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Naturally sweet

Cookbook author and cookie maven Nancy Baggett is proud of this icing, which doesn’t rely on commercially made food dyes for its colors. “Simply by relying on the gorgeous natural colors of frozen (thawed) fruit juice concentrates from the supermarket . . . you can create a whole rainbow of tempting and tasty cookie icings,” she writes.

She’s also proud of the colorful homemade sprinkles that can be made from the same recipe. The sprinkles deteriorate in high heat and are best applied to cookies as they are being iced.

The optional meringue powder or dried egg white powder helps set the colors so contrasting shades don’t bleed together as the icing hardens. Meringue powder is sometimes sold with cake decorating supplies; many supermarkets stock Deb El Just Whites or another brand of pure dried egg whites in their baking aisle.

This recipe makes enough icing to generously decorate 12 to 15 21∕2- to 3-inch cookies.

The icing can be refrigerated in airtight containers for up to 1 week. If it has thickened, thin with a small amount of water, stirred in thoroughly. The sprinkles can be stored in airtight containers for up to 6 months.

Au Naturel
Confectioners Sugar Icings

1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted after measuring, if lumpy, plus more if needed

1 teaspoon commercial meringue powder or pure dried egg white powder (optional; omit if preparing sprinkles)

1∕2 teaspoon light corn syrup

2 tablespoons frozen (defrosted) cranberry, orange, Concord grape, raspberry-white grape or cherry-grape juice concentrate (or a combination), plus more if needed

1∕2 to 3 teaspoons unsweetened natural (non-alkalized) cocoa powder or Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted after measuring, if lumpy (optional)

For each color of icing you want to make, vigorously stir together the confectioners sugar and the meringue powder, if using, in a small, deep bowl. Stir in the corn syrup. Add the juice concentrate (or a blend of concentrates) and stir until completely smooth. If a brown color or tint is desired, stir in cocoa powder as needed. You want a uniformly colored icing that’s thick enough to coat the cookie but not so thick that it’s hard to spread. Adjust the texture as needed by adding confectioners sugar, juice or cocoa powder, stirring to combine thoroughly.

Use a table knife, pastry brush or artist’s paintbrush to spread a thin, even layer of icing on the cookie. To add details, stir in more confectioners sugar so that the icing has some body. Spoon the icing into a small cone of parchment paper with just the tip of the pointed end snipped off, or into a plastic food storage bag with the tip of one corner snipped off. (Don’t fill a bag more than half full.) Use the bag to pipe accents onto the cookies. If you want the accents to blend into the existing icing, pipe when the icing base is still wet; if you want them to stand out and hold their shape, wait until the base has dried.

To make homemade sprinkles, omit the meringue powder from the icing. Pipe very fine lines of icing onto a sheet of parchment, spacing them far enough apart so they don’t run together. Let the icing dry for at least 12 hours, or at least 18 hours if the weather is humid. Slide the parchment onto a cutting board and use a large knife or pizza wheel to cut across the piped lines, creating sprinkles 1∕2 inch long or shorter. Let stand for at least 4 hours, then transfer to airtight containers and store in a cool spot, away from bright light, for up to 6 months.

Adapted from
Simply Sensational Cookies,
by Nancy Baggett

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