While I love the idea of decorated sugar cookies, I find that they invariably take a lot longer to make than I anticipate, and generally cause a much bigger mess than I’m prepared for. My simple solution? Sanding sugar – it comes in lovely pastel colors, so you just have to cover the cookies with icing, sprinkle the sugar on top, add a couple of dragees, and you’re done! And it works really well if you want to get the kids involved, because there’s no detailed piping to do. I suggest you make these bunny cookies in stages: make the dough one day, bake the cookies another day, then do the decorating on the final day.
Makes about sixty 3-inch cookies
Special equipment: 2 parchment paper cones or small pastry bags fitted with couplers and #1 writing tips
Vanilla Sugar Cookies:
- 3 1/4 cups (422 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 20 tablespoons (282 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (optional)
- 3 tablespoons (21 grams) meringue powder
- 6 tablespoons (88 grams) warm water
- 1 pound (454 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- Sanding sugar in assorted pastel shades
- Assorted decorative dragées
- Unsweetened coconut flakes
Make the cookies:
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt; set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and orange zest (if using) and mix until well blended. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, one-third at a time, mixing just until combined. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Shape each piece into a disc, wrap it well in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to 2 days).
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350˚ Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll one of the dough discs out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Using bunny-shaped cookie cutters, cut the dough into cookies (save the scraps for re-rolling, if you want). Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets and bake, one sheet at a time, for 10 to 15 minutes, until pale golden brown (baking time will vary depending on the size of the bunny cutters). Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Make the icing:
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the meringue powder, water, and confectioners’ sugar at medium-low speed until the icing forms stiff peaks, about 7 minutes.
- Divide the icing among two bowls: put 1/3 of the icing in one bowl and the remaining 2/3 in the other bowl. Cover the surface of the icing in the bowl with 2/3 of the icing in it with plastic wrap. To the smaller amount of icing, add warm water, a few drops at a time, until it is thin enough to pipe a straight line smoothly and does not form peaks when a spoon is dipped into it. Fill a parchment paper cone or a pastry bag fitted with a coupler and a #1 writing tip with the icing. Cover the surface of the remaining icing with plastic wrap and set aside. Add warm water, a few drops at a time, to the larger amount of icing in the other bowl, until it does not leave a trail when it drops from a spoon and its consistency is slightly thicker than corn syrup. This is the icing you will use to ice, or “flood” the surface of the cookies. Place this icing in a parchment paper cone or small pastry bag fitted with a #1 writing tip.
- Using the thicker icing, carefully pipe a line of icing around the edge of a bunny cookie. Then take the thinner icing and “flood” the interior surface with the icing, letting it flow over the un-iced surface of the cookie. Once the cookie has been iced, sprinkle a little of the coconut in the tail area, then sprinkle the wet icing with sanding sugar in the color of your choice. Use a dragée for the nose and one for the eye. Repeat with the remaining cookies and allow them to dry at room temperature.