Sugar Cookies

(courtesy of Mary Allstead, co-owner, Mix Bakeshop in Reno; adapted from a Sweetsugarbelle.com recipe. Yields 2½ dozen)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1½ cups confectioner’s sugar

1 egg

2 to 3 teaspoons flavoring extract (almond or vanilla)

2½ to 2¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Cream together softened butter and confectioner’s sugar. Crack egg into separate bowl and add flavoring. Add egg mixture to butter-sugar mixture and combine until egg is thoroughly incorporated.

In separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt, then add little by little to wet mixture. Dough is ready when most of it sticks to the paddle. When touched, it has a little give but does not stick to fingers.

Roll out on parchment to about ¼ inch thick; use flour for dusting as necessary. Cut and bake at 400 degrees F for 7 to 8 minutes. This version makes 2 to 2½ dozen cookies; doubled, it makes 4 to 5 dozen.

Tips: Dough doesn’t need to be chilled before baking; however, it’s wise to let it rest for a couple minutes before rolling out. These cookies don’t get brown, and they do spread a bit.

Royal Icing

(courtesy of Mary Allstead, co-owner, Mix Bakeshop in Reno; adapted from a Sweetsugarbelle.com recipe. Makes about 5 cups)

2 pounds (1 bag) confectioner's sugar

5 tablespoons meringue powder

2 to 3 teaspoons flavoring extract

½ to ¾ cups warm water

Begin by stirring flavoring extract into half the water. Using a paddle attachment, gently mix sugar and meringue powder. It's not necessary to sift sugar beforehand, but you can if you like.

With mixer on its lowest setting, slowly add water/flavoring mix to dry ingredients. As water is added, icing will become thick and lumpy.

Continue to add remaining water (this may or may not be the entire amount) until mixture reaches a thick, honey-like consistency. At this point, turn mixer to medium speed and whip 2 to 4 minutes until icing is thick and fluffy. Mixing time can vary greatly, so watch carefully and stop mixing when icing is thick enough to form soft peaks.

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