5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 cups (4 sticks/16 oz./452g) unsalted butter
6 oz. cream cheese
2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
Royal Icing (see recipe below)
Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
Over a sheet of parchment paper, sift together the flour and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the cream cheese and continue beating until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla.
Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions, beating in each addition before adding more. Beat just until combined, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Using floured hands, form the dough into a smooth mound and divide into 2 equal portions. Shape each into a disk and wrap separately with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.
Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove 1 dough disk at a time from the refrigerator and let stand for 10 minutes. Place the dough on a clean, floured work surface and roll out to a thickness of 1/4 to 3/8 inch. This thickness is important to ensure the baked cookies will fit together.
Dip the cutters into flour just before using and cut out the shapes. Using an offset spatula, carefully transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets, putting similar-size pieces on the same pan so that they bake evenly. The sides of each notch need to be parallel so the notch will fit into the interlocking piece after baking; if the sides have stretched apart, gently push them toward each other so they are parallel.
Repeat with the remaining dough. Gather up the scraps, reroll them and cut out additional cookies. Refrigerate the cookies until firm, 20 to 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.
Bake the cookies until lightly golden on the edges, 14 to 16 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool for 5 minutes. If the dough has spread into the notches during baking, use a paring knife to gently trim off the excess cookie while still warm so the cookies will interlock when assembled. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets, then decorate as desired and assemble (see tips below).
Makes about 3 of each type of cookie.
Ideal for decorating cookies, royal icing dries quickly and can be tinted with food coloring. You can use the icing to attach decorative candies, colored sugars and small ornaments to the cookies. It's a good idea to flavor the icing with a few drops of vanilla extract or fresh lemon juice.
3 egg whites, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
A few drops of vanilla extract or fresh lemon juice (optional)
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, confectioners' sugar, cream of tartar and salt on medium-low speed until blended. Add the vanilla or lemon juice, increase the speed to medium-high, and continue beating until stiff peaks form and the mixture is nearly triple in volume, 7 to 8 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover tightly with plastic wrap and store at room temperature until ready to use, up to 6 hours.
Makes 5 to 6 cups.
Tips on Cutting Out and Assembling Cookies
For each duck, cut out 1 duck and 2 grass/water bases. After baking and decorating, interlock the duck with the 2 water bases.
For each basket, cut out 1 basket top and 1 basket base. After baking and decorating, interlock the top with the base.
For each bunny, cut out 1 bunny and 1 grass/water base. After baking and decorating, interlock the bunny with the grass base.
For each flower, cut out 1 flower and 1 grass/water base. After baking and decorating, interlock the flower with the grass base.
For each egg, cut out 1 egg top and 1 egg base. After baking and decorating, interlock the top with the base.
Source: Williams-Sonoma Kitchen
Date: April 8, 2007