There are so many do's and don'ts to royal icing. And just when I have everything down and I'm feeling confident reality steps in to hand me a humbling experience. If you've worked with royal icing you know how temperamental it can be. Almost everything will destroy a batch of RI just when you're in a time crunch.
- The humidity affects RI, but living in Rain-gell I've learned to work around that.
- The eggs (or meringue powder) could be older than they should be.
- Over mixing will give disastrous results, as will adding too much liquid to thin RI. Setting a timer will help in a busy kitchen. Also, only using paste coloring (I only use AmeriColor) eliminates many issues. Thinning with water in a spray bottle is another trick I use.
- Buttercream and RI are arch enemies, which means all bowls, mixing blades, utensils, etc have to be washed with soapy water and then wiped down with a vinegar bath.
- Various colors and/or brands of colors have their own drying times. I suppose that is just something you have to get used to. It comes with experience - the more you experiment the better you are at anticipating results.
But when my latest two attempts refused to dry I was ready to throw in the towel. The first attempt took over a week with sticky results and then it simply crumbled upon the touch. The second attempt remained sticky. But what was it that went wrong? I worked back through the recipe and technique. I scanned the internet for reasons and new recipes. I just couldn't come up with a logical explanation.
So I went back to my panty and started reading labels. There on my bottle of Almond Extract was my culprit: OIL OF BITTER ALMOND. I had run out of my clear vanilla extract and decided to use a new bottle of Almond Extract. (Uggggggg!!!!! ) Just to be clear - keep all butter, lard, and oil away from RI - and knowing this isn't enough apparently - now I'm adding another item to my list - READ LABELS.
So now that I feel incredibly dumb I'll begin my next order of cookies with renewed anticipation of success.