For Sugar Cookies: In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. In the bowl of your electric mixer
(or with a hand mixer),
beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
(about 3 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 desired shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter and transfer
cookies to baking sheet. Place the baking sheets with the unbaked cookies
in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to chill the dough which prevents the
cookies from spreading and losing their shape while baking. Note: If you are not
going to frost the baked cookies, you can sprinkle the unbaked cookies
with sparkling sugar.
Bake cookies for about
8-10 minutes (depending on size) or until the edges are just starting to brown. 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 or
Frosted cookies will keep several days in an airtight container. Store between layers of parchment
paper or wax paper.
Makes about 36 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 sugar
and beat on low speed until smooth. If necessary, to get the right
consistency, add more sugar or water. Add food coloring, if
desired. The icing needs to be used
immediately or put in an airtight container as it hardens when
exposed to air.
For Royal Icing with Meringue
Powder: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or
with a hand mixer), beat
the sugar and meringue powder until combined. Add the water and
beat on medium/high speed until glossy and stiff peaks form (about 5
minutes). If necessary, to get the right consistency, add more powdered
sugar or water. Add food coloring, if desired.
To cover 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 it hardens when exposed
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