Easter Bonnet Shortbread
1 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 C. granulated sugar
1 T. pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
2 egg whites, or 4 T. meringue powder mixed with 1/2 C. warm water
4 C. confectioners' sugar
Paste food coloring in various colors
Colored sugar crystals, sanding sugar, sprinkles, candy dots, and/or
small sugared flowers
Combine the butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Beat
together with an electric mixer set at medium-high speed for about 1
minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue beating until
light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract. Sift together the
flour and salt. Blend into the butter mixture, 1 cup at a time.
Continue mixing until the dough is smooth and no streaks of flour
remain. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Pat each portion
into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Working with 1 disk at a time (leave the others chilling), place it
between 2 pieces of waxed paper (or plastic wrap) and roll out 1/4
inch thick. Remove the top piece of waxed paper, and using a 3-inch
biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out at least 6 cookies. Place the
cookies at least 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Reserve the dough scraps. Repeat with the remaining dough disks.
Reroll all the scraps and cut out at least 24 smaller cookies with a
1-inch straight-edged cookie cutter. The smaller cookies will be the
crown of the bonnets and the larger cookies will be the brims.
Place on a second parchment-lined baking sheet at least 1-inch
apart. Refrigerate both baking sheets until the cookies become very
firm and cold, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. (If chilling longer
than 2 hours, cover loosely with plastic wrap.)
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Bake the cookies until firm and sandy
gold, about 20 minutes. Do not allow them to get too dark, as they
can taste slightly bitter if overly browned. Let cool completely on
a wire rack before icing.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites (or reconstructed meringue
powder) with an electric mixer set on low speed until frothy. Sift
the confectioners' sugar into the bowl. Increase the mixer speed to
high and continue beating until brilliant white, firm, and fluffy,
about 10 minutes. You should have 2 1/2 to 3 cups. Scoop out 1 cup
of the icing and set aside to use for piping. Thin the remaining
icing with water, adding 2 or 3 teaspoons at a time until it is of
pouring consistency. Divide the icing among as many small bowls as
different colors you wish to create, then tint the portions. Place
the cookies on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and pour the
thinned icing over them. If necessary, shake the cookies to ease the
icing over the edges. This should cover the cookies with a thin,
even layer. Allow to dry completely.
Tint the reserved 1 cup icing, if desired. Spoon into a large piping
bag fitted with a number 2 plain decorating tip for squiggles, dots,
scrolls, and stripes or a number 4 or 5 plain tip, or small petal
tip for piping a ribbon. To create the bonnet, pipe a small amount
of icing on the back of the smaller cookie and attach it onto the
center of the larger cookie.
The bonnets can be decorated in a variety of ways:
Pipe an icing ribbon and bow around the 1-inch cookie.
Pipe a series of small icing dots to resemble dotted Swiss, or pipe
decorative scrolls or stripes.
Sprinkle the icing decorations with sanding sugar while they are
still wet to make them sparkle.
Pipe dabs of icing and attach small sugared flowers.
For a paisley look, pipe or spin drops of a contrasting color of the
thinned icing randomly over the surface of an iced cookie while it
is still wet.
Using a bamboo skewer or toothpick, pull through the center of each
For an elegant all white cookie, ice with white icing and decorate
with small dots of white icing to resemble dotted Swiss. "Tie" the
bonnet with a white icing ribbon and garnish with a sugared violet.
Decorate iced cookies with sprinkles and/or candy dots.
Allow the cookies to dry for at least 2 hours, and if the weather is
humid, overnight, before packaging.