2/3 cup butter, margarine or shortening, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Dash of salt
Liquid food coloring
3 jumbo or 4 large egg whites (see note)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pound (about 4 cups) confectioners' sugar
Beat butter, margarine or shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high
speed for 30 seconds. Add the egg, sugar, milk, vanilla extract, about half the
flour, the baking powder and salt. Beat until thoroughly combined. Mix in remaining
flour with a wooden spoon.
Divide the dough in half, wrap well and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours, until firm.
Roll dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 3-inch rounds (or other shapes if desired).
Re-roll scraps once. If you don't want to frost and paint cookies, you can
sprinkle colored sugar on them at this point.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 8 to 12 minutes or until the edges are firm and slightly
brown. Let cool on wire racks.
Spread Royal Icing thinly, yet thoroughly over each cooled cookie. Icing should
be thick enough to coat cookies without running, but thin enough to form a smooth
surface as it dries. If too thick, beat in a little water; if too thin, beat in
a little confectioners' sugar.
Royal Icing: Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add all
the sugar and beat for 5 to 7 minutes, until icing is thoroughly mixed, glossy and
stands in peaks.
Be sure to keep icing tightly covered so it doesn't dry out. If you're
piping dots of "snow" onto cookies, keep the tip of the icing bag covered
with a damp paper towel when you set it down.
Store in airtight tins.
Makes about 2 1/4 cups icing, enough to ice 2 dozen (3-inch) cookies, with leftovers.
Using sable watercolor brushes, put drops of liquid food coloring on a clean
white plate and use that as your palette. Mix colors as you wish and thin with water
as needed. To make falling snow, use the paintbrush to dab on dots of royal icing.
Clean the watercolor brush with warm water and a little dishwashing liquid.
Royal icing can stand, tightly covered, for up to 3 days, and is ideal for decorating
gingerbread and other cookies.
If you prefer not to use raw egg whites, use powdered egg whites or meringue
powder. Follow the instructions on the container for making royal icing.