How a cookie is decorated is what sets it apart from others.
You could go old school with frosting, sprinkles and candies, or you could make sugar cookies that look like they were iced by a pro.
The key to getting cookies with a smooth, shiny, sugary coat on top is using a piping bag with Royal Icing
. This type of icing is made with just egg whites and powdered sugar, plus whatever kind of coloring or flavoring you'd like to add. It's ideal for the job because it hardens to a candy-like consistency so it won't smudge.
To begin, make a batch of simple cookies, like Season's Best Sugar Cookies
(sans the glaze). Cut them into shapes, bake and let them cool completely.
While they cool, make your icing, but make it with a little less liquid than the recipe calls for. Fill a piping bag with a number 3 size tip with just a bit of icing – you're only going to use a little of it for the first step. Outline your cookie with the stiff icing and let it dry completely.
Next, add coloring and flavoring to your icing, which should thin it out. You want it to be to the point where it spreads a bit when you pipe it out, but not so thin that it runs. If it's still too thick, add a couple drops of water.
When you've got your icing right, put it in a piping bag with a number 2 tip. Fill the area that you've outlined on your cookie. Some bakers refer to this as "flooding." You can also put a piping tip on a small plastic bottle, if you find that the thin icing is difficult to maneuver in a bag.
After you've flooded all your cookies, let them dry overnight. After they've hardened, you can pipe dots, stripes or other designs on them.
This icing is also great for decorating gingerbread men and simply drawing fun designs on your holiday cookies. Have fun with these recipes and techniques to make your holiday cookies stand out among the rest.