Decorate classic sugar cookies topped with royal icing the easy way and paint them with gel food coloring. No artistic skill is required.
2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for work surface
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, stir combine the flour and salt. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg followed by the vanilla extract. Mix in the flour mixture on low speed until just combined. Divide the dough in half and flatten into discs. Wrap with plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour up to 3 days in advance.
Roll out the dough 1/4-inch thick on a lightly floured work surface. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Combine the scraps into a ball and chill in the refrigerator before rolling out again and cutting out more cookies. (At any point, if the dough becomes to soft, chill it in the refrigerator.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Chill the cut-out cookie dough in the refrigerator before baking. Bake the cookies for 16-18 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
1 large egg white 1-3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar 1-2 tablespoons water
In a large bowl, beat the egg white until foamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating for 5 minutes until the icing has thickened and tripled in volume. Stir in 1 tablespoon water. Add more water by the teaspoonful if the icing seems too thick. It should no longer hold a stiff peak.
Dip the tops of the cookies into the icing letting the excess drip off. Allow the cookies to dry for 3 hours before decorating.
Red and green gel-paste food coloring 3/4 cup clear lemon extract 1/4 teaspoon gold luster dust
Place 1 teaspoon of each food coloring in separate small bowls. Stir in 1-2 drops of water, so it is a paintable consistency. (Be careful to add the minimum amount of water. If you add too much, it will dissolve the icing when you put it on the cookies).
In a small bowl stir together the lemon extract and gold luster dust.
Use paintbrushes to decorate the cookies. You can use brushstrokes or paint splatters. Let the cookies dry before storing in an airtight container.