This year, my husband, parents and I are traveling up to Boston to celebrate the holidays with my sister. Soooo excited! We haven’t been all together for the holidays in at least two years. Maybe we’ll have a viewing of White Christmas?
Or playing “Here We Come A-Caroling” multiple times? I sure hope so! By the way, I only just discovered the 1965 Ray Coniff Christmas Special. It’s just so epicly awesome in a campy way. Like, Lawrence Welk awesome. See below…
My husband and I can’t come empty-handed, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to make Christmas cookies and try out royal icing. Last year, when I made the Star Wars gingerbread cookies, I stayed far away from royal icing. But now that I’ve attempted macarons and fondant, I’ve been feeling a little more adventurous.
I’ll be honest–I should have researched a little more before attempting the icing. The icing turned out a little dull instead of shiny. But, they do taste really good! I will definitely try this again.
Sugar Lemon Cookies
adapted from All You, December 2006
Yields 4-5 dozen cookies
- 2 sticks (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1-2/3 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons, finely grated lemon zest
In a stand mixer on medium, combine butter and sugar until fluffy. Next, add vanilla, baking soda and salt. After that has been mixed in, add the eggs and beat thoroughly. Switch to a low-speed and add the flour and lemon zest. You may need to scrape the sides a couple of times.
Divide the dough into two flat discs and wrap each with plastic wrap. Chill dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to two days.
After dough has been chilled, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured cutting board, roll dough to about 1/8″-1/4″ thick. Chill any dough that is not being used. Using various cookie cutters, cut our shapes and transfer cookies to the cookie sheet. See any familiar shapes below? Hee hee!
Once the cookie sheets are filled with cookies, chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Bake cookies for about 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cookies. You may want to rotate the cookie sheets halfway through. When the cookies have turned slightly golden, remove from the oven and cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack. Continue process until all of the cookies have been baked.
For the royal icing, I relied on a couple of baking bloggers for their expertise–most notably Sugar Belle and Bee in Our Bonnet. They have a wealth of knowledge and lots of experience–definitely check them out.
- 3 tablespoons meringue powder (like Wilton’s, which you can find at most craft stores)
- 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
- pinch of cream of tartar
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- 1/2-3/4 cup of warm water
Using the whisk attachment on the stand mixer, combine the meringue powder, sugar and cream of tartar. Once combined, add water and vanilla extract (or whatever flavoring you choose). Mix on medium for about 5-6 minutes, until the icing has the consistency of pudding. Scrape the sides with a rubber spatula if any sugar is sticking. Then, switch the setting to high and mix for 3-4 more minutes. At this point you should start to see stiff peaks forming. When you turn the mixer off, the icing should be so stiff, that it doesn’t come off the whisk (see below).
Next, plan out which cookies should be be iced which color. For my cookies, I planned on using green, blue, red and white icing. I’ll defer to Sweet Sugar Belle for her great tutorial on how to color the royal icing. Like her, I also used a Pyrex measuring cup to color my icing.
After you have dyed your icing the desired color and removed any bubbles, fill a pastry bag with the icing and use a #2-#4 round tip. Carefully outline each of your cookies. If you do not want the outline to stand out, directly proceed to the next step. Otherwise, wait until the outlines have dried before filling.
Add water to the dyed icing, a teaspoon at a time, and mix. You do not want this to be runny. Bee in Our Bonnet has great tips on this. If I had done more research before starting to ice the cookies, I would have bought some squirt bottles from the craft store. I ended up spooning icing on the cookies and spreading the icing to the edges using a toothpick. I don’t recommend this, though. The squirt bottle would have been more precise. This part of the icing process is called “flooding.”
I won’t lie— the entire process is very time-consuming! The drying time takes a long time as well. Most of my cookies dried overnight, but some were still a little sticky–especially if the icing was a little too thick.
My end result wasn’t exactly what I desired, but practice does make perfect. Next time, I’ll research how to make them dry shinier. Oh, and I’ll take my time icing them. You really can’t rush through it. After the second dozen, I was getting tired! There are some really great royal icing ideas out there–I’m inspired!
Stay tuned for Christmas Cookies, Part 2.