It’s time to break out the cookie cutters. Despite a forecast of canceled parties and virtual family gatherings, baking traditions continue. Indeed, a reduced Christmas season offers the perfect opportunity to try out new decoration techniques.
Sweet, surprising and modern: these biscuits were designed by three baking experts to instill wisdom in decorating biscuits. You can use the basic sugar biscuit recipe from the “Grocery” section of the Times, or any simple sugar biscuit recipe you prefer. Once your dough is ready, dust it lightly with flour and roll it between two pieces of parchment paper to an even thickness of about a quarter inch. Put it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Firm, well-chilled dough will not stick to the cutter, making it easier to cut detailed shapes. And don’t overwork your dough. While it can be tempting to use the last of the scraps, after kneading and rolling the dough several times, the dough will no longer take shape. After cutting the biscuits, put them back in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes before baking. After baking, let them cool a little and set before placing them on a rack to cool completely.
While you don’t need fancy kitchen tools to achieve great design results, the experts agree that there are a few key consumables required. Invest in a quality icing tool kit consisting of piping bags, couplings and a range of tips. To make a colorful glaze and tinted batter, gel food coloring is essential. Finally, a set of small pastry brushes is useful for adding fine details and wiping away sprinkles that have run out of control.
Amisha Gurbani, the recipe developer and food photographer behind The Jam Lab, a cooking website, designed these stunning metallic snowflakes, inspired by a popular polka dot paper. “I love metallic and glitter on cookies. The additional sparkle radiates joy. “ Mrs. Gurbani said. Instead of dipping cookies in sparkle, she prefers detailed designs.
Once you’ve baked and cooled your cookies, apply a single layer of royal frosting. Start by placing the royal icing around the edge of each cookie and working your way towards the center. Gently shake your biscuit a few times to smooth the surface of the frosting before allowing it to dry. When the glaze is completely dry, use a brush and stencil, which can easily be made from cardboard and a large hole punch, paint even circles of royal glaze on it. Sprinkle plenty of gold or silver sugar and carefully shake off the extra. A small, dry brush comes in handy for wiping away any stray sugar.
If you prefer intricate designs, Ms. Gurbani recommends using a piping tip, preferably a Wilton size 0 or 1, for clear, detailed lines. Before you start your cookies, draw straight lines, curves, and dots on a piece of paper and practice tracing them with your frosting. If piping details, allow time to dry between patterns to prevent the piping from running or smudging. Also, have toothpicks handy to fix mistakes, burst air bubbles, and clean out the tip, which can become clogged with dried glaze.
Warda Pâtisserie in Detroit is known for its sophisticated sweets thanks to the aesthetics of the owner and pastry chef Warda Bouguettaya. Their menu is based on unique flavor combinations paired with elegant flourishes, as their stunning botanical biscuits show. At the grocery store, you may find culinary-grade dried rose petals as well as fresh herbs. Local flower farms may offer dried, edible flowers.
First, use two different sized circular cookie cutters to make a wreath-like biscuit. Once the cookies are baked and completely cooled, apply a thin layer of royal icing. Almost let the icing harden, then use tweezers to place flowers on top of the icing. Press them as lightly as possible. Fresh herbs can be candied by whipping an egg white with a teaspoon of water (use pasteurized egg whites, which are available in many grocery stores). Using a brush and sprig at a time, apply a thin layer of egg wash followed by a pinch of sugar. Set them on a wire cooling shelf to dry for at least an hour.
If you’d rather bake the flowers straight onto the biscuits without frosting, just place the dried flowers on top of each biscuit before baking, cover with parchment paper, and gently press down with a rolling pin to make sure the flowers are on the biscuit be liable. Avoid pressing too hard and plating your biscuit. Remove the top layer of parchment paper and bake the cookies at 320 degrees for 10 minutes, turning the tray in half. The slightly cooler oven temperature will help the dried flowers keep their color. Sprinkle with sugar after baking.
Lisa Tutman-Oglesby, the photographer and food stylist, transformed dough with gel food coloring and invented it with cookie cutters. She created this cookie in a cookie. “Be sure to use gel food coloring,” she instructs. “Liquid food coloring can change the consistency of the dough.”
With plastic gloves on, take half of your sugar cookie dough and add just a few drops of red gel. Knead until the paint is evenly distributed. Roll the dough between parchment paper and let it set. Make as many stars as possible with a small star cookie cutter, then put them back in the refrigerator to cool. Whisk one egg white with a teaspoon of water. You will now create a stack of your stars on top of each other and tie them together with an egg white detergent applied with a small brush. As you stack them, squeeze them firmly while maintaining the shape. Once your star stack is ready, freeze until it is very solid.
Now take your simple dough and roll it into several long, thin ropes. Lightly brush the frozen star stack with egg whites to secure the batter that will be placed around it. Squeeze the ropes around the stars and shape the dough until it completely surrounds the stars in a rough cylinder with no air pockets. Once the simple batter surrounds the stars, carefully roll the entire cookie dough log until it becomes smooth and round. Place a generous pile of red grinding sugar on a baking sheet and roll your stem through the sugar until it is well coated. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours until they set. With a very sharp knife, slice half an inch, place on parchment paper, and bake.