Friday, December 18, 2009

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, II

I was so inspired by our lovely winter wonderland photo shoot that I wanted to share even more charming Christmas inspiration! Happy baking!

Photo Credits: Victoria

Sugar Cookies: [Makes about 36 cookies]

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 recipe Vanilla Icing
Assorted colored dragées, assorted colored

1. In a large bowl and using an electric mixer at low speed, beat the butter and sugar together until blended. Increase speed to high, and beat until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and beat in the egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder, and mix until blended.
2. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions, and flatten each portion into a disk. Wrap each disk with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until dough is firm enough to roll. Alternatively, freeze the dough for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350˚. On a lightly floured surface, roll the first half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. With floured 3- and 4-inch cookie cutters, cut the dough into as many cookies as possible; gather, wrap, and refrigerate scraps. Place the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet, spacing 1 inch apart.
4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool. Repeat process with the second half of the dough and then with the scraps.
5. When cookies are cool, prepare Vanilla Icing. Decorate cookies with icing, dragées, nonpareils, and sanding sugars, if desired. Set cookies aside to allow icing to dry completely, about 1 hour.
6. Store in a tightly covered container with parchment paper between layers if cookies are decorated. Cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Vanilla Icing:

1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon meringue powder
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Assorted food colorings

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the water and meringue powder together until frothy. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar, and beat until smooth, then stir in vanilla extract.
2. Separate mixture into several small bowls, then add food coloring to achieve desired colors. Use small pastry brushes to paint cookies with icing.



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