TO MAKE COOKIES:
Combine the butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Beat together
with an electric mixer set at medium-high speed for about 1 minute.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue beating until light
and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract. Sift together the flour
and salt. Blend into the butter mixture, 1 cup at a time. Continue
mixing until the dough is smooth and no streaks of flour remain.
Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Pat each portion into a
disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Working with 1 disk at a time (leave the others chilling), place
it between 2 pieces of waxed paper (or plastic wrap) and roll out
1/4 inch thick. Remove the top piece of waxed paper, and using a
3-inch biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out at least 6 cookies. Place
the cookies at least 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Reserve the dough scraps. Repeat with the remaining dough disks.
Reroll all the scraps and cut out at least 24 smaller cookies with
a 1-inch straight-edged cookie cutter. The smaller cookies will
be the crown of the bonnets and the larger cookies will be the brims.
Place on a second parchment-lined baking sheet at least 1-inch
apart. Refrigerate both baking sheets until the cookies become very
firm and cold, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. (If chilling longer
than 2 hours, cover loosely with plastic wrap.)
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Bake the cookies until firm
and sandy gold, about 20 minutes. Do not allow them to get too dark,
as they can taste slightly bitter if overly browned. Let cool completely
on a wire rack before icing.
TO MAKE ICING:
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites (or reconstructed meringue
powder) with an electric mixer set on low speed until frothy. Sift
the confectioners' sugar into the bowl. Increase the mixer speed
to high and continue beating until brilliant white, firm, and fluffy,
about 10 minutes. You should have 2 1/2 to 3 cups. Scoop out 1 cup
of the icing and set aside to use for piping. Thin the remaining
icing with water, adding 2 or 3 teaspoons at a time until it is
of pouring consistency. Divide the icing among as many small bowls
as different colors you wish to create, then tint the portions.
Place the cookies on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and pour
the thinned icing over them. If necessary, shake the cookies to
ease the icing over the edges. This should cover the cookies with
a thin, even layer. Allow to dry completely.
Tint the reserved 1 cup icing, if desired. Spoon into a large piping
bag fitted with a number 2 plain decorating tip for squiggles, dots,
scrolls, and stripes or a number 4 or 5 plain tip, or small petal
tip for piping a ribbon. To create the bonnet, pipe a small amount
of icing on the back of the smaller cookie and attach it onto the
center of the larger cookie.
# The bonnets can be decorated in a variety of ways: Pipe an icing
ribbon and bow around the 1-inch cookie.
# Pipe a series of small icing dots to resemble dotted Swiss, or
pipe decorative scrolls or stripes.
# ·Sprinkle the icing decorations with sanding sugar while
they are still wet to make them sparkle.
# Pipe dabs of icing and attach small sugared flowers.
# For a paisley look, pipe or spin drops of a contrasting color
of the thinned icing randomly over the surface of an iced cookie
while it is still wet.
# Using a bamboo skewer or toothpick, pull through the center of
# For an elegant all white cookie, ice with white icing and decorate
with small dots of white icing to resemble dotted Swiss. "Tie"
the bonnet with a white icing ribbon and garnish with a sugared
# Decorate iced cookies with sprinkles and/or candy dots.
# Allow the cookies to dry for at least 2 hours, and if the weather
is humid, overnight, before packaging.
Recipe reprinted by permission of Chronicle. All rights reserved.