Orange Sugar Cookies and Icing

It is that time of the year again! Holidays, shopping and lots of food, did I forget baking? It’s the first time my kids hung their hand made ornaments on the Christmas tree, it was heart warming to watch them.
I have always looked for reasons to bake, and this month is the best. The kids and I made sugar cookies, and frosted them; it was a fun weekend project. We ate cookie dough and then licked our sticky fingers after the icing was done. I hope you can have that bonding time with your kids while you make cookies. Here is the recipe.

What you need: 
Makes about 3 dozen small and 2 dozen medium cookies.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange flavor
A pinch of orange zest
Confectioners/Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

These are regular sugar cookies with a hint of orange in them. If you rather prefer the original recipe, omit the orange flavor and zest. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until creamy. Add in the egg and milk, beat until fluffy. 

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.Slowly add in small amounts of flour and beat slow, until the mixture starts to pull together to a dough consistency. Gently knead the mixture by hand to form a ball. Wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the chill dough and roll it out on a sugar powder dusted surface. Keep the dough moving to prevent sticking. When the dough is about 1/4 inch thick, cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters.

Place them on wax/parchment paper sheets, about 1 inch apart, and bake for about 10 minutes. Turn them around at half time, and as the edges start to brown, remove them quickly.
This part is a little tricky for first timers. You will need to be quick, and have trays ready for the next round. You could also prepare the trays in advance and chill them, that way you save energy too. You will have about 2 dozen medium sized or 3 dozen small cookies ready in 20 minutes. Let it stay on the sheet till they cool, then place them on wire racks to cool completely.

For the icing:
2 cups confectioner sugar
1 tsp meringue powder
2 Tbsp warm milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Desired icing colors
Small squeeze bottles or piping bags

Sift the sugar and meringue powder, to get rid of any lumps. Add a little milk and vanilla; mix thoroughly. Check the consistency, and add more milk if desired. The mixture should be smooth and thick, just a little runny. 

Add the desired colors and mix well. Place the piping bags in a tall glass and pour them into the bags and seal the bag. I used the small squeeze bottle we get at the craft store for candy melts/ketchup. They are easy to use and reheat in the microwave. Fill them in with a funnel about 3/4ths full. Store them in the fridge until you are ready to ice. Warm them for 10 seconds at a time in the microwave until they are ready to use. Knead the bottle or piping bag to get the icing ready.

When the cookies are completely cooled, hold each cookie in your hand at a 75 degree angle. Pipe around the edges to give a border that will hold the icing in. Let that cool and harden. Should take about 20 minutes. Now fill in the cookie top to bottom, only 34th full. 

Use a toothpick, and in a circular motion spread the icing to the edges to give it a uniform filling. Let cool completely. Repeat the step for each color you use. The cookies should be left to dry completely before they can be stored. It should take about 2 hours.

To store them, use an air tight box, if you need to stack the, use sheets of parchment paper between. They hold good for a week. The dough can be refrigerated for 2 days or frozen for up to a month if they are well wrapped and sealed. Happy holidays!