Blog Preparing For Holiday Baking
The months ahead are prime time for cookie baking, from Halloween right through Christmas. Even if your cookie-making experience is largely the slice-and-bake variety, it's never too late to get into the holiday baking spirit. Now is a good time to check your baking supplies and equipment and make sure you have everything you need. Here's a checklist; though not every item is essential, they all make baking and decorating cookies easier and more fun.
• Christmas Cookie cutters—in assorted holiday shapes
• Bench scraper—for dividing dough and cleaning dough off the counter
• Rolling pin—a solid wood, non-tapered pin works well
• Cookie sheets—invest in heavy-duty sheets, so they don't warp
• Silicone liners or parchment paper—for easy cookie removal and pan cleanup
• Meringue powder—used to make royal icing, a decorative icing that dries hard
• Gel or paste food coloring—these provide more intense color than liquid food coloring
• Colored sugar—adds sparkle; comes fine- or coarse-ground for different effects
• Luster dust—a decorative powder used to create a shiny, metallic, or pearl effect
• Dragées—these small gold or silver balls add a fun accent to cookies
• Small spatulas—for spreading icing on cookies; buy an offset (bent) spatula
• Plastic squeeze bottles—for "flooding" royal icing onto cookies
• Pastry bags, plastic couplers, and tips—for piping icing borders and decorations
• Plastic containers with lids—for storing icing
• Tweezers—for applying dragées and other small decorations
• Small paint brush—for brushing away excess sugar
• Gift bags, tins, boxes, waxed paper, and ribbon—to give your handmade gifts an elegant presentation
To get you in the mood for making holiday cookies, here's an easy decorating technique: After cutting out your cookies and transferring them to the cookie sheet, cut holes in them to make a decorative pattern. You can use any small shape; for these snowflake cookies, I used a drinking straw and the small heart from the Heart 'n Hand Cookie Cutter Set. After the cookies are baked and cooled, and working with one at a time, pipe royal icing on each cookie and spoon sugar over the icing while it's still wet. (Need some tips about using royal icing? Look here. Leave the sugar on the cookie for a minute or two, then shake off the excess. Some of the sugar will cling to the bare cookie; I think this looks nice, but you can brush it away with a small paintbrush if you like. If you have a little more time and want a slightly more involved project, first pipe and fill the entire cookie, then, when the icing has dried, pipe a design on the surface and sugar it. You can do an assortment of cookies using both techniques. Don't worry if the pattern of holes isn't symmetrical or your icing lines aren't even; they're meant to have a homespun charm and the sparkly sugar masks any imperfections. These cookies make beautiful tree ornaments, or you can tie them to a swag of greens, or use one as the centerpiece in a gift box of homemade cookies.
This week's recipe has a holiday flavor thanks to cardamom, a fragrant spice used frequently in Scandinavian baked goods, particularly in Christmas breads. These buttery brown sugar cookies are the perfect backdrop for cardamom's spicy warmth. For more holiday cookie recipes, visit our recipe library, and check back each week for new ideas.