Highland Christmas Cookies

Highland Christmas Cookies

The idea for this project took seed while I was visiting my friend Lori in Louisiana.  We found a set of barnyard animal cookie cutters on my last day in Baton Rouge, and I’ve had gingerbread highland cows on the brain ever since! The belted-kilt men are made from a small gingerbread woman cutter I found at the island thrift store soon after I got home.

Considering that I’ve never attempted cookie decorating before (and that I was given a C in Grade 8 art if I promised never to take another class with the teacher ever again), I’m over the moon with how they turned out.

The cows make me coo whenever I walk by them on the kitchen table…I’ve even been caught petting one by My Englishman…but you probably don’t need to know that.

sheep-outline

I made a mix of gingerbread and buttery sugar cookies and decorated them with royal icing.

Aside from the cutters, you’ll also need some way to dispense the icing.  Pastry bags and decorating tips are the obvious option, but they can be hard to control for newbies like me.

I decided on squeeze bottles – they’re easier to work with, and I just happened to have a couple hanging around.  If you don’t have any squeeze bottles, but are going to buy some for this project, I recommend specialized cake-decorating ones, as the tips are smaller than the ketchup/mustard ones in my catering cupboard.

Of course, you can also use ziploc bags and just snip off the corner.  This is a great option if you just want to have some fun and keep the costs down, but they can be hard to control, especially when you’re trying to draw a straight line.

kilted-men

After your cookies are baked and cooled, the first step is to outline the shape with royal icing.  While the outline is still wet, you “pool” the interior with more icing.  Fill about 75% of the shape in with icing, then use a toothpick to spread the wet icing to cover the surface completely.

Allow the base layer to dry completely before adding the details.

cows-in-process

Here’s an opportunity to learn from my mistakes.  I should have done a base layer of brown on my cows before adding the black hooves, white horns/udders and pink noses/ears/teats (giggle).

I ended up fiddling with a toothpick to spread the brown icing around the details I had already added, and my efforts weren’t perfect, especially around the horns and ears.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I used a box of regular food colouring from the grocery store, as well as a bottle of Super Black, which is the only way to get true black.  You can try mixing all of the colours together to get black, but it will never even get close.

Similarly, getting brown from a mix of colours is almost impossible.  I did what the internet told me: I mixed red and yellow to get a deep orange, then added a couple of drops of green.  The result was a muddy green that I eventually made into black.

My final brown is actually chocolate royal icing, made with cocoa. When the base coat was dry, I squeezed on the first layer of shag and allowed it to dry before adding a few more strands for depth.

sheep-green

The sheep are the easiest of the three shapes to make.  Two squeeze bottles and one batch of icing is all you need.  Divide the icing in half, mix super black into one half, and go crazy!

belted-plaid

The gingerbread kilties proved to be a bit trickier. As you can see from my cute, but imperfect attempts, squeeze bottles with tiny decorator tips are what’s needed here.  Either that, or a larger cookie cutter so that the stripes don’t look so out of proportion.

More colours require more squeeze bottles, and a strategic approach.  Start with the lighter colours, like white and yellow, then add the darker food colouring when you’re ready for a new colour.

Highland Coo Cookies

I used this recipe for the gingerbread, and this one for the sugar cookies.  Both are delicious, and I’ve bookmarked them on my browser for next year.  I cut both recipes in half and rolled the dough out to a thickness of 1/4″.  I got a total of about 4 dozen cookies. Tip:  flour the cutters so that the feet don’t stick.

I used Martha’s royal icing recipe, with real egg whites and NO water.  Meringue powder is not available on my tiny island, but if you have any fear of salmonella, or are making these for young children, pregnant women, or anyone with a compromised immune system, raw eggs are not an option.  Meringue powder is available in specialty baking stores or online.

The chocolate royal icing below is adapted from this one, which uses meringue powder.

(Click on the link below for a printable version of the recipe.)

Chocolate Royal Icing

:Brown icing, perfect for highland cow gingerbread cookies.  Made with raw egg whites.

Yield:  About 4 cups

  • Icing Sugar – 3 Cups
  • Cocoa – ⅓ Cup
  • Egg Whites – 2 large
  • Vanilla – 1 tsp

Using a stand or hand-held mixer with a whip attachment, mix together the icing sugar and cocoa on low speed.  Add the egg whites and vanilla, mix on low until combined.  Increase to high speed and whip for 3 to 5 minutes, until stiff like meringue.

Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days or freeze indefinitely.

Notes:

  • For the highland cows, divide the finished icing in half. Thin one portion with water, one teaspoon at a time, until it spreads easily enough to ice the base layer.  Use the stiffer half to pipe on the shag.

highland-christmas-cookies

I am a professional chef, a food writer and an unabashed fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.

33 Comments

  1. Becky

    Those are adorable! They take a lot of work….

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Thank you, Becky! You’re right, it was a long day in the kitchen, but it was a ton of fun and very rewarding!

      Reply

  2. Lee Ann Monat

    I LOVE them all!!!

    Reply

  3. Lora Hansen

    Adorable! The little cows are precious! I got an A in Art, and I don’t think I could have done better! These are too cute for words.

    Reply

  4. Taking On Magazines

    I’d be petting your cows too. They’re adorable! The sheep are too. And the little kilted men. Heck, they all are.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Thank you, Christiane. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

      Reply

  5. Patricia Eichhorn

    Love these. Flip over part of the cutout dough before baking to have cows and sheep looking in different directions.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I didn’t even think about that, Patricia! Great idea.

      Reply

  6. meesh1957

    I love the cookies, great job!

    Reply

  7. littlewhiteapron

    Those are super cute! I love them all! Great job.

    Reply

  8. Lynn Bischoff

    those are so cute. Great decorating.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Thank you, Lynn! I had a ton of fun with them.

      Reply

  9. Stacy

    So BEAUTIFUL!!! It must be so hard to eat such works of art…if it’s too difficult for you, just send them my way! :D

    Reply

    • Theresa

      After the pictures are taken, Stacy, it’s every cookie for themselves! I kept my favourite cow aside until the rest were gone, but eventually, she too succumbed. LOL

      Reply

  10. Carolin

    Those are just great, I think I have to get yet a few more cookie cutters , especially a gingerbread woman, err, kilted scotsman… Great!!!

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Nothing wrong with a few extra cookie cutters! They hardly take up any space at all… ;)

      Reply

  11. Jilly Rush (@sireesanwar)

    Those are totally adorable! I love them!

    Reply

  12. Nicole

    So cute!!!!

    Reply

  13. Jeanne

    Just awesome Theresa! Love Love Love the Cows…great job!

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Thank you, Jeanne! It’s always great to see your smiling face. :)

      Reply

  14. Rev. Samantha Gray

    Love it! I’m the Chaplain for Clan Leslie Society International, and I recommended your page to some of the creative souls in CLSI. I’ll definitely be doing these. Thank you so much for sharing this excellent idea! I think they would also be a great part of a dessert tray for the Robbie Burns Nicht celebrations. Tapadh Leat!

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Thanks for the recommendation, Samantha! I hope you have as much fun making these as I did.

      Reply

  15. musiance

    Reblogged this on Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.

    Reply

    • Theresa

      Thank you for the reblog, musiance!

      Reply

      • musiance

        You’re welcome! Anytime :) x

        Reply

  16. Tanya

    Too cute

    Reply

  17. Anne

    These are so cute and I love finding new uses for old cookie cutters. Love it!

    Reply

  18. Leigh

    The cows are brilliant, Theresa! I too think highland cattle are the cutest thing. And ironically, while you had a middle school art teacher tell you harshly, but honestly about your artistic talents, I had one who was clearly delusional! EVERYONE knows I can’t even draw stick figures, and she insisted I had “true talent somewhere”. I hate to think where that “somewhere” is.

    One question: why mix the gingerbread cookie dough with butter cookie dough? Did you already answer that, and I’m just being dense, or is it for obvious reasons like colors?

    Reply

    • Theresa

      I made 2 types of cookie dough, because I wanted 2 types of cookies, Leigh. Some gingerbread and some sugar.

      As for my artistic prowess, I’d like to think that that teacher missed recognizing my talent within. Tooting my own horn for a minute here, I have learned that I can make food look beautiful, and I’m a pretty good photographer too. Just because one can’t draw or paint, doesn’t mean they’re not artistic. We all have talent…it’s just a matter of nurturing it.

      Reply

      • Leigh

        Well that makes sense. Thanks for pointing it out. Guess I was over-thinking it.

        Reply

  19. huntfortheverybest

    these are so cute and creative!

    Reply

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