Christmas Vanilla Sugar Cookies

Christmas Vanilla Sugar Cookies
Excerpted from At Home with Magnolia. Copyright 2006 by Allysa Torey. Used by permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

I love this Christmas cookie recipe because the dough is very easy to handle and roll out, and the cookies look really pretty and festive with the cream-colored icing and white sugar without having to do any fancy decorating. I like to use a snowflake-shaped cookie cutter, but a regular round cutter is fine too.

Cookies:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Icing:

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
White decorating sugar, for garnish

To Make the Cookies:

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat well. Add the dry ingredients, in three parts, and mix until just combined. Shape the dough into three flat disks, wrap each disk tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Working with one disk at a time, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch fluted cutter, cut out the cookies and place on baking sheets lined with waxed paper. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator and chill for an additional 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degree F and grease two baking sheets.

Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and arrange on the greased baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

To Make the Icing:

In the top of a double boiler, over simmering water, combine all of the ingredients. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes until smooth. Remove from the heat, transfer to a glass measuring cup, and allow to cool to lukewarm before using.

To Ice the Cookies:

Using a pastry brush, spread a light coating of icing on each cookie and then sprinkle the decorating sugar over the icing. (Let the icing set for a few hours before stacking the cookies.)

LYNNE'S TIPS

One of those things nobody tells you that insures success is that unless a recipe states otherwise, have ingredients at room temperature before starting to bake.

Silicone baking mats (Silpat and Exopat are two brands) are a worthwhile investment if you do a lot of baking. No more baking sheets to grease, no parchment to cut to fit the pan, and clean up is a breeze. Second best are parchment sheets because you can place several batches of cookie dough on several of the sheets, then just lift each one onto the cookie sheet once it's cooled from baking off each batch.

When baking cookies, allow the cookie sheets to cool completely between batches to prevent the dough from spreading. Having several sheets makes this easier.

Remember you can bake on the back of a half sheet pan. It's just like a cookie sheet.