Fine Finishing Touches

For holiday cookies that look extra-festive, try one of these easy dress-ups.
Mocha Cutouts These chocolate-covered
cutouts will grab any
cookie-lover's attention.

The techniques are simple to master and require only a modest amount of time. Kids can help with many of these trims.

Chocolate Dip Melt 3 ounces of semisweet or milk chocolate or white baking bar and 1 teaspoon shortening in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring often to avoid scorching. Dip a cookie into the mixture. Remove the excess chocolate by pulling the cookie across the edge of the pan.

Chocolate Drizzle Place cookies on a wire rack over waxed paper. Dip a fork or knife into melted chocolate and let the first clumpy drip land back in the pan. Then drizzle the chocolate over the edge of the pan onto the cookies. Let the cookies stand until the chocolate is set.

Frosting Tips:

  • Let the cookies cool completely on wire racks before frosting. Allow about 15 minutes.
  • For easy cleanup, use disposable decorating bags.
  • You don't need many decorating tips. Start with a writing tip, a medium star tip, and a small leaf or rose tip.
  • You can substitute a heavy, self-sealing plastic bag for a decorating bag to pipe simple designs. Spoon the icing into the bag and snip off one corner. A small hole will produce a fine line or tiny dollop, a larger hole a wider line or larger dollop.
  • For the truest frosting colors, use a recipe made with shortening rather than butter.
  • Use either liquid or paste food coloring; paste give more intense color and doesn't thin the frosting.
  • Make sure the consistency of your frosting is thick enough to hold the piping shape but still thin enough to squeeze easily from the bag.
  • Squeeze frosting from the end of the decorating bag, and use steady pressure to keep the frosting flowing evenly.
  • Let frosted cookies stand on a rack until the frosting is firm. Store in a single layer in a cool, dry place.
  • It's better to freeze and thaw cookies before frosting, but if you must freeze decorated cookies, be sure the frosting is dry to prevent colors from bleeding when the cookies are thawed.

A Touch of Paint Let loose the artist in you. For Meringue Powder Icing, beat together 2 tablespoons meringue powder and 1/4 cup water until combined. Beat in 2-3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar. Spread over cooled sugar cookie or gingerbread cutouts. When the icing is set, paint designs using a small brush and undiluted liquid food coloring or slightly thinned paste food coloring.

Candyland Trims Nothing's easier -- or sweeter -- than a quick candy trim. Most candies melt if placed on cookies before baking, so it's best to arrange candy pieces on frosted cookies. Try sliced gumdrops and red cinnamon candy to make bells or holly and berries, or crushed peppermint for a cool and colorful finish.

Two-Color Glaze Spoon one color of icing evenly over a cookie cutout. While the first color is still wet, apply dots or lines of a second color of icing. Use a toothpick to pull through the dots or lines, making a design or giving a marbled look.