Beautifully decorated cookies are a high-point of the holiday season for me. This year, I wanted to do a post on tips and strategies for creating gift-worthy sugar cookies at home, and I thought to myself, who better to turn to than the experts at Miette? Lucky for me (and you), Miette holds monthly classes on decorating sugar cookies. In class, you'll learn about necessary equipment, how to make and color royal icing like a pro, how to make parchment icing cones, and techniques for flooding and embellishing cookies. Owner Meg Ray and instructor Jeff Gosche were kind enough to let me sit in on the most recent cookie decorating class, snap some photos, and learn how the Miette elves create their stunning holiday cookies. Today, I'll share those tips with you.
Jeff was our trusty instructor and the man behind the sugar cookie magic at Miette. Jeff doesn't have any formal training or culinary instruction, but he's always been passionate about baking and decorating. He started helping Miette with cookie production solely around the holiday season and then about one year ago, Jeff was asked to stick around more frequently as a regular staple. After spending the afternoon with him, I can see why.
Jeff began class with a discussion on planning out your project and equipment. In terms of planning, it's important to be aware of baking times, cooling times, and setting times for frosting. Jeff recommends taking the entire project into account when thinking about how much time it'll take from Point A to Point B, especially if you'll be gifting or delivering the cookies. The last thing you want to do is rush the process! As far as equipment, a stand mixer, rolling pin, Silpat mat, and cooling racks are important for actually baking the cookies. For decorating, small metal bowls are handy for mixing up numerous different colors of frosting, good quality food coloring, parchment triangles to make your piping cones, and a spoon-spatula to spoon your icing into the bag. If you'd rather not deal with raw egg whites in your royal icing, Jeff recommended meringue powder as an easy and just-as-good substitute.
After we talked equipment, we set about making our own royal icing. Jeff did a demo using the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, turning it up to high (an 8 on a Kitchen Aid) and allowing it to mix for 3-4 minutes. The important thing to know here is that the icing should be quite thick--thicker than you think it should be on an actual cookie. You'll spend time later thinning it after you add the color, not now.