Sunday, December 20, 2009

5 Days 'till Christmas - Decorated Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Sugar Cookies

Personally, sugar cookies are not my favorite cookie. I do like them, but I prefer cookies with more pronounced flavors. I guess the people who love sugar cookies are in the same camp as those who prefer vanilla ice cream over any other. I think a great Christmas Cookie Tray could never do without beautifully decorated sugar cookies. They're so festive and colorful. So far, my favorite sugar cookie is actually called a butter cookie by the folks at Cook's Illustrated. Next time, I think I'll add a little almond extract just to satisfy my own curiosity. I used royal icing on these cookies and then added some sanding sugar. For more detailed instruction on decorating sugar cookies, visit Sweetopia , specifically the 10 second rule in this post to get your consistency just right. It makes such a difference in your decorating!

Butter Cookies
Makes thirty-six to forty 2 1/2-inch cookies
adapted From Cook's Illustrated, Published November 1, 2003.

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup superfine sugar (5 1/2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter , ( 2 sticks) cut into sixteen 1/2-inch pieces, at cool room temperature (about 65 degrees)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature

1. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with flat beater, mix flour, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. With mixer running on low, add butter 1 piece at a time; continue to mix until mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet, about 1 minute longer. Add vanilla and cream cheese and mix on low until dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds.
2. Remove bowl from mixer; knead dough by hand in bowl for 2 to 3 turns to form large cohesive mass. Turn out dough onto countertop; divide in half, pat into two 4-inch disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate until they begin to firm up, 20 to 30 minutes. (Can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 2 weeks; defrost in refrigerator before using.)
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out 1 dough disk to even 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured board. Chill for a few minutes if the dough gets too soft and sticky. Meanwhile, repeat with second disk.
4. Working with first portion of rolled dough, cut into desired shapes using cookie cutter(s) and place shapes on parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until light golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. Repeat with second portion of rolled dough. (Dough scraps can be patted together, chilled, and re-rolled once.) Cool cookies on wire rack to room temperature.

Royal Icing

4 egg whites
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or lemon juice

Beat egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk until frothy. Add confectioners' sugar and beat for several minutes until fluffy and smooth. Transfer to containers and tint as desired. Add water a teaspoon at a time to achieve the right consistency. Keep covered as the icing will harden when exposed to air. Apply base color to cookie with the back of a spoon and use a toothpick or piping bag to apply decorations once the base color has dried a bit. Allow icing to dry several hours or overnight before packing or stacking.


  1. Oh they look adorable! I really like the sanding sugar look with these.
    Thanks for the mention :-)
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

  2. I prefer the Cook's Illustrated recipe, too. It's a great sugar cookie...if you are one of THOSE people :)



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