The holiday season is filled with magical baked goods – everything from beautiful cakes and candies to caramels and cookies. How do you break through all of the clutter, you may ask? Gnomebreadmen, or Christmas Elves if you want to be seasonally relevant.
These little critters are absolutely adorable, and easier than you might think to make! They’re also a nice play at different times throughout the year – right around now, they’re elves. Spring: gnomes. Summer: gnomes. Fall: well, gnomes.
The process, while easy, is a little bit time consuming. I usually leave 3 hours from start-to-finish if I want to complete them in one fell swoop. I typically get 3 – 4 dozen gnomes out of a batch of cookies.
First things first, making sugar cookies. I have used this recipe from Martha Stewart for years. I use milk instead of brandy simply because I’m too lazy to run to the basement to get the brandy. I like to pull them from the oven when they’re just a touch golden. It gives them that rosy cheerful look. Let them cool and you’re ready to frost these little creatures!
Frosting is really when the magic happens – they become clothed, develop personalities, and ultimate cuteness emerges. This is also the most time consuming and frustrating part of the process. Hold on, here we go.
We’ll be using Martha’s royal icing recipe. I find that using the merengue powder yields a little better result than the egg white, so I add that to the powdered sugar first. Then, just add in ½ cup water a little at a time until the whisk ribbons when pulled out of the frosting.
Now comes the fun part – Coloring! Take a look at the package of the cutters, decide how you want to dress the little guys, and make colors to accommodate your preferences. I mix the colors to my liking and then pop them into squeezie bottles for even application.
When it comes to frosting, below is the order that works for me. Sweaters come first because then they’re at least modestly clothed and there aren’t naked little elves all over the counter. When you do the sweaters, don’t forget to leave a little dip on the top (think a V-neck sweater) so that the beard can fit right in.
See? Taking the white and filling in the beards a little lower makes them look like they’re resting on the shirt. It also makes them look very wise.
Now we get into the “artistry” of the gnome. Buckles are simply a yellow dot in the middle of the belt. Some are better than others as denoted by this image. In all honesty, people don’t really seem to mind if the buckle is off a little, but given my obsessive personality, it drives me crazy.
Now, for the smiles & lines. Smiles sit right on top of the beard, but require a really fine line of frosting that the squeezie container fails to accommodate. For this, I have a very scientific method: a plastic baggie. Squeeze a little frosting into the baggie, cut a tiny bit off of the corner and smile away! Lines are handled the exact same way. I put lines on the little guys to show where they are sheepishly holding their arms behind their backs. Necessary? Not really, But fun nonetheless.
Now. Don’t touch. These little guys are wet and will be for some time. I am usually tired by the time I finish these guys up (nothing like starting a project like this at 7pm on a work night…) so I let them sit on the counter overnight. They’re almost always completely dry in the morning. They’re also pretty durable – the royal icing turns pretty hard making transportation and packing them up a snap! I just love these little buggers and hope you do too!