You'll need two recipes for this cookie (found below in a printable image format) and the cookies can be made well in advance and frozen until you are ready to begin decorating. Kids love these (as do a lot of adults), and if you really want to take the extra step you can punch a hole in the top before baking to turn them into an edible decoration - a dessert tree if you like. Grab some bare branches, let them dry, spray paint and glitter them and hang your cookie creations for a unique Christmas decor item that changes every year.
Some Special Instructions
The icing recipe is basic too, BUT – in order to use it to “paint” the cookies, you’ll need to thin it out after making it. Use water for that, and do it when you are mixing up the colours for the frosting. And yes, to paint these, you need paint brushes – the art kind. You’ll need to find brushes that will not lose their bristles in water – cheaper brushes leave brush bristles in the icing, and you don’t want that. Find brushes designed for use with water-colour paints or water-based paint. Get a variety of sizes (tiny narrow tips for details, larger ones for base painting). Once you’ve got a decent set of brushes, store them with your cookie cutters and use the same brushes every year (never use your brushes for paint!).
The best food colouring is the type used by cake decorators - bottled in a set of 8 or more colours. With this you can mix any colour, and use less of this than the liquid type. The reds are red, the black is black.
Once the icing is mixed, it needs to be kept covered. I separate equal amounts of icing into smaller containers (usually I keep the containers from ready-made jello or pudding cups to use) – I usually end up with 10 or 12 small containers of icing. I cover each one with a damp paper towel, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and an elastic band.
Colours are added to the individual cups as I need them. I start with a plain white icing cup and lightly “paint” all of the cookies. This is the “base coat”. Depending on how many cookies you’ve made, and how thick you make the base coat (I tend to make it so when it’s dry, it looks sort of like a thick glaze, and you can just see that it’s white) you will probably need to set the cookies aside to dry until the next day. By the time you base coat 15 dozen cookies (about what I usually make) you’re pooped.
The first year that I decided not to make them was the year my husband had his second heart surgery – a sudden one that happened right before Christmas (Dec. 15). I spent more than a week in a different city in a hotel during that time, and when I got home I certainly didn’t have two weeks to shop (none of the Christmas shopping was done), decorate (didn’t have any Christmas decorations up at that point either), and bake. These cookies take the longest of all the ones I make, so decided to drop them off the list due to a time shortage.
When I mentioned this to my grown daughters they were flabbergasted, and loudly protested the lack of “their” Christmas cookies. This had become such an expected cookie at Christmas that they simply wouldn’t go without it. I ended up making them, but a much smaller batch than normal that took many sleepless nights to complete.
Last year, I invited my grandchildren to help with the decorating. Well … that was very messy (5 kids, and my 2 adult girls helping) but also a lot of fun for everyone. Sadly, there were very few of those that could be put into the gift boxes, but the grandkids absolutely loved their own creations and couldn’t wait to eat them. Even my daughter … who decided that to avoid having someone else eat HER cookies she’d sign her name on the back!
Purchased Cookie Decorations