Effect of Hands on Royal Icing Consistency

Recently I took a class at McGoo U.  We were all doing intricate work and my frosting was runny. This was odd because Liz made all the frosting and we all had the same size tip! Liz handed me her bag and the frosting worked fine.  It occurred to me I was older than the other students and probably the only one having hot flashes (menopause).  I'm wondering if some if my consistency problems is hot hands.  Liz mentioned she has cold hands.  Any suggestions, opinions or similar experiences? 

Original Post

Interesting concept.  I have very warm hands and always had issues with buttercream when I was doing cakes.  Worked it out by always decorating in a very cold room.  I also have problems with RI that looks like it was the right consistency thinning down as I am using it.  Maybe I will crank the AC and give the cold room a try on my next cookie project. 

It's definitely possible that your hands could warm the icing and make it a little more fluid - just as icing that comes to room temp from the fridge gets looser as it warms. I find that if I work with the same cone for a long while, the icing can get a wee bit looser, I presume from handling it a lot. Though I imagine it would only get more fluid up to a certain point, especially if the icing started at room temperature, and that the variations would not be very large. I say this, because your body temperature isn't nearly hot enough to liquefy sugar (melting point for granulated sugar is between 140C and 180C, depending on who you ask.)

 

Was the icing at room temperature before you started? That could have been part of the problem, if it was warming up as you worked. That all said, you could try doubling up the bag (so there's more insulation, in effect) or working in a cooler environment, as mrshugs suggested. And see if you notice any material difference.

 

When I'm doing chocolate work, which is much more sensitive to temperature variations, I usually want warmer hands - so the chocolate doesn't set too fast! So menopause isn't all bad!

I also have warm hands and I always try to work quickly if I am using the same one bag on more than 24 cookies back to back.  If I have more than that, then I put the icing back in a bowl and add a little more sugar to it to firm it up a little if I have to keep working, or I will only fill half the bag and then refill the bag with the rest of the icing (mixing it with the warmer used icing) after 24-36 cookies.

Just a thought - I remember reading about someone who had 2 bags on the go.. one can rest and come down in temperature while the other is being used.

Since starting to use the Master Bags I have wondered about this as there is only a very thing layer between the RI and my normally quite warm palms.

I have been reading the book "The Art of Royal Icing, by Eddie Spence" and this is what he has to say on the matter : 

Remember that heat - whether in the atmosphere or from your hands - will cause the air in the icing to expand which will make the icing short (it will not flow easily), do not use the same bag of icing from more than 20 minutes as the heat from your hands will cause air bubbles to form and the lines may break.

I find that this is true for me. The heat from my hand transfer to the icing in the bag that I am holding. I try to make the icing a "little" more firm that what I really want because the "time" and "heat" effect makes it more liquid.

I have seen videos on youtube stating that you should wear gloves when working with buttercreams and other icings with unmelted fats. Might work, or at least let you know if heat from your hands was the problem. Maybe keep a pair of gardening gloves in the fridge, and swap when your hands get hot?

Mr. Spence also said to work with a bag for only 20 minutes, then you should switch to another bag. It means that you should prepare 2 bags of the same icing. When the icing consistency change because of the heat from the hand switch to the other bag. I also work in a "coldish" environment. Because the cookies and icing is sensible to humidity and air conditionning removes a bit of humidity I always crank it up a little.

Originally Posted by Jolies Gourmandises:

Mr. Spence also said to work with a bag for only 20 minutes, then you should switch to another bag. It means that you should prepare 2 bags of the same icing. When the icing consistency change because of the heat from the hand switch to the other bag. I also work in a "coldish" environment. Because the cookies and icing is sensible to humidity and air conditionning removes a bit of humidity I always crank it up a little.

Thanks for sharing.  I just went on Amazon and ordered the book.

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