Thanksgiving may have barely passed, and already we’re eagerly preparing for the next holiday. The bakers at Sunset Foods are particularly excited, gathering together their favorite sprinkles, edible glitter, and food coloring to tint icings to the perfect shades of green, red, blue, silver…you name it. The sweet scents emanating from the bakery department will fill you with holiday glee! Oh so good!!
Surely our lovely bakers are not the only ones caught up in the holiday spirit. Many of our loyal readers might be firing up the ovens, donning aprons, and dusting off their favorite holiday recipes as well. If you’re in a baking mood, than you’ve come to the right place – we have some excellent recipes and tips to help you make your best holiday cookies yet. These recipes are easy enough for the budding bakers in your household, so gather the kiddos around for a day of family fun in the kitchen. It’s never too early to spread some holiday cheer!
The Best Gingerbread Cookies EVER
(recipe courtesy of Southern Living)
¼ c. water
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 c. molasses
1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
5 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
¼ tsp coarse salt
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp allspice
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
Line baking sheets with parchment.
Stir together the water and baking soda until dissolved. Stir in the molasses; set aside.
Beat butter and sugar until fluffy and combined.
Whisk together flour, salt, and spices. Add to the butter mixture, alternating with the molasses mixture. (Make sure to begin and end with the flour.)
Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a ¼-inch thickness. Cut with a floured cookie cutter and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, allowing enough space around each cookie because they will spread during baking. Freeze for 5 minutes before baking.
Bake 10-12 minutes (for a large shape). Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet, then transfer to cooling rack. Cool completely before decorating with royal icing.
Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies
(Recipe courtesy of Bake at 350)
3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c. sugar
2 sticks salted butter; cold and cubed
¾ tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp pure almond extract
Preheat oven to 350.
Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and extracts and mix. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.
The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling.
Roll onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets. Freeze for 5 minutes before baking.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack before decorating with royal icing.
Easy Royal Icing
(Recipe courtesy of Bake at 350)
4 Tbs meringue powder
scant ½ c. water
1 lb powdered sugar
½-1 tsp light corn syrup
*A few drops of pure almond extract can be added to the mixer with the corn syrup if using to decorate Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies.
Combine the meringue powder and water in a standing mixer bowl. Beat with the paddle attachment until combined and foamy.
Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low until combined. (Do NOT skip the sifting step. It eliminates lumps in your Royal Icing.)
Add in the corn syrup. Increase mixer speed to med-high/high and beat for about 5 minutes, just until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form. (You should be able to remove the beater from the mixer, hold it up and jiggle it without the peak falling.)
Cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the icing, or divide the icing up and color using gel paste food colorings. Cover colored icings with plastic wrap touching the surface.
Okay. Now that you have the recipes, let’s talk technique! Here are a few items you will want to have on hand as you get started decorating your cookies:
Plastic squeeze bottles with caps
Gel food coloring
Decorative sprinkles and dragées
The base Royal Icing recipe is perfect for outlining your cookies and defining different sections. (For instance, if you were decorating a cookie shaped like a candy cane, you could use this icing to create the outlines for red and white areas of the candy cane.) Simply fill a piping bag with some Royal Icing, and pipe the icing to create the outline you desire.
To fill in the outlined sections, you will need to create Flood Icing. It’s easier than you think! Simply put some of your Royal Icing in a bowl and add water in teeny tiny increments – ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring after each addition, until the icing passes this test:
Raise up a ribbon of icing with your spoon; drag it back and forth across the surface of the icing; if the icing settles back into itself after a count of “one thousand one, one thousand two”, then it’s ready.
Too stiff? Add more water and repeat the test. Too fluid? Add more Royal Icing and repeat the test. Be patient and take your time making your Flood Icing because the end result is well worth it. You’ll end up with a smooth, shiny, easy-to-spread icing that dries to a glossy, hard finish.
Once your Flood Icing is ready, you can use gel food coloring to create the exact colors you desire. Simply divide up the base Flood Icing into bowls and tint to the shades you want. Then you can transfer the colored Flood Icing to plastic squeeze bottles for easier application. Simply squeeze a little of the flood icing onto the cookie surface in the outlined section you’ve created, then use a toothpick to carefully move the icing around to fill in the entire space. (Remember that candy cane example? You would squeeze a little red Flood Icing into a section, then use your toothpick to carefully move the icing around so that the entire outlined section is red.)
A toothpick will become your new best friend. Who knew that this little kitchen castoff would be one of the best decorating tools at your disposal? The toothpick is the easiest way to create some truly stunning effects. For instance, want to create an artsy swirl pattern on an ornament shaped cookie so that it has a stained glass effect? Simply outline the cookie in Royal Icing, then fill in with Flood Icing in the color of your choosing. Use your toothpick to smooth the Flood Icing into place. Choose another color of Flood Icing, and squeeze a few drops on top of the smoothed icing. Drag your toothpick through these drops to create a swirl pattern of color. You can repeat with as many colors as you like. The result will be simply gorgeous!
Once you’ve iced the cookie to your heart’s satisfaction, feel free to decorate with sprinkles, dragées, or edible glitter. Make it your own! Then set it aside and let the icing dry for at least one hour.
Here’s a neat tip for creating hair. Leave it to Martha Stewart to find new use for kitchen tools. Have a long forgotten garlic press hiding deep within one of your kitchen drawers? Wash it well and dry it; place a small ball of gingerbread dough inside and press…instant gingerbread hair! You can then place the hair on your gingerbread people before baking them in the oven. Neat, huh?
What holiday cookie tips and tricks have you discovered along the way? Have a favorite cookie recipe you always make? Share with our readers on Facebook!
And while you’re getting into the holiday spirit, don’t miss Sunset Foods’ Holiday Gingerbread House Making Event! Bring your kids to your local Sunset Foods to assemble and decorate a festive Gingerbread House. It will be the perfect decoration for your holiday table!
Holiday Gingerbread House Making Event
Saturday, December 15th
All Sunset Foods locations
Cost to participate: $12