When I decorate small areas, I sometimes have icing craters to form as the icing hardens. Is this because of the consistency of the icing - maybe being too thin? Any ideas on how to prevent these?
Thanks and I LOVE this site!!!
I hate when that happens. I place them in front of a fan to dry. This seems to help some. Also run a toothpick or something through that small area to get any air bubbles out.
Hope that helps some.
I think I am actually experiencing less cratering with a thinner icing consistency flooded on fairly thickly and then dried under a fan. I just did that with some icing I needed to get rid of and some extra cookies. I took very little care with the piping and flooding (used the same consistency for both, just let the piping wait a few seconds and then I flooded). Not a crater in the bunch. Normally, my icing is a bit thicker. Maybe it's a fluke. Interested in seeing other responses to this. I usually have several craters amongst a set. No rhyme or reason for the difference.
Craters are hard to control - but the best way I've found is to quick-set the icing using a dehydrator or a fan, as others have mentioned. Certain shapes (small, angular ones) seem to be especially prone to them no matter the icing thickness (I have tried the gamut). The quick-setting tactic won't cure craters 100-percent (or at least it hasn't for me), but it improves the situation to about 90-percent crater-free!
I once quick-set cookies in my oven, but its lowest temp is 150F and so I found the drying harder to control there. (The cookie icing can quickly get too hot and over-expand or even crack in the oven.) I now set my dehydrator at the lowest setting (95F) and hardly have to watch them. Usually 10 minutes in it is enough to quick-set the top of the icing and prevent craters, though this time also depends on the thickness of the icing and the size of the space you're trying to set.
Interested to hear what others have to say as well.
Give my recipe a try. It is very fast drying and I rarely experience craters. It is also great when you are using light and dark shades together as it does not bleed. And it takes only a couple mins to make from start to finish.
The recipe is under Sugardeaux Quick Dry Royal Icing in the icing forum here.
I normally don't have trouble with craters with the icing recipe I use. However, a few weeks ago I was working on some cookies and was filling in the lettering on the logo. I was flooding very small sections, just as you described. I experienced the worst cratering EVER.... in all 12 of the cookies I made. I scraped out the flooded areas (as they hadn't fully dried), and re-flooded, being sure to flood them extra full and run a toothpick through the icing this time, but I STILL had cratering problems. I actually had to go back later with icing on a toothpick and carefully try to fill in the craters - it was a nightmare! Out of curiosity, I took the same icing and flooded several 3" circle cookies to see what would happen. Those cookies had NO cratering problems whatsoever. So, the only thing I figured out was that the icing was fine, but something about flooding in those small areas was causing the cratering issue. Next time I will have to try the dehumidifier idea that some of you mentioned above..... maybe that's the secret! Thanks for the idea!
This may be getting too geeky on you all, but my theory is that smaller spaces crater more due to changing surface tension effects on the icing as it dries. Meaning: the icing tends to dry faster in thinner areas near edges and corners, and if those edges are close together, the icing on the edges in effect weighs down the center icing as it dries, causing the center to collapse in on itself. I need to find a scientist to validate this for me! But, let's just say, I've never seen cratering in areas bigger than about 1/2 inch, and it's almost always worse in angular shapes with corners. But if you can quick-set the icing, then you minimize any differences in drying time across the surface of the icing and therefore minimize craters. That all said (hypothesized), I think the size and shape of the space is the biggest driver of cratering. If you use a quick-drying (often thicker) icing this can minimize craters too, along with fanning and dehydrating.
This is so wonderful...to have a place to share and discuss issues with experienced decorators (or novices like me who fly by the seat of their pants and manage to come up with some experiences - good or bad). Have to say thank you Julia for making this happen!
I tend to agree with the surface tension theory. I used the same icing on a couple of cookies and only the "coconuts on the palm trees" had any issues with craters...and they were really deep holes (they were not air bubbles I don't think). I believe the outside crusted rapidly where the fan hit the sides and the center-most spot caved. We decided to call them eyes in the coconuts...and I even had people ask how I had made that detail. I just chuckled. I need a dehydrator badly!
Thank you all so much for the feedback!! I've never thought about using a fan or dehydrator! My heart just sinks when I start seeing those craters forming so I will try the things you all have mentioned!!
I've come to accept the inevitability of craters when working with small areas (like eyes). My only solution is to make sure I have small amounts of that color icing on hand to fill the craters and smooth over with a finger. It isn't perfect, but it works okay. I don't think non-cookiers really notice so much (at least, that's what I tell myself!)
I did some narrow letter cookies today. Normally, without any dehydration, they sink more in the middle. But with my dehydrator, they are completely poofy. I just snapped a quick pic to show you. (The picture is crappy, but I think it conveys the difference . . .) The pink cookie (un-dehydrated) has a slight depression along the middle, whereas the purple one (dehydrated) did not sink at all. I used the same icing (just colored differently) for each. Every now and then, there's still sinkage or cratering with the dehydrator (perhaps because I didn't leave the cookies in long enough), but the results are generally very consistently great! Out of the 60 or so narrow/tiny cookies that I iced today, only 2 sunk. In the past, w/o dehydration, almost all of them would have.
Thanks for taking the time to post this photo. It really shows the difference. I had never considered investing in a dehydrator, but it might be time!
Julia...do you choose to use the dehydrator with ALL cookies or just with ones that have smaller icing sections?
I have to agree to the "science" behind your thoughts, Julia...the only time I get cratering is in those small angular areas...think bird beaks, and giraffe spots...crater like crazy!!
I now use a fan for all my cookies. I still have some random cratering but not nearly like I had before I used a fan.
You know, I've gotten into the habit of using it on everything but really big cookies that don't fit. Just to set the top coats though, never to dry the icing all the way through. I like the sheen and poofiness that it gives to my top coats. I did some top coating today, and thought I'd go without the dehydrator on some, and I must say I was disappointed with the surface on those that did not hit the dehydrator. Maybe I've just gotten too fussy in my old age, but the dehydrated ones were much closer to perfect!
I can COMPLETELY vouch for Karen's RI recipe!! It's the only one I use now. I don't have a dehumidifier, but I do put my cookies in my warm oven to help the icing set. It works like a charm! Just keep an eye on your temperature to make sure it's not too high.
I have used Sugardeaux's recipe forever and it's great. Icing dries quickly and like she said, hardlyany cratering or bubbles.
I agree. If I ever see cratering it is in the smallest of areas, like filling in a letter. It's weird. I even use the scribe to go thorugh it and it still does it...go figure
Would you mind sharing which dehydrator you use? I'm searching online now for dehydrators..not sure what I'm looking for though
I'd like to know what dehydrator you use also!
There is a forum topic on Dehydrator Recommendations - very helpful!
I use the Nesco dehydrator. It was cheap, but it has some limitations. This forum goes into the pro/cons of various dehydrators in some detail; check it out: http://cookieconnection.juliau...=lastReply#lastReply. If I had to do it over, I'd get one with sliding rather than the stacked racks that Nesco has.
Thanks...I'm going to check out that forum now!
I did give your recipe a try and it is the bomb!!! Love, love, love it!! NO CRATERS!!! Thank you for posting this Sugardeaux!!
BTW, here's the link to SugarDeaux's icing recipe for all you inquiring minds: http://cookieconnection.juliau...0#348495128048058320
Rough translation of Patricia's reply:
You have to use icing of a thicker consistency so you do not make hollows - stay with the lower peak with a toothpick. I hope you understand me because I do not speak English.