Saturday, December 19, 2009

Merry Decorating

The holiday season is a great excuse to make lots of cookies, which are my personal weakness. I'll turn down a piece of cake, say no thanks to a doughnut, but wave a homemade cookie in my face and I'm all over it! Sugar cookies are pretty high up on my list of favorite cookies. I've posted before about how much I like this sugar cookie recipe, but if your looking for a great tasting cookie that really holds its shape when cut-out, then try these cookies. I discovered this recipe a couple of years ago when I hosted my first Drop in and Decorate party. These cookies are perfect for making cut out cookies. They maintain their shape and size and don't puff up when baked, so you end up with a nice flat surface to decorate.

Makes 16-20 large cookies; see note below for making multiple batches.
 Printable recipe
3-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/4 cups best quality unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 Tbsp milk
2-1/2 tsp best quality pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a couple of baking sheets with a Silpat or parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. In another large bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar, until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla, and continue to beat until well blended and smooth. Beat flour mixture into the butter mixture until smooth. Divide dough in half. Place one half on a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper; cover with another sheet and roll to 1/4 inch. Repeat with second half of dough. Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes, or up to a couple of days (or, if making far in advance, you can freeze at this point. Wrap sheets tightly in plastic wrap). Remove one sheet from the refrigerator; peel off the top wax paper, then replace paper and invert dough. Peel off and discard what is now the top sheet of paper, and cut out the cookies. (cookies will spread, so do not place too close together on the baking sheet). Reroll scraps, refrigerating if necessary to firm the dough.
Bake for 6-9 minutes, or until just lightly colored on top and slightly darker at the edges. Rotate sheets halfway through for even browning. Remove pans from oven and let cookies cool 2-3 minutes. Then remove cookies to a rack and let cool completely. (At this point, the cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks, in layers separated by parchment or wax paper.) After the cookies are completely cooled, decorate with Royal Icing. 

*Note: to make multiple batches, do NOT double the recipe. It’s hard to control proportions. Instead, make multiples of the original recipe, one batch at a time, for guaranteed success!

*Another note: Rolled sheets of cookie dough can be made ahead and frozen (or, if you're going to use them within a day or two, you can stack the rolled sheets of dough on a cookie sheet in the refrigerator). Let defrost until dough is pliable enough to be cut without breaking cookies, but not necessarily completely defrosted.

I tried several different recipes for Royal Icing. Some work better than others. It's really all about getting the right balance of water. I've had the best success using this recipe, but still find that with each batch I have to adjust the amount of water slightly. For a step-by-step guide to decorating with Royal Icing, check out this tutorial over at Annie's Eats

Royal Icing
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes).  Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container. Add water in small amounts mixing well until desired consistency is reached. Gel icing colors work best for coloring your royal icing. You can use liquid food coloring, but it will change the constancy of your icing, so keep that in mind if you intend to use a liquid food coloring. Keep the royal icing in air tight containers. Do not refrigerate.


 Merry decorating!!

This is also my submission to Food Blogga's 3rd annual Eat Christmas Cookies round up. If you'd like to send in a cookie to be added to the round-up go here. To check out all the cookies sent in so far, go here. 
There are some really mouthwatering looking cookies so be sure to check them out!!



VeggieGirl said...

Cute, festive cookies!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Your writing is perfect on those cookies! You make working with royal icing seem easy, Paula! I wish I had those skills. Thanks for the festive addition to EEC. :)

Vanillastrawberryspringfields said...

Wowow,thats dang cute decorating i must say-would love to try royal icing but havin to make my own meringue powder susstitute as we dont get it here-dont want to use raw egg and honestly u totally inspire me-the next time i need sugar cookies i know i'll hop in right here and now to take a stroll thru rest of ur blog ......

Bellini Valli said...

Beautifully decorated and so festive too!

Grace said...

it's not christmas until the colorfully iced sugar cookies make an appearance! nicely done. :)

Anonymous said...

ahh. just what i was looking for!
planning to make cookies to decorate for christmas :)
thanks for sharing!
yours look fab :)

Cynthia said...

Merry Christmas hon to you and your loved ones!

Lydia said...

So glad you're enjoying the cookie and icing recipes. We also have to adjust the icing each time, but after a couple of batches you really get to know when it's "right". The cookies are fabulous!

Helene said...

Merry Christmas!