Then finally I decided it was time to stop looking and start doing. I started small, with a really simple design, and have been working my way up from there...each design I choose teaches me a new technique.
Rolling and Baking
Before you can decorate a cookie, you need to learn how to actually make the cookie. I used this simple skeleton cookie design from Disney's Family Fun website for my very first set of cookies. Since I don't like gingerbread, I found Lila Loa's chocolate roll-out cookie recipe that is absolutely divine...
Piping and Flooding
Once you've got the cookie baking thing down, the next step is piping and flooding. It all seems very simple - you pipe the outline of the cookie, and then you "color it in" by flooding the inside with icing. It's harder than it looks... or at least it was for me.
For my next set of cookies, I decided to make smiley faces like these:
I decided to use a circle instead of a heart. Graduating from the store-bought icing, I mixed up some of Sweet Sugar Belle's royal icing. Now, you are supposed to make two different consistencies of icing -- piping icing and flood icing. Sugar Belle has a great tutorial on that here. But, I'm lazy, so I decided that I would do the piping and the flooding with the same consistency.
To practice, I traced my cookie cutter several times onto a sheet of white paper, and then I put my Pampered Chef cutting mat over the top of it (it's clear so I could see through to the shapes I drew.) You could also just use waxed or parchment paper. Still using my icing bottle because I thought it would be easier to control than a bag, I experimented with different consistencies to see which one would be thick enough to pipe a circle, but thin enough to flood fill the inside without killing my hand. I decided on 5-second icing, meaning if you drag your knife through the icing, it all goes smooth again in 5 seconds.
I spent the next week drawing circle after circle and realized that it's a lot harder than it looks. But by the time I was ready to make the cookies, I had it pretty much down, so the piping and flooding of the circle went okay. The faces, not so much. The opening on my icing bottle was too big, so I was not able to get the nice thin lines that Ali Bee has. And I had to thin the icing so that it would come out of the bottle easier, and that made it spread. So, in the end, I was only able to do the most basic smiley face.
I let the cookies sit out overnight as instructed, to make sure they were completely dry. Unfortunately, the cookies became hard, and with the royal icing drying hard like it does, it made for a crunchy cookie, which is not what I was looking for. Another lesson learned!
Stay tuned for more cookie decorating adventures here in the near future. I'm learning something new every day!