I’m a sucker for family traditions. Somewhere along the way I picked up the belief that if you faithfully repeat the same holiday events, music and recipes year after year your kids will grow up with happy memories of childhood. I think in my kids’ case, the best I can hope for is Stockholm Syndrome but at least I’m trying. Bunny cookies are my Easter tradition, no exceptions. Now that the kids are a bit older I’ve given up on elaborately planned Easter baskets and sugar-sweet Easter egg hunts in matching outfits. But you’re going to have pry the bunny cookies out of my cold, dead, lightly floured hands.
I know you probably think you don’t have the time or creativity or whatever to decorate Easter cookies, but I really think you do. I have a lot of little tricks to make it easy and pretty foolproof:
- Don’t try and do it all in one session. The cookies actually turn out better if you let the dough sit overnight in the fridge and the cookies dry out in a container on your counter for a few days. It’s also just less overwhelming to do one stage at a time. I usually make my dough 2-7 days before I need the cookies. I do dough one day, bake the cookies another day and decorate them on a third day. Doing it this way you also get the bonus smugness of feeling like your life is organized and under control.
- Skip the royal icing. Royal icing doesn’t taste great to me. It’s also really tricky to get the consistency right if you’re inexperienced. When I make royal icing I actually get out a timer and count how many seconds it takes for the drizzled icing to get smooth, then adjust it by adding infinitesimal amounts of water with a spray bottle. You don’t want to do that right? Betty Crocker cookie icing can be found in the baking aisle of most major grocery stores. It comes in a range of colors (look for the pink in your seasonal aisle along with the Easter decorations and chocolates) and sets up hard like royal icing so you can put them in treat bags or stack them. It comes with a piping tip attached that you can cut to make any size line you like. It also tastes pretty darn good! I actually prefer it to royal icing, it’s more like a corn syrup glaze.
- Keep your decorations simple. Don’t try to make one bunny striped, one bunny smiling, one bunny polka-dotted. That stuff is deceptively hard to make look good. I know because I’ve tried and failed many times. Just focus on getting the icing on in a way that follows the contours of the cookie. Once you’ve outlined the cookie, fill in the rest with icing (that’s called flooding). If you’re making a pink bunny give him a white tail and white inner ear, white ones get pink ears and tails. Then sprinkle sanding sugar (that’s the really fine sugar. You can just use granulated too) over the whole cookie. When you put the sanding sugar on, let the excess fall into a dish and reuse it. A little goes a long way.
- Heed the directions. These sugar cookies are super buttery and have lovely crisp edges. Because of all that butter they need to be chilled in the fridge between cutting out and baking or they will lose their shape. If you can’t wait the full 15 minutes, you can put them in the freezer for 5-7 minutes instead.
- Bake one sheet at a time. This will give you the most consistent results. You want to bake them until the edges are just starting to brown, for me that’s right at the 11 minute mark but my oven is temperamental and trying to mentally break me. If you take them out too soon, they may get mushy when you add the moisture of the icing.
- Make them all the same! I swear a big part of baking success is just the visual satisfaction of seeing a bunch of identical objects lined up next to each other. It makes it seem like maybe the world isn’t falling apart at the seams after all! I added a few little candy pearl necklaces and nonpareil cottontails to mine but most years I don’t bother.
- Remember that they’re only cookies and that they will still taste good no matter how goofy they look. I get a kick out of making pretty things and taking pretty pictures and sharing on the inter webs. But cookies are meant to be eaten, not viewed, so just go for it.
Really, off you hop.