After many years of working in culinary retail, I observed some holiday trends that I will share so you aren’t caught short. Many last minute shopping frustrations involve baking batches of holiday cookies.
The first thing to disappear from retail shelves is usually meringue powder.
Why? Well, cookie bakers know why: royal icing which is generally made with meringue powder as opposed to beaten egg whites. Buy yours now before it becomes hard to find; this usually happens when magazines and newspapers start printing holiday cookie recipes.
Speaking of Royal Icing, there are many recipe sources so simply do an internet search and follow directions.
Royal Icing Tips for cookies:
– The proper consistency will allow you to easily spread it easily over the cookie. If it is too runny, it will spread beyond where you place it. To thicken it up, add more powdered sugar. If too thick, add water. In both cases, add a little at a time, like a tablespoon or so.
– To keep it from hardening, cover the icing with plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container.
– If you are going to use decorations like Dragees or sugar sprinkles, add them before the icing hardens so they will stay where you want them.
– If you will be using additional icing patterns or using food doodlers, let the icing harden first. This gives you a nice canvas from which to work.
– Adding glycerin to the icing will provide a nice sheen on cookies once the royal icing sets.
The next item to disappear from retail shelves are the holiday specific cookie cutters, starting with the gingerbread boy and girl shapes. If you want larger gingerbread cookies use copper cookie cutters, otherwise use the tin versions.
After gingerbread boy and girl, the other traditional cookie cutter shapes (candy cane, wreath, Christmas tree) will disappear. The best way to avoid this is to buy a set of various shapes. If you lose one later on, you can always buy an individual replacement.
If you aren’t into making your own icing, buy bottled icing. Just snip the tip off and follow the directions to get the correct consistency. Use larger bottles instead of piped royal icing and the thinner bottles for detail work. I used both with cookies to good success in holiday’s past.
As for your cookie decorating tool, you can use the traditional bag or use one of the new solutions. I like the Kuhn Rikon decorating set which uses squeeze bottles to push the icing out through the decorating tip. The reason I like it so much is that young and old can use the little bottles to ice cookies and cupcakes. When you stop squeezing, the icing stops, plus the caps are couplers allowing you to change tips easily. Multiple bottles provide an efficient way to ice using different colors. The bonus offset spatula allows for easy icing distribution.
The bottles clean up easily, though I wouldn’t put them in the dishwasher. Note: the bottles may take some time to dry fully, particularly the accordion ones.