For Bon Appetit, by Christina Chaey.
For every reason there is to stuff your face with sugar cookies, there's a technique for decorating them. We spent a day with our resident baking pro, senior associate editor Claire Saffitz, who showed us six ways to deck out our simple Ultimate Sugar Cookies with frosting, chocolate, and a magical thing called "luster dust." Follow her lead and pipe, sprinkle, and drizzle your way to a cookies so beautiful even Santa would stop to Instagram them.
1. Powdered Sugar
This is Saffitz's favorite way to finish off a batch of sugar cookies. All you need is a fine-mesh sieve to dust some powdered sugar or cocoa powder over your finished cookies. Fancy 'em up a bit with parchment paper stencils you can use to create patterns with the sugar.
2. Chocolate Drizzle
This one's as elegant as it is simple: Melt down some chocolate and use it to fill a pastry bag or a resealable plastic bag. Snip the end of the bag and practice drawing steady lines on a bit of parchment paper, then get your Jackson Pollock on.
3. Royal Icing
Royal icing is the gold standard in holiday cookie decorating: The mixture of egg whites and powdered sugar hardens as it sets, which makes it the perfect base for even more decorations. Use a pastry bag to make dots or pipe lines on the cookies, then top with a sprinkle of sanding sugar (coarse sugar) for a hit of sheen and crunch.
4. Luster Dust
If you ever painted with watercolors during art class as a kid, you can pull off these dramatic painted cookies made with luster dust, a decorating powder that add color and shine that food coloring can't match (you can find it at N.Y. Cake). Frost your cookies with a layer of royal icing that's been allowed to dry for 24 hours before painting, then use a paintbrush to create these mini works of edible art.
5. Textured Topping
This riff on a classic black-and-white cookie pulls double duty: It not only looks awesome, but the black and white sesame seeds also add great flavor. Not big on sesame seeds? You can achieve the same effect using different colored sugars.
6. Sugar Sparkles
Sprinkle some coarse sugar over unbaked cookies brushed with a beaten egg for a low-maintenance but sparkly effect.
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