First on the First. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Doesn't this scream spring? So cute!!! Woof!
The Royal Icing is made with meringue powder and the aforementioned powdered sugar. Bridget has a great photo tutorial on her site.
If you're making decorated cookies for the first time, I highly recommend that you invest in squeeze bottles, disposable decorator bags, and tips. These can all be found at your local craft store. The right tools make all the difference. The bags contain frosting to outline with, and the bottles have the same frosting shades, just watered down for flooding the cookie with frosting.
Truly, the sky's the limit when it comes to frosting colors. This time I stuck with these five colors. Next time, who knows???
And then I got crazy with the decorating techniques.
1. Be informed and inspired. Spend some time over at Bake at 350. Use Google Images to search for the type of decorated cookie you would like to make.
2. Invest in the right tools for the job. Those tips and squeeze bottles made decorating a breeze.
3. Decorating cookies is a lot of work. Spread the process out over a few days. The cookies will store nicely in an airtight container for the few days. The Royal Icing can be made ahead of time, and even tinted and portioned out the night before.
4. Stick with one design, cookie, color palette. I felt a little overwhelmed with all the possibilities.
5. Remember, they're just cookies, and you can always eat your mistakes.
Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies (adapted from Bake at 350)
3 cups (360 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder, until well combined.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
Beat in the egg and extracts and mix well.
With the mixer on low, stir in the flour mixture.
Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Press the dough onto the plastic covered baking sheet. Cover the dough with more plastic. Refrigerate before rolling out and cutting out. I happened not to get back to my dough for 24 hours and it was just fine.
When you're ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat mat.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about a 1/4 inch thick. Cut out your shapes.
The dough scraps can be re-rolled and re-cut several times. Just ball up the scraps and press them into a flat disk. Cover the disk with plastic wrap and refrigerate before re-rolling it.
Bake for 9-12 minutes, depending on the size of your cookie. Remove from oven, transfer to a wire rack, and cool completely.
Decorate as desired.
Royal Icing (taken from Bake at 350)
4 tablespoons meringue powder
1/2 scant cup water
1 pound of powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon corn syrup
Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl.
In the bowl of the standing mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the meringue powder and water until frothy.
Add the powdered sugar and beat to combine, and then 5 minutes more to form stiff peaks. At the mid-point, add in the corn syrup. Do what you need to do to keep that powdered sugar in the bowl. Cover your mixer with a towel, use a flour guard, etc...
Your Royal Icing is now ready to tint. I used gel colors. Flood icing requires a teaspoon or more of water in order to get a flood like consistency.
To decorate your cookies, outline the area first, and then fill with flood. Use a toothpick to spread out the flood. Sanding sugar should be applied when the Icing is still wet. For other basic decorating tips and ideas, check out Ree's post at The Pioneer Woman.