By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
At the end of Summer, long after all the fancy flowers fade away, the zinnia holds court. She wears a ruffled collar of rich hues and a crown jewel of yellow that makes her sassy and playful. What she lacks in fragrance…she makes up in fabulousness. This easy entertaining dessert course of zinnia decorated sugar cookies and fun linen napkins is a tribute to her.
What I used:
Zinnias: The model (Aeriel) is wearing the Tiered A-line Midi Skirt from my line and carrying an enamel pail of just-picked zinnias liberated from my friend Pamela’s yard (2 hours before she woke to see they were missing).
Zinnia Sugar Cookies
makes 3 dozen (depending on cookie cutter size)
What you need:
3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for bench flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (can sub vanilla extract)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (can sub and extract you would like)
Crusting Buttercream Frosting (recipe to follow)
What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Mix Dry Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. Mix Wet Ingredients: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in egg, paste and extract.
4. Finish Mixing the Cookies: Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. The dough should be stiff.
5. Cut and Bake: Do not chill the dough…just get right into it!! Lightly flour a work surface and cut off enough dough to be workable. Roll dough out to 1/4-inch thickness and use a 3-inch round cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Place on the prepared baking trays and bake for 6-8 minutes.
6. Decorate: Allow cookies to cool completely. Decorate the cookies using Crusting Buttercream Frosting. Using a #103 or #104 tip and brightly colored (orange or pink) frosting, hold your pastry bag with the largest part of the tip opening at the outer edge of the cookie and work around the cookie in a ruffle type pattern. Do a second layer to fill in the middle. Switching to a pastry bag filled with yellow frosting and fitted with a #2 tip, fill the center of the flower with a round of yellow and then make small dots over the top of the round and dotted just around it. Allow to dry.
Crusting Buttercream Frosting
(But why a crusting buttercream frosting? Crusting buttercream is a frosting that lightly sets and is perfect if you need your frosting to keep its shape. It works great on cookies where you don’t want to use a Royal Icing to decorate.)
What you need:
1 1/4 cups butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups vegetable shortening, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
1 (2 pound) bag of confectioners sugar, sifted
4-5 tablespoons of whole milk
Food coloring (i prefer a gel coloring)
What to do:
1. Cream Butter and Shortening: In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter and shortening and mix until well incorporated. Mix in vanilla.
2. Finish Frosting: Slowly add the powdered sugar to the creamed mixture. Once fully incorporated (it will be slightly thick) add your milk (a tablespoon at a time).
3. Color Frosting: Now’s the fun part. Color frosting for your application with food coloring (I prefer gel). (For the zinnia cookies, I needed three colors, so I divide the frosting among 3 bowls and colored one pink, another orange and the final yellow.)