Royal Icing and Sugar Cookies

I have been battling my limited walking-only relationship with Washington in search of basic food dye for months.  What would have been a simple task in Los Angeles (with a car) turned into a four-month struggle between searching every grocery store within a three-mile radius of my home and decidedly talking myself out of any want or need for food coloring.  Once, Safeway did carry food dye, and I used the red on something — the details of which are meaningless — and left it out over night.  The next morning, it was gone.  My kitchen swallowed it whole — a lesson I will interpret as punishment for ever using my alma mater’s cross-town rival colors in my kitchen.  Red and gold, never again.  It’s a glorified vomit-inducing combination anyway.
Out of boredom, I googled “where to buy food coloring in Washington, DC.”  Nothing useful came up.  So I tried searching for baking stores — and came across Hill’s Kitchen.  When I walked into this cozy row house shop, I realized I had never bought cookie cutters, ever.  Cookie cutters were always aplenty in my home growing up.  If my mom didn’t have a particular shape, Grandma definitely did.  Cookie cutters must have been some form of candy them; I used to always hear about the new shapes my grandmother would come home with.  And whenever we’d try them out, the cookies always ended up spreading into misshapen, formless blobs.  That was another fear I had in making cut-out cookies — that they wouldn’t shape, or that I’d attempt to pipe frosting and end up with horrifyingly unattractive cookies.
Anyway, I walked out of the store with a six-pack of gel food dye and twenty dollars worth of cookie cutters.  It was time to make cookies.  California-shaped ones, capitol building-shaped ones, and ten kadjillion different butterfly-shaped cookies.  As winter in Washington winds down (re: blizzard diminuendo and recent temperatures above 32 degrees), I find myself aching for things that remind me of spring.  March Madness, flowers, sundresses, grass, and the one thing I long more than anything else: flip-flop weather.  As my longing for winter’s end continues, I find myself veering away from my long red coat to lighter, less fashion-conscious but happier wardrobe items, like say, my bright blue little girls’ snow boarding jacket.
Snow, snow, go away.

Recipe taken from The Food Network.
For the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
Powdered sugar, to sprinkle
For the royal icing:
3 cups powdered sugar
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons lemon juice
First, cream the butter and the sugar — I used my electric hand mixer on low speed until they were evenly mixed.  Then, add the egg and milk, beating until smooth.  In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together, before gradually adding the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar-egg mixture.  The recipe calls to use your hand mixer for this, but at some point the dough was too thick, so I dove in and mixed all of the flour in with my hands and formed the dough into two spheres, and set them in the refrigerator to chill.
After ten minutes or so, sprinkle some powdered sugar on a sheet of wax paper, and rub it in.  Then, remove one ball of dough from the refrigerator, and roll it out as thin as you possible can.  And I mean thin.  No thicker than 1/8 of an inch — because the dough will spread.  We don’t want misshapen capitol buildings, do we?
Carefully cut out your cookies and place them on a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and bake at 375 for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are evenly golden brown.  Remove from the oven, let sit on the sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.  Repeat.
For the icing, begin by beating the egg whites and lemon juice with an electric mixer until frothy.  Then, gradually mix in the powdered sugar.  Continue until all sugar is mixed in, and the icing is relatively stiff and gooey.  I used gel food dyes to color the icing; if you use liquid ones, you might need a little more sugar to balance out the sugar-liquid ratio.
You can use a pastry bag and tips to ice the cookies, but I just made a cone out of wax paper — it’s easy, and requires less clean-up.  These disposable cones are a good replacement for going out and purchasing a pastry bag of bottle for each color of frosting that you use.