I am a little crazy about Christmas cookies. My Mom used to make them with me when I was little, and now that she is gone, I always think of her when I make them.
My favorite recipe for the basic Christmas sugar cookie is the Martha Stewart Basic Sugar cookie recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/338471/basic-sugar-cookies
and her simple royal icing recipe:
The trick, I think, is to leave the cookie dough in the refrigerator overnight. Then let it get warm enough in your hands to shape it into a ball to roll out. Use flour to keep it from sticking on the rolling pin.
I also use a piping bag for each color of icing. I put a wet paper towel into a tall cup and when I set the tip into the cup it keeps the tip from getting dried out and clogging.
Get the consistency just right and it will all be well. My white icing this year was a little too runny. Try and get it to where it will easily pipe onto the cookie, but not run down the sides. I use the tip to help spread the icing out. The great thing about royal icing is that it dries and you can stack cookies on top of each other after they have dried overnight. You may think they are dry enough after an hour or so, but the weight of the other cookies might cause indentations in your works of art, so just keep them in a single layer overnight, and avoid that. It’s like when you mess up your freshly painted manicure. So frustrating. I don’t think this icing is particularly as tasty as buttercream icing, but you cannot really package buttercream frosted cookies without a big giant mess in the box or tin. Always a price to pay for looks. But some people love this icing. It’s also fun to get new decorations or cutters once in a while to change things up, and finding the right container helps dress them up even more.
These cookies take patience, and practice, and may give you carpel tunnel, but they always put a smile on the face of the receiver. I hope you made some yummy treats this year!