Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion 
Sugar cookies are decorated with flowers of royal icing.

Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion Sugar cookies are decorated with flowers of royal icing.

Blooming sugar cookies

These sugar cookies are perfectly soft and delicious, easy to make, and the dough can be made long in advance

I was recently given four pink peonies in a silver vase for my kitchen table. When I received them, they were just buds, demure and tightly closed, but over the following days they exploded out into energetic blooms which perfumed my home and added cheerful color to my white kitchen.

Their transition was rapid yet imperceivable, and now my flowers are already wilting, moving on to the next phase of their existence.

We are lucky this week to be joined by so many playmates — cousins from near and far all gathered to play in the very yard their parents enjoyed together as children. The youngest has been taking his first wobbly steps to the delight of a large audience of adoring aunts, uncles and grandparents. He was not too long ago a swaddled, cooing newborn grasping at fingers, and now he is taking his first steps into toddlerhood, and it all happened so fast.

Watching them grow is bittersweet. Our little flowers are quickly blooming, opening up to the world right before our eyes, and all we can do is watch and hope the scent lingers in our memories.

As part of our packed week of events, I hosted a cookie decorating activity for the children. These sugar cookies are perfectly soft and delicious, easy to make, and the dough can be made long in advance and frozen until ready to roll.

You can shape the dough into logs and freeze for up to three months tightly wrapped in plastic and stored in a zip-top bag. Take the dough out the night before you plan to use it and put it in the refrigerator to thaw. The dough should be close to room temperature before you attempt to roll, or it will be too hard to work with.

Sugar cookies

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (plus some for dusting your work surface)

½ teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup sugar

1 egg

Splash of almond extract

Splash of vanilla extract

Ingredients for royal icing:

2 pasteurized egg whites

2 ½ cups powdered sugar

Splash of vanilla extract

Gel food coloring, if desired

Directions for the cookies:

In a large mixing bowl, cream your butter and sugar together until the mixture is fluffy and has lightened in color.

In a separate bowl sift together your flour, baking powder and salt.

Crack your egg into a small bowl and add the extracts.

Beat the egg and extracts into the butter and sugar until smooth.

Add the flour in stages, mixing on low speed, just until the dough comes together.

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Allow the dough to come to close to room temperature on the counter.

Generously dust the clean work surface with flour before rolling to ½ inch thickness.

You can combine the scraps and roll again up to two times. Any more than that and the cookies will be tough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, then immediately move off the hot pan onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Directions for the royal icing:

Beat your egg whites until frothy.

Add the powdered sugar in three stages, making sure the mixture is smooth and completely combined before adding more.

Add the extract and gel food coloring and mix until the color is evenly distributed.

Dip the cookies into the icing or use a piping bag and tips to decorate. Allow at least 30 minutes for the icing to dry before storing in an airtight container for up to a week.

Sugar cookies are decorated with flowers of royal icing. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Sugar cookies are decorated with flowers of royal icing. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

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