Growing up, I was fortunate enough to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. At our house, Hanukkah was always a quiet affair with an understated elegance. As a child, I would have called it “fancy”. Maybe it was the colors, the deep blues and shiny metallics, that made it feel so sophisticated. Maybe it was the gently flickering candlelight. Or maybe the pillowy sufganiyot or the perfectly golden latkes. It was probably a little of all of those things, but my 5-year-old self was the most impressed with the soft velvet pouches filled with Hanukkah gelt.
- AmeriColor gel paste colorings for painting: Chocolate Brown, Super Black, Navy, and Bright White
- Paint palette
- Alcohol or water to dilute gel paste colorings
- Paint brushes:
- Medium flat
- Small flat
- Large round (I used a new makeup brush.)
- Tiny liner
- 1 (5 x 5-in/12.7 x 12.7-cm) square cookie flooded with light brown royal icing (I used 5 parts AmeriColor Gold/2 parts AmeriColor Chocolate Brown/1 part AmeriColor Regal Purple.)
- 1 (12-in/30.5-cm) square of aluminum foil
- Cookie dough suitable for contoured cookies, rolled 1/8 inch (3 millimeters) thick (I used Julia’s gingerbread recipe.)
- Paring knife (or equivalent)
- Butter knife (or equivalent)
- Small trowel or offset spatula
- Royal icing:
- Stiff-consistency navy blue (AmeriColor Navy)
- Stiff-consistency white
- Paper towel
- Powdered sugar
- Piping tips: PME #1.5 and #2 (or equivalents)
- 3 (1-in/2.5-cm) round cookies, rolled 1/8 inch (3 millimeters) thick
- Silver (or gold) pearl dust mixed with alcohol
Step 1: Paint wood cookie
a. Add a drop of brown gel paste coloring to your paint palette. Add just a touch of black gel paste adjacent to the brown and a drop of alcohol or water, but don’t mix them together. The drop of alcohol (water) will naturally dissolve and mix a small amount of the gel colorings together, leaving you with different color concentrations and variation in the paint. Drag a medium flat paint brush through the pastes, so that some bristles pick up the brown paste and others pick up the black. Brush it back and forth a couple of times to blend the colors just a little.
b. Line up your brush on one corner of the light brown flooded cookie, and drag the brush gently across in a (mostly) straight line. If the paint was not overly mixed, you should end up with lines of darker and lighter color emulating wood grain.
c. Grab some more paint with the brush (just as you did in Step 1a), turn the cookie 180 degrees, and paint a line adjacent to the first (some overlap is okay). The brush stroke tends to widen as you drag the brush across the cookie; rotating the cookie with each stroke allows you to even out any inconsistencies in stroke width and also serves to stagger the darkest areas of paint. Periodically using the skinny edge of the brush helps to vary the width of the sections.
d. Continue painting lines adjacent to one another, turning the cookie 180 degrees with every line and occasionally using the skinny edge of the brush, until you’ve painted the entire surface of the cookie.
Step 2: Mold and bake velvet bag cookie
Note: This was my first time making contoured cookies. If you are new to baking 3-D shapes, I highly recommend checking out Julia’s tips and video detailing how to contour cookies.
a. Fold and crunch the square of aluminum foil to form a mold for the bag cookie that measures about 2 1/2 x 1 3/4 inches (6.4 x 4.4 centimeters). One short side of the mold should be about 3/4 inch (1.9 centimeters) in height (for the bag opening) to allow room for the coin cookies to slide underneath the bag cookie. Place your mold on a lined sheet pan.
b. Drape a square of cookie dough, slightly larger than the size of the mold, on top of the aluminum foil. Gently press around the edges to contour the dough around the mold. Again, the dough should be rolled about 1/8 inch (3 millimeters) thick to prevent excessive spreading and cracking when baking on the curved mold.
c. Use a sharp paring knife (or equivalent) to trim the excess dough. The dough on the three closed sides of the bag should completely cover the mold, ultimately meeting the surface of the sheet pan. The dough on the side where the bag will open should not extend beyond the mold (to leave an opening for the coin cookies).
d. Use the dull back of a butter knife blade (or equivalent) to create a seam about 1/2 inch (1.3 centimeters) below the edge of the open end of the bag.
e. Use the side of your finger to gently indent a few creases in the dough to mimic the look of fabric.
f. Bake the cookie, checking it every few minutes to smooth any tears in the dough or to trim any dough that spreads excessively.
Step 3: Ice and texture velvet bag cookie
a. Use a small trowel or offset spatula to spread a thin layer of stiff-consistency navy royal icing on a portion of the baked bag cookie. The icing should fill in any cracks that formed during baking, however, be careful to maintain the seam at the top of the bag.
b. While the icing is still wet, use a damp paper towel to gently wipe off any excess icing. Then, dab at the surface with the paper towel to create a slightly nubby texture.
c. Repeat with another section, spreading a thin layer of icing and then texturing it with the paper towel, until the entire bag cookie is covered.
Step 4: Paint velvet bag cookie
a. Paint a thin coat of undiluted Navy gel paste coloring over the entire surface of the bag cookie using a small flat paint brush. I like to use a haphazard, overlapping “X” motion to paint to minimize the appearance of brush strokes.
b. Mix a small amount of Bright White gel paste coloring with the Navy coloring. Brush some of this lighter color on the areas that are more raised. (Highlighting the areas above the creases will help the surface of the cookie to look more like draping fabric.)
c. Dab the lighter painted areas with a dry, large round paint brush to blend them slightly.
d. Once the paint has dried, dab powdered sugar across the entire surface to dull the sheen of the paint; then brush off any excess.
Step 5: Pipe and paint gelt cookies
a. Using stiff-consistency white royal icing and a PME #1.5 tip (or equivalent), pipe a Star of David on top of each of the round cookies. Allow the icing to dry completely.
b. Using a small flat paint brush, gently paint the tops and sides of the round cookies with silver (or gold) pearl dust mixed with alcohol.
Step 6: Assemble cookie and pipe bag drawstrings
a. Pipe some stiff-consistency navy royal icing along the bottom edges of the bag cookie, and attach it to the base cookie.
b. Use the same icing and a PME #2 tip (or equivalent) to pipe the drawstrings. Beginning on one side of the bag in line with the seam, pipe a line of icing about 1 1/2 inches (3.8 centimeters) in length extending away from the bag cookie.
c. Pipe another line beginning adjacent to the first and intersecting about 1/4 inch (6 millimeters) above the end of the line.
d. To pipe the knot, pipe a short line angling over the intersection of the long lines. Tuck the ends of the short line beneath the long lines using a tiny, damp liner paint brush.
e. To finish the knot, pipe another short line over the intersection, angling the opposite direction to create an “X”. Tuck in the ends with the damp paint brush.
f. Repeat Steps 6b through 6e on the other side of the bag.
g. Finally, pipe a few dabs of icing on the underside of the coins, and attach them around the bag cookie.
This design could easily work as a Christmas cookie just by changing the color of the velvet bag and the design on the coins.
Wishing you and your family a wonderfully fancy winter holiday!
Samantha Yacovetta began cookie decorating in 2013. While working at a local bakery, Samantha became captivated by cookie art when a customer requested princess-themed cookies. Attracted initially to the precision of cookie decorating, Samantha soon found that the limitless design opportunities turned it into her artistic passion. Samantha began regularly stocking the bakery case with decorated cookies and for several years sold cookies through her own company, Aproned Artist, a cottage food operation. Having retired from the business life, Samantha now enjoys making cookies just for fun from her home in San Jose, California, USA. To learn more about Samantha, please check out her Cookie Connection portfolio, her Facebook page, and her past Every Little Detail tutorials here.
Photo and cookie credits: Samantha Yacovetta
Note: Every Little Detail with Aproned Artist is a monthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Samantha Yacovetta focused on the special little details that make big statements in cookie design. This article expresses the views of the author, and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. To read all of Samantha's past Every Little Detail tutorials, click here. And to see all of Cookie Connection's tutorials, click here.