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Kitchen Queries

Welcome to Kitchen Queries, where the nigella.com team will answer your cooking or food related questions.  We’d love you to submit some of your recipe problems, dilemmas or queries for us to get our teeth into!

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  • Icing Cookies and sending as Christmas gifts

    For christmas, I am planning to make gingerbread man cookies decorated with icing. But I do not know whether glace icing or royal icing would be better. The icing has to be hard enough to withstand transportation and handling as I am planning to send some in the mail to my friend in Australia too. Can I know the difference between glace icing and royal icing and which is better? 

    Hi. I'm really keen to send some home baked edible gifts to friends abroad this Christmas. I would love some ideas on things to bake that travel well and packaging tips to keep them at their best for longest! The treats would need to survive a UK to US postal adventure!

    From the nigella team:

    Both glace icing and royal icing are made from icing (confectioners) sugar but royal icing is made up with egg whites and sets very hard, whereas glace icing is made up with water and/or lemon juice and tends to dry on top but remain slightly soft underneath (unless it is in a very thin layer). So if you are planning to package up cookies as Christmas gifts then royal icing is a better option.

    In the UK you can buy packets of royal icing sugar ready to make up and it is best to follow the instructions on the packet when making up the icing. You can also make your own royal icing - for 450g (1 pound) icing sugar use 1-2 large egg whites. Whisk 1 egg white until slightly frothy then stir in 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of the sugar (you can add 1 teaspoon lemon juice as well if you like to reduce the sweetness of the icing), then mix in the remaining sugar to make a thick icing. If necessary thin the icing with a little extra egg white. If you prefer not to use raw egg white (it is not recommended for the young, old, pregnant and those with a weakened immune system) then you can use powdered egg white or meringue powder. Sift together 450g (1 pound) icing sugar with 3 tablespoons of the powder. Add 5 tablespoons (75ml) warm water and beat the icing for 8-10 minutes, until it stands in peaks. Use 6 tablespoons water for a slightly less thick icing.

    You can thin any of these royal icings with extra water if needed. You can also tint the icings - gel food colour is preferable as you only need a very little so it will not thin the icing too much.

    If packaging the cookies then wrap each one individually in a plastic food bag (such as a resealable bag or freezer bag) then you will need to add some sort of "padding" around the cookies, such as bubble wrap, cotton wool, polystyrene packing peanuts or tissue paper, to provide protection - though even royal icing can be damaged if the package suffers from rough treatment. Also be aware that most countries have some restrictions on imported foods so it is best to check for your chosen destination before sending the cookies.

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