Of course, the key to delicious holiday cookies is starting with a delicious dough. To avoid spending hours selecting recipes, baking expert Abby Dodge has streamlined the process by coming up with one basic vanilla cookie dough recipe that’s endlessly customizable. Once the dough is made, it can be shaped into Drop Cookies, Slice-and-Bake Cookies, and Cut-Out Cookies. Finally, once the shaped cookies are baked and cooled, it’s time for the fun part: decorating the cookies with Royal Icing or a Basic Glaze, and if you like, sparkles and edible dragées.
How to decorate with royal icing
To outline a cookie:
Spoon some of the icing into a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip. Practice first on a piece of cardboard or waxed paper; if the icing is too thick to pipe evenly, put it back in the bowl and stir in water, a drop or 2 at a time, until it pipes easily but retains its shape. Outline the cookie with the icing. At this point, decorate the outline further while it’s still wet with your choice of topping, or set the outlined cookies aside to dry until tacky (if flooding), about an hour, depending on the humidity of your kitchen, or until dry (if not decorating further), 2 to 4 hours.
To coat an entire cookie with icing (flooding): Thin some of the icing by stirring in cold water, 1 tsp. at a time, until just pourable; you don’t want flooding icing to hold its shape but rather to fill in and cover an area on the cookie, so the consistency should be like melted chocolate. Spoon the flooding icing into a pastry bag fitted with a medium plain tip. Pipe a tight zigzag of flooding icing inside the border of an outlined cookie and then use a toothpick to spread the icing in an even layer out to the edges.
Decorate the cookie further, if you like, and then set aside to dry completely, 2-1/2 to 4 hours.
After flooding, you can create a marbled effect by piping another color onto the wet icing. Pipe the second color in lines or dots, then drag a toothpick through them. Dots will create marbled hearts.
3-D:For a three-dimensional effect, let the flooded icing dry completely, then pipe another color on top.
Add sparkle with decorative toppings
Iced or glazed cookies are beautiful on their own, but you can give them some bling with these toppings. Sprinkle the cookies with one or more of the following while the glaze or icing is still wet. Let sit for about 10 minutes, then invert to remove any excess topping.
• Coarse or fine sanding sugar
• Edible dragées
• Finely chopped toasted nuts
• Finely chopped crystallized ginger
If you’ve spent time making beautiful holiday cookies, you definitely want to take the time to package them with care. Cookies with royal icing are durable enough to ship through the mail, but glazed cookies are best left for hand delivery. Here’s how to do it:
For iced cookies: Pack each cookie in individual cellophane envelopes and layer between sheets of thin foam in a cookie tin or box.
For glazed cookies: Arrange the cookies in snug single layers between parchment or waxed paper in a cookie tin or box.