cut-out sugar cookies and royal icing.

cookie decorating has to be one of those classic to-do’s when the holidays come around. i’m quite fond of gingerbread cookie decorating, but i decided to change it up a bit this year. partially influenced from just wanting some change, i also wanted to see if i could find the perfect cut-out sugar cookie recipe. they are so hard to come by!

this particular recipe turned out absolutely perfect. i’m not too sure what it was about it. maybe it’s the lemon zest. or the cream cheese. whatever it is, this is a keeper.

everyone else seemed to agree too!

i brought these to m’s parents house on cape cod to be decorated on christmas eve. we started cookie decorating a couple years ago, and it seems to have become part of our christmas tradition.

i got some fun sprinkles to decorate the cookies with, including these little silver decorating balls. some of us found it hard to work with, because they’d just run off the table onto the floor.

m’s parents found a solution to make them a bit easier to decorate with.

that’s right: tweezers. that’s real.
i’m pretty sure i also said,”this is real life…” when i saw the tweezers in use.

do what you gotta do?

one of my favorite things about cookie decorating is seeing how we all decorate our cookies. each of us has a pretty unique way of decorating cookies. m’s dad, t, says his cookies look like a little kid decorated them.

m got creative this year. icing started oozing out of the top of the ziplock back she was using to pipe her icing. she ended up “fingerpainting” her last cookie with royal icing. yup, another “this is real life…” moments. but, so cute, nonetheless.

if cookie decorating isn’t part of your christmas tradition, i highly encourage you consider adding it. how can you say no to decorating fun and plates of sugary goodness?

it’s not too late. make these happen this week… before 2014. or to celebrate 2014!

cut-out sugar cookies
from the kitchn

yield about 2 dozen, depending on cookie cutter sizes

ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 oz cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

preheat oven to 350. prepare baking sheet(s) with parchment paper. in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. add in the egg, vanilla extract, almond extract, and lemon zest.

in a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. slowly add your dry ingredients into the stand mixer bowl until a dough starts to form.

divide the dough into 2 balls. roll each out to 1/4 inch thickness between large pieces of parchment paper. chill for 1 hour.

once dough has chilled, remove it from the fridge. using your favorite cookie cutters, cut out cookies and put on baking sheet(s). bake cookies for about 8 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet. then, transfer to a cooling rack.

once the cookies are completely cool, ice and decorate!

royal icing
from alton brown

yield 3 cups

ingredients3 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioner’s sugar

combine the egg whites and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. beat until frothy. slowly add in confectioner’s sugar while keeping the mixer on low. mix until shiny and all the sugar is incorporated. turn the mixer on high and beat until stiff, glossy peaks.

feel free to add food coloring. transfer royal frosting to piping bags and use to decorate your cookies.

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