candy corn cookies with natural coloring

About a week ago Food News Journal posted a link to the most adorable cookie recipe on the blog by Baked Bree. I knew immediately that I’d be making the recipe.  But as I scrolled through the comments, one in particular caught my attention.

We don’t do artificial colors in our house because they have a serious effect on my son’s behavior. Have you ever experimented on using natural coloring? Would you like to try and tell me how to do it?? J/K!! Seriously though- we associate kid’s goodies so much with the bright artificial colors and it would be refreshing to see something yummy and cute looking made all naturally.

Of course I offered up spices as a coloring alternative. While you do have to contend with changing the flavor of the cookie a bit, I felt you could still provide something that was cute and yummy. But that’s me. Let’s test that claim.

The candy corn cookies are colored sugar cookies. You make three balls of dough. One is left natural and the other two are colored. You then layer these, evenly pressed, into loaf pan then refrigerate until chilled. When you remove the dough you should have three distinct layers. candy corn cookie dough

 You then slice into candy corn shapes and bake. These cookies are charmingly small. Just like with candy corn you can fill an entire bowl with your cookies.  Baked Bree provides excellent instructions and visuals for the candy corn cookie recipe so please go to her site for the recipe. Then come back here when it’s time to color your dough.

The Spice Sherpa Version

Instead of orange and yellow food coloring I wanted to use spices. Sugar cookies are pretty generous when it comes to matching flavors with them. Seriously, it’s hard to find something that won’t match up with butter and sugar. Baked Bree used a bit of orange juice and zest in her recipe. I kept the juice but skipped the zest to keep the taste as straight-forward as possible. My picky 8 year old was my sous-chef and was interested in trying the spiced dough, albeit, rather cautiously.

I decided to use cinnamon for a pretty brown that created a clear contrast with the pale, natural dough. That was an easy decision. But what about the yellow/orange? I settled on turmeric.

I know exactly what you’re thinking….turmeric with cinnamon in sugar cookies? Ummm…pass.

C’mon, trust me.

Texture Is Critical

When using spices as a coloring agent texture is critical. Ground spices, no matter how bright they are in a bottle, will only add a tinge of color. This is because ground spices are granular. What you want is a powdered spice. Granules, even if tiny, simply get mixed up with a dough whereas a powder seems to actually stain it.

The Result

After dividing the dough into three balls I used the spices to color two of them. The color required a fair amount–to the tune of at about 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Sounds like an overwhelming amount for a mere 1/3 of the dough, doesn’t it? Yeah, I agree. The turmeric was a little less, about 2/3 of a tablespoon.

cookie pattern

 These little charmers were delicious!!

Not only did both pass my 8 year old’s cookie dough taste test but the final result was pure sugar cookie.  It was like a flavor triage.  The only way to taste the turmeric was if you carefully bit only the orange/yellow part of the cookie. The taste was slightly floral and surprisingly pleasant. If you popped the whole thing in your mouth the cinnamon came through but it was a polite, demure addition of flavor and not the muscled, overpowering spice that cinnamon can be.

Bonus Fun!

When you bite out of the turmeric section the inside is a darker and deeper orange than the outside. Both my kids thought that was rather magical and shared that quality with all their lunchroom buddies. cookie with biteYou can sort of see the effect here.

What do you think? Cute, huh?

Have you chosen spices simply for the coloring abilities? If so, which ones?