Once everything is well incorporated, resort to something like a flexible spatula to smoosh the dough into a cohesive ball (that you then divide into two … or into two cohesive piles). Form the two portions of dough into discs and wrap one in plastic wrap to refrigerate.
Flour the second disc well on both sides and roll out to about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness (here I went thin … I wish I hadn’t because my oven was running hot and I ended up a bit more crispy than I would have liked; thicker will be easier to handle and slower to burn). This is one of those stages where we Galley Pirates prove our chops over all the other blogs, in which flour is strewn with abandon across brilliant expanses of marble countertop … cover your chart table with parchment while your Captain is out doing something else, and work fast is all I can say.
My brother and family are living in Berlin right now, and sent me these great cookie cutters, knowing how much I LOVE to mess up my galley making cutout cookies. They are part of a merchandising fad driven by the former East German crossing-sign icons — known as “Ampelmann” and “Ampelfrau.” I’m also testing out a silicon baking mat; Pirate Caroline has an insulated cookie sheet that keeps things from burning in the relatively small and intense space of a galley oven. My even smaller Finlandian-Swan oven doesn’t seem to have a fitting insulated sheet, so I thought I would try this on my upside-down single-layer metal sheet and see if that helps.
Once you have one of the discs rolled out, move expediently, but also strategically…making the most of the dough-territory you have. According to Serious Eats, you get two-roll outs on the dough (i.e. roll, cut, mash the remnants together and roll/cut again, but then not a third time) … I forget why (science never stuck with me, no matter how interesting … explains why I’m not too busy making millions in Silicon Valley to show you how to make gingerbread crew).
This is the moment when I had a batch ready to go into the oven and found that even the jelly roll-sized silicon mat didn’t quite fit my little galley oven … nothing a pair of scissors can’t solve! The recipe says to keep the cookies 1/4″ or so apart, but — as with so much on a boat — space was not a luxury I could spare. It turned out fine; they don’t expand much, and easily break apart to the extent that they end up touching.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes, until puffy and starting to brown around the edges. Allow them to cool thoroughly before frosting — for me, this meant sliding the silicon sheet off onto a rack, putting a newly loaded parchment sheet back into the oven, eventually sliding the first batch of baked cookies off the silicon sheet directly onto the rack (once the sheet had cooled enough to handle), then reloading the silicon sheet, and repeating the whole cycle. By the time five or so batches were done, the first ones were totally cool and ready to frost.
In the free moments (ha!) make your royal icing. Surely, you can use store-bought piped icing, as I have so many times before, to decorate these little darlings. But my experiment with the lofty, fluffy, floating royal icing on our Dia De Los Muertos cookies
made me love this stuff — it’s better tasting, and very forgiving as a decorating medium. Plus how often will you carry (or be able to easily obtain) store-bought icing tubes on a boat? Fit your hand-crank food processor with the whipping paddle (or use an electric mixer) and beat the egg whites, extract/rum, and cream of tartar until frothy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar until you can crank no more.
This will, however, not be the full amount of confectioners’ sugar, or enough to make it hold a peak, which is when you’re done. My hand-crank processor can’t handle past a certain thickness, and I’ve found that after that point I can whisk the remaining amount in with a fork and not lose the benefit of the loft and elasticity that royal icing provides. Here, I’ve divided the “not quite thick enough” icing into two bowls, added more sugar, and then whisked it in.
Add food coloring gel and whisk in until you reach a shade you like. Here, I thought “huh … not quite Christmas-ey red and green” and started to add more … but then thought “huh … that’s the hideous but functional day-glo of your average foul weather gear … we’re done!” Cover one bowl by putting plastic wrap directly on the surface of the icing — it tends to start to dry and thicken quickly, and lose its beneficial properties. So cover one close, and work expediently with the other!
Get your helmswomen into their gear, and a fan blowing on them (air flow, low-humidity and time will make royal icing a durable surface … until then, sticky).
Get your bow dudes into their coats and hats, and get your vessel rigged while they dry.