Thursday, December 3, 2009

Decorated Christmas Cookies

To kick-start the spirit of the season at home, we made these decorated butter cookies in ornament shapes.  The dough was easy to make and we took turns rolling it and cutting out the shapes, assembly-line style.  I like it more than the standard sugar cookie, which often has no flavor except plain old sugar.  These have a sweetness offset by just a hint of saltiness and a nice buttery flavor.  Decorating them was a pain.  If you use royal icing, set aside a lot of time to dry, and know that colors darken as they sit.  Using half a bottle of red coloring was an error!  And use powdered or gel coloring if you can -- I have a feeling the liquid coloring added lots of hours to the drying time.  More on that later.  I had planned to mail these out to someone, but 24 hours later some still were not dry.  Oh well, more cookies for us!

These ornament cutters are so cute.

Ready for baking.  You can position them close together because they won't spread.

Preparing blue and green royal icing.

Baked up and buttery.

The base coat.  The white icings took 12 to 14 hours to dry, and the colored icings were still not hardened 24 hours later!  Next time I have to get gel or powdered colorings.

Holiday Butter Cookies by King Arthur Flour
5 ounces confectioners' sugar
9 ounces salted butter (I used unsalted)
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon salt (I used ¾ tsp)
¼ teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (I used eggnog flavoring)
11½ ounces all-purpose flour
There are volume measurements available if you click on the original link.

Combine the sugar, butter, egg yolk, salt, and flavor, beating till smooth. Add the flour, mixing till smooth. The mixture will seem dry at first, but will suddenly become cohesive. If it doesn't, dribble in a tablespoon of water. Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a flattened disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and let it soften for about 20 to 30 minutes, till it feels soft enough to roll. It should still feel cold, but shouldn't feel rock-hard. Sprinkle your rolling surface with flour, and flour your rolling pin. Working with one piece of dough a a time, roll it 1/8" to 3/16" thick.  Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes. Re-roll and cut the dough scraps.  Place the cookies on ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheets. They can be close together; they'll barely spread.

Bake the cookies in a preheated 350°F oven for 12 to 14 minutes, until they're set and barely browned around the edges.  Remove from the oven, and cool right on the pan. If you've used parchment, you can lift cookies and parchment off the pan, so you can continue to use the pan as the cookies cool.

Repeat with the remaining piece of dough, rolling, cutting, and baking cookies.  When cookies are completely cool, ice and decorate.

MY TIP: I didn't wait until the dough was chilled to roll it out.  I rolled the dough right out of the mixer bowl between two sheets of waxed paper, when it was still soft and easy to work with.  Then I chilled the entire sheet of dough, waxed paper and all, for two hours.  Then i cut out the shapes and rerolled as needed.  There are certain doughs that really do need to chill and rest before rolling -- like pie or biscuit dough -- but not this cookie dough.

Royal Icing by King Arthur Flour
1 ounce meringue powder
¼ teaspoon salt
12 to 16 ounces confectioners' sugar, sifted
6 ounces cool water
Again, for volume measurements, click on the original link

Place the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the cool water, and stir slowly to allow the sugar to dissolve. Mix on low speed at first, increasing to high speed over several minutes. Beat until the icing is fluffy.

Keep the frosting covered with a damp towel and some plastic wrap until you have time to use it.

Divide the frosting into smaller containers and mix with food coloring for several colors.

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