I have a rant. Toddlers in preschools everywhere are constantly scolded for the same offense: eating Playdough. Why is it that curiosity is chastened whereas adults have good fun rolling and shaping fondant, gumpaste, and the like all the while popping bits into their grown-up mouths? Shouldn’t we share our little secret with the kids? C’mon, let’s play with pastillage.
This week I’m organizing a bake sale at church to raise funds for a couple of young missionaries in Argentina. In order to impact the congregation to remember why they’re noshing on such succulent sweets, I decided to use blue and white (the colors of the Argentine flag) to decorate my treats. The table set-up will feature a large framed photo of the couple, as well as more blue & white decor from my home stash (wedding gifts, actually).
Since I’d never attempted gumpaste or pastillage, this seemed like the perfect opportunity! Gumpaste was overruled because it required tylose or gum traga-something which translates into more cash and a shopping trip (both of which I try to avoid most of the time). Pastillage made the perfect decorative cupcake toppers, as it dries very hard and is easy to roll and cut. The “modern dots” that characterize Sprinkles are a cinch with this recipe. My pair of flower cutters cost me less than $1 and the circles were cut from a pen cap and an apple corer. This project is fast not only because you must work quickly with the pastillage so that it doesn’t begin to harden before you’ve finished, but also because it mixes up in minutes, rolls out like a dream, and doesn’t involve the KitchenAid unless you are: a) really lazy or b) making gargantuan portions. Another perk is that if it hardens while you’re tending a toddler or visiting the loo, you can simply sweep the bits into a bowl, add a few drops of water, and knead it back to a uniform, soft dough.
Pastillage (of the simplest variety)
Makes about 2 cups
1 1/2 t. powdered gelatin
3-4 c. powdered sugar
- In a microwavable vessel, add 3T water and sprinkle gelatin atop. Wait 5 minutes.
- Sift cornstarch and 3c. powdered sugar together.
- Microwave the gelatin-water mezla for 15-30 seconds to dissolve. Stir to dissolve remaining bits.
- Pour liquid into a medium bowl. Sift half of the sugar mixture in and slowly stir. Add more sugar mixture to achieve a soft dough that is no longer sticky. If you’d like, you may *add coloring to the dough at this point.Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight.
- Sprinkle a bit of cornstarch onto rolling surface and roll a small amount of pastillage to desired thickness. Cut out and allow to dry. Simple, right? Handle with care once dry, because it tends to be brittle. Pastillage creations may be stored indefinitely in an airtight container at room temperature.
- The easiest method to color pastillage is by adding liquid coloring to the gelatin and water before mixing with sugar. Many professionals frown upon this practice and advise using dry powder coloring. Mine worked well with what I had around the house- liquid, but that’s just my experience, take it or leave it.
- If you’d like to shape flowers into a more natural “cupped” position, cut them and place them in either an artist’s pallette or an egg carton in which small cotton balls have been stuffed. The cotton allows the flowers to be shaped without extreme bending which results in cracks.
- To glue pieces together, use royal icing or buttercream. Toothpicks are great for this purpose.
- Toothpicks may be used to add detail to petals. Try pricking gently to create a dotted edge along petals or pressing the tip into the petals holding tp parallel to flower–think cherry blossoms.