For Bug's birthday party favors, I made cookie pops decorated with flowers and 6's. I still can't believe it, but not only were they adorable, they were tasty! Royal icing is fun to play with and if you cover the whole cookie with a base frosting layer, it keeps the cookies fresh. They easily last a week or more.
See how cute? They are really a blank canvas, and you can decorate them however you like. I figured purple and yellow and sparkly were good for a 6-year-old. I covered these with white frosting, let it dry overnight, and then added the colorful decorations. While the colored icing was still wet, I sprinkled it with sanding sugar, and then shook off the excess.
Today, we'll just talk about the cookie recipe and how to make them into pops.
Lemon-Vanilla Sugar Cookies
(Makes about 16 3" cookies)
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (4 ounces) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (I didn't have one handy, but it would impart even more vanilla-y goodness)
zest of half a lemon (or a whole lemon)
2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) flour
1 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, cream the butter and powdered sugar on medium-high speed, 1-2 minutes. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract, seeds scraped from the vanilla bean (save the bean: throw it in a jar of sugar, and you'll have delicious-smelling vanilla sugar), and lemon zest until blended. Mix in the flour and salt on low speed until just incorporated.
Here's my favorite new trick. If you want, you can form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for a few hours until it is firm. OR, you can pull off half the dough, roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper to the desired thickness for cookies, transfer the parchment gently to a cookie sheet, and refrigerate it. Repeat with the remaining dough. It will be chilled enough to use within about 30 minutes, plus it's already rolled out and ready to go.
When I'm ready to bake, I like to gently peel off the top piece of parchment, then replace it, flip the dough over, and repeat. This makes sure the dough doesn't end up stuck to the parchment once you cut your shapes.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut into desired shapes and place on a silpat-lined cookie sheet. If you're making cookie pops, lay the cut shapes directly on top of a lollipop stick so the stick goes about halfway up the cookie. Press down gently. You don't want the stick to show through the dough, so I roll the dough for cookie pops a little thicker than for typical cookies. When the cookies bake, the sticks will bake right in!
Bake 8-10 minutes until the cookies are set and barely beginning to get light golden brown around the bottom edges. The tops should barely have any color, so just keep an eye on them. Cool completely on the cookie sheets, particularly if you made cookie pops. The cookies need to firm up in order to keep the sticks in place.
A special note: if a stick falls off a cookie, don't panic! Squirt a little royal icing into the indentation like glue, put the stick back in place, and lay it (stick side down) on a cookie sheet until the frosting hardens up, 15 minutes or so.
Eat 'em as they are or frost with royal icing, glaze, or frosting. These make great party favors or holiday cookies, and kids just love 'em!