So here’s something fun. It’s Betty and Pearl. They’re cookies. And they like to have a good time. I made a little video to contribute to GoodCook’s 12 Days of Ugly Sweater Cookies. They sent us a box full of baking tools. We got a little carried away.
I had so much fun making this video. And I’m also super-excited that it marks the debut of the Umami Girl theme song (!!), created by our friends at Glass Bottom Studios. More to come about the new song — and other big news for Umami Girl — in a separate post.
Here’s a delicious and pretty foolproof chocolate sugar cookie recipe. It’s the stuff Betty and Pearl are made of. Literally. Here’s where to get an ugly sweater cookie cutter and stamp.
Here’s the icing you’ll use to decorate these ladies.
And here’s a little tutorial from a real live person (oh, hi) on how to decorate cookies using the line and flood technique, without an advanced degree.
How to Decorate Cookies with the Line and Flood Icing Technique
So. There’s one thing you need to know to get started: Imperfection is your friend.
Betty and Pearl are kind of a disaster. When I was making Betty’s tree trunk, I’d been lazy about closing the sandwich bag I was using as a makeshift pastry bag, and a big blob of brown icing landed on her half-dry shoulder. I wiped it up. You can totally tell.
And Pearl? What even is that pattern up top there? It’s PERSONALITY, that’s what it is.
It’s not that I recommend a borderline unjustifiably lazy approach, okay? It’s just…life.
How to Line a Cookie for Decorating
Make a batch of this icing. You’ll use some of it at full consistency for lining, and you’ll thin some it a little for flooding. To line with tinted icing, place a few heaping spoonfuls into a small bowl and stir in some gel color little by little until you reach the color you want. Snip off the very end of a piping bag and insert a fine tip. I like having quite a few fine tips on hand so I can make multiple lining colors at once without having to think too hard about logistics. I HATE thinking hard about logistics.
Spoon the tinted icing into the pastry bag and twist the top un-lazily to close. Squeeze icing down into tip to remove any air bubbles.
Now, just go for it. Leaving a little border of cookie around the outside, use the piping bag to draw as smooth a line as possible around your cookie. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Err on the side of moving quickly when in doubt, because somehow this magically makes things smoother. Just make sure to connect the two ends of your line so there’s no place for the flood icing to escape. You can also line inside areas of the cookie where you don’t want icing to flood. (Maybe you’re lining your cookie in light blue but want to make a snowman inside. You could use white liner to draw the snowman’s outline before flooding the background.) Let this dry for a few minutes before continuing.
How to Flood a Cookie with Icing
Once the lines have dried enough to be stable, spoon a few more scoops of icing into a small bowl and thin with a teaspoon of water. Consistency should be just thin enough to spread out slowly and with a little nudging from a toothpick here and there. Tint thinned icing as you like. For flooding, I like to put icing into a nice, stable plastic squeeze bottle rather than messing with piping bags. Squeeze icing onto surface of cookie, using a toothpick to fill in any small gaps and even out icing while it’s wet.
If you want to swirl multiple colors together into a pattern that looks like a single layer, add additional colors while flooded icing is wet, then use a toothpick to create patterns. If you want decorations to stay separate and look layered, wait until flooded icing dries completely, then use the thicker icing to decorate on top.
That’s it. Have fun. Talk to you soon.
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
This dough is very easy to work with once it's chilled, and I say that as someone who has little skill or patience for this kind of thing. Chocolate sugar cookies are a welcome variation on a terrific theme, and these are excellent ones.
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup very good quality natural cocoa powder, such as Vahlrona
- 1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat together the sugar, butter, baking powder, vanilla and salt until lightened and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down bowl as necessary. Beat in egg until well combined.
Into a medium bowl, sift together the cocoas and flour. Beat into wet ingredients all at once, just until well combined. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. (Dough will keep in fridge for 24 hours if you want to prepare it the day before.)
Preheat oven to 375°F with two racks close to the center. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Divide dough into two discs. Sprinkle with cocoa. Roll out each disc until dough is 1/8" thick and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Transfer cookies to baking sheets, leaving space between cookies.
Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, until edges begin to firm. Cool on pan for a couple of minutes and then completely on a rack before decorating.
Adapted from King Arthur.