• 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
• 1 teaspoon baking powder coarse salt
• 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• For Royal Icing:
• 1 cup water, plus more if needed
• ½ cup meringue powder
• 1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
• Gel-paste food coloring in Red Red, Royal Blue, and Navy Blue [/ingredient list]
Iced sugar cookies occupy a well-deserved spot in the American cookie jar. Their rolled-and-cut-out profile offers a blank canvas on which to decorate shapes for nearly any occasion, any time of year. I have a huge variety of cookie cutters and am forever adding new shapes from cookware stores, catalogs, or antiques shops. Even so, I sometimes make my own cookie shapes by cutting out cardboard forms, then cutting cookie dough around them. Because the dough calls for basic pantry ingredients and comes together quickly, it’s a home baker’s dream. Chilling (first after mixing, then again after cutting into shapes) is essential, as it leads to easier rolling and cutting, and helps the dough retain its shape as it bakes. The cookies are just plain wonderful—and simplest—when sprinkled with colorful sanding sugars before or after baking. But they become truly spectacular when given the royal-icing treatment, such as patriotic red-white-and-blue bursts— achieved with a squeeze bottle and a toothpick—that adorn the Fourth of July ones shown here. Of course, the cookies can be cut into shapes other than round, and decorated to suit other holidays or special occasions—or your personal whim.
Reprinted from the book Martha’s American Food by Martha Stewart. Copyright © 2012 by Martha Stewart. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.