As much as I enjoy buying cookie cutters (and boy, do I have a large collection), I’ve never really mastered making cutout cookies. Over the summer I tried my hand at it again, with mediocre results. Most of the time, after pulling the cookie sheet out of the oven, the cookie had sort of blobbed all over the place instead of being this really cute heart, or shoe. Last year I tried to make gingerbread men.
So this year, after Erin came up with the idea of Cookie Week, I of course, said I’d do cutout cookies. It would be a great way for me to really push myself and finally use all of these cookie cutters, and maybe–just maybe!–I’d have decent results.
I’m not gonna lie–I kind of freaked out when I began this. What had I gotten myself into? I don’t know anything about decorating cookies! I just make cake! All my cookies come out looking blobby!
So, after a couple glasses of wine, I decided to give it the ol’ college try and make little Christmas trees. I figured I would start by doing one shape so that I could practice and hopefully get good at one simple shape before trying another.
And you know what? They came out pretty decent!
Here’s what I did:
For the cookie dough, you will need:
1 stick of unsalted, softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1. Cream the butter, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
2. Add egg and beat another minute.
3. Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder and add gradually to the butter mixture and mix until combined.
4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or put in a Ziploc bag and refrigerate for a couple hours.
5. When the dough has chilled, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface and cut cookies in desired shapes. Place cut cookies on parchment lined cookie sheets and let set in freezer for 15 minutes. Having the cookies be really cold when you put them in the oven helps them to not spread during baking.
6. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and bake about 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. The larger the cookie, the longer it will take to bake; the smaller, the faster. Try to keep similar-sized shapes together to prevent smaller cookies baking faster than larger ones.
Set cookie sheets on wire racks to cool.
Once your cookies are cool, it is time to decorate. My favorite part! I managed to find a pretty good recipe for royal icing that gave me good results. However, if you are going to use the sugar cookie recipe I’ve provided, you can get by with just a half batch of icing if you like to snack on some of the unfrosted treats. Not that I do that, or anything*.
*That is a lie
1 pound sifted powdered sugar (make sure to sift it–if you don’t you can get lumps in your piping bag and block the icing from coming out!)
5 tablespoons meringue powder
1 teaspoon clear extract in whatever flavor you choose
1/2 cup warm water
Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix on the lowest speed for 10 minutes. Keep a wet towel over the bowl to prevent it from drying out–royal icing does set very quickly!
If you would like to tint your entire batch of icing, gradually add a little color at a time to the bowl. If you want multiple colors, transfer desired amount of icing to a small glass bowl and tint to desired shade.
To decorate trees:
1. Fit your piping bag with a #2 piping tip to make your outline. Fill the bag with icing. Some people say that you should have two consistencies of icing–one stiff, for the outline, the other runny for the flooding. However, I have used the same consistencies for my trees and did not have a problem.
2. Pick a starting point on your cookie and, keeping your tip just above the surface, trace the outline. I don’t have the steadiest hand, so I keep my elbow rested on the countertop. When you reach your starting point, pull away.
3. If you would like your cookie to have a visible outline (for example, you would like a white outline and the cookie filled in with color), let the outline dry for at least an hour, to prevent the colors from bleeding. Otherwise, you can begin to fill in, or “flood” your cookie. Switching tips to a #5, begin just inside the outline and fill in, like coloring a picture. Don’t worry if you have some empty spots–the icing does spread and fill in the holes.
3. I added the dragees right away. After an hour, I reattached my #2 piping tip and added little squiggles to the trees. I let the icing set overnight. The icing prevents the cookie from drying out and getting stale so no worries!