Food & Drink

How to decorate holiday cookies like a pro

Want to decorate the perfect Santa Claus cookie? This professional artist shows you how

Professional cookie artist Elizabeth Adams, aka Arty McGoo, demonstrates how to decorate a Santa Claus cookie, just in time for your holiday baking. Learn the tips and tricks of a dessert expert.
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Professional cookie artist Elizabeth Adams, aka Arty McGoo, demonstrates how to decorate a Santa Claus cookie, just in time for your holiday baking. Learn the tips and tricks of a dessert expert.

Life is pretty sweet for professional cookie artist Elizabeth Adams.

So it’s only natural that one of her favorite holiday traditions involves dessert.

“We’ll decorate (cookies) as a family, and then go out caroling in the neighborhood,” said the Paso Robles resident, better known as her online alter-ego, Arty McGoo. “It’s just a way to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to the people we live next door to.”

Adams, who teaches cookie-decorating workshops in person and offers video cookie courses for subscribers to her McGoo U site, recently shared some sweet tips for crafting Instagram-ready cookies.

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Cookie artist Arty McGoo, aka Elizabeth Adams, demonstrates some cookie decorating tips, just in time for holiday baking. Photo by Joe Johnston 11-21-18 Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Of course, the perfect holiday dessert starts with a great cookie. Adams used rich chocolate cookies to demonstrate her decorating techniques, but plain ol’ sugar cookies work great too.

To ensure cookies are the same thickness — which means they’ll take the same time to bake — Adams recommends placing quarter-inch-wide wooden dowels on either side of your dough to serve as a guide as you roll it out. Use wax paper to prevent the dough from sticking to your counter top.

Placing cookies on a silicone baking mat or parchment paper, instead of placing them directly on your cookie sheet, will help prevent burned bottoms, Adams said.

To decorate your cookies, simply whip up a batch of royal icing. (You’ll need powdered sugar, meringue powder and water, plus food color for those cheerful holiday hues.)

Add water a little bit a time until you’ve reached the right consistency. Ideally, you should be able to scrape a butter knife through your icing only to have it blend back together in 12 to 15 seconds, Adams said. (Did you add too much water? Stiffen up that icing with more powdered sugar.)

Then scoop the icing into a tip-less plastic piping bag, and let your imagination run wild.

Make a mistake? Don’t worry, Adams says.

Sanding sugar, also known as pearl sugar, “hides a world of sins,” the cookie artist said, as do sprinkles and icing flowers.

“Part of being a cookie decorator is learning how to hide your mistakes,” she said with a chuckle.

Want more tips for amazing cookies? Visit www.artymcgoo.com.

Professional cookie artist Elizabeth Adams, aka Arty McGoo, demonstrates how to decorate a red-nosed reindeer cookie, just in time for your holiday baking. Learn the tips and tricks of a dessert expert.

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