Recently I made monkey cookies and macarons for a baby shower. I have been obsessed with cute animal food lately and wanted to try making some iced sugar cookies. I am not as into baking as cooking savory food, so this was a new learning experience for me. Last year I made my first batch of elephant and cloud sugar cookies for my talented designer friend, Patricia Chang‘s, son’s first birthday or “doljanchi” as we call it in Korean.
Sweetopia was a great resource on everything to do with sugar cookies- how to get the icing consistency right, how to fill a icing bag, how to use a coupler work, etc. I used Sweetopia’s cinnamon and molasses sugar cookie recipe and loved the spicy flavor, so I used it again for a recent baby shower with monkey theme. 2016 is the year of the monkey in the Chinese zodiac, so this time I made monkey cookies and macarons.
The macarons were a tedious process and I had to make four batches before they finally came out OK (and I still have a long way to go with them). I was relieved they came together at the last minute the morning of the baby shower. Below are photos of the monkey cookies and macarons, and the different batches I went through. I did not realize baking macrons on a humid day is not easy because the skin will not form on the macaron as it rests. I later found this wonderful macaron trouble shooting guide from foodnouveau which I wish I had really read before baking macarons.
Below is the process for making the cinnamon molasses monkey cookies with royal icing.
Making the sweet and spicy batter with extra cinnamon
Forming the dough into balls to be rolled out between sheets of wax paper
It is really important to have cold and stiff dough when you use the cookies cutters. Rolling the dough between wax paper prevents the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and makes it easier to transport to the fridge. I like to chill my dough at least 30min so that it gets very cold. Warm dough is too melty and starts to spread all over the place. If you have baking soda or powder in your recipe the warm dough will expand after it is cut and you will have to recut the cookies all over again once they are baked.
Using the cute monkey face cookie cutter that I found on Amazon for $4.60
The baked monkey cookies. I had some bubbles in my molasses that were not popped all the way in the dough. They managed to come out as bubbles in the baked cookies so I popped them with a toothpick. This was not good but salvageable because the cookies were covered in royal icing anyway.
Wilton food coloring for the royal icing (8 colors for $7). I used brown/marron and golden yellow for these cookies. I love this package from Amazon because it is relatively cheap for $16 and comes with 12 colors for endless color combinations.
Dying the royal icing with the Wilton Food Color
Getting ready to ice the cookies. I found these great squeeze bottles on Amazon (3 bottles with couplers for $9.79) that come with their own coupler that works with traditional Wilton or Ateco icing tips on the smaller squeeze bottle. I have tried icing with both the squeeze bottle and icing bags and think the bottles are a little easier to use and provide more control.
Outlining the outside of the monkey face first for the monkey cookies
The finished Monkey Cookies
Quick Video of the Monkey Cookie making process
And now onto the four batches of monkey macarons I baked.
Many mistakes along the way. The one thing I learned is that the macarons really need to form a skin by resting at least 30min after they are piped. On humid days this will not occur, so you have to turn the AC on in the room for the skin to develop. All batches were made on rainy days.
Not proud of this first batch using the brown and sunny yellow Wilton food color. I regretted the sunny yellow, it was too yellow next to the light brown. This first batch was made using the french macaron method that does not add a sugar syrup to the egg whites. These macarons came out too flat and were hollow inside. Also the drawn on faces were not so cute. Patty suggested I use candy for the eyes and that was much better.
After the lack of volume with the first batch, I decided to try the Italian method of making macarons which incorporates a hot sugar syrup into the egg whites to make a meringue. This gives the egg whites much more body, and they will deflate less when folding in the almond meal. I used the recipe from Thomas Keller that he uses for the delicious macarons at Bouchon Bakery. Who would think a French bakery would use the Italian method? It was super rainy when these were made, so they never formed a skin. Also this batch was over folded and the faces spread out a lot after they were piped. You can see in the bottom right they are even running into eachother.
The third batch. These looked good- but I did not leave them out long enough to form a skin. They were also baked at too high a temperature of 350F and burned a bit. Burnt macaron shells are really unsalvageable. Not only were they burnt, but they were not baked all the way through in the middle and stuck to the parchment paper. The AC for 30min- 1 hour and baking at a lower temperature for a longer time would have remedied this.
The last batch that worked just in the knick of time! AC for 1 hour and lower baking temperature of 275 degrees for at least 15min.
Finished! Monkey Cookies and Macarons for the baby shower 🙂