I think I can now officially close the season of Christmas cookie decor. I still need to bake two cakes (I’ll do that a day before Christmas though, they have to be fresh!), but when it comes to cookies – which can be baked and decorated in advance – they’re all done and dusted. I thought I’d share a recap of all my Christmas cookies from this year. Well, maybe not all – I made hundreds of gingerbread cookies – but I have photos of all types of toppings I used. This will be lovely to return to in a few months, to reminisce Christmas time.
Let’s start with my chocolate Christmas wreaths. These must be my favourites from this year. It was an experiment, so I only have a few pieces decorated with this technique, but knowing how to achieve this kind of result I can plan some intricate designs for Christmas 2019.
The wreaths are made out of chocolate – melted, coloured and turned into paste, then moulded on baking paper and cooled, until the chocolate firmed up. I didn’t think I’d manage to achieve the desired effect at the time of forming the wreaths on baking paper. It was a mess, a complete mess. Half-liquid, hard to control catastrophe. Luckily, it turned out that a good old fridge can save the day. Not all heroes wear capes, right? 😉
I have a ton of cookies decorated with chocolate. I used melted white, milk and dark chocolate and decorated my cookies using homemade piping cones, made out of plain baking paper. Both the cones and chocolate have been an absolute pleasure to work with. I still can’t get over the fact how wonderful those DIY piping cones are – I had absolutely no accidental disasters whatsoever this year, not one. And to think that I used to draw on cookies with a skewer or toothpicks…! With good results, sure, but it took sooo much time, and I had to melt my chocolate multiple times in the process. And this year, it all went so smoothly and quickly. Like a dream!
I also had a happy side effect of my experiments with chocolate. This chocolate dust is probably one of my favourite food-related discoveries of recent years. I feel like I overestimate the majesty of this silly chocolate dust, but I’m absolutely in love with it, head over heels! Probably because I always assumed that I had to use sugar sprinkles whenever I wanted to add some colour to my cookie toppings. And, to be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of those. I don’t hate them, but their taste is simply underwhelming – plain sugar, in most cases. I much prefer toppings with flavourings, or better – you guessed it, chocolate! I was impressed with how vibrant the colours of this chocolate dust were. And I was delighted to be able to make colourful cookies that taste like chocolate, not plain sugar. 🙂
Speaking of sugar, there had to be place for royal icing, which I made with almond flavouring this time, to add something to that plain, sugary sweetness. Even though I much prefer to decorate my cookies with chocolate (for the flavour – I love chocolate, unconditionally), I can’t deny the fact that royal icing gives the most impressive results. It’s much easier to control than chocolate, and its consistency allows much more intricate designs. Though I must say, my royal icing decor is nowhere near some of the beauties we often see online. But – having hundreds of cookies of various kinds to decorate and very limited time – you have to make compromises. Not spending an hour at every cookie was one of them. Again, I did the decor with my DIY piping cones. I swear by them!
I really liked the effect on cookies in photos below. Sprinkling fresh icing or white chocolate with plain granulated white sugar creates the look of ice crystals, sparkly and shiny. It’s probably one of the simplest, most basic toppings you could possibly use. But honestly, I think it looks really cute!
On the opposite side of the spectrum to shiny “ice crystals” – or sugar – we have soft and fluffy ground almonds. I love that effect especially on that Santa boot (or stocking) cookie. It’s a very pretty resemblance of faux fur, if you ask me. And, as a fan of almonds, I absolutely adore the taste of this topping too.
Coming back to royal icing, I made a few cookies with sunken patterns or marble effect – using the “wet in wet” royal icing decor technique. I really like the versatility of this method, and I believe it leaves a lot of space for imagination and creativity. However, on the negative side, using it requires covering cookies with loads of icing. I’m not a fan of doing that, if I’m honest, as that amount of sugar effectively kills the taste of gingerbread cookies. The taste which I happen to love.
I also decorated some cookies with coloured royal icing. There’s no difference between these and those decorated with plain white royal icing, other than the colour. Although in my eyes white icing looks more elegant and I usually end up making very few colourful cookies. Blue snowflakes actually don’t look that bad though!
Here’s another experiment I did with royal icing – tiny little decorations (presents, candy canes, ribbons and holly leaves) that I prepared on baking paper and left to dry. I then transferred them to a closed container and used a few weeks later, as topping decorations. They are fragile, yes, but overall preparing such detailed decorations in advance is a great idea. I don’t think I would have been able to make such little extras on the same day as decorating hundreds of cookies (it’s like a factory line production on those days), so I was really happy with the effect I achieved by making these decorations in advance and using them on my cookies, glued with royal icing.
There can’t be Christmas without gingerbread Christmas trees. It’s a tradition I wouldn’t dare to break! There’s also something soothing and relaxing in building those. Until you get to the top layer, where the stars simply refuse to keep their vertical position and fall over, one by one. Long wooden spoons and deep baking trays work like a charm there. It often looks like a rather complicated thicket of wooden spoons randomly placed across the tray, with some gingerbread tree tops here and there, but there’s always solid logic behind the whole structure. And if it helps keep all stars in place until the icing sets, that’s all that matters! 😀
Another new invention – tangerine cookies with shredded coconut. Inspired by Tesco, made by Alphe. For the first, but definitely not last time. I must try them with oranges next time though. Or lemons, I love lemons!
Last but not least, some super quick pre-Christmas sugar cookie reindeers and strings of lights. I felt bad for my family in this ‘DON’T TOUCH THAT, IT’S FOR CHRISTMAS!’ season, so I baked some quick cookies for them to have (I also needed to test that one sugar cookie recipe). Not the greatest masterpiece of all times, but cute and Christmassy for sure.
Phew, what a baking season it has been! I can’t wait to eat all of those heavenly sweets now. I’m feeling emotional looking at these photos, I didn’t realize how much of cookie decor I did this Christmas season until I gathered all of these photos together. It will be amazing to return to this post in summer and think back to Christmas 2018! And I can’t wait for Christmas 2019, I miss decorating Christmas cookies already. But until then… time to eat all of the above!