There are tons of different cookie cutters out there, you can find almost anything. Almost. What happens when you can’t find the perfect cookie cutter, or maybe you just can’t get to it? Make it yourself! For this project I made myself a batch of cookies using three different methods for custom cookies.
Around here in the fall all the turkey vultures from the entire island start to migrate, they are making their way south and into the states but, first, they all gather here until the weather is just right for them to fly over the straight. That means, very suddenly in the fall, there is a huge increase in the population of these amazing birds in town. They might not be the most traditional Halloween animal but I think they fit pretty well. Even better though, it’s thanks giving long weekend here and these birds are everywhere and within days they will be gone until spring. So this year and maybe every year we will celebrate this weekend with a different kind of turkey, a turkey vulture.
You may have noticed, but I really like vultures! The turkey vulture in particular. That’s just not something easily found in a cookie cutter. So, I wanted to make a plate of Turkey vulture cookies with their own nest of bones.
I went about this 3 different ways
1- freehand cutting
2- using a card template and cutting around it
3-bending a new cookie cutter.
Free hand cutting
These were pretty easy; I wasn’t going for anything very realistic. I had a bone in mind each time I made one and just cut it out and shaped it a bit with my hands where needed. This is the perfect use for the smaller bits left over between other cookies.
The card template is a pretty simple concept, I drew out the design I wanted and, once I was happy with it, I cut it out. I tried to make sure there weren’t to many small nooks. The teeth were a bit of a risk but if some of the details get lost its not a huge deal.
Bending a new cookie cutter
A few weeks ago, I picked up a large circular cookie cutter with the intention of using it for large doughnuts. Up until this point I have been using a mason jar ring. I decided to use this to shape into a new cookie cutter. First, I drew out the design I wanted, keeping in mind I was going to have to shape it out of a metal band.
After I was happy with my image; I went to work shaping. The only tools I needed for this were a pair of needle nose pliers and my hands.
To keep from putting too much strain on the joint, I made that part the top of the head because it is the least bent area. While I was manipulating the metal, I held the joint between too fingers to keep it from buckling.
This part took some time; I wanted to work slowly to get the bends just right. The more it must be re-bent the more you lose the clean shape. The size of my image worked out surprisingly well with the size of the ring, there are a few parts that had to be either longer or shorter but not by much.
To test my final shape, I traced around the inside on my paper to see if it looked like anything.
The most challenging part of this process was making sure the bends were straight, keeping them lined up from top to bottom of the metal.
Making the Cookies
Time to test these out. I wanted a sugar cookie recipe that was easy to roll out and held its shape well, so I used this one here. I used half this recipe because we definitely don’t need 60 cookies.
The dough came together nicely, and I set it in the fridge. I ended up leaving it for 2 hours and it was well cooled when I got started.
To keep it cool I split it in half and worked with a half at a time, leaving the rest in the fridge until I was ready for it.
Both my cookie cutter and my cookie template worked great!
The cookie cutter was much easier to use while the template took more effort.
Using the template would work much better with a nice thin sharp blade.
The first batch I baked at 400°F for 6 minutes, which worked but the pointier parts of the cookie were a little dark, so I tried 350°F for 8 minutes which worked too but they turned out best at 375°F for 7 minutes.
After the cookies cooled slightly, they came off the pan easily and had lovely golden bottoms. We lost very few to breakage.
This project changed my relationship with royal icing, we understand each other now and its lovely.
For these cookies I used 2 egg whites. I beat the egg white until they were nice and frothy and starting to form soft peaks. Then I added in 2 cups of sifted icing sugar and kept beating the mixture, I put half of it aside and added another cup of icing sugar. This way I had two batches of royal icing, one thin for flooding and one thicker for lining, I also mixed the two together for an in between texture for painting.
Because there is raw egg white in royal icing you need to make sure your eggs are pasteurized. For the cookies I use farmers market eggs but for the icing I use grocery store eggs. You could replace the eggs with meringue powder.
I put my thicker icing in a piping bag and outlined all the bone cookies then, with a spoon and the thinner icing, I flooded the inside and gently popped the bubbles with a toothpick. I did all the bone cookies first and set them in the fridge to help the icing set.
For the vulture heads I used a mixed texture icing coloured with gel food colouring. I made myself a red/orange for the head and black for the neck feathers. I used a clean paint brush and painted in the colours. Next I outlined them with my white icing in the piping bag.
To finish off the bones, once they were set, I used an edible marker that I got in a kit from Michael’s. I will have to find some in different colours, it was fun to use.
I am very happy with how they turned out, everything in this post is a first for me and it wont be the last.
More pictures because I can’t help myself.