Allow me to let you in on a little secret. There are squadrons of helpers behind the scenes making and coloring the icing, filling the bags and bottles, baking the cookies. If you don't have a squadron or two of your own, don't despair.
Prepare your dough and the cookies the day before you want to decorate. Spreading the tasks out over two days make the whole process much more manageable and enjoyable. Freezing dough is the way I roll (literally). If you bake the cookies a day in advance of decorating, tightly wrap the trays with plastic wrap to ensure freshness.
No matter how much time you allow for decorating the cookies, allow more. Rushing the process may result in cookies that don't show off your best artistry.
Think about what supplies and tools you'll need in advance. Have them prepared so you don't have to frantically search for everything at the last minute. You'll save time and energy.
Grease is the mortal enemy of royal icing. Make sure you de-grease your mixing bowl and beater by washing with white vinegar to remove any micro-traces of grease.
Make your first attempts successful by choosing simple designs that don't require more than 3 colors. A well-executed simple design truly is a thing of beauty.
When adding food color to royal icing, start with a pin dot's worth of color to a small amount of icing. Keep adding icing and color in small increments until you get the desired color. You can add color, but you can't take it away.
If your work area is cluttered and disorganized, it WILL constrict and block your creative juices. Clean as you go. You won't regret it.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? So simple, but so true. Practice, practice, practice on parchment paper. After all, do you think Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel without a few other masterpieces under his belt?
Flooded cookies, in my opinion, need a good 8 hours to dry. If you need to speed up the process, put a tray of cookies on the middle rack of a COLD oven and turn on the oven light. It's a humidity-free environment for your cookies.
No matter what the outcome of your cookie decorating efforts, you'll always be everyone's hero. After all, you baked cookies; keep up the good work!
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