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Holiday Cookie Baking

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…cookie baking time! I love baking for the holidays, it just gets me in the giving spirit. This year I invited a few friends (including my baking hero George Waldron) to come over and decorate cookies. We snacked on some appetizers from Ina Garten’s new cookbook and learned some simple, easy tips to decorate cookies like a pro! 

We started with this sugar cookie recipe. Refrigerate the dough - per the recipe - then roll and cut the cookies. After they are cut into shapes, George's tip is to put them in the freezer for 30 minutes. Then, take them right from freezer to pre-heated oven. 

Once they’re out of the oven and cool, you’re ready to decorating. We set up work stations with Professional Half Sheet Pans lined with precut Parchment Baking Sheets - all the icing stays on the paper and the glitter and sprinkles are confined to the sheet pan making clean up a snap. 

We used Royal Icing for decorating. The trick is to whip it for a while so it gets nice and thick (with peaks). It's better to have thicker icing for piping and you can always thin it out as needed. Disposable Decorating Bags were easy to work with - we just made different icing bags with colors and tips so we had options for decorating. George also suggested using melted white almond bark for decorating - probably too thin for piping but great to cover the cookies and add sprinkles. 

The Small Flat Icing Spatula worked best for spreading the thicker icing on the cookies and George showed us how to ‘flood’ the cookies as well. For this technique we thinned out the icing with some water, then spooned it onto the cookie to cover the surface. The thinner consistency allows for easier coverage. Once it hardens a bit, you can use a piping bag to decorate right on top. 

George’s piping technique is nothing short of amazing, he’s a cookie artist! When he started the first star cookie, we all just stopped and watched him in amazement. It’s so much fun but to get a consistent line of piping is actually harder than it looks.

As I did more cookies, I got the hang of it and managed the right combo of pressure and steady hands. As for the glitter and candy bits, my motto is the more the merrier (and they can hide some of the piping mishaps). 

Everyone left with some beautiful cookies and we had a blast decorating cookies together, I highly recommend gathering your friends and getting to work! 

--Cassandra

 

Rolled Sugar Cookies (courtesy of AllRecipies.com)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight). 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. (Put them in the freezer for 30 minutes.) Place cookies 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely. 

Royal Icing (courtesy of bakingamoment.com)

Ingredients

2 tablespoons meringue powder 
6 tablespoons water
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
Gel paste icing colors for tinting (optional)
Additional water for thinning (optional)

Directions

Place the meringue powder and water in a large mixing bowl, and
whip (with the whisk attachment) until foamy (about 3 minutes).

Add the powdered sugar, and whip on medium speed until very stiff
and thick (the royal icing should hold a stiff peak).

Tint as needed with gel paste icing colors. Thin with additional water, a drop at a time, to get the desired consistency.

Photos: Lindsay Clark @takeitoutside

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