A few weeks ago I was getting ready to decorate a batch of cookies, and realized I didn’t have any colored sugar.  Decorative sugars are pretty much food glitter, and I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I have spent a fair amount of money on interesting color combinations.

Look how pretty!

I took a quick look and found that I already had everything I needed to make beautiful custom colors right in my own kitchen, and for pennies compared to the cost of buying from a gourmet store.

Custom warm hues

This is a simple and a great activity for kids – hands-on, and lots of fun.  When I was little I made sugar eggs with my Mom, and an integral part of that project was coloring sugar for the eggs (see my sugar blog).

In small glass bowls, simply put a few drops of food coloring into the sugar and mix by kneading.  You can use regular granulated sugar, but I like the crunch of sugar crystals on cookies.  I use both liquid and paste food coloring.  The liquid blends more quickly, but the paste gives richer hues.  Experiment.  Add the color a little bit at a time – it doesn’t take much.  Pinch the sugar through your fingers or mix with a spoon until color is distributed evenly.

If you’re using liquid food coloring, it can make your sugar a bit wet, which will clump.  To remedy this, place the sugar in a heat-resistant glass bowl and place in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes at 200° until dry.

I made this gorgeous lavender color by mixing ¼ teaspoon of “luster dust” (found in the cake décor section) with crystal sugar.  It’s positively opalescent.

Next comes packaging.  I live near a restaurant supply store that sells these little salt and pepper shakers in 24 packs – think of how many gifts you can get out of that!  Each shaker holds about one tablespoon of sugar.  Or, you can often find shakers at the thrift store.

Once you have your colors mixed, use a funnel to fill your shakers. One tip:  make sure that the holes in the shakers are big enough for your sugar crystals to fit through when shaking.

I found this porcelain tray at Pier One for less than three bucks.

What a treat to have gorgeous hues of fancy sugars on hand – for cookies, cupcakes or even to dress up your morning coffee!

So, if you’re looking to make delicious use of your new sugars, try the spritz recipe below.

Classic Spritz

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2-1/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg

1 tsp. almond extract

Cream butter and sugar.  Add remaining ingredients and mix.  Put dough into a cookie press and form onto ungreased cookie sheet, and decorate with colored sugars.  Bake at 400° until set, but not brown, 6 to 9 minutes.  Yield, 4 to 5 dozen cookies.

Enjoy!