Decorate holiday cookies like a pro, no matter your skill set
Now is the time for icing and glitter, sprinkles and fairy dust. Even if your holiday cookie decorating game is not top-notch, or you only have so much time and energy to devote to the craft, I've got you covered. All it takes is a little planning and organization. All ages can join in, and it won't cost much.
The five styles in my toolbox are simple yet stunning: Bedazzled Edges, Dipped and Sprinkled, Poinsettias, Candy Cane Hearts and Santa Hats.
First, here's what you'll need:
Cookies! Use any kind of flat/rolled-out kind, round or in shapes: Gingerbread, shortbread, butter or sugar; bake your own, use a store-bought dough or buy plain bakery cookies.
Icing. It can be tinted with food coloring or left elegantly white, thinned (with more liquid) for flooding and painting; thickened (with more sugar) for piping or spreading with a spatula and squeezed out of a fine-tipped plastic icing bottle. To make 1 cup's worth, whisk together 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract in a bowl, until smooth.
Chocolate melting wafers. Ghirardelli makes dark and white kinds that come in 10-ounce bags; both are easy to work with and taste better than other candy melts I have worked with.
Sprinkles, sanding sugar, edible glitter, nonpareils, dragees, etc. Choose the colors that work best for you and what's within your budget.
Marshmallows (regular and mini). With a few scissors snips, they can be transformed into poinsettia leaves and Santa hats.
Sugared gum drops. Green ones will complete the look of a poinsettia.
Mini candy canes (2 1/2 inches). Arranged in pairs together, these can form a heart design.
Equipment. Small paint brushes, small plastic icing bottles (available at a good kitchen store and online), small bowls, kitchen scissors, two baking sheets, parchment paper or a wire rack (for drying).
Now, here's how to do them:
To create Bedazzled Edges, put the icing in a small bowl. Place the sprinkles, sanding sugar, edible glitter, nonpareils or other decorations in bowls large enough to facilitate the dipping of your cookies. Use a small brush to paint icing around the edge of a cookie, then quickly roll those edges in a bowl of the decorations, until coated all the way around. Set each cookie on parchment paper or a wire rack to dry.
To make Dipped and Sprinkled cookies, line baking sheets with parchment paper. Melt the white and/or dark chocolate melting wafers according to the package directions and place them in separate bowls that are wide enough for dipping your cookies. Dip each cookie halfway in the white or dark chocolate, letting excess coating drip off. Decorate with sprinkles, sanding sugar, edible glitter, nonpareils or other decorations. Set on the lined baking sheets to dry.
To create Poinsettia designs (enough for twenty-four 3 1/2-inch cookies), place about ¼ cup red edible glitter or sanding sugar in separate small bowls. Have 24 green sugared gum drops nearby. Use kitchen scissors to cut 20 marshmallows crosswise into 6 equal slices each. Place ¼ cup red edible glitter or sanding sugar and ½ cup icing in separate small bowls. Dip the sticky cut sides of each slice into the glitter or sanding sugar and then set slices on parchment paper; these are your poinsettia petals.
Next, pour 1/2 cup icing into a bowl that's about 4 inches wide. Working with one at a time, invert each cookie to lightly coat its top with icing, taking care not to coat the cookie's edges and letting excess icing drip off.
Arrange 5 marshmallow petals on top of each cookie to form the poinsettia design, gently pressing the petals into the icing. Place a gum drop in the center. Set cookies on clean parchment or a wire rack to dry.
To make Candy Cane Heart designs (for twenty-four 3 1/2-inch cookies), put ¼ cup icing in a small bowl and pour another ¼ cup icing into a small plastic icing bottle with a narrow tip. Place the sprinkles, sanding sugar, edible glitter, nonpareils or other decorations in separate small bowls. Unwrap 48 mini candy canes.
Working with one cookie at a time, use a small paint brush to paint the edge of each cookie with icing from the bowl. Roll the cookie edge in the decoration(s), coating it evenly. Set on clean parchment paper.
Use the icing in the bottle to drizzle a line onto what will be the bottom side of two candy canes. Set them in place on a cookie so the hook ends and the bottom ends of the candy canes are just touching each other; this will create a heart shape. Use the bottle to pipe icing into the center of the heart, then cover with your chosen decoration. Repeat to use all the candy canes. Set the cookies on parchment or a wire rack to dry.
To make Santa Hats (for 24 round cookies), line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place ¼ cup red sprinkles in a small bowl. Have 24 mini marshmallows nearby. Melt 10 ounces (1 bag) white chocolate melting wafers according to the package directions and place in a separate bowl.
Dip the top one-third of each cookie into the melted white chocolate coating, letting excess drip off. Sprinkle the top three-quarters of the coating with red sprinkles, leaving a white border to resemble the fur on the hat. Press a mini marshmallow into the coating on one side to create a pompom. Set the cookies on the lined baking sheets to dry.
This article was written by Lisa Cherkasky, a reporter for The Washington Post.