Although nothing can -- or should -- distract from our anguish over the Newtown shooting last week, I spent most of the weekend baking cookies. As trite as it may sound, the familiar ritual of creating something sweet to eat with my children was comforting and simple.
I use these snowflake cookies as teacher gifts every December and this year, I am even more grateful for the care and compassion teachers show for our children. As evidenced by the actions of the Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers and administrators in Newtown, CT, teaching requires incredible selflessness. We are all in debt to our own teachers and our children's teachers.
These happen to be some of the most delicious cookies I've ever made and the big challenge is keeping my family away from them so there are enough to give as gifts. I make them a few times a year and just vary the shapes and colors using different cookie cutters and food coloring according to the season and occasion.
I use the Royal Icing recipe below (and ALWAYS use the dried powder alternatives to raw egg whites) and then divide it into small bowls, which I then make different colors. I use a miniature rubber spatula to spread the icing on the cookies. This year, I have green, blue and white snowflakes. If I happen to have some sprinkles or decorations in the cupboard, I use those too, as you can see in the photo.
When ready, I put 6-8 cookies in small cellophane bags and my kids give them to their teachers before vacation. They're delicious and appropriate gifts and always garner lots of great compliments.
These recipes are originally from Martha Stewart.
Shaped Sugar Cookies
4 cups sifted all purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.
2. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs.
3. Add dry ingredients; mix on low unil combined. Stir in vanilla. Form dough into a ball and chill for at least one hour.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into shapes (I like the ecumenical snowflakes, myself). Transfer to ungreased baking sheets and chill until firm, 30 minutes. Bake until edges just start to brown, 8-10 minutes. Cool thoroughly (I wait a few hours) and decorate as desired.
You can substitute meringue powder or dried egg whites for the the raw egg whites. Just follow the directions to make the equivalent amount you need. This recipe makes a lot of icing, so be generous on the cookies!
2-3 large egg whites
1 pound (1 box) confectioners' sugar
juice of one lemon
food coloring as desired
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine egg whites and sugar on low speed. Stir in lemon juice until it reaches a spreadable consistency -- similar to heavy cream. Add food coloring (or divide into small bowls and make several colors). Use immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Beat with a rubber spatula before using.
Raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, the edlerly, or anyone whose health is compromised.