Make a big batch of our classic sugar cookie dough and follow our founder's techniques for gorgeous embellished snowflakes, stars, presents, and wreaths.

November 18, 2020
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Credit: Johnny Miller

The cornerstone of all these beautiful cookies is one of Martha's longtime favorite recipes: Sugar Cookies. It's her go-to when she wants a delicious canvas for decorated cut-out cookies. One recipe makes about two dozen four-inch treats, but you could double (or triple!) the recipe to ensure you have plenty of dough to make a variety of the variations we're sharing here. The other essential recipe required for most of these decorating ideas is Royal Icing. Double this recipe to make five cups of icing—it sounds like a lot, but the icing goes fast if you're covering the entire surface of the cookie rather than just outlining it.

Credit: Johnny Miller

Extra-Large Piped Snowflakes

Stamp out shapes with extra-large snowflake cutters before chilling and baking according to Sugar Cookie recipe directions; let cool completely. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium plain round tip (such as Ateco #5 or #7) with royal icing. Then, pipe designs on each of the snowflakes; immediately sprinkle with sanding sugar. Let stand five minutes before tapping off any excess sugar. Pipe small dots of royal icing to adhere dragées or other embellishments. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let icing set completely, about one hour.

Credit: Johnny Miller

Small Pastel Snowflakes

Stamp out shapes using 1-to-2-inch snowflake cutters before chilling and baking according to Sugar Cookies recipe directions; let cool completely. Holding a cookie by its edges, dip top side into white royal icing so top is entirely covered. Tilt cookie to allow any excess to drip back into bowl; wipe edges with your finger to remove excess icing. Let stand five minutes on a wire rack, dipped-side up, then sprinkle generously with pastel sanding sugar. Repeat with remaining cookies, icing, and sanding sugar. Let stand until completely dry.

Credit: Johnny Miller

Chocolate-Dipped Sugar Cookies

Stamp out shapes with tree, bear, and reindeer cutters before chilling and baking according to Sugar Cookie recipe directions; let cool completely. Holding a cookie by its edge, dip the top side into tempered chocolate (white, milk, or dark chocolate are all ), so that the top is entirely covered. Tilt each cookie to allow any excess chocolate to drip back into bowl; wipe edges with your finger to remove excess. Decorate with nonpareils, dragées, and/or sanding sugar. Let dry completely, dipped-side up, on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining cookies and chocolate. If you'd like to add raised dots like Martha did for the reindeer's eye, tail, and hooves, let the chocolate set completely, then fill a piping bag fitted with a medium tip (such as Ateco #5) with tempered chocolate and squeeze on dots.

Credit: Johnny Miller

Shining Stars

Stamp out shapes using two-to-three-inch star cutters before chilling and baking according to Sugar Cookies recipe directions; let cool completely. Holding a cookie by its edges, dip the top side into white royal icing so that the top of the cookie is entirely covered. Then, tilt the cookie to allow any excess icing to drip back into bowl; wipe edges with your finger to remove excess icing. Let dry completely, dipped-side up, on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining cookies and icing. Meanwhile, mix ¼ teaspoon silver or gold luster dust with a small amount of vodka, one tablespoon at a time, until a thin but not watery paint mixture forms (the consistency should be like that of whole milk). Using a small paintbrush, flick droplets of luster-dust paint onto cookies. Let dry completely.

Credit: Johnny Miller

Sugar-Cookie "Presents"

Stamp out shapes using a 3-inch square before chilling and baking according to Sugar Cookies recipe directions; let cool completely. Separate white royal icing into three batches; tint one with red gel food coloring and another with green to desired shades, leaving the third white. Holding a cookie by its edges, dip the top side into white, red, or green royal icing, ensuring that the top is entirely covered. Tilt cookie to allow any excess icing to drip back into bowl; wipe edges with your finger to remove excess icing. Let dry completely, dipped-side up, on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining cookies and icing. Meanwhile, mix ¼ teaspoon silver or gold luster dust with a small amount of vodka, one tablespoon at a time, until a thin but not watery paint mixture forms (the consistency should be like that of whole milk). Set cookies side by side, and use a 1/2-inch-wide paintbrush to brush luster dust paint across them in a crosshatch pattern. Let dry completely.

Credit: Johnny Miller

Wreaths and Small Fluted Rounds

Stamp out shapes with 3½-inch fluted cutters; cut out centers with one-inch fluted rounds (or whatever size is desired) before chilling and baking both wreaths and centers according to directions in Sugar Cookies recipe. Let cool completely. Holding a cookie by its edges, dip top side into white royal icing so top is entirely covered. Tilt cookie to allow any excess to drip back into bowl; wipe edges with your finger to remove excess icing. Set on a wire rack, dipped-side up. Repeat with remaining cookies and icing. Before the icing sets, decorate as desired—for example, with ground pistachios, silvered and pearlized chocolate balls, nonpareils, and candied-ginger "ornaments" (made by cutting out candied ginger with the tip of a 1/4-inch piping tip) with a few pink-peppercorn berries; or with ground freeze-dried raspberries, silvered chocolate balls, nonpareils, and pink peppercorns. Sprinkle centers with pastel and white sanding sugar, if desired.

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