Spruce up your holiday cookies by sprinkling them with bold geometric patterns. No one will suspect that they get their artistic designs from a potato masher, a spatula, or some other kitchen utensil. Roll out and cut sugar-cookie or gingerbread dough to desired shape. Use any utensil with a cutout pattern. Dust with flour, place on top of dough, and sprinkle colored sanding sugar over the surface. Carefully lift away utensil. Or press dough with a lightly floured meat tenderizer; sprinkle indentations with sugar. Brush off excess.
Basic Gingerbread Cookies
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses
When making very large cookies, use two spatulas to transfer cutout dough to baking sheets, or roll dough directly onto the baking sheet. Press cutter into the dough, and remove the excess before taking away the cutter.
1. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Add flour mixture; combine on low speed. Divide dough in thirds, and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour.
3. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with Silpats (a French nonstick baking mat). Set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough 1/8-inch thick. Cut into gingerbread people shapes. Transfer to prepared baking sheets.
4. Cut out desired decorations and place on cookies. Press currants into dough to create eyes and buttons. To create hair, roll a piece of dough into a ball and pass through a clean garlic press. Attach hair to heads. Bake until crisp, but not darkened for about 20 minutes. Let cookies cool on wire racks.
5. Decorate with royal icing.
Basic Sugar Cookies Recipe
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Assorted candies, sprinkles, or colored sugars, for decorating (optional)
Related: Savor the Moments: Holiday Brunch Recipes to Enjoy With Your Family & Friends
Use flour on utensils to keep dough from sticking: Dip the cookie cutters, and dust the spatula before transferring uncooked dough to a sheet. Rolling dough between two sheets of floured parchment will keep it from sticking to the rolling pin.
1. In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat until combined. Divide dough in half; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; freeze until firm, at least 20 minutes, or place in a resealable plastic bag, and freeze up to 3 months (thaw in refrigerator overnight).
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment. Remove one dough disk; let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Roll out 1/8 inch thick between two sheets of floured parchment, dusting dough with flour as needed. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Using a spatula, transfer to prepared baking sheets. (If dough gets soft, chill 10 minutes.) Reroll scraps; cut shapes. Repeat with remaining dough.
3. Bake, rotating halfway through, until edges are golden, 10 to 18 minutes (depending on size). Cool completely on wire racks. To ice cookies, spread with the back of a spoon. Let the icing harden, about 20 minutes. Decorate as desired.
More from Martha Stewart:
Quick, One-Pot Meal Ideas To Feed the Whole Family
20 Classic Comfort Food Recipes from Martha Stewart
36 Dinners You Can Make in Just 15 Minutes!
42 Slow-Cooker Recipes Worth the Wait
Learn to make another festive, crowd-pleasing cookie -- and how to tell when butter has reached the perfect room temperature.