Well, I really didn't make these yummy cookies for Thanksgiving, they were for my daughter's fourth birthday party. I love these sugar cookies. They are made with a vanilla bean which gives them a fabulous flavor, and they are thin and crisp as well. People usually say "Wow, this actually tastes like something" when they bite into one of these cookies, I suppose they have grown used to the doughy or flavor-less sugar cookies that are so abundant now.
How did I decorate them? Royal icing and disposable pastry bags. Yes, it took a while, but it's a great creative outlet and they turned out ok if I do say so myself! They flew off the plate at the party, and I included some in the goody bags each guest took home (along with a gingerbread man and two chocolate macarons!)
The recipe for the cookies comes from the Williams-Sonoma Holiday cookbook, which I bought over 10 years ago so I don't even know if it's in print anymore. But it's a fail-safe cookie and I refuse to use another recipe. Try it out for the holidays!
Williams-Sonoma Holiday Cut Out Cookies:
1 cup (8 oz./ 250 g) unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup (6 oz./ 185 g) sugar
3 egg yolks
1 piece vanilla bean, about 2 inches long
2 1/2 cups (12.5 oz/ 390 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
In a bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the butter mixture. Mix well.
In a sifter, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Sift the flour mixture directly onto the butter mixture. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat until well mixed.
Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball and then flatten the balls into disks. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (Can be prepared up to 3 days ahead). Let it soften slightly at room temperature before continuing.
Position a rack in the upper third of an oven an dpreheat to 350 degrees F (180 C). Butter two large baking sheets (I use silpats, they are great). On a lightly floured work suface, roll out a dough disk 1/4 inch thick. (I usually cover the dough with a piece of plastic wrap, so my rolling pin won't stick to the dough). Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes. Transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets. Gather up and reroll the scraps to cut out more cookies. Repeat with remaining dough disks.
Bake until the cookies are golden on the edges, about 8 minutes. Transfer to racks and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.
**Do-ahead tip: Make the dough and cut out the shapes ahead of time, freeze the shapes, then bake them as you need them. Always have fresh cookies!
Royal Icing: I used Ateco's meringue powder to make a great royal icing. I used gel coloring (Wilton makes a ton of colors) to color the icing, and my pastry bag with various tips to get the designs I wanted.
If you want, you could use simple confectioner's sugar and cream.