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, I organized DIY cookie christmas ornaments. I made a bunch of short bread 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. By halfway through the evening it turned into an arts and crafts sessions, 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 George Melies style man in the moon kills me. But don’t worry! If you lack artistic ability like me, just do swashes of color and top it with gold. Everything looks a little better with gold.
INGREDIENTS (SHORTBREAD COOKIES)
Makes 18 shortbread cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pre Heat oven to 350F.
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″ 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.
INGREDIENTS (ROYAL ICING)
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 ribbonlike trail on the surface of the mixture for 5 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.