Published On: Tue, Jan 14th, 2020

How to… decorate dough

Britt Box (shewhobakes.co.uk) gets creative with cookie dough by decorating it in three different ways – swirl, checkerboard and hidden heart!

Sugar cookies are a great base to work with, especially if you’re decorating with sugarpaste and royal icing. But one technique that sometimes gets overlooked–and one I think is fabulous– is decorating the dough itself!

This technique of colouring and shaping the dough makes for some pretty great results. They can be themed to your colour or flavour scheme easily, they are striking to look at and certainly something a bit different!

I’ll be talking you through three of my go-to decorated dough styles; swirl, checkerboard and hidden heart.

Let’s start with my recipe for tasty no-spread sugar cookie dough, which is perfect for this project.

decorate dough

For the no-spread sugar cookies

• 125g (41⁄4oz) cold unsalted butter

• 125g (41⁄4oz) caster sugar

• 1 free-range egg

• 1tsp vanilla

• 250g (9oz) plain flour

NB To make chocolate dough, follow the ingredients above and simply add 30g (1oz) cocoa powder (optional)

1. Cream together the butter and sugar.

2. Add the vanilla and the egg and mix well.

3. Finally, mix in the flour (and cocoa powder if using) and combine to form a dough.

4. Spoon the dough onto clingfilm, wrap well and chill for at least 30 minutes.

5. Once you’ve done that, you can then start decorating dough!

decorate dough

Swirls

1. To make swirl cookies, you will need two batches of dough in different colours. I’ve used chocolate dough, which is a nice deep brown and I’m also using plain dough which I’ve coloured and flavoured with orange flavouring instead of vanilla.

2. To colour this dough, let the dough chill and firm up in the fridge as described above.

Once it has firmed up, unwrap it and place on a surface dusted with plain flour. Using a concentrated gel food colouring, not liquid- or water-based, (I’m using Sugarflair Tangerine here) and a cocktail stick, add some colouring to the dough and knead until fully combined. Add more colour if desired.

I find the vanilla dough takes to colour very well. Re-wrap in clingfilm and chill again for another 15 minutes.

3. Knead and then roll out the chocolate dough into a rough rectangle about 5mm (1⁄4in) thick, using a little cocoa powder to stop it sticking. Then, knead and roll out the orange dough (using a little plain flour to stop it sticking) to match the shape. Cut a straight edge on both of the dough slabs, using a sharp knife.

4. Next, brush a little milk onto the chocolate dough and carefully lift up the orange dough, then stick it down on top.

5. Then, starting with the straight edge, roll both colours of dough up together to make a long sausage.

6. Wrap up this dough sausage well in clingfilm and place on a baking tray. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour, but preferably overnight.

7. Once chilled, unwrap and cut into 5mm (1⁄4in) slices using a sharp knife. Put these slices on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake at 200oC/Gas Mark 6 for 15 minutes. Leave to firm up on the tray, then transfer to a cooling rack.

decorate dough

Checkerboard

1. To make checkerboard cookies, you will again need two batches of dough in different colours. I’ve used chocolate dough and a vanilla dough.

2. Knead and then roll out the chocolate dough into a rough square about 5mm (1⁄4in) thick, using a little cocoa powder to stop it sticking. Then, knead and roll out the orange dough to match the shape using a little plain flour to stop it sticking. Trim the edges to form a straighter square.

3. Cut each square of dough lengthways into three, then brush a little milk onto a chocolate strip and top it with a vanilla strip. Brush a little more milk onto the vanilla strip and top it with a chocolate strip.

4. Do the same for the alternating colours. You should have two strips of dough; one chocolate, vanilla, chocolate and one vanilla, chocolate, vanilla.

5. Cut both of these blocks in half. Stick two of the strips together using milk, alternating the colours, then stick the other two together. Finally, stack these two remaining strips creating a block, sticking together with milk, again alternating the colours.

6. Carefully wrap this whole block well in clingfilm and place on a baking tray, pressing the edges into more of a square shape. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour, but preferably overnight.

7. Once chilled, unwrap and cut into 5mm (1⁄4in) slices using a sharp knife. Put these slices on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake at 200oC/Gas Mark 6 for 15 minutes. Leave to firm up on the tray, then transfer to a cooling rack.

decorate dough

Hidden heart

1. This one has a few more steps than the previous two, but it’s worth it. You can make this design with any hidden shape as the method is the same.

2. You will need two batches of sugar cookie dough in two different colours. I’ve gone for one batch of vanilla and one batch coloured pink (using the method overleaf in the Swirl cookie tutorial. I’ve used Sugarflair Pink).

3. Once the pink dough has been re-chilled, unwrap it and roll it out onto a board dusted with flour. I used 5mm (1⁄4in) marzipan spacers to ensure my dough is all the same thickness. Using a medium-sized heart cutter, cut out lots of pink hearts and place them on a baking tray. Then, using a little milk, stick them together into a long log. Carefully wrap these heart logs in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for an hour (or if pressed for time, in the freezer for 15 minutes).

4. When the heart logs have chilled, unwrap and put them on their side. Knead the second colour (I’m using vanilla dough) and roll long, thin sausages. Stick these all around the heart log. Once covered, roll the whole thing gently to get rid of the lines. Wrap this well in clingfilm and place on a baking tray. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour, but preferably overnight.

5. Once chilled, unwrap and cut into 5mm (1⁄4in) slices using a sharp knife. Put these slices on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake at 200oC/Gas Mark 6 for 15 minutes. Leave to firm up on the tray, then transfer to a cooling rack.

6. Once all of these cookies are baked and cooled, they will last up to two weeks in an airtight container.

7. There are so many different ways to decorate dough – these are just three of my favourites. Feel free to experiment with colours, flavours, themes, shapes and designs. You can add sprinkles, chocolate chips, or anything you like. The only limit is your imagination. Have fun with it!

As featured in January 2020 issue of Baking Heaven Magazine

More Cake Decorating School!

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