Well just like I can't have a celebration without Cupcakes, you can't have Christmas without some Cookies and these are my favourite cookies to make for Christmas. They do take a bit more time (especially in comparison to my Cranberry & White Chocolate Cookies) but I think they are well worth the effort. Besides I find it quite relaxing and fun to sit down and ice them! It also makes a great project to do with children and as well as getting to eat delicious, iced cookies they make fantastic and unique name settings for your Christmas Day table!
This is my standard cookie recipe for when I make Iced Cookies (courtesy of Peggy Porschen and her beautiful books) and is the same one that I used for my Valentines Cookies, I just used a vanilla bean instead of the lemon zest, but if you prefer you could flavour them with lemon, orange or even lime zest for a fruity flavour.
200g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster or berry sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
1 large egg
400g all-purpose or plain flour
12g / 1 heaped tbsp dried egg white powder (meringue powder)
500g icing sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
5-6 tbsp water
Food colouring – red/ green/blue
Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla (or other flavouring of your choice) using an electric mixer. Be careful not to over mix as this can cause the mixture to spread during baking. Lightly beat the egg then mix into the cream and sugar until well mixed. With the mixer on low gradually add the flour until a dough forms. Take the dough out and form it into a large disc then wrap in cling film and chill for at least 1 hour.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.
Sprinkle some flour on a large chopping board or your work surface. I tend to cut the dough in half and work on one half at a time. Put the dough onto the floured surface and knead slightly before rolling out to roughly ¼ inch in thickness. Using cookie cutters of your choice cut out the shapes and carefully place onto the lined baking tray. Once they are all cut out chill the cookies for another 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C/ GM 4. Bake the cookies for 8-12 minutes, depending on the size, until they have just turned golden-brown at the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
While the cookies are cooling make up your icing. Sift the dried egg white (meringue powder) and icing sugar into the bowl of a free-standing mixture or large bowl, then add the lemon juice and 5 tbsp of water. Starting on a very low setting mix everything together then increase the speed and mix until well combined, glossy and smooth. In order to pipe the outlines you want the icing to be fairly thick so don't be tempted to thin it too much.
Divide the icing into bowls depending on how many colours you want to make, then add a little food colouring to each bowl (I use gel paste food colouring so it doesn't thin the icing anymore and use a cocktail stick to add the colouring – a little goes a long way!).
Put a little of each icing into a piping bag – I use sandwich bags then cut the very corner off so you just have a small hole. Carefully pipe the outline of the cookies. Once they have all been done you can add a little extra water to each icing to thin it slightly. Spoon some icing into the centre of each cookie and carefully let it flood to the edges, helping it with the back of the spoon or a small spatula (or in extreme cases – ie. Very small areas, I have even used a toothpick!). Once the cookie is evenly covered set aside and repeat using up all of that colour. Once you are finished sprinkle over the edible glitter if using then let dry completely. Repeat with all of the cookies and continue to decorate as you please. The perfect Christmas cookie, place setting or gift!