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Holiday cookie decorating tips for beginners from two Colorado pros – The Denver Post

Holiday cookie decorating tips for beginners from two Colorado pros – The Denver Post

If one individual on the planet acquired to carry the title of “most obsessed with cookie decorating,” Monica Signer would volunteer to be that individual.

Susan Clotfelter, Particular to The Denver Post

Novice cookie maker Monica Signer of Berthoud creates a tiny Abominable Snowman face in royal icing – with plans to have him peeking out of a window in her gingerbread scene.

Signer, who lives in Berthoud, interprets enterprise wants into software program necessities for a dwelling. Her ardour, cookie decorating, makes use of an entire totally different a part of her mind.

This vacation, she is on a quest to create an entire gingerbread scene. A visit to Austria and Switzerland final Christmas – filled with snow-covered mountains, the gorgeous villages – and “The Great British Baking Show” served as additional inspiration for her sugary process this winter. Who can’t relate to eager to hop proper into the kitchen after each GBBS episode?

The day after internet hosting 12 individuals at her house to embellish cookies, she was busy making a thimble-sized Abominable Snowman face (sure, the one from the 1964 “Rudolph” particular) out of royal icing. Copying the face from a full-sized Abominable design on her telephone made her giggle just like the 9-year-old she’d simply hosted in her kitchen the day earlier than.

For Mary Richmond, who owns The Cookie Sheet with Diane Bellamy, adorned cookies are concerning the delight they create earlier than her clients even eat them – in truth, earlier than her clients even see them. She just lately created a “milk and doughnuts” set of cookies for a primary birthday celebration with milk bottles, doughnut-shaped cookies and sippy cups.

Straightforward, proper?

Whereas the considered an enormous gingerbread panorama or a themed cookie platter could seem extremely intimidating to most, we really feel our creativity and willingness to attempt come alive in the course of the vacation season.

The idea isn’t too onerous: minimize, bake, cool, embellish. And with foolproof tips from Signer and Richmond for probably the most whimsical, lovely, engaging adorned cookies, you’re positive to be the hit of each engagement this month.

The dough

Greatest plan for a Christmas celebration: Mix cookie-decorating with films. Get pizza or do a potluck for meals, and you may hang around and create all day. Photograph by Susan Clotfelter, particular to The Denver Post

The objective: a clean, dense dough that doesn’t crack when rolled out to three/eight inches thick. It ought to neither unfold nor rise a lot when baked.

The problem: Every batch you make could also be totally different relying on humidity and the way dry your flour is. Signer discovered that a dry, cracking gingerbread dough might be helped by growing the molasses (not the fats or water) by 20 %.

Skilled tip: Richmond votes for a butter shortbread recipe relatively than a sugar cookie dough. “Sugar spreads, it will sag, it will not come out. I will stack shortbread against any recipe; it’s delicious and it keeps its shape,” she stated.

Susan Clotfelter, Particular to The Denver Post

Shannon Ramey creates a pale-blue design on a gingerbread Christmas cookie.

The roll

The objective: Quick, environment friendly dough manufacturing and slicing.

The problem: Maintaining your countertop protected whereas additionally not wrecking your again stooping over the dining-room desk. Signer recommends combining two particular instruments – a silicone roll-out mat that doesn’t slide on the countertop, and reusable, copper-colored nonstick baking sheets. The silicone will adhere to the counter, the copper mat will grip the silicone, and you may minimize the dough on the copper. Take away your extra dough, then simply carry the copper baking mat onto the sheet pan to bake the cookies. This implies you don’t need to carry reduce cookies to switch them.

The newcomer’s tip: Many cookie recipes name for refrigerating the dough. Signer discovered this didn’t assist with cracking, however did make the dough a real ache to roll out. What did assist, nevertheless, was rolling out room-temperature dough, then refrigerating the reduce cookies within the sheet pan till chilled.

The bake

The aim: Crispy, clean cookies that may maintain icing.

The problem: Attaining completely baked, crisp, dense cookies that gained’t shatter.

The tip: With gingerbread, you don’t want the sides to start to get extra brown than the facilities. Additionally, plan on turning your pan, which can assist offer you even outcomes. With older ovens, use an oven thermometer and/or baking or pizza stones on the underside rack. This will increase preheating time, however helps your oven warmth extra evenly. All ovens differ, so figuring out the quirks of your oven is the important thing. Signer provides that for her, the three / eight – inch thickness is vital: Thinner, and the cookies are likely to warp in the event that they’re moved earlier than cooking, and break as soon as cooked.

The icing

Susan Clotfelter, Particular to The Denver Post

Basic royal icing for cookie-decorating is straightforward to combine up. Gel meals coloring yields vibrant colours that turn into extra vivid in the event you refrigerate the icing for a day.

The objective: Lovely and attractive.

The problem: The good icing for cookie decorating is all about consistency. There’s “icing glue” – the thick, paste-like stuff Signer will use to connect cookie partitions and structural helps in three-dimensional parts. Then there’s “piping” icing for outlines, stars and textural parts; and “flood” icing which, with the assistance of some smoothing instruments, creates a strong coat of colour throughout the floor of the cookie.

The newcomer’s tip: Whenever you’re thinning icing, Signer says to go slowly – add a drop of water at a time to your cup-or-less of icing. As well as, letting icing sit in a single day (or, within the case of black, for days) intensifies the colour. When all else fails, there’s additionally Google, and Fb teams like Cookie Decorating for Beginners.

The backside line: The necessary distinction in all 4 varieties of icing is consistency, and consistency is managed with the quantity of water.

The enjoyable stuff: decorating

Susan Clotfelter, Particular to The Denver Post

Decorating cookies with icing could be as easy, as whimsical or as painstakingly elegant as you need.

The objective: Maintain your power and creativity excessive, and maintain turning out lovely, appetizing cookies

The problem: It’s exhausting! Not everyone seems to be an icing artist.

The newcomer’s tips: Have all of the prep executed so you’ll be able to concentrate on the inventive half. Meaning having your cookies baked and your icing ready and coloured forward of time, and your whole instruments laid out. The greater the flat floor to play on, the higher, so clear the desk. Look on-line for cookie designs you want, and follow the identical design again and again on parchment paper or a plate. “I always try to do too many things at once,” Signer stated, “so I need to sit down and do 12 of the same cookies. That’s how you get good at a design.” She additionally recommends watching YouTube movies by Julia M. Usher, writer of Final Cookies.

Professional tips: “Sit with the (icing) bag and practice,” Richmond stated. “There’s a lot of ways you can hold the bag. I hold it like a pencil.” When you’re assured, let your self go, she added. Put your coronary heart and soul into it. She additionally doesn’t “flood” – she as an alternative creates an icing-based glaze that’s thinner and dips the entire cookie to coat it. “Everyone is different, but even beginners are creating something that makes someone feel really good,” she stated.

And, in fact, you would all the time take a cookie decorating class such because the two arising on Dec. 15 in Fort Lupton, hosted by Get Baked bakery.

5 bonus tips

Susan Clotfelter, Particular to The Denver Post

A joyful snowman on a heart-shaped, gluten-free darkish chocolate cookie is certain to deliver a smile.

  1. Each Signer and Richmond are likely to work “tipless,” utilizing plain icing luggage with a tiny snip taken out of the top. No want for fancy plastic or metallic instruments right here. Signer says if you go to snip a gap in the long run of the pastry bag, put the bag’s seam within the center, not the top or starting, of the reduce. You’ll get a real spherical gap that method.
  2. Icing left over? There are a number of issues you are able to do. Push the icing away from the purpose of the bag (in order that it doesn’t clog); fold it over and clip it closed with a small binder clip, then freeze or refrigerate. You may also drop the bag into one other pastry bag WITH an ornamental tip, and make leaves, stars, or rosettes with the remaining icing, permit them to dry, after which freeze or refrigerate them for later cookie-making periods.
  3. Signer swears by gel meals coloring, out there from craft, specialty and baking catalogs, for tinting her icing. Keep in mind that colours will intensify and darken in a single day.
  4. Signer buys Wilton’s meringue powder for her royal icing, and makes use of the recipe on the package deal. You should use actual egg whites, she says, however be certain they’re pasteurized.
  5. Throughout decorating periods, it helps to differentiate between luggage of flood and piping icing with a particular ribbon across the vast finish of the pastry bag for one of many two sorts. Attempt to maintain the two varieties of icing on two separate, totally different coloured plates, as properly.


Susan Clotfelter, Particular to The Denver Post

Monica Signer indulged her perfectionism with the execution of this blue-and-white iced gingerbread snowflake.


Flour weights matter in cookie baking. For those who don’t have a gram scale, err on the aspect of too little flour, then add as you go. The conversions listed here are approximate. Recipe by Monica Signer


  • 500 g (three   1 / three cups) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • three teaspoons floor cinnamon
  • three teaspoons floor ginger
  • 1  1 / 2 teaspoons floor cloves
  • 1 cup chilly unsalted butter, reduce into small cube
  • 40 g (about 1 / four cup) sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 120 g (about 1 / three cup) molasses


In a big bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and spices collectively. Add the butter and reduce in with pastry cutter to keep away from melting the butter. Minimize in till combination resembles high-quality breadcrumbs, then stir within the sugar. In one other giant bowl, combine the eggs with the molasses. Utilizing a stand mixer or robust hand mixer (or numerous elbow grease), add the flour combination and blend to mix and type a mushy dough. Switch the dough to a frivolously floured work floor and knead till clean. Wrap in clear plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or extra.

Preheat oven to 350 levels. Line 4 baking trays with parchment. Halve the dough, then divide one half of the dough into thirds. Working with one part of dough, roll it out three / eight inches thick on the floured floor. As within the tips above, roll out the dough and minimize the shapes on the baking liner or parchment so that you simply by no means should carry minimize cookies. When a tray is full, chill for 10 minutes earlier than baking.

Bake every tray of cookies for 9 minutes, flip pan, and bake for four to five extra minutes or till gingerbread is agency to the touch within the middle of every cookie (don’t wait till the cookies brown; meaning they’re burned.) Take away from oven and tidy up any shapes whereas cookies are scorching. Depart cookies to chill on the baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes, then switch to wire racks to chill utterly.

Gluten-free Darkish Chocolate Minimize-out Cookies

Gluten-free flours range extensively of their elements. After many exams, we discovered that Bob’s Purple Mill Gluten-Free All-Objective Flour yielded the tastiest and smoothest cookie; don’t decide it by the style of the dough itself, which is terrible! The two sorts of cocoa give the cookie a deep however not bitter chocolate taste. Lastly, as a result of the cookies aren’t leavened, it doesn’t matter whether or not the baking cocoa powder is Dutch processed. Recipe by Monica Signer


  • 500 g (four scant cups) Bob’s Pink Mill Gluten-Free All-Objective Flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 75 g (about three / four cup) cocoa powder – half common baking cocoa and half Black Onyx Cocoa Powder, out there at Savory Spice Store
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 320 g ( 1  1 / 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
  • 2  1 / 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs, room temperature


In a big bowl, sift collectively the flour, cocoa powder and salt. In one other bowl, cream collectively the butter, sugar, and vanilla till fluffy. Add the eggs and beat till mixed. Stir within the dry elements. End up onto a clear floor with a bit flour and knead simply till the dough comes collectively and is clean. Flatten right into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate to relax solely barely earlier than rolling, or, if chilling for longer, permit to return again to a working temperature, as this dough will crumble if chilly.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll dough out to three / eight inches thick; minimize shapes on parchment or baking mats. Chill reduce cookies on baking sheets for 20 minutes earlier than baking.

Bake cookies for 9 minutes, flip the pan, and bake for 7 extra minutes, relying on the dimensions of the cookie. They need to be simply starting to darken on the edges and be agency to the contact within the middle when they’re finished. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes on the baking sheets earlier than eradicating to a wire rack to chill utterly.

Royal icing

Ensure that all utensils are freed from grease and oils. Recipe tailored from


  • three tablespoons meringue powder
  • 5 tablespoons heat water
  • four cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract


In a small bowl, combine the meringue powder and heat water to reconstitute. To a big bowl, add the confectioner’s sugar, after which the meringue powder combine. Combine completely till the pale tan shade turns pure white and peaks type. Don’t overwhip, as this simply provides bubbles that trigger issues afterward. This recipe makes a really thick icing; you possibly can taste it at this stage if desired. Working shortly, subdivide the batch into a number of small bowls so as to add coloring. Hold inactive bowls coated with plastic wrap; in any other case the icing will crust on the highest, which can type dry bits that may clog icing luggage.

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