I've been on the hunt for the perfect cut-out cookie recipe for years. One that isn't sickly sweet, doesn't spread too much in the oven, is sturdy enough to frost, and rolls out nicely. Finally, I found one that fits all of my criteria. My momma is a middle school teacher and for years one of her students (and her subsequent siblings) would give her a box of homemade sugar cookies for Christmas. They were amazing--like fight all your siblings for the last one amazing. After years of eating these cookies my mom finally asked her student's mom for the recipe. I was surprised by the recipe because it only has a couple of ingredients and uses no granulated sugar, only powdered sugar, no eggs, no baking powder or baking soda. It's really more of a shortbread than your traditional sugar cookie which is great because it falls apart in your mouth and isn't too sweet. I always hate it when you eat a cookie and between the cookie and the frosting you feel sick after. I've tweaked it a bit to my liking and here's the final recipe:
Cut-Out Shortbread Cookies--adapted from Bon Appetit
3 sticks of butter at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
3 and 1/4th cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3-4 teaspoons pure almond extract
Cream butter at medium speed for 1 minute. Add extracts followed by sugar and salt and blend well, then slowly add flour and mix until the dough just comes together. Don't over mix or you'll have a "tough" cookie. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll cookies out until they are just slightly thinner than 1/4 inch.
Bake at 325 degrees until the edges are barely browned. If you find your shortbread has bubbles in it take a flat spatula (the kind you'd flip a pancake with) and lightly press down on the hot cookie to flatten out any bubbles so you have a flat surface to frost.
For the royal icing I used the same recipe as here but I made a lot more. My measurements were:
1 bag powdered sugar
1/3 cup meringue powder
1 tablespoon corn syrup
3 teaspoons almond extract (don't use vanilla or it will turn the icing an off-white color or use artificial vanilla which is clear.)
enough water until it's "flood" consistency
To frost these guys it's easiest if you make two consistencies of icing: one flood icing and one outline icing. Make the flood icing first--add enough water until you can lift up a spoonful of icing and let it drip down to the bowl and it quickly loses it's "ribbon" shape. So it's not "soupy" but it is definitely runny. If you've ever wondered how Starbucks makes those perfectly frosted snowman cookies, flood icing is the key!
Place a little more than 3/4 of your flood icing in a large piping bag. With the remaining icing slowly add powdered sugar until the icing is stiff--this is your outline icing. The icing should make stiff peaks when you lift it up from the bowl.
To ice your cookies follow these steps:
From here you can do whatever you want decorating-wise. If you want to add sprinkles like I did apply them when the icing is still wet (it dries very quickly!). You can also let the icing dry then add more outline icing on top to make it more three-dimensional.
My momma and I wrapped these up and gave them out as gifts to our neighbors. I tied up stacks of 6 cookies with baking twine (seriously, what doesn't this stuff look cute on?), put them in cellophane bags, and tied them up with a Rudolph tag I recreated based on a Pinterest photo. I bought craft paper tags and some red pompoms. I made a cardboard Rudolph head template out of some stiff paper that I traced onto the tags, and freehanded the eyes and antlers before affixing the nose with a dollop of hot glue.
Here's what they look like all wrapped up! Merry Christmas Eve!!! Hope everyone's night is full of family and egg nog and cookies and fun. Xx