In addition to cookies, we also studded some oranges with cloves (no pictures, sorry!). I used to make these as a child with a family friend so it was a fun activity that brought back some happy memories. It makes the house smell amazing too, even if you are left with a really sore thumb from pressing in the cloves. I ordered some bulk cloves from Mountain Rose Herbs and got some large navel oranges and that project was ready to go.
The main project of the night though was to decorate cookies. Last year we had about a dozen friends come over for a gingerbread house (and cookie) decorating party. It was great fun and all of our friends made some really outrageous houses. The amount of candy on the table was insane! This year is was a little more low-key. Not as many people and not so many candy decorations since we were just going to work on cookies.
Decorating sugar cookies with piped and flooded icing is something I want to work on. I never feel very confident about my drawing skills so trying to reproduce a real image on a cookie would probably just stress me out. However, I was easily able to manage drawing on snowflake shaped cookies and simple decorations on other shapes. I even managed to make some really adorable snowmen as well. So maybe I'm better than I think!
|we haven't had any snow yet this year but I still managed to make some snowmen|
My favorite recipe for rolled sugar cookies comes from this little book I got on Amazon.com, Cookie Craft: From Baking to Luster Dust, Designs and Techniques for Creative Cookie Occasions by Janice Fryer and Valerie Peterson. The cookies they've decorated in this book are insanely adorable and very intricate. I don't think I've quite got the patience to make such fancy cookies, however, the book provides several excellent "base" cookie recipes and royal icing recipes for both piping and flooding. The book also contains lots of inspiring decorating ideas, gorgeous pictures and lots of really helpful tips from rolling out your dough to learning to pipe icing.
The Cookie Craft recipe for Rolled Sugar Cookies (which has lemon undertones) has been my go-to favorite for a while and now I can add the Rolled Nutty Cookie recipe, which I made for the first time, to this list as well. The Nutty Cookies are so delicious! Nuts are toasted first (I used pecans) and then finely ground and incorporated into the dough and the flavor is just wonderful. They are like sugar cookies taken to a whole new level. And - both types of cookies - are just as delicious without any icing at all.
Besides the taste and texture of the cookies (which is almost like a shortbread), the recipes in this book are very simple (you probably have all of the ingredients in your pantry right now) and the doughs are incredibly easy to work with and they roll out like a dream! I also love that you don't need to chill the dough before you roll it out. So it makes the whole process much faster than other recipes that I've used. And, finally - and most importantly - the cookies keep their shapes when baked, which is awesome. They don't spread or lose their sharp corners so if you are using a detailed cookie cutter, you won't lose any detail after they're baked.
|mise en place for the sugar cookies|
|and for the nutty cookies|
|I think I could actually just eat this dough on its own. It is that good.|
|rolling between parchment paper keeps your dough from sticking |
and avoids having to use flour which will toughen your dough
|how gorgeous is this dough?!|
|the rolled (sugar cookie) dough has chilled and now I can cut the shapes|
|no spreading or loss of detail when the cookies bake|
|the amount of cookies I got from 1 batch of sugar and 1 batch of nutty cookies|
...that's one heck of a lot of cookies!
One last thing is that the iced cookies stay fresh for quite a while so you can make them several days ahead of gifting or eating them. I just stored them in a ziplock baggie on the counter-top. I will admit though that after about one week I was so sick of so much sugar that I just threw the rest away. Next year I think I'll make them as office gifts since I know I can do them over the course of a week without any loss in taste or freshness.
I also froze some un-iced ones. They are so thin that they only need to defrost at room temperature for about 5-7 minutes and then...munch away. Very convenient!
Here are some of my decorated cookies...
|reindeers pulling Santa's sleigh|
|sparkly little snowmen with silver scarves|
|ready to head off to work...?|
|look, it's snowing!|
|these were easy to decorate - pipe some icing and then spoon some sprinkles over the top|
|my husband got me an espresso machine for Christmas|
|we christened the machine with a cappuccino and cookie|
Bye for now...