What would holiday baking season be without the classic rolled sugar cookie? I went a few years without these simply because I didn’t have the room in my kitchen (or so I thought) to roll and cut dough but I found that I missed them, despite an array of other tempting treats. So I made room, in the way of my kitchen table. I will admit now that it is no longer really a kitchen table, rather a low counter-top, since that is what it is primarily used for now in my tiny kitchen. There really is no other counter-space so I found way. Now I won’t do without them another year.
Last year I frosted these with a butter-cream frosting which was delicious so you could certainly use that on these with wonderful results. But this year I wanted to try something different, since my plan is to ship some to my mom and brother in Virginia. The butter-cream doesn’t hold up so well to stacking, let alone shipping so I thought I’d try my hand at royal icing. This icing is stabilized traditionally with egg white but I know how a lot of people feel about raw eggs (including my mom who will eating some of these) so I found a recipe that used meringue powder instead, which is basically dehydrated egg white and can be purchased at most craft and hobby stores (or online of course). This frosting is also very good for building gingerbread houses or in any culinary application in which you need to “glue” things together! It dries quite hard so it should hold up during shipping for me just fine! It is also a wonderful canvas for any color you want, so get creative! I went with a blue which I thought would look beautiful on my snowflake cookies. I am by no means an expert on royal icing but I will say that it is easy to thicken if you need. Add more sugar if you need a stiffer icing, less if you intend to “flood” your cookie. That basically means, if you want the icing to flow over a surface and smooth itself out, you want “flood” icing and that will be much thinner than a stiff icing for making frosting flowers. If you are adding a lot of extra sugar you may also need to add extra meringue powder to get the consistency you desire. I think I got my icing to a good consistency for some basic piping. I made a large batch of it at once and stored it in the fridge with plastic wrap pressed down on the surface of it (like you would a pudding) to prevent a skin from forming. You will need to make sure to cover your icing if you step away from it for more than a few minutes as a skin can develop rather quickly.
So the verdict? The royal icing is delicious, travels well, can be frozen and allows you a lot of creativity in decorating but the butter-cream is more delicious but not as versatile so choose what the priority is to you. I don’t have a butter-cream recipe up on here (yet) so this is a good one. My sugar cookie recipe is adapted from one on all-recipes as well. This is an awesome site for finding recipes.
Rolled Sugar Cookies
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups granulated white sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp. pure almond extract
- 5 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. fine salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until smooth.
- Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each egg.
- Beat in the vanilla and almond, again scraping down the bowl
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt
- Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture gradually, scarping down he bowl occasionally and mixing until just combined
- Cover and chill the dough for at least one hour, overnight if possible.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface ¼ – ½ inch thick
- Dip your cookie cutter in flour and cut your dough, pressing straight down the cutter and carefully transferring the cut dough to a parchment or silicone-mat lined baking sheet, 1-inch apart
- Bake 6-8 minutes in preheated oven or until very lightly browned on the edges
- Remove from oven and allow to cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cool rack
- Allow to cool before decorating
- Store in a tightly covered container
*These also freeze very well, as does the dough
(from The King Arthur Flour: Cookie Companion)
*You may vary the amount of powdered sugar you use in this recipe depending upon what you intend to use the icing for. For “flood” icing which will smooth itself out over a surface, use less and on the other end of the spectrum for things like icing flowers you will need a much stiffer frosting, so use more. If you use more than 4 cups of sugar you may need to add additional meringue powder (about 1 tsp. per ½ cup beyond 4 cups of sugar, approximately).
*To store this icing cover the surface with plastic wrap. Press it down onto the surface of the icing like you would a pudding to prevent a skin from forming. You may need to re-whip the frosting if you store it for more than a few days as it may separate. Store icing in the refrigerator if not using right away. Be sure to cover icing even if you are leaving it alone for more than a few minutes as the crust can form rather quickly.
- ¼ cup (1 ounce) meringue powder
- ¼ tsp. fine salt
- 3-4 cups (12-16 ounces) confectioner’s sugar
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- ¼ to 1 cup (6-8 ounces) cool water
- Gel food coloring (optional)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the meringue powder, salt and sugar
- Add the vanilla and ¾ cup cool water and beat on slow speed. It may seem hard and lumpy but the sugar will dissolve after a few minutes
- Once the mixture has smoothed out, gradually increase the mixer speed to high
- Beat at high speed until the icing is fluffy. Adjust consistency with additional sugar and meringue powder if necessary.
- Add food color as desired
- Once piped/frosted onto your project allow it to dry overnight to fully harden.