Can you believe I made these with my own two hands?
I KNOW, right?! Sorta fancy, eh?
I did not buy these at some bakery……or steal the pictures off Pinterest (haha…that would be funny, tho sorta shady); I actually made these pretty little edibles in my very own kitchen and I think it’s important to let you know, especially at this time of year when everybody is baking holiday favorites………YOU CAN DO THIS TOO! You really, truly can.
Clearly I am the sugar-sprinkles-cookie-cheerleading-captain.
HOWEVER……and you need to know before going in…………….this is not for the faint of heart!
You have to commit to the craft of the cookie, and keep an open mind. Although this can be a ton of creative fun with great rewards (these things make THE best gifts, hands down, and you will totally impress everyone you know) this is a bit of a lengthy process. It’s not hard at all, but YOU WILL MAKE A MESS, and it does take some time.
A LOT of time.
It’s just the way it is.
So. You ready?
Then buckle up baby, this is going to be a loooong post.
If you’re going to decorate a cookie you have to start with an awesome cookie to decorate! It’s all about getting a nice beefy batter that can be rolled into a thick slab that can support all the fun stuff that’s going to be happening on top.
You will need 3 cups of all-purpose flour (make sure to spoon it into your measuring cup and level it off), two sticks of unsalted butter (softened to room temperature), one egg, two teaspoons of vanilla extract, one cup of sugar, and one teaspoon each, salt and baking powder. Just pop that salt and baking powder on in with the flour.
In a nice big bowl, with electric beaters (unless you like strenuous arm workouts…….um, not so much for me) beat together the butter and sugar until it is nice and creamy; about a minute. Add the egg and vanilla, and continue beating this together until you have a lovely light yellow mound of sweet and buttery goodness; should take another minute or two. Begin to add the flour mixture in thirds, and thoroughly combine everybody, making sure to scrape the sides down as you go! Now separate the dough ball you will have formed into two smaller baby balls. (haha come on, you know that sounds funny) It’s time to roll ’em out.
Weirdly enough the trick I recommend to get an evenly rolled, 1/4 inch thick cookie slab is to set two magazines (of the same width – 1/4 inch) on either side of your ball of dough. Make sure you have a piece of wax or parchment paper underneath. Lay another sheet of wax paper over that, and then roll out the dough between the magazines, which will hold up the ends of your rolling-pin. You’ll get a perfectly even slab of cookie dough (nothing wonky, too thick or thin) which is key to creating professional looking cookies!
Now take those two slabs you just rolled out and onto a cookie sheet and into the fridge they go, wax paper and all. You want to give them plenty of time to get nice and solid, at least 15 minutes, if not longer.
Remove the dough from the chiller, and punch out whatever shapes you like. Getting your dough super cold will help retain the shapes you are creating….and is a step most folks skip. Place your cookies back on the sheet(s) with some space in between (once again, keep ’em on wax paper) and yep…..back into the fridge to re-chill, another 15 minutes or so. This is as good a time as any to pre-heat your oven to 350°.
Into the oven they go for 20 minutes…….and you will see, because you tended to the tragically TEDIOUS details of chilling and re-chilling your cookie dough, you’ll be rewarded with these…….
practically perfect baked up baubles, retaining all the integrity of the shapes they are meant to represent…….rather than schlumping down into something un-recognizable (although none the less delicious!) during the baking process.
Would ya look at that.
Now let these cool COMPLETELY. The fun is just getting started……….
Now whenever anyone is lucky enough to be the recipient of a batch of these beauties, the first thing they INEVITABLY ask me is “How did you get the icing so perfect?”
The truth of the matter is simple. I didn’t. If you look really close you will see that although the bulk of the icing does indeed look like it was scribed with the unerring standards of a highly trained plastic surgeon………. what I really did was so easy anyone can do it, and the secret is:
Fondant! Traditionally used on cakes (check out Yolanda Gampp and how to CAKE IT for some crazy amazing examples of what this stuff can do) rolled fondant is like edible clay, and totally perfect for decorating cookies as well (you can find it in the baking section of any craft store like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby….. for everything you never thought you’d want or need to know about fondant – go HERE).
Basically we will roll out our fondant and punch out the shape with the cookie cutter! What? Perfection! Then we’ll “glue” the layer of cut out fondant down onto the cookie with a dab of sugar-water. After that……we can sprinkle, ice and decorate however we want!
And everything looks amazing.
Ready for phase II?
I’ll give you the basics with an easy cookie shape……….like a Christmas tree.
See how the fondant looks like a piece of play-doh? It works a lot like it, too! Get it super flattened out with a rolling-pin (I like it uber-dooper thin), and be sure to use a generous smattering of powdered sugar as you go (like if you were working with pie dough….not that I have ever, EVER made pie dough….but I’ve seen it done!!! Ah HAH!) to keep things from getting stuck. I find working on wax paper or even a sheet of tin foil helps.With the very same cookie cutter you used in the first place…..punch out the shape! You will need to squiggle it a little back and forth to make sure you completely cut through the fondant cleanly. Then, with a paint brush or pastry brush, “paint” a thin layer of sugar-water (two tablespoons of powdered sugar dissolved into 1/8 cup of water should do it!) over the top of the cookie, and then carefully place the fondant onto the cookie, making sure to smooth the edges with a dry finger (you don’t want to get this stuff wet, or it will turn into a slimy mess).
And there you have it! The secret that is really not much of a secret, to perfectly “iced” cookies.
Now how about something just a tad more complicated?
This string light bulb shape is super pretty and could not be easier. After you cut out the shape with the cookie cutter, cut the bulb away from the socket (just use small knife). Attach the bulb to the cookie and to make it sparkly, brush the fondant “bulb” with a thin layer of sugar-water (careful to keep it right where you want it or the sprinkles will stick everywhere) and sprinkle with sparkly colored sanding sugar. Dust the rest of it off and then pipe with white royal icing for the easy details.
Get out of here with the cuteness! Who wouldn’t want a tray of these?
Or these? oh baby, how I impress my OWN self!!!!!
Obviously this is all about inspiring you to do your own thing with whatever cookie cutters you may have available to you, along with sparkles, sprinkles, non-pariels…..and a whole extra lot of PATIENCE.
If this is your thing in the first place, you will be amazed at what you can do!
Now get out your baking gear and make it happen.
RECIPE BELOW: This recipe makes approx 18 cookies, which of course will vary depending on the size of the cookie you choose to create! Besides the actual recipe for the cookies and icing, you will require fondant, icing bags and piping tips, a rolling-pin, and of course I highly recommend lots of colors and sprinkles and whatever other cute things you can throw on a cookie (and there are lots of it out there!). These guys take what seems like FOREVER, so be prepared to make a project out of it. They stay fresh for an eternity (okay, a few weeks – for real) once baked, due to the thickness of the cookie, I guess….this is one soft and pliably delicious little baked yummy! But NOT too pretty to eat. I promise.
- 3 cups all purpose flour (spooned into measuring cup and leveled off)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (at room temp)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- wax or parchment paper
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/8 cup (plus some, a few drops at a time) water
- Preheat the oven to 350°
- In a medium bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside
- In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This should take two to three minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat together another minute or so. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl as you go.
- Once the dough forms a ball, knead it together with your hands, and the separate it into two separate balls.
- Roll each ball out between two sheets of wax or parchment paper to 1/4 inch thick slabs. Place the slabs in the refrigerator to chill until hardened, at least 15 minutes.
- Cut the cookie shapes out of the hardened dough, place on a wax (or parchment...you get it) lined cookie sheets. Pop back into the refrigerator to re-chill, another 10 minutes or so.
- Bake the cookies for 20 minutes, making sure not to let them get brown. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the cookie sheet. Then remove them from the sheet to cool completely before decorating.
- Mix together 3 cups of powdered sugar with 1/8 cup of water. You want to use electric beaters for this. If the icing seems too thick, you can add water, but just a drop at a time, until you get it to a piping consistency.
- To make the GLUE to brush on the cookie to get the fondant cut-out to stick; mix a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar with 1/8 of a cup of water until dissolved. Use a paint brush or pastry brush to dab it onto the cookie.
- Sprinkles! Icing! Jimmies! Sparkly stuff! You can go crazy with these.........or just spread on a little icing and call it done. These cookies are THE BEST.