In an episode of Family Ties, Mallory predicts that heaven is like an enormous mall which never closes. I remember thinking that was a frightening concept (long before it was possible to lose an eye over the latest Xbox). As a cookie lover, I envision heaven as one big bakery with a vast variety of sprinkles and cookie cutters.
This time of year, I always set aside time out to make cutout cookies. I love decorating them with royal icing, but know it's possible to create exquisite cookies without ever pulling out a piping bag. All it requires is some cutters, sprinkles and your untapped creative juices. The first step is to cut a basic shape from your cookie dough. Here I used a snowflake. Then think about ways to embellish the basic pattern. Reach for your smallest cutters, but also other objects (thinking outside the box).
I've long admired the intricately decorated snowflake cookies that are displayed in high-end home goods catalogs. This year, I set out to recreate them. Using a tiny star cookie cutter, I marked the center of each cookie. Then I pressed piping tips around the star shape. The rounded tips produce a delicate circular pattern. You can also make circles using the tip of a straw. Look around your house and find a way to re-purpose other objects. Create patterns with the tongs of a fork. Use the tip of a knife.
Once you have cut patterns into the cookie dough, use sprinkles to add texture and color. I pressed shimmery dragees into my snowflake cookies to catch the light.
A few years ago, I bought a patterned rolling pin at a super sale. The design reminded me of Dr. Seuss's books. I'm pretty sure it's meant for imprinting fondant, but I decided to test it out on cookie dough. I coated it with a generous layer of flour, dusted it off a touch and then pressed in over some dough I had rolled out. It left a wonderful whimsical pattern. I used cutters to shape cookies out of the patterned canvass. The lesson? If you have any tools for decorating fondant, don't overlook them!