By Dani Deahl

Published on December 11, 2016

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Photography by DANI DEAHL

It’s the holiday season, which means many things, but most importantly…cookies. And fear not, non-bakers, for there is a way to concoct pro-level edible gems without needing to commit store-bought fakery.

Ahead, one basic dough recipe done with three variations to make it look like you’re a regular Mary Berry, able to whip together Pinterest-worthy creations with ease. Trust us, no one will know how easy these were. And we like it that way.

The Dough

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There are many, many rolled sugar cookie recipes out there, all claiming to be the best, but this simple and stalwart version from Allrecipes.com is essentially fail-proof and perfect for decorating with icing.

A couple of notes when working with cookie dough: use room temperature ingredients, make sure you cream the butter and sugar enough, and before baking, pop your cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes. All of this will help your cookies maintain their recognizable shapes when you pull them out of the oven, and not turn into abysmal, oozing blobs.

Sugar Cookie Mint Candies

Additional ingredients for royal icing:

– Red food dye

– 3 cups powdered sugar

– 2 egg whites

– ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar

– Vanilla extract

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1. Follow the sugar cookie recipe, chill dough, roll out to ¼ inch, and cut out circles that are 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

2. Chill cut cookies for an hour, or freeze for 30 minutes.

3. Bake cookies at 350 for 6 to 8 minutes, until the edges are just slightly browned.

4. Prepare royal icing to flood consistency.

5. Divide the icing and using the food dye, color one half of it red.

6. Fill two squeeze bottles or icing bags with the red and white icing (if you do not have a squeeze, you can use a Ziploc, but it is harder to control), and pipe the border of all the cookies in a white outline. If you are new to royal icing, practice on parchment paper first.

7. Go back and fill the center of a cookie with white icing and, while it is still wet, add big drops of the red icing around the perimeter.

8. Using a toothpick, gently guide/drag the red icing toward the center of the cookie, then starting from the outside going in, swirl the icing to create a beautiful spiral.

9. Wait at least 24 hours for the icing to completely dry.

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Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Stars

Additional ingredients besides dough:

– Red food dye

– Peppermint candies

– Baking chocolate in the 60-70% range (if your only options are semi-sweet and bittersweet, pick bittersweet)

– Parchment paper

1. When preparing the dough, add red food dye after creaming the butter and sugar (get food gels, like the ones made by Wilton, which will give a more intense color and can be bought at most craft stores).

2. Roll chilled dough to 1/4 inch thick, then cut into stars (or any other shape you prefer)

3. Chill cut cookies for an hour, or freeze for 30 minutes.

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4. Bake cookies at 350 for 6 to 8 minutes, until the edges are just slightly browned.

5. Place peppermint candies in a Ziploc bag (or wrapped in a kitchen towel) and crush.

6. Place 2/3 of your chocolate in a stove-safe bowl and temper the chocolate using this tutorial. Tempering chocolate is not     a daunting task and not only gives a silky, glossy finish, but will give a crisp ‘snap’ once it cools.

7. Take cooled cookies and dip half in tempered chocolate, then lay down on parchment paper.

8. While chocolate is still wet, sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies.

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Caramel Drizzle Pumpkin Pies

Additional ingredients besides dough:

– 2 teaspoon cinnamon

– ½ teaspoon ground ginger

– 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

– ½ teaspoon allspice

– ¼ cup pumpkin purée

– Soft caramel candies

1. When preparing the dough, add the pumpkin purée to the creamed butter and sugar, and add all spices to the dry ingredients.

2. Roll chilled dough to 1/8 inch thick, then cut into thin strips about ½ inch wide.

3. Weave the strips in a pie crust lattice, but with the strips closer together and almost touching.

4. Using a circle-shaped cookie cutter (or a drinking glass), cut cookies out of the lattice.

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5. Chill cut cookies for an hour, or freeze for 30 minutes.

6. Bake cookies at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until the edges just start to brown.

7. Take caramel candies and put in a glass or metal bowl.

8. Fill a medium-sized saucepan with 2 to 3 inches of water, and then place the bowl on top.

9. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the bottom of the saucepan.

10. Melt the candies over medium heat, stirring until no lumps are left.Drizzle caramel over cookies.

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