was even able to go back over areas to add more color without changing the texture of the icing. I can see now why decorators love working with fondant. It’s super fun, forgiving and a great canvas for a variety of techniques.
How to make watercolor cookies
I cut my fondant stars a few days ahead of time. Renshaw fondant firms up a bit and becomes more durable as it dries. This made painting and assembly super easy.
I typically use convection mode on my oven to bake cookies quickly but the tips of these stars turned brown on me in a split second. To avoid dark brown edges, I turned convection off and kept the temp low at 325ºF.
My patriotic blue for these cookies is a combo of Royal and Electric blue food coloring watercolors. I pre-make my food coloring watercolors because some gel pastes don’t completely dissolve in alcohol (I’m talking about you, Super Red). Straining the mixture through a sieve removes unsightly chunks. Plus, it’s really handy to have them made ahead of time. If you’re tight on time, just add Everclear to gel paste food colors using a craft paint palette. Don’t forget to use brushes reserved for food use.
Corn syrup in a squeeze bottle works great for adhering fondant to cookies. Just be careful not to use too much or it may ooze out the sides and make a sticky mess.
How to make food coloring watercolors
2oz eye dropper bottles
4oz mason jars
Everclear grain alcohol
Gel paste food coloring
Fine mesh sieve
PYREX 150ml beaker (optional)
Add 1-2 teaspoons gel food coloring to 4oz mason jar
Add 2oz Everclear
Cover with Press & Seal
Mark color on Press & Seal with permanent marker
Swirl a bit and let sit at least 24 hours
Using a glass funnel transfer colored alcohol to dropper bottle through sieve to catch gel chunks. I pour from the mason jar to a PYREX beaker for better control when pouring through the sieve into the funnel.
Fox Run star cookie cutter set
Renshaw white fondant
Americolor Royal Blue gel paste food coloring
Americolor Electric Blue gel paste food coloring
Americolor Super Red gel paste food coloring
2oz glass eye dropper bottles
50mm glass funnel
PYREX 150ml beaker
Martha Stewart Crafts brush set
Craft paint palette
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.