Hand-Painted Christmas-Cookie Ornaments
Every Christmas I host a cookie swap. All of my girlfriends come over with a batch of cookies, I plan some kind of DIY, and I make a giant batch of hot cocoa with marshmallows—bourbon optional. It's also the one event where I put down my phone and just hang out instead of worrying about posting everything on social media. Cookies are sacred, dammit! Last year, I tried something new. Instead of doing DIY cookie tins for people to take their cookies home in, I organized DIY Christmas-cookie ornaments. I made a bunch of shortbread cookies, decorated them with plain white icing, prepped them to be an ornament by punching holes in them, and then let my friends do the rest. Halfway through the evening, it turned into an arts-and-crafts session, with everyone working quietly on their cookies. My friend Sabina is an actual artist, so her cookies (the very impressive ones pictured below) were ridiculously gorgeous. The Georges Méliès–style man in the moon kills me. But don't worry! If you lack artistic ability like I do, just do swashes of color and top it with gold. Everything looks a little better with gold.
NOTE: Makes 18 shortbread cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar, plus another cup for garnish, if making Russian tea cakes
8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
Sift together the flour, salt, and powdered sugar. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the flour and sugar a third at a time on low speed; then add the vanilla. Form the dough into a ball (or into a few balls, if making a big batch). Wrap the ball in plastic, press into a thick disc, and chill in the fridge until cold (about 30 minutes).
On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough to a 1/4-inch thick, and cut out using cookie cutters. Roll up the dough, re-roll the dough, and cut out the remaining cookie cutters. Repeat until you're done with dough. If turning these into ornaments, use a skewer to poke a hole (at least 1/8" wide) about a 1/2-inch in from the edge of the cookie.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cookies are barely golden brown around the edges.
Remove from the oven and move the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Royal icing ingredients:
1 pound powdered sugar (3 3/4 cups)
2 egg whites
Blue food coloring
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the powdered sugar. Mixing on low speed, add a scant 1/2 cup water. For a thinner consistency, usually used for flooding, add more water. A thicker consistency is generally used for outlining and adding details. Mix until icing holds a ribbon-like trail on the surface of the mixture for five seconds when you raise the paddle.
Spread the icing on each cookie, and set the cookies aside for 30 minutes to set. When the cookies are ready, decorate with food coloring, paint brushes, and finish with gold flakes. String some twine through the hole (you may have to repunch the hole with a skewer) if turning them into ornaments.
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Do you make Christmas cookies? What kind?