Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Make Your Royal Icing Shine: comparing drying techniques

A question that comes up again and again about cookie decorating is,
"How can I get royal icing to dry shiny?"

When royal icing is wet, it's super shiny, glossy, and vibrant.  So, when it dries to an almost matte finish, it can be disappointing.

how to make royal icing on cookies SHINE...comparing 3 drying techniques :: bake at 350 blog
I've air-dried my royal icing-decorated cookies for years (and years and years).  Usually they dried with just a bit of sheen, not totally matte.  If you were comparing them to paint finishes...somewhere between and flat and an eggshell.

Lately though, I've been trying a couple of new drying techniques.  One is placing an oscillating fan near the table where the cookies are drying (thank you, Sweet Sugarbelle).  The other is using a food dehydrator on the lowest setting (thank you, LilaLoa).

The difference was difficult to capture on camera until I glanced at the cookies backlit from the window.
Can you see the difference?
how to make royal icing on cookies SHINE...comparing 3 drying techniques :: bake at 350 blog
The cookies that were air-dried (no fan, no ceiling fan, but yes air-conditioner) dried almost totally matte.  The cookies dried with the oscillating fan and dehydrator dried with a definite sheen.

Again, if we were using the paint finish comparison, I'd say the fan and dehydrator cookies were somewhere between a satin and semi-gloss finish.  Still not the glossy look, but definitely shinier.

how to make royal icing on cookies SHINE...comparing 3 drying techniques :: bake at 350 blog
Also, can you see that the air-dried icing dried darker than the other cookies? 
how to make royal icing on cookies SHINE...comparing 3 drying techniques :: bake at 350 blog

I think the fan and dehydrator cookies dried with the icing a bit "poofier," too. (But, I may be making that up.)
how to make royal icing on cookies SHINE...comparing 3 drying techniques :: bake at 350 blog

The cookies dried with the fan and dehydrator don't differ much in the finish.  As a matter of fact, I was having to really concentrate when taking the pictures to remember which was which.  A couple of bonuses to the dehydrator...1. the cookies dry faster. 2. I feel more confident filling in a dark outline with light flood icing after an hour or so in the dehydrator.

The cons to the dehydrator? Moving the cookies with wet icing onto the trays...and then off again if you are doing more decorating. I have smudged a few outlines transferring, and there's always that fear that you'll drop one. *knocks wood*

dehydrator photo dehydrator.jpg
This is the dehydrator I bought.  I thought the rectangular trays would hold more cookies than circular ones.  I have no idea if that's true.  I haven't loaded it completely, but I think it would hold 7 dozen or more 3"-4" cookies.
dehydrator open photo dehydratorinside.jpg
Be sure to look for one that has variable temperature settings and use the lowest setting.  You don't want to re-bake your cookies.  (Hey, biscotti?  Hmm...)  Oh, and don't worry about the cookies drying out...they don't. Yay!

I use a little clip-on fan like this one. I love that it's small and I can toss it in a closet when I'm not drying cookies. I may even buy a few more for larger cookies quantities.

Tips for drying all cookies:
  • place the iced cookies on cookie sheet and leave uncovered to dry,
  • if it's warm outside, run the A/C,
  • do not open the windows if at all humid, or if you've just run the sprinklers (just ask Mr. E),
Air-drying:
  • give the cookies a full 6-8 hours or overnight to dry,
Oscillating fan:
  • rotate the cookie sheets during drying (or have several fans for large projects),
  • still allow 6-8 for drying, using the fan for at least the first 2 hours,
 Dehydrator:
  • place the temperature on the lowest setting,
  • use caution when moving cookies from the cookie sheets to the dehydrator (this is the part I like the least about moving them),
  • to lock in the shine, run the dehydrator for about 4 hours or so, then let them dry the remainder of the way without the machine running,
  • the cookies will dry sooner, but to be on the safe side, I still allow a full 6-8 hours to dry completely.
how to make royal icing on cookies SHINE...comparing 3 drying techniques :: bake at 350 blog
Bottom line: 
If you want your royal icing to dry with more shine, use a fan or a dehydrator!  Shiny or not, though, decorated cookies are always cute.  ♥


26 comments:

  1. That's great to know. I would never have thought to use a dehydrator. xo Diana

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  2. Amazing trick, i never do icing but i will take this as consideration in the future

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  3. So helpful, thanks for sharing! I have been interested in a dehydrator too since I read the Georganne's post. I don't usually bake dozens and dozens of cookies but it could be a good Christmas present ^^

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  4. So useful! Would never have considered a dehydrator before but now I am! :)
    http://www.thisbakergirlblogs.com

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  5. This is so useful, thank you! I have pets in my house and I always worry about them messing with my cookies while they're drying overnight. Putting them in a dehydrator would protect them from the pets and also any errant dust/hair that might be flying around in my house. Thanks!

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  6. Very very interesting, I have been air drying my cookies all the time, I have to try this technique!!!
    Thanks for sharing!!!

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  7. I've seen both of these tips but not tried them. Going to give the fan technique a go tomorrow.

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  8. Thanks for passing along the results of your experiment. My preference is the matte look. I found that corn syrup in the royal icing makes a shiny cookie so I removed it from my recipe. Poor Mr. E, he'll never live down running that sprinkler!

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  9. Thanks for the tips! (As usual!) I wonder how it might work out if your tiny-shoe-box size kitchen has a ceiling fan?!? I just might find out! Thanks
    Theresa

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  10. Recently I had an order of 100 cookies and I used 3 fans. I put the cookies on a tray and had a fan at each end. Plus had a humidifier on, since it was a hot day. I was wondering why the cookies were shinny. You solved my question. I also had to use a standing fan on the other cookies. My husband was a little upset with me, since I had all the cookies on the dining room table next to the TV area. He said it sounded like a plane taking off! LOL!

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  11. I have a dehydrator, but I bought a nine tray that slides in. It holds more and I handle the cookies less. It also drys quickly.

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  12. Great tips! Never would've though about dehydrator!

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  13. So happy I found your lovely blog! These cookies are just stunning!

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  14. Thank you for this gorgeous recipe, pics are beautiful as the taste, thank you for sharing, have a nice day:) liên

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  15. I don't know much about icing but your photos are absolutely fantastic, if I could climb into my computer and pick up one of those treats...I would ! :)

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  16. Love this, Bridget!! Thank you so very much!

    xo

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  17. Great post! I have been using a dehydrator for about a year now and love it. I have one with trays that slide into the unit - you can decorate right on the tray, and then open the door & slide the whole tray in. And not only do the cookies have a nice sheen, I rarely ever get craters anymore!

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  18. Thanks for doing your homework and sharing with us. I would like to achieve some shine, so I may try out the fan, to begin with.

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  19. Love seeing them all side by side! This is awesome!

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  20. Great idea....one question, though...what does the dehydration do to the cookie? Does it change its texture...make it more like a hockey puck???? Or dries the icing and leaves the cookie "unharmed"...thanks for your help....I'm thinking about buying a dehydrator....

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  22. I tried a dehydrator with my last batch of cookies but was disappointed. It kept the shine and the cookies themselves don't taste excessively dried out but the icing has become crunchy. That's the best I can think to describe it. Normally the icing got firm but not to the point of crunchy. I left the cookies in the dehydrator for 2 hours (can you imagine what 4-6 would have done?!) but I think next time I'll try half the batch in the dehydrator for one hour only and the other half air dry with pearl dust. I'd love to get my process down so I can stop ruining cookies playing with it.

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  23. Can I have the recipe of this adorable cookies?

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  24. Hello! Check out http://www.cookiedecorator.com/showthread.php?3906-Check-out-drying-your-cookies-with-a-Heat-Gun!

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  25. Hello, I´ve been reading this blog for a long time, I love cookies, I usually baked un-decorated cookies, and I´m just beginning to use meringue powder, so I wish to know if the brand of the meringue powder could make a difference in the shine? or if the recipe fot the royal icing is the same no matter the brand of powder? My royal icing dried super matte!!! Thanks!!!!!!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! Happy baking! :)
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