Traditions are part of what makes the holiday season so special. You get to recall nostalgic Christmas memories while making new ones with your closest friends and family. These traditions can range from writing and sending holiday cards to stringing lights on the tree and pulling the festive decor out of storage to fill your home with cheer. One of the traditions that still stands in my family is cookie decorating. Even if you’re no Martha Stewart in the kitchen, you can still bake delicious, professional-looking cookies with these simple baking and decorating tips.
Make the dough ahead of time
Instead of making dozens of cookies all at once, you can prepare the dough ahead of time and chill it in the freezer until you’re ready to bake and decorate them. In fact, the dough can be stored up to three months in the freezer. Plus, refrigerating the dough before rolling it out makes it much easier to handle and shape.
Grab an ice cream scoop
Using your hands to scoop the cookie dough onto the baking sheet can get messy. Instead, use an ice cream scoop to get uniformly sized cookies every time.
Dip cookie cutters
If you’re opting to use cookie cutters, make sure to dip them in flour before pressing them into the dough. This way, the cutter won’t stick to the dough and tear your perfectly rolled-out creation.
Beware of dark baking sheets
Baking your holiday creations on a nonstick cookie sheet can be tempting, because who wants the task of scraping cookie bits off the pan? But nonstick sheets typically have a darker finish, making it easy for your cookies to burn. Instead, try using a traditional pan and put parchment paper on top to make cleanup simple. If you do opt for the nonstick variety, lower the temperature of your oven by about 25 degrees to prevent burning.
Gather the right icing tools
You don’t need to have professional baking equipment in order to beautifully decorate your holiday cookies. Fill a resealable bag with your icing and snip off the corner. The bigger the opening, the more icing that will come out. You can also use an old ketchup squeeze bottle, which works just as well as piping bags.
Tint your icing
When you’re done making the icing, split it into separate bowls. Then, add a few drops of food coloring to each bowl. This way, you’ll have a variety of colors to decorate with.
Mix and match these various decorating strategies to create festive batches of cookies:
Use stencils: Stencils aren’t just for decorating your walls – they come in pretty handy for decorating cookies as well. Simple place your favorite holiday stencil overtop of your cookie and sprinkle colored sugar over the cutout area. When you lift the stencil off, you’ll have a design that looks like it was done by Martha Stewart herself.
Dip the cookies: Need a quick and easy way to decorate your sweet treats? Dip cookies halfway into melted chocolate, cover with red-and-green sprinkles and let dry on a cooling rack.
Drizzle: Set all of your cookies out on a piece of wax paper. Then, using a spoon, lightly drizzle your icing over the cookies and let dry.
Keep cookies chewy
I love the taste of soft, fresh-baked cookies. I mean, who doesn’t? I’m always tempted to eat entirely too many cookies right when they come out of the oven, because after storing them for a few days, they lose that chewiness. But here’s a trick: Put a piece of bread in the cookie jar or bag to keep your sweet treats soft and delectable.
Consider bagging up a few cookies to send along with your holiday cards for a tasty greeting all of your friends and family will appreciate.