I have a love/hate relationship with baking. Probably a little more hate than anyone with a baking blog should have. I’m someone who likes cutting corners in the kitchen, and baking can be such a painstaking process. I love sweets, so it’s all worth it in the end, but I’ll admit it: sometimes I just don’t feel like putting in the effort.
These cookies, however, are the perfect cure for the this-isn’t-fun-anymore baking blues.
Here’s how it works: cut and bake a few big circular cookies along with an assortment of mini shapes; decorate with royal icing; arrange the mini pieces on the cookie ‘backgrounds’ in any way your heart desires to create a festive “cookiescape”.
These are great as Halloween party favors, or as a one-of-a-kind Halloween activity for kids of all ages. Bigger kids can help with the rolling, cutting, baking and decorating, while the younger ones will have fun creating scenes with already-decorated cookie pieces. And don’t worry if the kids never actually get around to ‘gluing’ the pieces in place; creating and recreating is the best part!
To make my mini cookies, I used a mini cutter set and a Halloween Linzer cookie set, both from Wilton (check Michael’s or Amazon); you definitely don’t need both, but I was in a cookie-cutting frenzy and wanted to try out every shape on hand.
You can use any royal icing recipe you prefer (they’re all similar) but I linked to one below, along with a tutorial on all things royal icing. One of these days I’m going to do a tutorial of my own, but this one is excellent.
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Recipe from Bake at 350
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder, preferably dark
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until the dough comes together; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Lightly dust your rolling surface and rolling pin with cocoa powder, or a mixture of cocoa and flour (I like to roll my dough out onto my Silpat mats so I can simply lift away the excess dough after cutting). Roll out the dough to the desired thickness; I recommend a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut the cookies using your cutters.
Freeze cut cookies for five minutes.
Transfer to the oven and bake for eight minutes. Let cool completely before decorating.
Meanwhile, make your royal icing and tint as desired.
Once cookies have cooled, use your icing to decorate. For a fantastic tutorial on making/tinting/decorating with royal icing see Sweetopia’s Cookie Decorating Tutorial.
When icing has set completely, create your cookiescapes any way you’d like. This is the fun part so enjoy it! Get creative with sprinkles, sugars or any other decor. When you’re happy with your layout, simply squirt a small blob of royal icing onto the back of each mini cookie and glue it in place. Let dry completely.