Cookie Decorating Technique: Piping

In our house, the holidays don't officially begin until the piping tips come out. We love to put them to good use and create slew of beautifully decorated cookies that rival those fancy cutouts found in stores this time of year. All that's needed are a batch of baked and cooled cutout cookies, royal icing and our seven steps to a beautifully decorated cookie.
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Seven steps to a beautifully decorated cookie:

1. Bake and cool your cookies
Any good cutout recipe works beautifully: we love this sugar cookie recipe, or these molasses spice cutouts but feel free to bake up your favorite cutout cookie recipe.

2. Choose a piping tip
For regular-sized cookies we like a #1 or #2 tip to create thin, controllable lines.

3. Mix up your icing
The look and feel of royal icing is perfect for creating professional-looking results. It takes on a glossy sheen when cool, making for a spectacular end result. While we’re on the topic of icing, be sure to mix yours to the right consistency: to pipe lines, your icing should be thick enough that you need to apply slight pressure to push out of the piping bag, but not so thick that your actually working your hand muscles. Simply add a bit of confectioners sugar or water to handcraft your desired consistency. See our royal icing recipe below.

4. Fill your bag
We love the “cuffing” technique for a mess-free bag. Simply insert your chosen tip (but don’t cut the bag just yet!) into a disposable piping bag (or plastic bag) and roll the top half of the bag down around you hand. Use your free hand to scoop icing into the bag with a spatula, filling it up to 1/3 to 1/2 full (filling it more makes it more difficult to maintain control while piping). Scrape the spatula against the side of the bag to remove all icing then uncuff the bag, push out the air bubbles and twist the top closed directly above the icing.

5. Perfect your grip
The most comfortable way to hold a piping bag is between your thumb and your first two fingers of your dominant hand. Then use your other hand to steady the bag as you pipe.

6. Practice...then pipe
Practice your designs on a piece of parchment paper or directly on your (clean) counter top - then simply scoop back up and use to pipe on your cookies. To pipe, lower the tip to the surface of the cookie and squeeze gently and steadily on the bag. As the icing begins to flow, lift up the tip one inch away from your cookie’s surface so your icing just falls onto the cookie. Continue to apply pressure and guide your icing into your chosen design. If your hand feels shaky, rest your arm on the edge of your work surface to steady while piping.

7. Flourish
Sprinkle sanding sugar in different colors on your freshly piped design (a technique aptly known as “sugaring”) or carefully place decorative gold or silver dragées atop the icing for an simple way to add a bit more embellishment to your cookie.

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Royal icing 2 cups confectioners sugar 1 egg white 1 teaspoon lemon juice 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 Tablespoons water

Place sugar, egg white, lemon juice and water in the bowl of a stand mixer and use the paddle attachment on low speed to mix together just until combined. Add more water for a thinner consistency (to use with flooding) or keep thicker to use for outlining and detail work.

To store icing when you're not using, wet a paper towel and lay it over the bowl to avoid drying out the icing.

Related: Sweets & Spices: 15 Cookie Recipes for the Holidays

(Images: Rebekah Peppler)

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