Read This Before Decorating Another Cookie

Christmas might be the only time of the year when many of us really go all out cookie baking. Halloween is all about candy, Easter is chocolate bunnies, and Thanksgiving is pie, pie, pie (plus you're supposed to mix a turkey in there somewhere), but you can't have Christmas without cookies. And don't just try opening a bag of holiday Oreos, either. Although Santa may secretly appreciate this non-traditional treat, he'll still give you an "F" for effort.

No, during the holiday season store-bought simply won't do. Home-baked cookies are expected, and what's more, they must be decorated as well! Ugh, this presents a problem to those of us who can manage some elementary baking, but whose decorating skills are...Well, let's just say, we're waiting for a call-back from the producers of Nailed It! If you're also in need of some serious decorating help, we hit the Panic Button and summoned assistance from Penny Stankiewicz, a chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education. She has a few tips that might help us produce cookies that for once are more festive than failure.

The secret actually lies in baking the cookies

In order to have decorated cookies that come out picture-perfect, Stankiewicz says, "It's important to have sharp edges to keep the cookie's shape." As to how you achieve such a cookie, she says it all starts with recipe selection. "Look for recipes that have little or no baking soda or baking powder," she advises, explaining that "these cookies will spread less." She also suggests rolling out the dough while it's still soft between two sheets of parchment paper. (Wax paper will work, too, as long as you don't plan to use that paper in the oven.) Once the dough is chilled, then cut out the shapes. Stankiewicz explains, "If the dough is still cold after you cut the shapes, bake the cookies right away," but advises that you chill the dough again if it has softened up while you're cutting out the cookies. Her final tip to help you produce easy-to-decorate cookies involves how you cook them. She says to "bake the cookies only until they are golden brown on the edges so they retain their moisture."

If your cookies still turn out looking more like amoebas than Santas and Rudolphs, well, you could always roll with that with some little frosting vacuoles and Red Hots nuclei...or else you could just say the heck with it and pick up a cookie kit from Costco or Aldi. These not-too-difficult DIY decorating packages might just earn you a Pinterest pass.