Artesão molds create cookies with instant personality and need no embellishment. (but they sure are fun to decorate!)
Sanding sugar (sprinkles) If I had to choose a favorite way to decorate, sugar sprinkles would win the day! They're a lot more versatile than most people realize and can really let your design style sparkle.
Brush the paint of your choice on the baked, cooled cookie. Before the paint dries, generously sprinkle on sanding sugar. When set, gently shake off excess sugar and use a dry brush to clean out crevices if needed. If the paint dried before the sprinkles were added, re-apply enough paint or a little sugar water to moisten the area you want the sprinkles to stick. (Always use brushes dedicated solely to food use.)
Colored balls are probably the simplest (and most kid-friendly) way to decorate cookies. They can be found at most craft/hobby stores such as Michael’s, Jo-Ann’s, and Hobby Lobby as well as many regular grocery stores and online. Press into dough before baking. Note: Although they may be called "Sugar Pearls" don't use a pearlized version as they will melt in the heat of the oven! They should have a mat finish and not an iridescent sheen. Colored balls can also be applied after baking using royal icing as "glue".
Petal, Pearl, Luster, or Color Dust give a shimmery pop or vibrant matte finish to cookies. They come in powdered form and can be brushed on dry for a light sheen (if not a mat finish) or when mixed with clear vanilla or a clear alcohol such as vodka, can be painted on baked cookies. (The alcohol evaporates.) Although they are all ingestible, they range from edible, FDA- approved, to non-toxic depending on the specifics ingredients and the companies that make them.
Painting with egg whites or yolks If you prefer to avoid raw egg whites, use egg white powder or meringue powder instead. (Raw egg whites are unsuitable for children, the elderly, and pregnant women to consume due to salmonella contamination.
Reconstitute egg whites with water to your desired viscosity and add food colors. I don't have a strong preference as to the type used here. Gel, paste, powder or drops all work fine. Powdered egg yolks are used much the same as egg whites, although colors will start with a yellow base.
Paint made with egg white and egg yolk powder leave a sheen/glossy finish. (Note: if painted before baking the paint finish may crack in the oven which can be an interesting effect.) If you plan on painting before baking, regular liquid egg whites or egg yolks are safe to use since they will no longer be raw. (Always use brushes dedicated solely to food use.)
Decorating with Royal Icing can be simple or incredibly intricate. It makes a great "glue" for gingerbread houses and holding candy balls and decorations in place on baked cookies. Using it decoratively is an art form itself. Too much royal icing on molded cookies can obliterate their unique designs, so be selective when decorating. Unless you're very adept with royal icing it's best to use as an accent.
Many royal icing recipes include raw egg whites making it unsuitable for children, the elderly, and pregnant women to ingest. I use powdered egg whites in this Royal Icing Recipe in place of raw egg whites. It can be found in some grocery stores as well as online.
Candy Eyes are an easy way to add whimsy and life to cookies! They come in an assortment of sizes you can purchase online or in most craft/hobby stores. Apply them to cookies before baking or after using royal icing as glue.
My candy eye go-to are small sugar decoration balls/pearls commonly used for embellishing cakes and cupcakes.
Making homemade candy eyes is relatively easy, and a great way to use up that leftover royal icing. Here's a link that shows how.
Coloring The Dough
Option 1- If the whole batch is to be the same color:
Mix the food coloring in when adding the wet ingredients (eggs and vanilla) before adding to dry ingredients (see above). Continue following the rest of the recipe.
Option 2- If the batch is to be made into different colors:
After the dough has been made, divide into desired portions. Knead color of choice into dough portion by hand or mixer until fully incorporated. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours, or freeze for a later date.
Two-Tone Or Multi-Color Cookies
Two toned cookies may require a little patience and practice to achieve clean, defined edges between the different colors.
Why not throw caution to the wind and add the colored dough at whim. Who knows what masterpiece you might create?
Choose any one or a combination of these decoration options, and don’t be afraid to experiment. When it comes to decorating, there are no mistakes. Sometimes the best and most interesting results are born of an "oops!" moment.
And remember, they're just COOKIES! Have fun and enjoy yourself. Better yet invite friends and family to join in and bake some memories together!
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