Total Prep and Baking Time: 4 hours to chill + 45 minutes for prep/baking (does not include decorating time)
Yield: 18-20 2 1/2 inch cookies (I doubled this recipe and got about 45 cookies)
For the cookies:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the royal icing:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
black food coloring
1. First, make the sugar cookies. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside. Beat together the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until just combined. Add in the flour mixture and mix until just moistened. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours – this is important so that your dough is firm enough to cut into shapes. I let mine sit overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line and/or grease two baking sheets. Dust a clean work surface with flour and unwrap the chilled dough, placing it on your work surface. Roll half of the dough to about 1/4 inch thick, and cut out the cookies into whatever shape you like (in my case, storm troopers). Transfer the cut-outs to the baking sheet and continue to roll the dough out and cut the cookies out until you have run out of dough.
3. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until set but not browned. They should just be ever so slightly golden on the very edges. Remove them from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheets for at least 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to another surface to cool completely.
4. Now, make the royal icing. Whisk together the sugar, egg white, and lemon juice until it is completely smooth and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. The mixture should have the texture of a glaze. If it’s too thin, add some more sugar. If it’s too thick, add a few more drops of lemon juice or water.
5. To make thick icing for outlining the cookies, place some of the icing in another bowl and add more confectioners’ sugar until thickened, but not too thick to pipe out through a squeeze bottle or a pastry bag. If you want to make the icing thinner for flooding the cookies after you have outlined them, place some of the icing in another bowl and add water or lemon juice until thin (it should be a bit thinner than you think it needs to be – believe me). Let the icing harden on the outline before flooding, and let the flooded icing harden before decorating. The cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days.