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Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Holiday Cookies preview: Carla's and Maggie's

By Bonnie S. Benwick

Are you ready?

Our annual Holiday Cookies issue hits doorsteps tomorrow and arrives online sometime this evening. Print readers get a bonus: The cookie recipes are labeled according to skill level (easy, moderate, involved) and special feature (i.e., no-bake, gluten-free, low-fat), while Web denizens get to see “Top Chef All-Star” Carla Hall demonstrate basic cookie decorating tips in her own kitchen.

Recipe Included

Hall has refocused her Alchemy catering business and is making her adorable tins of tiny cookies, as we’ve reported. She’s keeping those recipes to herself for the time being, but did share her royal icing recipe in this Post-produced video:

Hall uses this Nigella Lawson recipe for sugar cookies and makes sure the cookies stay pale, with no browned edges. Here’s her icing, which yields 1 generous cup or enough for two dozen small cookies. She uses gel food coloring found at kitchen stores and some craft stores and pasteurized egg whites, which are available in pint cartons by Organic Valley and Eggology:

1 1/2 ounces (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons, from 2 large eggs) pasteurized egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 to 3 teaspoons water
Gel food coloring of your choice (may use powdered food coloring; if you use liquid food coloring, increase the amount of confectioners’ sugar to compensate for the additional liquid)

Whisk together the egg whites, extracts and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the water in teaspoon increments to form a smooth, pourable icing. Divide among several small bowls. Place a short bamboo skewer in each bowl; place a drop or two of the food coloring on the end of each skewer or in the icing itself and stir in to achieve the depth of color you want; adjust as needed with more coloring.

Hall uses parchment paper to make small cones for decorating: Start with an 8-by-13-inch (or by 14 1/2-inch, depending on the width of your paper) sheet. Fold in half width-wise to create a sharp crease for tearing; tear the sheet in half. Fold each half, on the diagonal, to form 2 triangles (there will be an extra flap of paper at the end). Wrap each triangle to form a small, tight cone with a closed pointed end; fold over excess paper at the top to neaten and stabilize the cone.

(If you're right-handed, hold the triangular shaped paper in your left hand with the right angle at the bottom left. Line the top of the triangle up with the bottom corner, and wrap the point that is free to form a cone.)

Fill with an icing color; once you twist or fold the top closed, use scissors or a sharp knife to create the size opening you need for decorating.

The cones can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a few days; bring to room temperature before decorating. If the parchment paper loses its stiffness, create new cones and squirt the colored royal icing from old cone to new one.

Fondant-and-marker decorated cookies, using the Maggie Austin Signature Cookies recipe. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Our cookie issue comes a bit late for Hanukkah this year, but we had fun experimenting with the Maggie Austin Signature Cookies recipe from Washington cake artist Maggie Austin. The not-too-sweet sugar recipe rolls out neatly and yields nice shapes. Austin includes directions for using a specific kind of fondant, which is something most home bakers don't mess with, and food-safe markers. It's easy to use and even tastes pretty good (especially infused with a little peppermint oil extract, as it is in her recipe). Some Washington Post staff art directors grabbed the markers and went to town, as you can see:

Drawing on your cookies opens up a world of design possibilities. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Here's a step-by-step photo gallery online. And on Thursday, we'll give lists of our top 5 cookies from the past four years.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

By Bonnie S. Benwick  | December 7, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Chefs, Holiday, Recipes  | Tags:  chefs, holiday, recipes  
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Next: Cooking with David Tanis


This is a great article. That recipe looks good and the pictures of the cookies look so creative. I agree with the pasteurized eggs recommendation. Being using pasteurized shelled eggs for a while now. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: concernedfoodie | December 8, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

This is a great looking recipe. Especially with the pictures, they are making me hungry. The designs are so creative too. Anyways great recommendation with the pasteurized eggs. I am a user as well and this time of the year is a wonderful time to start incorporating them into your diet and recipes. Thanks for the recipe.

Posted by: concernedfoodie | December 8, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

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