This year, I candied cranberries for Thanksgiving to add a little pop of color to the pumpkin pie. As I was placing them on the pie, I had the urge to pair them with holly leaf-shaped pie cutouts. I had to remind myself that it was Thanksgiving, not Christmas, and I tucked the idea away for another day.
My mom and I went Christmas shopping the other day and I was wandering around Williams-Sonoma, wondering if it would be unrealistic to stuff an entire suitcase full of things to bring back to Tokyo, when a pretty display of copper cookie cutters caught my eye. And there it was: a big, shiny, copper holly leaf. Mine!
Now, what to make? I considered shortbread, but my dad really loves sugar cookies. I thought it would be fun to frost the leaves green and top them with the glittery candied cranberries. They’re really fun sugar cookies, but there’s also an added bonus: the candied cranberries are DELICIOUS on the the sugar cookie! They’re so good that my mom requested I put a bowl of the leftover cranberries out with the sugar cookies so people could pair them with a cookie even if it wasn’t a holly shape (I also made snowmen, Christmas trees, poinsettias, etc).
How to make holly sugar cookies with candied cranberries:
I’m not actually going to include a recipe for any of these items, since none of them are original. But I’ll direct you to the recipes in other places:
The sugar cookie recipe is from Alton Brown. I added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla per recipe.
I used a fake royal icing recipe because I didn’t have meringue powder. I also used vanilla extract. I added a pinch of superfine salt because it was WAY too sweet for me once it was thick enough to ice with a tip. In fact, I probably should have made it thicker but I couldn’t handle the sweetness.
The candied cranberries came from Sally’s Baking Addiction’s pumpkin pie recipe. I used our vanilla bean sugar recipe to dust the berries at the end.
Start your cranberries the day before you plan on using them. I actually started the cranberries and baked the cookies one day, then finished the berries and decorated the cookies the next day.
Decorating the cookies: I made frosting in two shades of green. I made a dam with the the darker color on the leaf and let it dry. Then I flooded the cookie with the same color and piped on the lighter frosting to make the veins of the leaves. I actually waited until the frosting dried to add the cranberries, and I “glued” them on with more green frosting.
A few things I learned:
I tried making the leaf lighter and the veins darker green, but I didn’t like the results as much.
I also waited until the base color dried then piped on the veins, but I didn’t like that look very much either. (You can see that one of the cookies on the bottom left of the vertical images is made that way. You may like it more than I did!)
I tried a #3 piping tip, but I thought it leaked too much (although this won’t be a problem if you make your frosting thicker than mine). I ended up just cutting the very tiniest tip off the piping bag itself and that worked better.
You could “glue” the cranberries to the cookie when you first pipe the frosting, but I’m too clumsy for that. I dropped a cranberry on a wet cookie and messed up the frosting, so I decided to just wait and add them once the frosting had hardened!