Vanilla Bean Shortbread Christmas Cookies
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar and salt. Scatter the cold butter pieces over the flour, and using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until you have coarse crumbs with visible pea-sized chunks of butter throughout. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla bean paste. Scrape into the flour mixture and work the dough with your fingers to incorporate the moisture into the flour. (The dough will appear very dry, and you might think it doesn't have enough liquid, but don't worry, it will come together.) After 2-3 minutes of working the dough, it should start to hold together enough so that you can gather it into a loose ball. Add the ice water, a little at a time, just to finish bringing the dough together so that you can roll it out.
Shape the dough into a disk and set on a piece of parchment paper, lightly floured. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut as many cookies as you can; transfer the cookies to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat, placing the cookies 1 inch apart. Gather up the dough scraps, roll them out again, and cut more cookies, continue rolling and cutting until you've used up all the dough. You should be able to cut about 3 dozen cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutter/s.
Freeze the cookies on the baking sheets for 45 minutes to an hour. This will help ensure that they hold their shape and do not spread out during baking. (When it's cold out, I just lay a clean kitchen towel over my cookie sheets and set them outside on our balcony to chill, instead of trying to make room for the cookie sheets in the freezer.)
Preheat the oven to 350. Bake the cookies (straight from the freezer) for 10-12 minutes, depending on how big you cut them, just until a very pale golden (the cookies do not rise or spread). Cool completely on a wire rack before icing and decorating.
Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen
For the Royal Icing, as it was my first time using it and I had no experience yet, I used the recipe and some of the tips by Sweetopia, although I did have to add more water than her recipe called for, even for a piping consistency, and much more for a flooding consistency. Eventually, I hope to formulate my own perfect recipe and tips as I practice more with decorating cookies.