The Icing on the Cookie
Giving presents, gathering our friends, cooking delicious food – I love these holiday activities, and I would be quite content on December 26 if this list of favorite things had begun and ended with just these three. Throw in a last minute trip to New York in the Christmas season, though, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world. This is the icing on my cake. I’ve never been anywhere that does Christmas better.
Paris promises and delivers food and elegance in abundance. London remains a steady force with its Victorian traditions and Christmas puddings. Playful Reykjavik acts as host to a series of impish Christmas elves. Munich delivers old-world gemütlich and glühwein in its Marienplatz Christkindlmarkt. But vibrant New York at Christmas becomes a larger, happier, noisier version of its everyday self, pulsing with a gloriously chaotic exuberance found nowhere else in the world. Go, and you won’t believe the crowds or the gridlock, but you won’t forget the display and the raw energy any time soon either.
Whether you don your Santa suit and take part in Santa Con, or gather around a group of acrobat-comic showmen on the walking mall in Central Park to be entertained, or listen to carols being sung by a small choir of young women in Columbus Circle, the pop-up fun nature of Christmastime New York will remind you that you are alive, and that many other fine people of the world are alive and making their way through the days right along with you.
Here are some photographic highlights from this weekend’s trip. Stay with the photos until the end and you will be rewarded with a recipe for gingerbread cookie glaze that will help you put the finishing touches on your gifts of food.
Cookie Glaze for Gingerbread Boys and Girls (or any sugar cookie)
This cookie glaze is written in pencil in one of my holiday cooking notebooks. It came from somewhere other than me, probably the King Arthur collection (or similar) because I am neither a natural or inclined decorator of any cookie or cake. I just bake and hope the things I make look good by virtue of their own delicious selves.
But Christmas gingerbread (wo)men need a little bit of embellishment. When I worked at Quebrada Bakery in Arlington, my boss, Mark, traced simple clothing outlines on the cookies, and his cookies always looked sweet and whimsical. Possessing unsteady and unsure hand, mine didn’t. So at home I slap on a white (or green or red) glaze and call it a day.
This, then, is the perfect glaze for me. I can make it up quickly, use it snowy white or add a few drops of food coloring gel if I like for rich color, and spackle it onto a cut-out cookie with an icing spatula for an all-over coating that helps take a plain cookie cutter cookie to something a little nicer than plain.
If I feel like adding a few dots to give the illusion of buttons down the front of a shirt, or a barely parabola line to indicate a skirt hem, or a few corkscrew twists of hair, I can let the base coat dry completely before making a second batch of white icing base, coloring it, then piping it through a narrow icing tip to add the most basic of decorations.
Iced, your cookies will look fabulous whether you are a decorating pro or an all-thumbs bungler like me.
- 2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon milk
- Food coloring (optional)