Bring the Halloween spirit home with this classic treat that the entire family will enjoy. Ghost cookies are cut-out sugar cookies made with buttery, vanilla-scented sugar cookie dough and a smooth royal icing. They’re easy to pull off at home and have plenty of opportunity to customize to your liking. You’ll want to use the pipe-and-flood method which starts with a thick border icing, followed by a thinner flood icing leaving the cookies with a smooth finish.
Yield: Makes 4 dozen cookies
Prep time: 1 hour 41 minutes to 1 hour 48 minutes
Cook time: 16 minutes to 20 minutes
For the cookies:
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
- 2 ounces cream cheese
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the icing:
- 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (1 pound), plus more as needed
- 4 large pasteurized egg whites, or 1/2 cup liquid egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Black food coloring
Make the Cookies:
- Place 2 sticks unsalted butter and 2 ounces cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Let sit at room temperature until softened, about 1 hour.
- Place 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
- Add 1 cup granulated sugar to the butter. Attach the paddle attachment and mix briefly on low speed to combine, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Add 1 large egg and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and beat on medium speed until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add in the flour mixture and beat until just combined and a soft dough is formed, about 1 minute.
- Divide the dough in half. Shape each piece of dough into a rectangle and lightly dust with flour. Place each rectangle between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll until 1/8-inch thick. Place each piece of rolled dough, still in the parchment, on a baking sheet (they can stack on the same baking sheet). Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
- Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 350°F. Remove the top sheet of parchment from each piece of dough, and use them to line 2 rimmed baking sheets.
- Use a 3-inch ghost cookie cutter to make as many cut-outs as possible. Using a thin metal spatula, transfer the cookies the baking sheets, spacing them about 1/2-inch apart, 12 to 16 cookies per baking sheet. The cookies will not spread as they bake.
- Bake until set and barely golden around the edges, 8 to 12 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, gather and reroll out the dough scraps and cut out more cookies. Repeat the process until all the dough is used. The dough is best cut when it is firm, so you may have to return it to the refrigerator before cutting more shapes.
Make the icing:
- Sift 3 1/2 cups (1 pound) powdered sugar through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl. If any lumps remain, use your fingers to break them up and push them through the strainer.
- Place 4 large pasteurized egg whites or 1/2 cup liquid egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Beat with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until foamy, doubled in volume, and opaque, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Turn the mixer off and add half of the powdered sugar. Mix on low speed until the powdered sugar is completely dissolved and no large lumps remain, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining powdered sugar and continue mixing until completely dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes more.
- Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the icing is completely smooth, glossy, and slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. The icing should hold a soft peak and slowly run off of the whisk attachment. If the icing is too loose, add more powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, and continue mixing until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
- Transfer 1/2 cup of the icing to a small bowl. Mix in black food coloring until the desired shade is achieved. If necessary, add more powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, for a thicker consistency. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the black icing to keep it from drying.
- Transfer about a third of the remaining icing to a piping bag with a small round tip or squeeze bottle. This will be used as the border icing.
- The remaining icing in the stand mixer will be used as the flood icing. To thin, add water in 1-teaspoon increments, stirring between each, until a pourable consistency is reached, 4 to 6 teaspoons. Transfer the flood icing to a piping bag or squeeze bottle.
Decorate the cookies:
- Place the cooled cookies on parchment paper. Begin with the border icing and trace the outline of each cookie with icing. Let the border icing dry for a few minutes.
- Use the flood icing to fill the center of the cookies. Use a toothpick to pop any air bubbles and push the icing into corners and against the edges of the border. Let cookies dry for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer the black icing to a piping bag with a small round tip.
- Pipe the eyes and mouth onto the cookies with the black icing. Let the cookies sit undisturbed for at least 24 hours for the icing to fully dry.
Source: the Kitchn