Christmas Sugar Cookies

by - Friday, December 21, 2018

Last year we started a tradition of making Christmas Cookies! However, it was basically my first time baking Cookies (nope.. I'm not kidding) and they didn't turn out as well as I had hoped! There was no attempt of Icing them either! It was just a basic Cookie recipe, and they fell apart when using the Cookie Cutters and transferring them to the tray, and then they spread in the oven whilst cooking. They were actually quite delicious, but goodness I had so much to learn! Well, I'm pleased to say that this year, they were a total success!! Not only did they not fall apart whilst cutting them out, but they actually kept their shape nicely when baking too. Again these ones were delicious like last years ones, but they actually looked super festive this time too! I really enjoyed making this years Christmas Sugar Cookies, and they actually were surprisingly easy to do because I didn't fuss around with too many colour changes with the icing. I decided to do them mostly white, and keep it simple with a sweet and pretty 'White Christmas' look, even though we live in Australia, and Christmas here is HOT. Instead of being cosy inside by the fireplace on Christmas Day, we laze by the pool, have a BBQ and try not to melt like butter! But overall, Christmas is Christmas, no matter where you are in the world. Surrounded by loved ones, sharing gifts and love, and of course having an abundance of food! These Cookies make perfect gifts wrapped up in a pretty little box, or simply a great idea when you have a Christmas party or gathering and need to bring a little plate of something.

This is quite an extensive post, because theres quite a few different things going on, and I wanted to show you exactly how to achieve the cookies that I made. Even though they were quite easy to make, there were quite a few steps involved. But also keep in mind that other than the actual Cookie recipe and the Icing recipe, the rest is quite flexible. You can just skip down to the parts you're interested in. Also, you can use your own tools and decorations that you have, as you might want to make completely different looking Cookies! But I'll list everything I used, and where it was from (with direct link if possible) incase you want to get your hands on them too.

I'd start making these Cookies a couple days before you need them. Because there's a little bit of waiting time involved between steps, and you don't want to be rushing yourself when it comes to the decorating!

Before we begin, I want to give a big shoutout to Natalia from Cookielicious! I used her recipes and tutorials for making both the Sugar Cookies AND the Royal Icing. She is incredibly lovely and encouraging, and she promptly answered my questions when I messaged her on Instagram! Feel free to head straight to her site to view the original recipes and tutorials.

Okay, here goes. You'll need a mixer of some sort. I used my Thermomix.

Sugar Cookies:
(Approx 2 dozen Cookies depending on size)
175 grams of Icing Sugar
225 grams of Salted Butter (room temp)
1 Egg (room temp)
2 teaspoons of Vanilla Extract (or any flavour you like)
1 teaspoon of Baking Powder
420 grams of Plain Flour

Suggested Tools for Sugar Cookies:
Adjustable Rolling Pin (eBay)
Cookie Cutters (Kmart, Spotlight)
Wide Palette Knife (Spotlight)
Baking Paper

Royal Icing:
500 grams of Icing Sugar (sifted)
1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
3 large Egg Whites
5ml Vanilla Extract (or any flavour you like)
White Gel Food Colouring

Suggested Tools and Decorating Supplies:
Piping Bag, Couplers and Tips. (I only used Wilton Tip #2 number #4
Spray Bottle (for Water to thin out your Icing to various consistencies. I use one from Kmart)
Gel Food Colourings of your choice (Americolor ones from Kitchen Warehouse work great.)
Fondant (Spotlight)
White Pearls (Spotlight)
White Sprinkles (Kitchen Warehouse)
Modelling Sticks (Spotlight)
Gold Powder/Dust (Roberts Edible Craft from Spotlight)
Pure Extract to mix Powder with (Spotlight)
Edible Markers (Woolworths)
Paint Brush

Ya'll ready for this?! Okay, let's make Cookies!! Start by taking your butter and egg out of the fridge so it comes to room temperature. This should only take roughly 30 mins. So that gives you time to gather all your other cookie gear. Plan out what cookie cutters you're going to use. I actually made little sketches on paper detailing how I planned to decorate the cookies so I knew exactly what I was going for. It really helps to have a plan in mind before you actually start!
Like I said, I used my Thermo for these cookies with no issues. But the original recipe uses a mixer. Cream together Butter and Icing Sugar (5 Sec, Speed 5). Scrape down sides and cream again, (5 Sec, Speed 5). Add the Egg and Vanilla Extract.
Mix well (5 Sec, Speed 5). In a large bowl, sift together the Flour and Baking Powder. Add the Flour mixture little by little to the wet mixture until it's well incorporated. To do this in the Thermomix, turn it on to Speed 2, remove the Measuring Cup and drop in a couple tablespoons worth of the Flour mixture every 10 seconds or so. Once roughly half of the Flour mixture is incorporated, increase to Speed 3 and continue. Increase again when needed to Speed 4 until all the mixture is incorporated. This takes approx 6 minutes.
This sounds complicated, but it's really not. It's just about slowly incorporating the mixture together.
Once you see the dough clump together, it's ready. Scape down from sides, and Knead for a further 40 seconds to make sure it's evenly mixed together.

Tip the dough into a bowl, and cover with Glad Wrap. Wait approx 30-60 minutes before working with the dough as it will firm up a little.
Using your adjustable rolling pin, pop on your 6mm wheels. You can use a regular rolling pin, but an adjustable one will help you to roll out your dough perfectly even.

Grab half of your dough, squish down and sandwich it between a large folded over sheet of Baking Paper as shown below. For ease, once folded over, the size of the Baking Paper should be roughly the size of a baking tray. 
Roll out the dough to your desired thickness. If the dough gets rolled out further than the Baking Paper edge, just cut off those parts and squish into another part that's lacking. Keep rolling out until you have about a Baking trays worth of rolled out dough.
Pop it on a tray or chopping board, and pop it in the fridge. Repeat until all the dough is rolled out and in the fridge. Keep refrigerated for a few hours. This will help prevent spreading.

If you only want to make a few cookies, you can store any unused dough in the freezer. Just roll the dough out, and sandwich it between baking paper. Pop that into a large zip lock bag, and label it clearly with the date and type of dough.

Once sufficiently chilled, take the dough out of the fridge and cut it into desired shapes. I used a little pack of Christmas Cookie Cutters from Kmart and used all of those except the Bow. Later on, I found a large Christmas Tree Cookie Cutter from Spotlight, and I couldn't help myself! So I made another whole batch of cookies so I could use it! Place the cut out cookie dough onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, and pop it back into the fridge again for another 1 - 2 hours. Re-roll the left over dough, and put it back in the fridge until firm enough to cut out again into desired shapes. Repeat this process until all your dough is used up! Keeping the cut out cookie dough in the fridge before baking will help spreading.
When you're ready to bake the pre-cut cookies, pre-heat the oven to 180 celsius. Bake cookies for 10 - 15mins. (Times may vary depending on your oven.) Do not over-cook! When you take them out of the oven, you don't want them to be too golden, and you still want them to be soft. They harden up as they cool. Wait 5-10 minutes for them to cool a little, then place them on a rack to cool completely.

Always let the cookie cool overnight or for at least a few hours if you're decorating. It's best to wait until they are a day old before decorating them to reduce the chance of oil from the cookie leaching into the icing and causing icing spots or butter bleeds.

Okay. First step is done!

Now we move on to the decorating process. Obviously this is where you get to be creative and go for it! I'll show you the steps I took to create mine, but just skip over things if you're not interested in doing them!
Firstly, I wanted to create little Gold Fondant Stars to place at the top of my Christmas Trees. I already had left over Satin Ice Fondant from when I made Aprils Birthday Cake, so I used that. Pull out a sheet of Baking Paper, and roll some Fondant into a ball about the width of a 10c piece. Squish the ball flat with a spatula or something similar, peel it off and lay it on your baking paper. 
Using a knife, start to cut it into the shape shown in the centre below. It doesn't have to be perfect. I actually found it tricky to cut out a perfect star shape! But I found this shape quite easy. Trim off the excess length of the legs to keep them all similar.
Pick up your rough star shape, and squish each leg into a little point. Carefully play around with it a little until you're happy with your star shape. You can use a little modelling stick to help define the inner corners if needed. I used it for some of them, but not for others. Repeat this process until you've created all your stars.
To paint them gold, I used an Edible Gold Powder/Dust. Put a little of it onto a plate (you can always add more if you need), and mix it with a few drops of your Pure Extract to form a paint. Using a paint brush, brush it onto the stars as desired.
And that's all there is to them! Just set them aside to dry.

Time for your Royal Icing!! Now, I didn't actually take photos of making the Icing because I was in a rush, but I'll list the instructions. Or if you like, you can head over to original recipe here.
Reminder for Ingredients:

Royal Icing:
500 grams of Icing Sugar (sifted)
1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
3 large Egg Whites
5ml Vanilla Extract (or any flavour you like)
White Gel Food Colouring
Gel Food Colourings of your choice (Americolor ones from Kitchen Warehouse work great.)
Airtight Containers (for storing your Icing! I use these 500ml tubs from Kmart

Let's do it! Fit the whisk attachment into your Thermo. Sift and mix the Icing Sugar and Cream of Tartar together into the Thermo bowl. Stir in the Egg Whites with a spoon to moisten the Sugar. Beat the mixture on low speed to evenly distribute the Egg Whites.

Turn up the speed to medium-high, and continue to beat for about 1 - 2 minutes, just until the Icing is smooth, silky and very white.

Add in the Flavouring Extract of your choice and a squirt of the White Gel Food Colouring to ensure the Icing comes out a pure white, not an off-white colour. Continue to beat the Icing for 1-2 minutes, until it becomes thick.

Note: The Icing will lighten and thicken as you beat it. Take care not to over-beat the Icing. Carefully watch the mixture until it turns to a crisp white, and only beat it at high speed at this very thick consistency.

When you're finished, the Icing will be a very thick consistency, like shaving cream. Scrape the Icing off whisk attachment, and then get out some air-tight containers for storing the Icing.

Icing Storage:
Using your containers, fill them up with your Royal Icing, that way when you need to Ice some cookies, you can just grab out a tub to work with at a time. Fill them up with Icing, and use cling wrap to seal it, and press down on top of the Icing. Make sure that the entire top surface of Icing is touching the cling wrap. This will prevent the top layer from hardening. Put another layer of cling wrap on top of that, and then secure the lid on top. Repeat for all containers, and label the container with the date. You can store the icing in the freezer for a few months.

Royal Icing Colouring and Consistency:
When it comes to colouring your Icing, it's important to remember that a little goes a long way! Scoop out some Icing into a bowl, and just start with adding a drop or two of colouring in. Stir around gently with a little spatula.

Basically when it comes to Royal Icing, there are 3 common consistencies. Outline consistency, Medium consistency and Flooding consistency. For these cookies, I used a Medium Consistency Icing for the majority of them. I then also used an Outline Consistency Icing for some of the finer details at the end, like the string lights, and detailing on the Gingerbread men. In short, you can thin out your Icing using a little Spray Bottle of water, just a little at a time, and stirring gently until you get the desired consistency. If you thin it out too much, you can just add in a little sifted Icing Sugar to thicken it up again! It might seem complicated, but it's really not difficult at all.

Outline Consistency will have a soft peak when you raise your spatula out of the Icing. It will resemble a tooth paste thickness. When piped, the Icing should hold a thin line with no - or minimal spreading. Outline Consistency Icing is used for fine details, writing and outlining your cookies.

Medium Consistency will resembled liquid honey when you raise your spatula out of the bowl and let the Icing run off. This icing is used to cover cookies smoothly, but it's thick enough that it won't run straight off the edge.

Tip: You can pipe near the edge of the cookie roughly just to outline it, then fill in the middle. Using a modelling stick or even a toothpick, you then push out the icing out to the edge of the cookie in circular motions to get a smooth edge. 

Flood Consistency will flow in the bowl nicely like liquid when you stir around your Spatula. This Icing is used for flooding a cookie after it's been outlined. Be careful not to thin it out TOO much. Again, you can always thicken it up by slowly adding sifted Icing Sugar back into it. 

When you're ready to ice your cookies, transfer the Icing to the piping bag with desired tip. In general, I used a Wilton Tip #4 for my Medium Consistency Icing, and a Wilton Tip #2 for my Outline Consistency Icing.

And that's it! You're good to go!

Below I've got some close up of my Christmas Cookies, and I'll explain the steps I took for Icing and Decorating them.

I started out with these Gingerbread men! I used a Medium Consistency Icing, coloured with Americolor #104 Chocolate Brown, with tiny drop of Queen Black Gel Food Colouring (I got this from Woolies) to darken the brown slightly. Once dried, I used non-coloured Outline Consistency Icing to pipe the white details. I then used a Medium Consistency Icing coloured with Americolor #120 Super Red to add the little red buttons. To finish them off, I used a black edible marker to draw on the eyes and mouth. I feel I need a little more practice, but was pretty happy with them! 

I used a Medium Consistency Icing, coloured with Americolor #104 Chocolate Brown and a tiny drop of Queen Black Gel Food Colouring to do the bases of the trees. I did them all a little different for some variety. I then used non-coloured Medium Consistency Icing to fill the rest of the cookie, and I placed a Fondant Star at the top of the trees once Iced. As you can see, they are all a little different. For some of them I used tweezers to drop in White Pearls and/or White Sprinkles for the Icing dried. For others I just filled the whole cookie, and then later piped on non-coloured Outline Consistency Icing on top for the white string using my Wilton Tip #2, adding little White Pearls and/or White Sprinkles. For some of them, I divided the trees up into three sections for a little depth. To do this, I just piped the top section first, and then let it dry before piping the next section. This creates the lines across the middle. For some of those trees, I also dropped in some White Sprinkles. So they were all a little different, but so easy!

I used a non-coloured Medium Consistency Icing around the edge of the candy cane, and then continued with the white part of the stripes. Less is more here, because you don't want to pipe on too much and have it spread over the whole cookie! So just pipe lines across to create the stripes, and then use a modelling stick or toothpick to move around the icing a little and widen the stripe if needed. Once dried, I then used a Medium Consistency Icing, coloured with Americolor #120 Super Red to fill in the holes.

I used non-coloured Medium Consistency Icing to fill the whole cookie. Once dried, I piped on non-coloured Outline Consistency Icing with my Wilton Tip #2 on top for the white detailing. Then I placed a little White Pearl in the center.

I did these cookies two different ways. One with a heart shape topper, and one with a bow topper. For the bow topper ones, I used an Edible Marker to mark out the shape of a bow first. Then for both of them, I used non-coloured Medium Consistency Icing to fill the rest of the cookie. Once dried, I used my Wilton Tip #2, and used Medium Consistency Icing, coloured with Americolor #120 Super Red to fill in the bows and hearts, and then added lines and dots. I used Tip #2 because to get a finer line, even though it was still with a Medium Consistency Icing.

I used non-coloured Medium Consistency Icing to fill the whole cookie. Once dried, I used non-coloured Outline Consistency Icing on top for the white detailing. On some of them also added White Pearls and/or White Sprinkles too.

I wanted to try something different for some of the Stars! So first, I used non-coloured Medium Consistency Icing to fill the whole cookie. Once dried, I mixed some of the Gold Powder/Dust with the Pure Extract to make a watery paint, and I brushed it straight onto the Icing. I really loved how they turned out!

And that's really all there is to it!! So go nuts with them and have some fun! There's something a little magical about Christmas Cookies, and the way your kids eyes light up when they see them. These cookies were such a hit with everyone!! I am actually currently making ANOTHER batch of these cookies for our annual Christmas Eve dinner at my Mums, and for Christmas Day!

So get festive this Christmas and give these a go! I want to see YOURS too, so tag me in them so I can see!!

Well.. I'm off to continue making another batch!! See you on the other side, most likely covered in icing head to toe, and on a bit of a sugar high!

- A M Y  D A V I S

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