Less Sweet Royal Icing

Discussion in 'Decorating' started by Lard4Hire, Nov 9, 2017.

  1. Lard4Hire

    Lard4Hire Member

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    Hello. Might have been asked before, but...

    I made some royal icing for cookies using meringue powder (don't want to use egg whites) and was wondering is it possible to make it way less sweet? It was just too sweet and sickening.Or is there a type of icing that would work on cookies like royal icing, but of course less sweet? I would like to make it in chocolate versions as well if possible.

    Thanks,
    Lard4Hire
     
    Lard4Hire, Nov 9, 2017
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  2. Lard4Hire

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    No, there is no way to reduce the sweetnesses of royal icing. Unfortunately it is the nature of the beast. It consists of sugar, eggs whites, and food coloring. And more unfortunate is it is so sweet, it makes the cookies inedible. Other than biscotti and shortbread, I didn’t even bother with cutout Christmas cookies last year.

    A chocolate royal icing will be brown. Since the whole point of using royal icing is to create intricate designs on cookies, a batch of brown royal icing will be very limiting. I suppose you could use it as the top coat.

    I don’t think you’ll get any real chocolate flavor to speak of. For chocolate, you would have to mix cocoa powder in with the powdered sugar. If you use real chocolate it would seize upon contact with the water.

    But cocoa powder is very hygroscopic. It will absorb the water. To prevent the cocoa powder from turning the royal icing into a thick gooey mass, only a small amount of cocoa powder could be used. And it will probably affect how the icing sets up. I think in the end you would end up with brown icing with very little chocolate flavor.

    You can use real chocolate on cookies. That’s what I’m planning for Christmas cookies this year. I think real chocolate is the only alternative to royal icing. I’m pretty sure you can’t produce intricate designs with real chocolate.

    I just bought several pounds of dark and white chocolate for decorating cookies this holiday. Since I’m not sure which brand will work best I bought four different brands.

    I want to make cookies that are edible. Even though royal icing allows you to be extremely creative, the bottom line is it tastes wretched . It’s not worth it to me to spend so much time and money on a cookie that is going to end up in the trash after one bite.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Nov 9, 2017
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  3. Lard4Hire

    Lard4Hire Member

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    I agree about royal icing. It looks great and is easy to work with but it tasted terrible. It was like instant diabetes. I have looked at cooked icing for cakes because I find most butter cream icings too sweet as well. The cooked ones will be less sweet, but I am not sure if they would work to decorate cookies, more for cakes.

    You would think there must be other options for cookies. We certainly aren't the only ones who hate royal icing. I think you are right about the chocolate version of RI, it would not work well.

    Lard4Hire
     
    Lard4Hire, Nov 9, 2017
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  4. Lard4Hire

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    It’s unfortunate that many bakers get so caught up in the aesthetics, they don’t give much consideration to taste. When I first started baking I was caught up in all the bling. Now, there’s no amount of bling that I’m willing to trade for flavor.

    And you’re correct, we are not the only ones that dislike decorating elements like royal icing, shortening icings, and fondant. That’s why cake competitions do not judge on taste. Judges don’t even sample competition cakes. They are judged purely on the aesthetics and skill.

    Unfortunately the cooked icings will not work for decorating cookies. The icings will not form a skin to set. The slightest unintentional touch will marred it. Also, cookies are eaten by hand. A slice of cake is eaten with a fork; a cupcake is handled by the paper baking cup. So cooked icings are not practical for cookies.

    The reason I am drawn towards classic French pastry is the beauty of simplicity, and the uncompromising commitment to flavor. Unfortunately current decorating trends are all about excess. There’s no balance. All flavor elements are completely overwhelmed by an excessive amount of sugar.

    Unfortunately the excessiness trend has gotten worse over the past 5-6 years. Its about multiple layers of sugar components and a vast array of flavors. I won’t fill a cake with five different fillings. Cover it with shortening icing. Drip ganache over it. Then pile a bunch of KitKat bars, mini peanut butter cups, and snickers bars on top. Then press gobs of sprinkles and tiny M&M’s on the sides. It’s not even attractive. It looks like a hot mess. And I can’t even begin to imagine how horrible it tastes.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Nov 9, 2017
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  5. Lard4Hire

    Lard4Hire Member

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    The only thing I can think of if you want to decorate a cookie is probably something sprinkled on it. But then you will probably return to a sugar taste. I agree that in so many things it's about the appearance of the cake/cookie/etc. that is most important. It's like my sister says (and I agree): she wants to taste the cookie or cake, not the icing. When I bake something, it's gotta taste good before it's ever decorated. Then the decorations should add visual appeal and not detract from flavour. There are times, especially if you bake for a child, that the 'bling' it important for the fun. I will not trade taste for bling, though.

    As far as eating cake with a fork - speak for yourself!! A good cake (when in the right company) is handled with your hands!! HAHA!

    Lard4Hire
     
    Lard4Hire, Nov 9, 2017
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  6. Lard4Hire

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Google “Alice Medrich decorating cookies with chocolate”. Medrich brought fine chocolate to the attention of Americans. She owned a chocolate shop in Berkeley years ago. I remember being young and poor, yet still scraping enough money together now and again to go into her shop to buy a few chocolate. Her chocolate was amazing.

    She has published a number of cookbooks over the years. She is a baker as well as a chocolatier. She decorates cookies with real chocolate. Nothing intricate or detailed. Simple but elegant. Her work might give you some idea of how you can decorate a cookie without compromising taste.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Nov 9, 2017
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  7. Lard4Hire

    Apocalypso Well-Known Member

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    Apocalypso, Nov 10, 2017
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  8. Lard4Hire

    Lard4Hire Member

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    I am not overly keen on using chocolate as the only decoration on cookies. It's an option, though.

    Lard4Hire
     
    Lard4Hire, Nov 10, 2017
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  9. Lard4Hire

    Lard4Hire Member

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    I have read that article and the cream of tartar thing is interesting because I have some I was going to use for a different project. I just wonder how much to ad, I don't think she really says. Ultimately it would be great to make it somehow with just far less sugar. A cooked icing, used for cakes, uses less sugar but would not act like ri does of course.


    Lard4Hire
     
    Lard4Hire, Nov 10, 2017
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  10. Lard4Hire

    Apocalypso Well-Known Member

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    Check out this recipe:

    The gist is that it's possible to decorate cookies with a modified recipe that is closer to a buttercream in taste, though it doesn't set up as shiny rock-hard as royal icing.
    http://thedecoratedcookie.com/2008/11/cookie-dough-and-frosting-recipes/
    (scroll past several cookie recipes)

    You won't get the texture of the royal icing for flooding though. You'd have to thin it out, she says.
     
    Apocalypso, Nov 10, 2017
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  11. Lard4Hire

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I’m a huge fan of Stella Parks. But I’m not sure how 3 tablespoons of cream will knock the sweetness out of 4 1/2 cups of sugar.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Nov 10, 2017
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  12. Lard4Hire

    Lard4Hire Member

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    The problem with this recipe is that is still uses a lot of powdered sugar (up to 8 cups!!) That is still going to be very sweet.

    I have looked at cooked icing (I think also known as ermine icing) and it uses 1 cup of granulated sugar, which is cooked. This should be considerably less sweet than the one you mentioned. I know it's geared toward cakes, but I wonder if adding meringue powder after it's cooled when you are mixing it would get closer to RI. It's something to consider.

    Also, not a fan of shortening in icing, tastes strange to me.

    Lard4Hire
     
    Lard4Hire, Nov 10, 2017
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  13. Lard4Hire

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    No, adding meringue powder to ermine won’t make it suitable for cookies.

    Frostings for cake contain butter and/or shortening. They contain twice as much fat to sugar. All that fat won’t set hard.

    Meringue powder contains two thickeners, arabic and tragacanth gums. The tragacanth gum is responsible for the hardening. It is used to create gumpaste. But it is highly water soluble. So aside from the affect of butter in ermine, the milk will counter the tragacanth gum.

    Royal icing has zero fat. It’s contains three ingredients, sugar, egg whites/meringue powder and some liquid.

    Powdered sugar is not pure sugar. Powdered sugar is a combination of sugar and cornstarch. Cornstarch will thicken when liquid is added. Sugar dissolves in liquid. But as the moisture evaporates, the sugar recrystallizes. So the royal icing sets hard.

    If meringue powder is used, it will set very hard.

    There is a crusting “buttercream” that is used for decorations. Buttercream in quotes because just adding a tad bit of butter to what is essentially royal icing does not make it buttercream.

    A typical crusting “buttercream” is 4 cups powdered sugar, 3-4 tablespoons meringue powder, a sprinkle of water or milk and about 1/4 cup of butter or shortening. It’s just as sweet as royal icing since it’s just royal icing mixed with fat.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Nov 11, 2017
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  14. Lard4Hire

    Lard4Hire Member

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    Ya, so it seems there may not be a suitable less sweet icing that is like RI. When I say less sweet I literally mean less sugar. I don't want to just mask the sweetness with something else.


    Lard4Hire
     
    Lard4Hire, Nov 11, 2017
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  15. Lard4Hire

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Yes I understand. But there is a direct relationship to the amount of sugar in the level of sweetness.

    Buttercreams have 1:2:3 ratio of egg white to sugar too fat.

    Royal icing is 1:6:0 ratio of egg whites to sugar to fat. In percentages it comes out to 84% sugar. I frankly don’t know how anyone can it eat.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Nov 11, 2017
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  16. Lard4Hire

    Apocalypso Well-Known Member

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    So if you just want to decorate cookies, one thing I've seen is airbrushing with color but without icing. You won't get the crisp color lines you would on a hard smooth royal icing surface, but it's an idea. Here's an example:
    http://www.tamirenascookies.com/2016/02/decorating-cookie-without-icing.html

    It'd be interesting to see if anyone could invent a more starch-based coating for cookies, like a cooked glue, that would set up smooth and hard but wouldn't be royal icing. There are some sugar-free varieties but all rely on an artificial sweetener, which I think would be awful.
     
    Apocalypso, Nov 11, 2017
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    Norcalbaker59 likes this.
  17. Lard4Hire

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I love that airbrush idea. I think a lot could be done with airbrush. They sell so many stencils for airbrushing, so the possibilities really are limitless. And if royal icing is used with restraint, designs could be made with a bit of texture, but not totally overwhelm the cookies with royal icing.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Nov 11, 2017
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  18. Lard4Hire

    Lard4Hire Member

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    The airbrush idea is cool. I used to see those advertised years ago when I worked at a DQ and we sold ice cream cakes.

    But, until I win the lottery that's not going to happen.

    Lard4Hire
     
    Lard4Hire, Nov 12, 2017
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  19. Lard4Hire

    floursugareggsandbutter Active Member

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    Don't mean to brag but everyone loves the RI I use on my lovingly decorated cookies!
    There is a way to fool your palate when a recipe comes across as too sweet.
    I use LorAnn emulsions (instead of the usual vanilla/almond flavorings) and a bit of salt dissolved in a tiny bit of water.
    Everyone knows salt will distract the palate from the full on teeth aching sweetness in buttercreams...well it does the same for RI.
    Why dissolve the salt?
    If added in granular form you run the risk of having little white dots after the icing dries.
    So now y'all have my last best secret lol.
     
    floursugareggsandbutter, Nov 12, 2017
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  20. Lard4Hire

    Lard4Hire Member

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    The only problem again is that I really wasn't interested in making it taste less sweet as much as just having much less sugar. I know you can add things like lemon juice and salt to make it taste less sweet, but it's still a huge amount of sugar.

    I still think that there is a way to do it by making a cooked icing sort of RI blend almost. I haven't given up hope!


    Lard4Hire
     
    Lard4Hire, Nov 12, 2017
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