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sweet treats:  holiday
ugar  cookies 
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4 Now for the fun part: cutting the cookies. Use whatever cookie cutters suit your fancy (hint: it helps to flour the cutters if you donít want them to cling to the dough). Transfer the cookies to the cookie sheet, using a spatula if necessary. Sugar cookies donít expand much when they cook, so thereís no need to leave too much room between them as you place them on the sheet. Re-roll leftover dough and cut out more cookies.

5 Once youíve filled up a sheet, pop the cookies in the oven and bake for about 7 minutes, until just barely beginning to turn golden. Do not overcook your cookies, unless you like your cookies crisp, of course. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat steps 3-5 until youíve used up all the cookie dough, making sure to cool the cookie sheet before putting on a fresh batch of cookies.

making the icing
I absolutely adore this icing, which goes on soft and goopy, and hardens to a beautiful, glossy finish. If you take my advice and use high-quality gel concentrate food coloring, you should be able to get some amazingly vivid colors Ė just be careful while youíre working with it, as food coloring can cause some nasty stains.

Whisk together the powdered sugar and powdered egg white in a bowl. Whisk in water until you have a liquidy, but somewhat thick, consistency Ė basically, you want something thatís easy to spread, but not so watery that it slides right off the cookie. Divide the icing into smaller bowls, the number of which will depend on how many colors youíre planning to mix up (I generally stick with four or five). Follow the instructions that come with your food coloring and mix up your palette. If youíre using the gel concentrates, use the colors very sparingly:  a little really will go a long way.

get creative
With your pretty little bowls of colored icing in front of you, and that pile of baked cookies, youíre ready to start decorating. I like to use cheap little craft brushes, which let me easily slather large areas of cookie with color or dot tiny little details as I see fit; pastry bags also work, or even small spatulas. If you donít want your colors to bleed together, itís a good idea to let each color dry before you add additional ones (but swirling colors together while wet can give your cookies a lovely marbled look).

Let the decorated cookies stand until theyíre completely dry (at least four hours). At this point, you can stack them in single layers between sheets of wax paper, and store them in an airtight container at room temp, for a week or so.

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