Best attempt, but could've been better

Verdict: Win

At first, I didn't know how I felt about these cookies. Straight out of the oven, the aroma of butter overwhelmed me and the taste didn't sit well on my tongue. It didn't help that the stench of meringue powder from the royal icing lingered on my palate even after the smell was long gone. I thought the meringue powder made the icing almost unpalatable. However, after tasting the cookies one day after the other, I find that these cookies taste much, much better after letting the flavors mellow out (which is good because the royal icing takes forever to dry). On Monday, I actually liked them. On Tuesday, I now agree that they probably are the best sugar cookies that I've ever made.

(I'm still going to try a different meringue powder brand other than Wilton. Maybe Ateco or Williams-Sonoma next time.)

My decorating still could have been better. Flooding the cookies wasn't hard as hard as consistently icing the borders and writing "Pfizer." If I had used a slightly bigger icing tip for the border/writing (I used a #3 tip), I think the whole process would have been a lot easier and the results would have been prettier.

Now if only I could impose the writing on a blue cookie...

Best Cut-Out Sugar Cookies from The Kitchn
Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for an hour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 ounces cream cheese (1/4 of a standard cream cheese package)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and add the sugar. Cream until light and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat until golden. Add the cream cheese and again beat until well incorporated. Add the flavorings and lemon zest.

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl then add, bit by bit, to the butter/sugar mixture until fully incorporated.

Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour.

Heat the oven to 350° F. Divide the dough into smaller balls and roll out 1/4 to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out cookies.

Bake cookies for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness. The small, thinner ones started browning after about 8 minutes, and I didn't want these brown at all. The larger ones had a slight golden bottom after 11 minutes, which was perfect for my purposes.

Let cool before icing or decorating, and store in a tightly covered container.

Royal Icing from The Kitchn
Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

4 tablespoons meringue powder
1/2 cup water
1 pound powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon butter extract (optional) [I used almond extract, I may try vanilla next time]
Food coloring (optional)

Stand mixer (or hand mixer)
Piping bags or squeeze bottles
Plastic Wrap
Mesh sifter

1. Mix Meringue Powder
We prefer to use meringue powder over egg whites any day of the week because of it's consistent results. Place meringue powder in the bowl of your mixer and add in water. Mix on low until combined with the paddle attachment — the mixture will turn slightly foamy or bubbly.

2. Sift Baby Sift!
Although it's easy to skip sifting ingredients, this time it's extra important. You want the overall look to be creamy and smooth and sifting is what does that for you. Sift your powdered sugar (either first onto parchment paper, or sift straight in) and add to the bowl. Mix on low until mixture is combined. You might require a towel to hold over the bowl if your powdered sugar wants to keep jumping out.

3. Syrup & Extract (optional)
For those that don't wish to use corn syrup, you're in luck, you can go without, the bad news is your results won't be as perfect and consistent every time. Add it to the bowl along with extract if you wish. Instead of butter you could also use an extract that might be more to your liking.

4. Faster! Faster!
Increase the speed of your mixture to medium high or high (especially if using a hand mixer) and walk away. That's right, just walk away. Set a timer for 4 minutes. At the end of 4 minutes, watch the mixture finish up. Your goal is to achieve a peak that is stiff and doesn't fall over but is still glossy. Over beating is a no-no and will lose a bit of it's luster.

5. Time To Color
Add colorings in very small amounts (think 1/8 teaspoon or less). Many colorings will effect the taste of the icing, especially depending on their age (which is why we usually add in an extract to help balance things out). Separate out 1-2 cups of mixture into a separate bowl and cover the original white (or main color) with plastic wrap. Color additional bowls as desired and cover until ready to use.

6. Pipe Borders
Using a piping bag or squeeze bottle, pipe the borders and edges of your cookies. This will act as a dam for the remaining frosting that will essentially flood the cookie until set.

7. Dry
Allow icing to dry completely, usually around 10-30 minutes depending on your air flow. If you have a ceiling fan or (clean) box fan, now is a good time to turn it on.

8. Re-Mixing
Add water to the mixture you'd like to flood the cookie with 1/2 teaspoon at a time. This is not the time to try and hurry up, literally mix it in 1/2 teaspoon at a time, and mix well! Once it's ready, the mixture will pull away from the surface and rest on top of the rest of the mixture before sinking back in for 2 seconds. It should feel like syrup consistency wise. You can also do this step before piping the border if you are sure on the amount of icing you'll need.

9. Flooding
Apply new mixture via piping bag or bottle to the surface of your cookie. You don't have to fill every last spot, a chop stick or toothpick (or end of skewer) can help you work it into the nooks and crannies. Add embellishments such as extra lines, dots or stripes.

10. Dry Again!
Allow cookies to dry for several hours. This isn't a make and run out the door snack, we find it best if cookies are left overnight even so we're not tempted to move them before they're truly ready. The frosting can crack, dimple or get fingerprints in it if it isn't ready. Plan on this activity taking over your tabletops and countertops for the better part of the afternoon.


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