Serving: Makes about 3 dozen cookies
1 ¼ cups (310 ml) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 ½ cups (625 ml) icing sugar, sifted
5 large egg yolks
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
¼ tsp (1 ml) almond extract (optional)
3 ¼ cups (810 ml) pastry flour (soft flour), sifted
½ tsp (2 ml) salt
3 tbsp (30 ml) meringue powder (available at cake stores and bulk stores)
½ cup (125 ml) warm water
4 ½ cups (1125 ml) icing sugar, sifted
Food coloring, as needed
Colored decorating sugars or sprinkles
1. Cream the butter by hand or with a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the icing sugar and cream until smooth. Add the egg yolks slowly to butter mixture and blend until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and almond extract (if using). Add the pastry flour and salt and combine until dough comes together. Shape this into a disc, wrap and chill for at least 2 hours before rolling.
2. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough slightly to soften (this will prevent cracking as it is rolled). Roll out dough to ¼ -inch (6 mm) thick and cut out desired shapes. Unused dough can be re-rolled and cut again (just chill for a few minutes if it becomes too soft). Place the cut-outs on the prepared baking trays and bake on the center rack of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until the bottom of the cookies turn a light golden brown. Remove cookies from pan onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
3. For the icing, stir together all ingredients to blend, then beat with electric beaters a stand mixer on high speed until mixture is stiff, about 5 minutes. Tint portions of icing as desired. This icing can be piped on the cookies in any pattern desired.
4. To create a satiny finished cookie, thin the icing a little by adding water, a few droplets at a time, until desired consistency is achieved. First pipe an outline of icing around edge of cookie with 1/8-inch (3 mm) plain tip and then fill in the cookie with icing to coat (it’s just like coloring inside the lines). For a colorful swirl effect, add drops of a contrasting color on the cookie and swirl in with a toothpick.
5. For a textured contrast, let royal icing dry completely, then pipe on top. Sprinkle with decorator’s sugar, if desired. Have fun and play!!!