One of my favorite cookies to eat and make over 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 coloring as liquid coloring may make the icing too fluid. Happy decorating!
The vanilla pod can be saved and used in other recipes.
To layer the icing, allow the first layer to set before adding another layer of icing.
Piping bags and tips
Preparation time: 1 hour + overnight + time for decorating
Cook time: 8–10 minutes
1 lb salted butter, room temperature
1½ cup icing sugar
1 cup cornstarch
1 vanilla bean, scrape the seed from inside the bean
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups icing sugar
½ cup meringue powder
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
3–4 tbsp water, room temperature
Gel food coloring
For the shortbread
Preheat your oven to 375°F.
Add the butter and the seeds from the vanilla pod to the mixing bowl of a standing mixer fitted 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 size of cookie cutters you like.
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 10 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.
For the royal icing
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 colors you want to use.
Add the gel color to each bowl and mix until it is completely incorporated.
Put the icing into piping bags fitted with a fine piping tip.
For layering the icing colors, wait 5–10 minutes after the first color is added to allow it to set, then add the next on top.