Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter Egg "Cascarónes" Cookies

Last year, my first in a Texas/Mexico border community, I was ushered into a world of a new-to-me Easter tradition: cascarónes. With a quick crack on the top of my head, and a shower of colorful confetti, I officially experienced “cascarónes” aka “confetti eggs.”  Just remember, when cracking cascarónes on someone’s head, use an open palm & crack the egg on the back of the head nowhere near the eyes!

Cascarónes are made by breaking open one end of an egg, disposing of the egg white/yolk, cleaning, drying & decorating the empty shell, then filling it (usually with confetti) & gluing tissue paper over the hole. You can make them yourself (I actually really love this post on Oh Happy Day--such great pictures!)  But, I must confess, around this area, there are SO MANY pre-made very, very inexpensive cascarónes available that I cheated & used the store bought.

While brainstorming Easter cookies (and Easter Traditions), I suddenly remembered that once-upon-a-time, I pinned a recipe for piñata cookies, which featured three layers of baked sugar cookies, with the middle layer hollowed out to make room for candy. When the finished piñata cookie was broken, out poured candy (not too different than a real paper mâché piñata. (side note, I am *really* getting to use the special characters in this post, haha).

I thought about how similar the piñata cookies are with cascarónes, only you don’t traditionally break a cookie over someone’s head--in my world that would be the shameful waste of a good cookie! But I decided to merge the concepts of piñata cookies with the idea of confetti eggs.  And voila, Cascarónes Cookies.

As with any sugar cookie, these do take some time, though much of it is inactive as you wait for things to dry/rest/cool etc. There are tons of absolutely gorgeous easter egg decorated cookies, but I was a bit short on time (I was simultaneously working on this project ). I tried to keep things simple: a white outline flooded with pastel colors & white dots.

One of my biggest challenges (aside from finding time to actually finish these cookies) was finding the right candy to go inside. Because I wanted the cookies to mimic the confetti eggs & have lots of small-ish candy spill out when eaten, I was searching for the smallest size Easter candy possible.  Both my husband and I scoured several stores, with little luck. I thought I would have to settle for mini m&ms (whose primary colors sort of clashed with my already-decorated pastel cookie tops), but then I discovered a gem in a craft store in San Antonio: chocolate covered sunflower seeds! And they were pastel for Easter!  Win! (Side note: I am also no longer allowed to buy chocolate covered sunflower seeds because I cannot seem to stop eating them).  

Really, this concept could translate to most any cookie design, but I do have a few recommendations.  First, make sure your cookie dough is one that holds its shape very well when baked--my recipe (listed below) doesn’t have baking soda or baking powder in it, so it doesn’t spread or puff.  The cookie dough should be slightly thicker (especially for the middle layer) than you may normally roll it, but that will ensure a sturdy cookie, with plenty of space for candy.  Feel free to substitute whatever small candy fits inside.

Secondly, royal icing does dry really hard and the first couple of bites into the cookie can be a little challenging. If making these for kids, I’d recommend having the parents help to “open” the cookie for the child.

Sugar Cookie Dough 
(sorry, I don’t have volume measurements for this recipe!) 

200 g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
200 g Granulated Sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
Generous Pinch of Sea Salt
380 g AP Flour (increase to 400 g, if live in a humid area)--

  1.  Cream together the butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until completely combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. 
  2. Add the egg and vanilla and mix again on low speed until just combined. Be careful not to incorporated too much air into the dough.  
  3. Add the flour and salt. Mix on low speed until the flour is just incorporated and the dough forms a ball. 
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap & flatten into a disc.  Refrigerate a minimum of 30 minutes (thought overnight is best).  Rolling/baking/decorating instructions will continue below.  
Gluten Free Adaptation: May also substitute Jeanne's GF AP Flour mix to make a gluten-free version. 

Royal Icing 
half recipe courtesy of Sugarbelle  

Note: I’ve recently switched to this new royal icing! I find it’s easier to make & works better. 

1lb (half of a bag) of confectioners’ sugar
27 g / 2.5 Tbl Meringue Powder
1 to 1.5 tsp oil-free extract or emulsion (I used imitation almond this time, with a tiny bit of vanilla)
3 oz Warm Water

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the sugar and meringue powder. 
  2. Meanwhile, add the flavoring to the warm water. 
  3. While the mixer is still running on it’s lowest setting, slowly add the water/flavoring. 
  4. Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the icing is fluffy and thick. Ideally mix only until the icing will hold a soft peak.  
  5. Store icing in an airtight container with a wet paper towel pressed into the surface.  
  6. Color the icing as needed. 
Cookie Baking
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper
  • Roll out the cookie dough evenly between two layers of parchment. The dough should be rather thick--mine were around 1/4 inch.  

  • Use a large oval cookie cutter (oval cutter)  to cut out 10 ovals. Place the ovals onto a baking sheet. 

  • Use a slightly smaller oval to press a slight “guide line” indentation into the tops (5 total), if desired, to later help with piping the icing. 
  • Bake the large ovals for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for approximately 10 more minutes. Due to their thick nature, these cookies may take a bit longer than others.... The cookies should be done, but not yet developed any color. Once baked, allow the cookies to cool completely. 
  • Meanwhile, re-roll, if necessary, and cut out 5 more large ovals.  Place those onto the second prepared baking sheet & refrigerate until firm (approximately 10 to 20 minutes.  Use a smaller oval to cut out the centers of each cookie (to leave room for candy later), and use a small offset spatula, if necessary, to remove the middle.  The middle cookies and the small ovals can be baked on the same baking pan.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes. 
  • Bake the second sheet for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for approximately 8 more minutes. 
  • Re-roll any scrap pieces & cut them into any shapes you like. 
Decorating & Assembly
  • Match up two large cookies with one middle cookie. 
  • Using a #3 round tip & thick white icing, outline the top cookies.  Allow to dry at least 30 minutes. Do the same with any small ovals too (or other shapes made from re-rolled scrap pieces). Save the remaining white icing for the cookie assembly 
  • Flood the inside of the outlined cookie with a pastel colored icing. Use a toothpick or scribe tool to coax the icing into all areas of the cookie. Swirl to release any air bubbles. Quickly pipe white polka dots into the wet icing.  Allow to dry several hours (though overnight is best). 
  • When ready to assemble the cookies, gather the reserved white icing, the prepared (and dried) cookies, and whatever candy you’ve chosen for the filling (I used chocolate covered sunflower seeds. 
  • Pipe a ring of icing near the edge of the bottom cookie, taking care not to pipe too close to the edge, or the icing may drip off the sides. 
  • Gently top with the middle cookie. Allow to dry at least 30 minutes. 
  • Fill the center cavity with the candy 
  • Pipe royal icing on the cookie ring.  Top with the decorated cookie & press gently to adhere.  Allow to dry at least 1 hr.  
  • Decorated cookies will keep for several weeks, if wrapped well with plastic wrap and/or stored in an airtight container.  

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