This year I decided to do something different with the Thanksgiving table. You fill the the table with lots of delicious Turkey Day food, why not be able to chow down on the decorations as well? Gingerbread place cards seemed like the perfect idea! These are made out of gingerbread dough (I thought the spicy cookies fit in well with the holiday), cut out like picture frames and decorated with royal icing. Attach a piece of paper that matches your decor with the name of your guest (or some sweet words of thanksgiving if you are like my family and never can commit to a seat). Set out a cookie place card at each of the table settings and see who discovers their sweet surprise first!
You will need:
One recipe of gingerbread dough (or sugar dough)
X- Acto knife
Gel Food coloring
Pastry bag and round tip
Squeeze bottle (not necessary)
Small paint brush
Sharpie or Pen
Begin by rolling out your gingerbread dough to about 1/4" to 3/8" thickness. The cookie needs to be thick in order to stand up on the table with out breaking. Roll out on a floured dough so the dough does not stick to the table. Using a ruler and x-acto knife, mark the dough where you want to cut the lines for the shape. Mine measured about 3 inches tall and 4 inches wide. Adjust the size smaller or larger to create the unique effect you want on your table.
Using your ruler as a guide connect your guide points to form a rectangle. A sharp knife really makes a difference when cutting out these cookies.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them..you want them to bake long enough to be sturdy but not get too dark and crispy! Let cool completely. Using gel food coloring, color your royal icing to the color of your choice. I used a cream color here but for thanksgiving I am planning to make them more of a bronze or gold color. Use the icing at piping consistency, fill your pastry bag fitted with a round pastry tip. Outline the design of your choice on your cookie. I did a scallop pattern here but plan to experiment with some more designs for my Thanksgiving table. Let the outline dry.
Thin out the remainder of your icing so you can 'flood' your cookie. I have found that a squeeze bottle is really easy for this job...you can also spoon it in a small amount at a time and use a toothpick to help spread the icing throughout.
Fill in the entire design and let dry completely. (The Icing should no longer be shiny and have a smooth, matte finish.)
Thicken your icing slightly with confectioner's sugar enough to hold its shape when you pipe it but not so much that you can't spread it over the cookie. Working one or two scallops at a time, pipe over the outer edge of the scallop.
Take your paint brush and starting halfway through the piped line (so you aren't starting at the very edge of the cookie and keep some of the border edge) use the brush to pull the icing down to fill the scallop. Continue all around the scallop to fill in the cookie. Repeat around entire cookie. Notice how the bristles of the brush create a fabric-like texture on the cookie. If you don't have enough icing to fill the scallop, pipe a thicker line as the outline so you have more icing to work with.
Let dry completely. I finished off the design by piping some random designs around the inner and outer edges of the cookie. My icing was a little too thin so it didn't hold the shape as well. For Thanksgiving I am considering making small fondant pearls to border the cookies instead of piping the border with royal icing.
Give your design some color and sparkle with luster dust. I used a sparkly black and shimmery gold color to create an antique look. I bought my luster dust at the NY Cake & Bake in Manhattan, but you can also find some at Michael's and AC Moore craft stores in the cake decorating sections. You can use craft glitters if you want; however, it would make them inedible (and doesn't that defeat the purpose?!)
I also baked some triangular pieces of dough (with a 90degree angle) and attached them to the backs of the frames so that they would stand up on their own at the table. I used royal icing to attach them and let them dry thoroughly before setting them upright. The royal icing acts like glue and really sets hard to give you a sturdy and sweet end product.
Cut out a piece of pretty paper slightly larger than the opening in your frame. Write the name of your guest, a quote, or even print out a picture to fill the frame. Glue the paper to the backside of the frame with your royal icing. Rice paper may be a pretty, delicate, and edible paper to use. For Thanksgiving I want to use a very thin and see through paper so that the frames glow from the candle light on the table.