January is an indoor kind of month. It’s made of wet cement daytime skies and a cold that cuts. It smells like old books and candles, and makes me wear all my sweaters at once. Like clockwork it begs me to hibernate. But outside, on a cloudless night you’ll find the brightest and twinkliest stars you’ll ever see. A few constellations are easy to spot with the naked eye, and I can’t resist stepping outside for a quick look.
Recently I’ve been reading about galaxies and animal constellations and the mythology attached to them. My favorite story is the Cherokee’s description of how the Milky Way was created: an otherworldly spirit dog stole a ration of cornmeal and ran to the sky, spilling it as he traveled, creating stars.
So, what does this have to do with cookies? Not much, but I realized I had some animal cookie cutters on hand that I could make into fun edible constellations. I could see them in my head already as dark chocolate cookies with Aurora Borealis marbled fondant, speckled with stars.
Aside from rambling on about constellation lore, this gives me a chance to show you how I marble fondant. I love this technique because it can also be used on sugar cookie dough. It’s easy and the end result is so swirly!
First, select two or more colors of ready-made fondant. I wanted the dominant color to be black with swirls of green and blue so I used more of the black fondant than the other two colors (about 2:1). Knead each color well, and then put the dominant color on the bottom, and the two secondary colors stacked on top. Flatten the stack slightly and then fold it onto itself pocket book style.
Pat the folded fondant out into a disc shape and then slice it into 1/2 to 1-inch slices. Turn the slices cut-side-up and place them side-by-side so that all the pretty colors are showing.
Flatten the fondant with your hands and press the seams together. Fold the fondant into thirds onto itself. Gather the ball up in your hands and squish it together; knead it on a work surface 2-3 times.
The outside of the fondant may look smudgy, and that’s okay. Flatten the fondant into a disc and cut into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces. Place the pieces cut-side-up and side-by-side (as before) and flatten with your hands. Now the fondant is properly marbled and you can roll it out to the desired thickness for cookie decorating!
After the cookie cut-outs are baked and cooled, use the same shape cookie cutter to cut out fondant shapes. Lightly brush the cookies with water before topping with fondant (or you can use honey or corn syrup for extra stickiness). You’ll need bright white food color and a fine tipped paint brush to paint on the constellations. You can use paper as a straight edge guide but I found more success free-handing the constellations.
There are many other creature constellations in the heavens that could be cookie-fied, such as the lynx, snake, dolphin, dragon, goat, lion – all of which I wish I had cookie cutters for but sourcing them turned out to be too costly. I opted for the few I already had on hand. You may want to do the same or purchase 2-3 of your favorite animal shapes.
I think these cookies would be just the thing for a solstice party, or they’d be a nice gift for your favorite star-gazer friend. The dark chocolate sugar cookie recipe I used tastes like homemade Oreos! I like eating them with coffee on the side or with a tall glass of milk.
Animal Constellation Cookies
- animal shaped cookie cutters
- 1/2 lb. two US sticks unsalted butter
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons 225g granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups 255g all-purpose flour
- 1 cup 225g black cocoa powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1 lb. marbled vanilla fondant per blog post directions
- Water corn syrup or honey
- Bright white liquid food color
- Clear vanilla extract or vodka
- Fine tipped art brush
- Stiff bristle brush
- In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar together until just incorporated. Do not over-mix at this stage, or the cookies may spread while baking.
- Add the egg and vanilla extract. Mix again on low speed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl intermittently as needed.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa and salt. Add to the butter and egg mixture. Mix on low speed until a dough is formed and there are no longer any streaks of butter in the mixing bowl. The dough will often clump around the paddle attachment while being mixed. This is normal and a good sign that your dough is the right consistency. If your mixture does not come together and is crumbly, add ice cold water 1 tbsp. at a time until the dough clumps. Roll the dough flat between sheets of parchment paper and chill until ready for use, at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Use animal-shaped cookie cutters to stamp shapes from the dough and transfer them to the prepared pans. Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly brown on the edges. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Roll half of the marbled fondant between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper. Use the same cookie cutters to cut shapes from the fondant. Lightly dab water or corn syrup on the cookies using a small art bush and lay the fondant on top of the matching shaped cookie. Repeat the process with the second half of the fondant.
- Place a nickel-sized amount of white food color onto a shallow plate. Dip the fine-tipped art brush into the food color and paint constellation patterns onto the cookies; allow to dry 5 minutes. (If you have trouble drawing straight lines, use the edge of a piece of paper as a guide. Be sure to wipe the paper edge clean with a napkin each time before placing it back down on the fondant to avoid smearing.)
- Place a dime-sized amount of white food color onto a shallow plate. Add a small drop of clear extract or vodka to the color and mix until slightly thinned. Dip the stiff bristle brush into the color and bend the bristles back with a finger. Hold the brush bristles 6-8 inches away from the cookie surfaces and release the bristles so that paint flecks the surfaces of the cookies. Hold the brush closer to the cookies for spatters that look like star clusters.
- Allow the cookies to stand until dry, about 1-2 hours.
- Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.