I used to make and decorate cookies pretty often – in fact, I think it was probably what first got me into the kitchen, baking and creating. I tried out various cut cookie recipes and decorating techniques. I’m certainly no professional, but I’m artistic enough, and I have a decently steady hand, so it was a good fit for me, and I loved doing it.
I spend a lot more time in the kitchen these days doing all sorts of things. I still try to make cookies a few times a year – usually birthdays, or occasionally as gifts or for hire. It’s been at least six months since I made cookies (F’s fruit and veggie cookies), so it was nice to be able to get out the tools and make some more.
I have five or six go-to recipes for cut cookies – several different flavors and colors. For larger cookies I like cream cheese sugar cookies – they hold their shape well when baking, they are sturdy enough for wrapping and handling, but super soft when you eat them, and just enough sugar (but not too much) as a base for all that icing. Here’s the quick and easy recipe if you are interested:
Combine 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder in a small bowl. Beat 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temp), 1 8oz pkg cream cheese (room temp) and 2 cups sugar together until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix for an additional 30 seconds.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined but still lumpy. Turn out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, wrapping and kneading the dough until it’s smooth. Form into a disk about 2 inches thick and refrigerate – overnight is best, but 2 hours minimum. You want the dough super cold before rolling and cutting.
Bake at 375 degrees on ungreased cookie sheet (I use parchment paper, always) for 8-10 minutes, until edges are firm and just starting to turn lightly brown. Cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. This recipe makes 3-4 dozen 3″ cookies.
I use a combination of royal icings (anywhere between outline and flow consistency) and fondant to decorate cookies. For the elephants, I piped the gray outlines and then flooded the center of the cookies with thinner icing to fill. They dried overnight and then I added piped details and fondant ears that I had rolled into polka dots and stripes of white and yellow.
I also made little onesies with gray and yellow details – for these I used a thin layer of fondant, crisscrossed with an embellishing wheel to create the quilted pattern, and then piped royal icing details to the match the party theme.
And then they were wrapped up and ready to give out as favors. (Except for the test samples – those might have been devoured just after naps – see example above.) When there are cookies in the oven, the kitchen becomes a very popular place.