August 14, 2013

Tri-Coloured Flag Cookies for Independence Day!

I
t has been 66 years since India gained Independence from British rule and it has been a long journey for her, but one that’s from over.  Our history lessons in school have taught us much about the struggle and sacrifices of great men and women, some well documented but most never known, that led us to freedom – a freedom that we take for granted and enjoy today without much thought to how it came about. Like Dick Cheney said, “It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you.”
While we may not fully appreciate the freedom we do have, not having known a situation when it wasn’t so, it is important that we do not forget that things could have perhaps been different and not so good. We only have to look in other parts of the world to realise just how lucky we are. One way of ensuring that we continue to keep this freedom for future generations comes with our own thoughts and decisions however small. To quote Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, and the spirit of men... “



 
A great way to remember or commemorate any occasion is to celebrate it, and if you were like me and blogged food, then food has to be a part of the celebration. And if there was food featuring the three colours of the Indian flag (tiranga meaning three coloured) would be the ideal way to go. My previous tri-coloured celebratory fare has included Tri-Coloured Cookie Bars and Tri-Coloured SpicedRice (Tiranga Chawal).

This year I decided to make Tri-Coloured Flag Cookies to celebrate Independence Day. There’s nothing particularly fancy about these cookies and you will find them everywhere in some form or the other. They’re just your average butter cookies of the ice-box/ refrigerator variety though most people will agree with me that there is nothing average about a good butter cookie!
In case you are new to ice-box or refrigerator cookies, they’re butter-rich cookies where the dough is shaped (typically into a log) and refrigerated long enough for it to harden. This makes it easy to slice the cold dough and then bake it. The cold dough also prevents the cookie dough from spreading as it bakes. 



 
The nice thing about shaping and refrigerating dough is that cookies can be made as a two-step process. This means that you can make the dough ahead of time, and baking the cookies  takes very little time or effort. This makes them great when you have to bake in large quantities especially for occasions or festivities.

Since the dough is refrigerated, it also means you can slice off as many as you want and bake them on demand. There is also less work in terms of making the cookies (no rolling out, cutting shapes, rolling again, etc) and there are never any scraps so it’s not a messy affair either. It’s a win-win situation whichever way you look at it!
 


Ice-box or refrigerator cookies are usually a little crisp with a bit of a chewy centre though this depends entirely on how thin (or thick) you slice your dough. The dough can be refrigerated for 3 days after shaping into a log or be frozen for about a month and be baked straight away.

Here, I mixed up my butter cookie dough and divided it into 3 portions. One was left as it was, and the other portions were coloured orange and green for the colours of the Indian flag. I rolled out thick “ropes” of each colour, shaped them into rectangular logs and then stacked them on each other with frequent resting periods for the dough in the fridge. The rains are starting to become irregular out here which means my days are getting warmer hence the cold rests for the dough.



 
An overnight rest in the fridge made the dough really easy to slice it thin and about 12 minutes per batch in the oven and I had my tri-coloured cookies! I used some blue coloured Royal Icing to pipe the “Ashoka Chakra” in the middle of each cookie for a more realistic look and my edible “flags were ready. The recipe for the Royal Icing follows but if you prefer an egg-free icing then you can find it here.
Tri-Coloured Flag Cookies
 

Ingredients:

200 gm butter, soft at room temperature
 1 1/4 cups sugar
 2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
About 8 pods cardamom (2tsp powdered cardamom)
A few drops orange food colouring
A few drops green food colouring
Royal icing coloured blue (see recipe below)
 

Method:

In a large bowl, put the butter and the sugar and beat, using a hand held mixer, until it is soft and fluffy (should take about 3 to 4 minutes). Beat in the eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla extract.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add it to the bigger bowl. Beat on slow speed until the flour has just mixed in. If the dough seems a little soft and sticky, refrigerate it for about half an hour so that it becomes easier to handle.
Divide the dough into three equal portions. Leave one portion plain. Add enough orange food colour to the second portion and green food colour to the third portion to get the shade you want. Knead the colour in so there are no streaks and the colour is uniform. If you’re using liquid colour you might need to add about a tbsp. of flour to each portion (not more) while kneading. Shape each portion into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for about an hour till firm again.
 
 
Now take each portion and roll it out, using your palms, into a thick log that is about 1 1/2" in diameter. All the three logs should be more or less of the same length. If they’re not, you can trim the lengths to make them equal later. Refrigerate again, if necessary.
Now, using a rolling pin, gently flatten each log lengthwise until it is about 2” to 2 1/2" in width and about 1” to 1 1/4" in height. 
Stack the uncoloured portion on the green coloured dough and the orange coloured dough over this. Gently press/ roll along the length of the stack so that the three layers stick together without flattening it out any more. If you don’t the layers will separate out when the cookies bake. Also make sure your layers are even and the same thickness or your finished cookie will have uneven layers!
You can cut the stack into two halves (along the length) to make it easy to store in the fridge. Wrap the cookie dough stacks in cling film and refrigerate for at least 6 to 8 hours or upto 3 days. You can also freeze them if want to store it for longer. If you freeze them, you can let them “thaw” in the fridge overnight before slicing them.
 
 
When you’re ready to bake the cookies, take the stacks out and slice them with a sharp knife into 1/4" slices. Place the slices on ungreased cookie sheets or sheets lined with parchment. Leave about 2” between cookies as they will spread out during baking. Return the cookie sheets to the fridge for half an hour. This will ensure that they do not spread too much.

Bake them at 180C (350F) for 10 to 12 minutes till they’re pale golden. Do not let them brown. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes, then carefully lift them off and cool completely on racks.
Once they are cool, pipe a small wheel with spokes in the centre using blue coloured Royal Icing. Let the icing dry completely, then stack the cookies in an airtight tin.
This recipe makes 4 dozen Flag Cookies
 

Royal Icing
 

Ingredients:

 1 egg white
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or lemon juice)
1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted ( a little more, if necessary)
A few drops blue food colour
 

Method:

Put the egg white in a clean bowl and beat with a hand held mixer till it is quite frothy. Add the vanilla extract (or lemon juice) and add about 1 cup of the icing sugar and beat on low speed until well mixed and shiny.
 Add the remaining icing sugar and beat on high speed (about 5 minutes) until the icing forms stiff and glossy peaks. Add the colour and beat till well mixed. If using immediately, transfer this to a piping bag. Otherwise transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. It should keep for about 3 days.
This amount of icing is a lot more than is required for this cookie. So you can store about 2/3rd of it in the fridge before adding the colour, for some other use. Add colour only to about 1/3rd of the icing. 

Let me leave you all with best wishes for yet another happy and peaceful Independence Day and these words from Rabindranath Tagore.

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by domestic walls;
 Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.”
 
 

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