Halloween is just a few days away, and I’ve spent this weekend baking, fulfilling my role of Great Pumpkin. My favorite girls in Maryland – Mo and Margo – will receive these skeleton and mummy cut-outs just in time for the holiday. Will the royal icing stand up to shipping? It’s a fairly dry confection, so I’d hope so. And I suppose if any of the eyes or bandages flake off in shipping, it’ll just add to the Halloween creep factor. Hopefully I’m not going to traumatize the children.
I’m not that experienced with royal icing, and I’ve used the meringue powder version for these treats, rather than the version with a fresh egg white. Royal icing consistency can vary from much more liquid, appropriate for “flooding” sugar cookies, to a sturdier variety more commonly found on gingerbread houses. It’s not exactly tasty, but these cookies have a delicious chocolate flavor that will more than make up for it.
For the cookies
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the royal icing & decoration
- 1 tablespoons meringue powder
- 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
- About 2-3 tablespoons water
- Small-sized candy eyeballs
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.
In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating until well-combined.
Slowly add flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl often and beating until a very well-combined, soft dough forms.
Gently knead the dough a few times to make sure it comes together; roll dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees; line three baking sheets with parchment or foil.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with a gingerbread man-shaped cookie cutter and place on prepared sheets about 1 inch apart.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are set. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheets for 1-2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.
To make the royal icing, combine the meringue powder, powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon water in a mixer and beat on medium speed using the whisk attachment; your mixture will probably clump together at first, so just dribble in enough additional water to make a smooth consistency. Continue to beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes, until peaks form.
Fit a piping bag with a plain tip and fill with royal icing. For skeletons, pipe eyes, mouths, ribs, and arm and leg bones. For mummies, place a small dot of icing on the back of each eyeball and press it onto the cookie; swap out your piping tip for a flat-style tip (I used a Wilton 47 basket weave tip, because that was as close as I could get; a rose petal tip like a Wilton 104 would also likely work) and pipe bandages across the cookies. Allow icing to harden completely before storing; store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature.
Yield will vary depending on the size of your cutters; my batch yielded about 18 cookies.