It's still too chilly to check the ground for emerging bulbs and besides, there's still a lot of snow cover in shady spots, and some snow is predicted for next week too. So, let's just pretend that spring will be here soon and rush it a bit by bringing some color into our lives. It'll be fun to paint some colorful cookies to cheer us out of the winter doldrums. And before we know it we will be complaining about the heat.
You will need some molded cookies (Lemon Springerle would be a refreshing spring choice) that you have already baked and cooled. And collect a bottle of triple sec (orange flavored liquor that you might have around to make margaritas), a small low dish (sometimes I use a large bottle cap), some small brushes that are dedicated to food use, some styrofoam plates to use as palettes and some gel food coloring. A few paper towels or rags that you don't mind ruining with food color will be handy too.
Once you have assembled all your tools, squirt out a small drop of each color you wish to use on the styrofoam plate and pour some triple sec into the small dish. You will be using the triple sec as a painting medium, instead of water. The alcohol will evaporate rather than soak into the cookie, so your Springerle will not get soggy and it also has some thickness to it, because of the sugar, which makes it easier to control when you are painting the cookies. I chose to use just four colors for this cookie: yellow, green, rose pink and brown. I put a little white gel color on the plate in case I wanted pastels, but in the end I did not use the white, but just thinned down the gel colors with the triple sec.
It is kind of like color book coloring. Or paint by number, since there is no drawing to be done. You pick one element of the design and fill in that area with color. I started with brown by wetting my brush with triple sec and mixing in some brown gel and then painted in the basket section. If it seemed to dark, I immediately added a little triple sec to my brush. For this large area I used a small flat brush. I chose to use the same brown gel for the body of the rabbits, just adding more triple sec to make a lighter shade of brown, again, if it seemed to dark, adding more triple sec. Using this technique, I was able to get some variation in the browns to make the already three dimensional surface seem even more dimensional. You can also go back and add a little more brown to add shaded areas. Next, I painted in the grass. I thought the green to be too green (St. Patrick's Day is behind us) and with spring in mind , mixed a little yellow into the bright green to create a nice lime green and using yet more triple sec ,to keep it light handed, painted the grass and leaves.
Now the roses were painted rose pink and the eggs yellow. I also painted the heart held by the bunnies with a very pale pink, having thinned down the same pink gel with lots of triple sec. I use a small round brush on these smaller elements. I also used some brown with not much triple sec to accent the eyes. I do have some experience in painting, so am very comfortable painting. If you have never done this, it will take just some practice. So be patient and take time to have fun with this. Don't forget that this is a cookie and some cookie monster is going to snarf it right down. Experiment with how much triple sec to use. Try out the colors on a reject cookie or on the back of a cookie. And use a light touch. Try to hold the brush somewhat loosely in your hand. Keep your brush clean by whisking it in the triple sec and dabbing it on the paper towel. Repeat as necessary. I most often find it is best to stick with 3 or 4 colors and to leave some ares unpainted.
When I began photographing the plate of cookies, I noticed that I had missed the egg in the center of the basket, and so painted it yellow before I took those photos. No fretting; remember that you are celebrating the coming of spring. By keeping it simple and only using a few colors, you will be able to paint more cookies faster. If you want to paint a lot of cookies in the same manner, you could do it assembly style. In explanation, paint 20 baskets, then all the bunnies, then the grass, etc. See the finished cookie at right, well, except for the one middle egg. You can certainly make the cookie a couple of weeks before you serve them, paint a few samples to get get process down, then store the cookies and paint them a day or so before you serve them.