I’ve been obsessed with making/decorating holiday cookies, I can not explain the obsession. I do not like to bake, its so much messier than just cooking and requires far more attention to detail than I am willing to apply to any food product. It started around Halloween when I purchased a mold pan for making spooky cookies. As you can see from my post about that, they didn’t quite turn out the way I would have liked. But they still tasted super yummy.
Then I was at Michael’s a couple weeks ago and they had these cute Thanksgiving cookie cutters on sale, so I picked them up. Two weekends ago, I made a batch of cookies from the recipe on the back of the package. It stands to reason (to me at least) that the recipe on the back of the package would be suitable for use with these cookie cutters, well call me surprised when they spread out of shape, got dark on the bottom and in general were just not what I wanted. So on to round two this past weekend. This time, I used the recipe from the back of the Halloween cookie pan. Essentially the same recipe, minus the baking powder and about 1/4 c more flour (I’ll type it below). This recipe said it would make about 1 dozen cookies and as you can see, it yielded a good 2-3 dozen.
I hadn’t planned on spending the entire day baking and decorating cookies, but I guess that Wilton had other plans in store for me.
Now for the decorating, which is absolutely my favorite part of baking cookies. Yes, it too is messy, but its creative messy and that works for me.
A few days before baking these cookies, I went back to Michael’s in search of brown frosting (which they sell in pre-made tubes) or brown coloring (which I did not see). I picked up the brown frosting, thinking that it would be great for the turkey cookies and I wouldn’t have to figure out how to make brown frosting. Now having a history in art and color theory, I can tell you that the way to achieve a brown pigment is to mix equal amounts of the three primary colors together, this doesn’t mean I want to spend my time attempting to get the perfect shade of brown. But its exactly what I ended up doing when I read the tube of brown I bought and realized that the “chocolate” icing in the tube was neither real chocolate, nor would it work well with the royal icing I was planning on using for the rest of the decorating. So I mixed up a batch of royal icing. I did not use the Wilton recipe or some of the other most common that call for cream of tartar. I don’t care for the flavor of that. I found a recipe that uses lemon juice instead and I ran with it. It turned out perfect the first time, perfect consistency, perfect peak, perfect whiteness. Violin!!
I did, in fact, put my color theory to work to produce a workable brown frosting for the turkeys. Made from “equal” parts red, blue, and yellow coloring gels, the color turned out pretty darn good. Initially, it was tad bit paler than I wanted and so I added a couple of drops of the neon purple gel I also had on hand and that helped to darken it just enough.
So I set to decorating, mixing only one color at a time so the frosting wouldn’t harden (as royal icing tends to do) before I could use it. The other colors were all basic mixing, and for the more detailed parts, I again used a zip lock snack bag with the corner snipped off as a decorator bag. I like bright colors, so I had purchased the neon package of food color gels as well and the neon orange and green, really made the pumpkin perfect. I used a toned down orange (added a bit of red) to make the detail lines.
Knowing the the turkeys would take some time to decorate, I made the bulk of the batch in the shapes of leaves. For these I chose a basic color as the background and then “scribbled” on a couple other colors to give them the appearance of fall leaves. This project did take most of the day, from the baking to the cooling and through decorating to clean up. But it was worth it. I ended up with plenty of cookies to share with friends and my neighbor who is always looking out for me.
Even if you don’t like baking, I hope you’ll give these or other decorated cookies a shot. They don’t just have to be for holidays, when things are more stressful. Make yourself some Any Day cookies if you have a chance. It can be fun!
Sugar Cut Out Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and extracts; mix well.
Combine flour and salt; add to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Do not chill dough.
Divide dough into 2 balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball into a circle approximately 12 in. wide and 1/8 in. thick.
Dip cookie cutter in flour before each use. Bake cookies on ungreased cookie sheet 8-9 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
Mix egg whites and lemon juice with hand mixer, slowly add sugar until combined. Icing should be thick enough that it does not roll over the edge of the cookie when frosting, but spreads evenly.