One of my favourite cookies for the holiday season is shortbread. My grandmother used to make these cookies every Christmas, melt in your mouth, buttery and soft. For this recipe, I have shown how they can be decorated using royal icing. I like to use gel food colouring as liquid colouring may make the icing too fluid. To layer the icings allow the first layer to set before adding another colour. Have fun decorating!
Preparation time: 1 hour + overnight + time for decorating
Cook time: 8–10 minutes
For the cookies
1 lb salted butter, room temperature
1½ cup icing sugar
1 cup cornstarch
1 vanilla bean, scrape the seed from inside the bean, the pod can be saved and used in other recipes.
3 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat your oven to 375°F.
Prepare a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Add the butter and the seeds from the vanilla bean to a mixing bowl for a standing mixer with the whisk attachment. Turn the mixer on high speed and mix until light and fluffy. Turn the mixer off.
Sift the icing sugar and the cornstarch together in a separate bowl and add them to the butter mix. Turn the mixer on low speed, and gradually increase the speed until the sugar and cornstarch are incorporated.
At medium speed, gradually add the flour until it is incorporated.
Remove the dough from the mixer. Divide it into three portions and wrap the dough with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit overnight in the fridge.
The next day, pull the dough out of the fridge an hour before rolling it. This will make it easier to roll.
On a lightly floured surface roll out your shortbread dough to a quarter-inch thick. The edges may crack a bit, just press them back together with your fingers.
Cut out cookies using any shape or sized cookie cutters.
Press the trim back into a ball and roll it out again until you have used all the dough.
Place the cookies in the fridge for approximately ten minutes, this will help to ensure the cookies do not spread out when baked.
Bake the cookies for 8–10 minutes or just until the edges start to brown.
Once the cookies have cooled you can decorate them using the icing recipe below.
For the Royal Icing
2 cups icing sugar
½ cup meringue powder
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
3–4 tbsp water, room temperature
Gel food colouring
Whisk everything together in a mixing bowl. The texture should pour in a continuous stream and mix back into itself but not be too runny. If the icing is too thin just add a little more icing sugar to thicken it.
Split up the icing into separate bowls based on the number of colours used.
Add the gel colours to each bowl and mix until the colour is completely incorporated.
Put the coloured icing into piping bags, fitted with a number two piping tip.
To layer, the icing colours, wait 5–10 minutes after the first colour is added to allow it to set, then add the next on top.