Decorated cookies are a delightful and special addition to any Easter basket, but these vibrantly colored treats elevate the confection even further. Using my trusted sugar cookie dough as the base, I simply color the dough with food coloring (I like Wilton Icing Color, available at local craft stores), cut out my desired shapes, and then bake them.
Serve these cookies plain, or add additional flourish with piped royal icing and a sprinkling of clear or colored sanding sugar.
About 30 three-inch cookies
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Food coloring paste or icing, such as Wilton Icing Color
Royal icing for decorating (optional)
Colored sanding sugar for decorating (optional)
Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.
Put the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and begin beating on medium speed. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Drop in the egg and add the vanilla and mix just until incorporated. Gradually spoon in the flour, mixing on medium-low speed, just until the dough comes together.
If coloring the dough with a single color, add the Icing Color in small amounts, about 1/8 teaspoon at a time (a little goes a long way), mixing until evening distributed. Add more as needed. If using more than one color, divide the mixed dough into as many parts as colors you are using and mix in by hand or in the mixing bowl, cleaning the bowl and paddle in between colorings.
Transfer the dough (or each piece of colored dough) to a large sheet of plastic wrap, bring together to form a disc, and wrap well. Set in the refrigerator to chill and rest, at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using about half of the dough at a time, roll on a lightly floured work surface to about ¼ inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and arrange about 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Set in the refrigerator to chill until firm, at least 20 minutes. (The cutouts can also be arranged on a plastic wrap-lined board or baking sheet, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. When ready to bake, arrange the frozen cutouts on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake as directed below.)
Bake the cookies (depending on the size) until light golden brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool on the baking sheets for several minutes before transferring them to the racks to cool completely.
Decorate with royal icing and sanding sugar, if desired.