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Christmas Sugar Cookies

For Sugar Cookies:  In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 to 4 minutes). Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough.

Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Remove one half of the chilled dough from the refrigerator and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch (1 cm).  (Keep turning the dough as you roll, making sure the dough does not stick to the counter.)  Cut out cookies using a lightly floured tree cookie cutter and transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheets with the unbaked cookies in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to chill the dough which prevents the cookies from spreading and losing their shape while baking.

Bake cookies for about 10 minutes (depending on size) or until they begin to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Frost with royal icing, if desired. Be sure to let the royal icing dry completely before storing. (This may take several hours.)

Frosted cookies will keep several days in an airtight container. Store between layers of parchment paper or wax paper.

Makes about 20 - 4 inch (10 cm) cookies.

For Royal Icing with Egg Whites: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

For Royal Icing with Meringue Powder: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder until combined. Add the water and beat on medium to high speed until very glossy and stiff peaks form (5 to 7 minutes). If necessary, to get the right consistency, add more powdered sugar or water. To cover or 'flood' the entire surface of the cookie with icing, the proper consistency is when you lift the beater, the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface of the icing for a few seconds before disappearing.

The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

For Confectioners Frosting: In an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended.  Add the vanilla extract.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beater.  Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is thick and smooth.

To Serve:  Place small mounds of confectioners frosting on your serving plate.  Cover and place in the refrigerator until the frosting is firm. Then, just before serving, gently place the decorated cookies into the frosting. 

Sugar Cookies:

1 3/4 cups (230 grams) all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Royal Icing Using Egg Whites:

1 large egg white

1 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cups (165 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

Royal Icing Using Meringue Powder:

2 cups (220 grams) confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

1 1/2 tablespoons (15 grams) meringue powder

1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1/4 cup - 1/2 cup (60 - 120 ml)  warm water

Confectioners Frosting: (optional)

2 cups (230 grams) confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted

1/2 cup (57 grams) butter, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons milk