Holiday Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

 I don't think there is ever enough time to bake and post all of the wonderful Christmas cookies I think I am going to make each year.  I have finally determined that one cannot possibly eat all of them and the neighbors can't either.  It is hard to narrow it narrow it down but one thing for certain, I always make sugar cookies!

My mom never made them and I don't think I had really enjoyed them until I was at a Holiday Luncheon hosted by the PTA.  The PTA President brought a platter of the tastiest and cutest little cutout cookies.   I enjoyed every bite!  Those were the cookies I made for years but it was time for a change.  

In 2019 PBS So Cal | KCET published a recipe for easy holiday sugar cookies with royal icing from America's Test Kitchen from Cook's Illustrated.  They are easy and taste ever so good!  I decided to kick off the season by sharing these tasty fun cookies!

One of these days I will mastery "pretty" icing.  The best part though is "pretty" doesn't affect the taste!

Easy Holiday Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flower
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
16 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

2 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
2 large egg whites
11/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt

To Make the Cookies

In a small bowl, whisk the egg, vanilla, salt and almond extract together.  In a second bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

In the bowl of the food processor, process the sugar until finely ground, about 30 seconds.  Add the butter to the bowl and process until there are no large pieces of butter visible and a uniform mass has formed, about 30 seconds.  Scrap down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the egg mixture and process until it is smooth and paste-like, about 10 seconds.  Add the flour mixture and process until no dry flour remains and the mixture is still crumbly, about 30 seconds.  Scrap down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Turn out dough onto counter and knead gently by hand until smooth, about 10 seconds.  Divide the dough in half.  Place one piece of dough on a large piece of parchment and shape by pressing into a 7 X 9-inch oval. Place a large piece of parchment over the dough and roll into a 10 X 14-inch oval that is 1/8 inch thick.  Transfer the dough and parchment to a rimmed baking sheet.  Repeat the pressing and rolling process with the second piece of dough.  Then move the second oval and parchment to the baking sheet on top of the first piece.  Refrigerate until the dough is firm, about 1 1/2 hours (or freeze for 30 minutes.)  

Note: Rolled dough can be be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Heat oven to 300° F. with the rack at the lower middle position.  Line a rimless baking sheet with parchment.  Working with one piece of the rolled dough, gently peel off the top piece of parchment.  Replace back on top loosely.  (This process will make it easier to cut and remove cookies.). Turn over the dough and parchment and gently remove and discard the second piece of parchment.  Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into various shapes.  Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheet spacing them about 1/2-inch apart.  Bake until cookies are lightly and evenly browned around the edges, 14 to 17 minutes.  Rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.   

Repeat the process with the second piece of dough.  Scraps of dough can be patted together, chilled and rerolled once.

For the Royal Icing

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip all of the ingredients on medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute.  Increase speed to medium-high and whip until glossy, soft peaks form, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Scrap down the bowl as needed. Spread icing onto cooled cookies.

1.  For a pourable icing, whisk in milk, one teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
2.  Let the icing dry completely, about 30 minutes, before serving.  


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