I don’t get what people love so much about decorating holiday cookies; everyone but me seems to think it’s fun. The benefit to you of my disdain for decorating holiday cookies is that I’ve thought about how to make every step simpler and less excruciating. (By the way, I did not decorate the cookies in the photo above; an artist friend of mine did.)
Okay, there are three parts to making decorated holiday cookies:
1. Making the dough
2. Rolling out and baking the cookies
3. Decorating the cookies.
I like the first two steps; it’s the third step that gets me.
Make the dough now and freeze it. When it comes time to make cookies in December, you will be really pleased you have that done. Wait to roll and bake the cookies; however, because baked cookies are very delicate and likely to break before you have a chance to decorate them. (Although broken cookies are magnificent crumbled up and served over fruit.) Here’s the recipe I use. It works when you freeze it and roll it out later, and it tastes great. I divide it into three batches that I freeze.
Sugar Cookie Dough
1 cup butter (I like salted butter for this recipe)
½ cup sugar
1 egg (don’t forget to bring it to room temperature by putting it in a bowl of hot water)
3 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
1. Cream butter and sugar.
2. Add egg and vanilla, beat well.
3. Measure and mix in flour and baking powder. (I mix the two together before putting them in the dough).
4. Divide dough in three batches, label and freeze.
If you must know… For 1/8” cookies, bake 5 min. @ 400 degrees.
You should begin shopping for decorating supplies now. Go to a store that specializes in cake/cookie decorating. There, you will find exactly you need. The store will have the most interesting assortment of cookie cutters, colors of food dye and specialty icing spatulas. The sales clerks will be knowledgeable and helpful about cookie decorating
The easiest cookie cutters to use are those with the fewest “appendages”. For example, a bell shaped cookie cutter will make cookies that are much easier to handle than a fussy angel-shaped cookie cutter. If you have young children, or if any of you are easily frustrated, easy cookie cutters are a must.
While you are at the decorating store, buy: a small angled and tapered spatula that is designed especially for icing cookies, fantastic green, red, yellow and blue food dyes (they will be so much better and more complex than what you can buy at the grocery store), decorating paintbrushes (I’ve tried dime store paintbrushes, but the bristles fall out, which is unacceptable when you are making food.). Don’t buy anything that won’t “dry”. “Gel” decorating products look great; but the next day, the cookies are still sticky. Make sure that everything you buy for decorating will eventually harden. At a decorating store, the clerk will know what hardens and what doesn’t.
I’ll tell you what I know about rolling and baking cookies in Part 2 of this series and give you some ideas for decorating in Part 3. Keep in mind though, that I don’t like decorating; so my decorating tips will be along the lines of easy-and-quick (but fabulous).