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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Coloring Stiff Consistency Royal Icing

The other day I posted directions for making stiff consistency royal icing, and now I'm going to show you how to color it without excessively lessening its thickness. This time of year around Halloween I find myself needing two of the more challenging colors to create, black and red. I highly recommend AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste in Super Red and Super Black. You can tell they get a lot of use, because the words on the labels are mostly worn off. 
This is a photo of the icing I made the other day. I held it like this for about half a minute; it's not going anywhere. Some might think this is TOO thick to be considered stiff consistency, but I always make it a little thicker than I want it because it will become creamier when the color gel is added to it. If you're wondering what the solution for creamier stiff consistency royal icing is when the color you want is white, just add a few drops of water or a tiny amount of piping gel. I truly mean a few drops; I like to run my hand under the tap and then flick a drop or three off my fingertips. Don't use a squirt bottle or whatever; those tend to gout out way more water than you're anticipating.  
 The first step is to prepare a piping bag with a tip and a coupler (if you're using one) so you'll have someplace to put the icing immediately after you've colored it. Remember, royal icing starts drying hard and fast the second you take the lid off the container; it always needs to be covered. Scoop out just a little more than you think you might need with an offset spatula.
Scrape it off into a small container…
 …and add a squirt or two of whichever color Soft Gel Paste you're using. If you're going for a pastel shade, unscrew the cap and use a toothpick to remove a few drops (don't double-dip the toothpick; use a new one every time you need to add another drop). You may need to add a drop or two of water to the icing, if you're using a very small amount of color.
 Blend the color in with the offset spatula; try not to whip the icing up too much. The color is looking very orange in this shot, but I can assure you, it's blood red. Notice how much creamier it's looking now than in the above shot, where it almost had the appearance of stucco.
 Cuff the pastry bag over your hand, and insert the spatula as far as you can. Scrape the icing off the spatula by sliding the spatula out against one of your fingers, as I'm doing with my index finger in this photo. You want the icing to be as close to the end as possible, and not all over the inside of the bag. Use a bag tie and a tip cover, and your bag is ready to go.
 The process is, of course, the same for making black icing. I always think I haven't added enough color when I'm making black; it looks charcoal gray to me at first no matter how much I use. However, I've noticed that almost all shades tend to deepen in short order; this pure black icing appeared deep gray all the way until I loaded it into the bag. Experiment with small amounts like this until you find the right shades for whatever project you're working on (in this case, probably eventually eyeballs).

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