If you are interested in creating very eye-catching decorated sugar cookies, but wish to completely avoid using the traditional synthetic food coloring products and commercial decorator sprinkles tinted with them, I’m proud to offer you this special, yet very doable au naturel recipe. Simply by relying on the gorgeous natural colors of frozen (thawed) fruit juice concentrates from the supermarket (and on occasion incorporating cocoa powder as well), you can create a whole rainbow of tempting and tasty cookie icings and, yes, even pretty homemade cookie sprinkles!
To create au naturel icings, just combine the appropriate thawed pure fruit juice concentrate or a custom blend or several concentrates (for example, yellow orange juice and red cranberry to produce a light peach-orange shade) with powdered sugar and a small amount of corn syrup.
Don’t skip the corn syrup; it promotes smooth flow and yields a glossy finish. Though it is optional, you may want to stir a little purchased meringue powder or dried egg white powder into the powdered sugar before mixing in other ingredients. This sets the colors so that strongly contrasting shades don’t bleed together as the decorated cookies stand. (Many discount department stores stock the Wilton brand of meringue powder with cake decorating supplies. Supermarkets and nutrition stores sometimes carry the Deb El “Just Whites,” product or another brand of pure dried egg whites in their baking aisle.)
Creating the homemade sprinkles is remarkably easy, too. In this case, do not add any meringue powder to sprinkles that will be baked as it will cause them to darken. Just squeeze fine lines of the icing through a piping bag fitted with a fine tip (or a baggie) onto parchment paper. Let the lines stand and dry thoroughly, then just chop them into sprinkle-sized bits. If desired, just make sprinkles by piping the dribs and drabs of icing left over after decorating sessions. This is not only convenient and avoids waste, but means that a whole rainbow of sprinkles can be readily prepared in the small quantities needed. These can be stored in little bottles and used like purchased sprinkles, but since they contain no additives, after a few months their colors will begin to fade a bit. Their colors also fade from lengthy exposure to high heat, so it’s best to use them for sprinkling over icings or frostings, or on sugar cookies or other cookies that bake fairly briefly and at moderate temperature.
(Ed. Note: For Nancy’s basic recipe for naturally colored frostings see Nancy Baggett’s “Au Naturel” Rainbow Colored Frostings)
Text from Simply Sensational Cookies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Nancy Baggett. Photography by Diane Cu and Todd Porter. Copyright 2012.