Copyright 2006: The Joy of Cooking
Yield: About thirty-six 2- to 3-inch cookies
Beat in a large bowl until creamy:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
Add and beat until combined:
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or almond extract
Stir in until blended:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Divide the dough into thirds or quarters, shape into disks, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm enough to roll.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease or line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Working with 1 portion of dough at a time, roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies using 2- or 3-inch cutters and arrange about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets.
Reroll and cut the scraps. If desired, sprinkle the cookies very lightly with:
(Colored sprinkles, decorating sugar, or nonpareils)
Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are lightly colored on top and slightly darker at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes.
Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool. If desired, decorate the cooled cookies with:
(Royal Icing, below)
ROYAL OR QUICK DECORATIVE ICING
About 2 cups
This icing will become very hard. To avoid the naturally grayish tone that develops during preparation, add to portions that you want to keep white a slight amount of blue vegetable coloring. Do not use blue in any icing that you plan to color yellow, orange or any other pale, warm tint.
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
Beat until stiff, but not dry:
2 large egg whites at room temperature
Gradually add the sifted sugar and:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
until it is of a good consistency to spread. Cover with a damp cloth until ready to use.
Should you want the icing stiffer, add a little more sifted sugar. To make it softer, thin it very, very gradually with lemon juice, more egg white or water.