Saved By Cake: Over 80 Ways To Bake Yourself Happy by Marian Keyes is published by Michael Joseph, priced £16.99. This recipe makes a variable number depending on the size and shape of your cutters.
For the biscuits:
200g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 egg – beaten
400g plain flour
shoe and handbag cookie cutters (or any shapes of your choice)
For the icing:
500g icing sugar, your choice of icing colour, writing icing and edible decorations.
Method: Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and add to the mix, discarding the pod. Beat in the egg, sieve in the flour and mix until a soft dough forms. Divide the dough into two roughly equal-sized balls, cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour. Meanwhile, line three baking trays with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4. Take the balls of pastry out of the fridge, remove the cling film and divide each one into two. Roll one of the lumps out on a well-floured surface to a thickness of about 5mm. This is something you’ll get better at gauging the more you do it. Use the cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Press the cutter right down until it reaches the floured surface, then give it a tiny little ‘shimmy’ to loosen the shape from the pastry around it. Gently manoeuvre your palette knife under it and lift on to the baking paper. If it all goes a bit wrong – and it might well, especially if you’re a beginner – just roll out the pastry and try again. You only need to leave a couple of centimetres between each biscuit on the tray because they don’t spread much. Gather up the scraps of unused pastry, roll them into your next ball and repeat until all your pastry is in biscuit shapes. Bake for nine to 12 minutes until the biscuits are a – funny, this - biscuit colour, and are set but not too hard. Take the trays from the oven and use your palette knife to lift each biscuit on to a wire rack. Leave to cool.
Now for the icing. Use a wide-bottomed shallow bowl (that’s assuming you have one and if you don’t, don’t worry, any bowl will do). Mix the icing sugar with four tablespoons of cold water and your preferred colouring until you have the runniness you desire. Place a biscuit, face-side-down, in the bowl of icing until one surface is entirely covered. Tilt it from side to side, letting the excess icing run off (this is a messy business), then place on a wire rack. Even more icing might run off then. All fine. (You could place paper towels under the trays if you’re worried about the mess).
Do a batch of perhaps eight biscuits, then decorate them before the icing has a chance to set. I use writing icing to define the edges and give a more ‘finished’ look, but that’s entirely up to you. Either way, I predict you’ll have a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful time.