Friday 8 July 2011

Cookie wands

On the weekend I had great fun helping my nieces make cookie wands at Maddy's birthday.  I offered to make these wands rather than a cake because it seemed a better way for the kids to get involved.  I expected the kids to enjoy it, but I was surprised how much the adults got into the decorating when offered the chance.

The idea for the cookie wands came from Barbara at Winos and Foodies.  I checked with my sister Susie and my niece Maddy who liked the idea.  Then my mum and I made plans.  She bought ribbon and I bought lollypop sticks and sprinkles (from Cake Deco).  On the morning of the birthday lunch, just a small family gathering, mum and I made the biscuit dough.  We made a batch of regular dough and a batch of gluten free dough.

We took the dough to Susie's house.  Surprisingly the gluten free dough was much easier to handle than the regular dough.  The gluten free dough would have been happy not to have been chilled at all.  The regular dough was quite soft and needed lots of chilling and extra flour.  We baked them with the sticks on and let them cool while we ate the birthday lunch.

Susie and mum had made delicious food for lunch.  Mum made regular and vegetarian sausage rolls (with my usual sausage roll filling), Masterchef's Caramelised Leek, Goats Cheese and Sage Tart (with a gf pastry option) and Donna Hay's Cocoa Brownies (with gf flour).  Susie prepared dip with crudites and crackers, hotdogs in rolls, a grapefruit juice and lemonade punch with pineapple juice ice cubes, and a platter of fruit and marshmallows.

Meanwhile, Maddy and I worked on setting up the stations (with help from Grace).  We cut up ribbons for the ribbon station.  We got out the sprinkles for the decorating station.  Finally I mixed the icing.  Our plan was that each child would choose two ribbons to tie around the stick, then I would ice the star and the child would decorate the wand with their choice of coloured sprinkles.  Of course it was more chaotic than that. 

Once the kids had finished their turn, we invited the adults to decorate a wand.  Wary at first - they just don't have the easy enthusiasm of the kids - they all joined in eventually.  Quin helped to decorate a few extra gf bikkies without sticks.  Everyone had fun.

The wands looked gorgeous and colourful.  Next time I would colour the icing rather than just using plain old white.  I didn't do the piping around the edges like the Kids Cakes book suggested.  As an aside I found some of the terminology alien to me - "pastry cones", "half sheet pans" and "sanding sugar".  I am not sure if that is due to my lack of decorating prowess or my living over the other side of the world from the author.

We all agreed that this was a great idea for a party.  After the palaver with the dough, my mum and I thought it would be a bit easier to bake the wands before the party.  Kids could decorate a wand each and take them home at the end of the party rather than a lolly bag.  These are the sort of biscuits (or cookies) that don't taste that interesting to me but they are fun to decorate and play with.

It occurs to me that it would be a great team building exercise.  I much prefer to be doing something with my hands than having to make small talk with strangers.  One of my favourite conference activities was decorating clap sticks.  It was relaxing to be doing something and just chatting when we felt like it.  I much prefer this sort of activity than paintballing or getting drunk in a pub.  Sadly it is not everyone's cuppa tea.

Sylvia is really into birthday parties and was very interested when I told her we were going to make cookie wands for Maddy's birthday.  She asked if we were going to put cookie wands on the birthday cake.  A great idea.  Though she would probably want to set them alight and blow them out!

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Falafel for E, Pizza for Sylvia
This time two years ago: Breakfast Burritos – My Way!
This time three years ago: Curious Chipotles and Bonza Burritos
This time four years ago: Peanut Butter Brownies

Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Kids' Cakes from the Whimsical Bakehouse: And Other Treats for Colorful Celebrations
Makes approximately 24 to 30 wands (I don't think we got so many)

125g unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar (I think we used about half of this)
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
1-½ cups plus 2 tablespoons plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Cream butter and sugar.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix until creamy.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until the dough comes together into a ball.  My mum did this by hand but the dough was quite soft so she said she would find it easier to do this in the food processor and could have added a little extra flour and made it more manageable for rolling out.

Wrap ball of dough in clingwrap.  Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes (we did 15 minutes in the freezer).  Roll the chilled dough out to between two sheets of baking powder to between 0.5 and 1cm thick (ideally it would be 0.5cm but as we needed to get lollypop sticks in, it was easier to have it a bit thicker).   Mum needed quite a bit of flour to roll out the flour because it was so soft, even after chilling.  Return rolled sheet of dough to the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Cut the chilled rolled dough into stars using a star shaped cutter.  Transfer to a lined baking tray.  Push lollypop sticks into stars.  It should go in at least halfway through the stars.  I actually picked up each wand to check the star wouldn't fall off the wand when held upright.  Arrange wands on a tray so they are well spaced.  Alternately you can cut into any shape you wish.  Bake at 180 C (350 F) for 10-15 minutes (I will check about the time). 

Cool on a rack before checking that the wands can be held upright.  Decorate with icing and sprinkles.  The book suggests when decorating that you hold the cookies when rather than the sticks to stop them collapsing.

GF Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Louise Blair's Great Gluten Free Baking
Makes about 10-15 cookies

200g brown rice flour
1/2 tsp xanthum gum (we used some gluten substitute instead)
1 tsp baking powder
50g brown sugar
50g butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp golden syrup

In a food processor, mix dry ingredients.  Add butter (cold from fridge) and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Mix in remaining ingredients in the food processor until a ball is formed.  You can use straight away or keep in the fridge wrapped in clingwrap until you need it.

Roll out until about between 0.5 and 1cm thick, using a little gf flour.  Cut out using a star cutter (to make wands) or cookie cutter of your choice.  Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Make sure there is a little space between them.  To make cookie wands, carefully push a lollypop stick into each star.

Bake 10-15 minutes at 180 C oven until a very light golden (I will check about this).  Decorate as above.

On the Stereo:
Ultra Lounge vol 1: Mondo Exotica: Various Artists


  1. Aww, these are too lovely! They'd be perfect for a kid's birthday party! :D

    Thank you for the gf recipe! I'm gf already, and my parents are going to become as well because my dad has had bowel surgery and suffers from sca formation and frequent pain, so a gf diet might help to relieve that.

  2. Aw, Johanna, why couldn't you have been my mum?! *pouts*

  3. What a great idea! A bit like cake pops, but more easily managed I suspect.

  4. What a fun idea! I might steal it for my next birthday party...

  5. Those are so cute! I am going to make those one day!

  6. This is a delightful idea - I love getting children involved with food and this would be such a fun and easy way to do it. Much nicer than a traditional lolly bag too.

  7. thanks kath - am sure these would be a good regular rolled out cookie recipe - the original recipe had orange zest but I took it out because we wanted these plain but they would probably take other flavours

    Thanks Hannah - oh I would have had a lovely time making cakes and wands for your birthday (though I am a bit worried you might have thrown some in the bushes!)

    Thanks Amanda - cake pops are still on my hit list but they do seem fiddly

    Thanks Joanne - hope you and your friends will wear fairy wings and tiaras :-)

    Thanks Juliet - hope that day isn't too far away

    Thanks Kari - in my experience children love helping with making their own - my mum was telling me that kids are now having masterchef parties - am curious about what these involve!

  8. These are super cute and I love the interactive element.

  9. what a great idea Johanna! :)

  10. These are so cute--a cookie (or biscuit) version of the cake pops I see everywhere. Looks like you've got a few natural artists in the group, too--they are so pretty to look at. I'm not a fan of sugar-type cookies, either, but I do think I'd enjoy the decorating part. :)

  11. Aww these are adorable and I love how the adults got into the decorating too! :D We're all kids at heart!

  12. thanks Cakelaw and Anh

    Thanks Ricki - I am with you in not getting too excited about sugar cookies but wonder if this would work with gingerbread cookies which we love in this house

  13. What a fun activity!! :) I totally agree with you - I prefer to be doing something with my hands and making small talk when we feel like it versus just having to make small talk.


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