Somehow holiday season is already in full swing, not sure how it snuck up so quickly…I guess you could say this year was quite a whirlwind for me! I’m used to cold winters on the East coast spent fireside with family and friends listening to music, telling stories, and of course snacking on treats. Oddly enough, it is colder in San Francisco this holiday season than it is back home – since when is it 70 degrees in December in New York?! So time to turn the oven on and start warming up the studio while creating tasty treats to spread holiday cheer!
My good friend’s mom sent us some of her famous holiday cookies around Halloween with a Dia de los Muertos theme. They were the cutest cookies I had ever seen, and the inspiration for my own wintertime holiday gifts. I do have to let you know that making these cookies is quite a process, but it is well worth the time and they are so much fun to make.
I started my cookies on a Friday night and had them in boxes ready to be shipped by Sunday afternoon. After an evening of volunteering at our local Christmas Tree Lot, benefiting charity of course, I started by making your basic sugar cookie dough. It is very important to chill the dough for at least 4 hours; however, I find that leaving it in the fridge overnight works best for me.
After working East Coast hours on the West Coast for the last three years I have become an early riser even on the weekends. So as I found myself wide-awake at 6am on Saturday, I figured it was a good time to roll out my dough. To make decorating a little more manageable, I used just a few different cookie cutter shapes to cut out my cookies. The bake time is really quick, only 10 minutes in the oven and they are done. The cookies have to be completely cool before you can start decorating, which forced me to get my errands done for the weekend.
Once the cookies are cool you can decorate using royal frosting – for base coat of cookie spread icing on with a spoon for a smooth surface. For the designs I used plastic tubes, but you can use piping bags as well. There were a lot of cookies to be decorated so I mixed in a few simple designs such as peppermints, which look extremely professional yet are so easy to create. I discovered the technique while browsing Martha Stewart’s website, where I found this video that does a really great job of walking through the steps.
I was a little nervous about mailing my cookies in fear that they would arrive in crumbles. I wrapped each cookie individually with paper towels and placed them in Tupperware containers. I think my saving grace was using Shyp to send them rather than mailing on my own. Shyp packaged each container in a custom sized box so that the cookies had no room to bounce around during their cross-country trip, arriving safely and intact to all of my family and friends.
- 4 1/2- 4 3/4 cups flour (+ extra for dusting your work surface)
- 1/2 lb unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Sift together dry ingredients.
- Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
- Add eggs, one at a time.
- Add dry ingredients alternating with the milk and vanilla.
- Beat dough until mixed - it should be soft but not too sticky.
- Divide dough into 3-4 parts then wrap in saran and chill at least 4 hours.
- Roll out on floured board 1/8 - 1/4 in. thick.
- Cut with cookie cutters.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Bake about 10 minutes until cookies are barely brown.
- Cool on racks.
- Once completely dry, frost with royal icing.
- Yields 6 to 7 dozen cookies. Can freeze dough in saran wrap to use at a later date.
- 1 lb powdered sugar
- 3 Tbsp meringue powder
- 6 Tbsp warm water
- Food coloring of choice (gel food coloring works best)
- Mix on low speed, 10 min.
- Color frosting as desired.
- To spread on cookies, thin icing with a few drops of water to consistency of sour cream.
- For decorative piping, do not thin - put in pastry bag or plastic tube.